I've noticed recently that too many business owners are sending their clients contracts with a template email that basically says "here's your contract, please sign and date the bottom." While I know you likely just want to get your clients the contracts quickly and assume they will read through it before signing on the dotted line, that's NOT the best way to go about sending your contracts out and--trust me--they won't read the fine print like you assumed. Instead of the template email you have on automated your CRM system, I want you to create a new template email that is personalized to your business practices and policies and thoroughly explains your most important clauses in your contract to your clients.
Explaining Your Contract Clauses Via Email Prior To Your Clients Signing Serves as Further Proof That They Knew About Your Business Policies
Here's why this is important legally: it gives your clients a heads up on the clauses they need to pay extra attention to and serves as 'proof' that you did indeed inform them of that business policy prior to signing. You want to act as if you are sitting down at a table across from your client reviewing the contract before signing. Think how they did it in the olden days before the internet. If you wanted to get a contract signed, you needed to both meet up in person, go line-by-line through the contract, modify it as needed or clarify to your client what each clause meant, and then sign in person. This type of situation was invaluable in the overall legal process of booking a client because it allowed you and your clients the opportunity to have a full 'meeting of the minds'. And, in legal terms, having a 'meeting of the minds' is a critical element of having a valid contract.
Thus, in order to have this same 'meeting of the minds' when sending your clients their contract via email, you need to be very specific when you first send them your contract. I suggest picking 4-6 of the most important clauses in your contract and explaining it in layperson terms (aka in your OWN words) what that clause means. That way, you pave the way for them to know they need to take an extra peek at those clauses and it almost always incentivizes your clients to actually read the words in your contract instead of just scrolling to the bottom and signing.
Also, one other big thing this does is serve as proof/evidence that your client knew about that particular clause if a legal debacle surrounding that situation came up later. Say your clients now want to reschedule and they want you to do it complimentary and expect you to do it no problem within 3 weeks of the event date. However, pursuant to your contract clause, it states that your retainer is non-refundable AND transferable and that any rescheduling after the contract is signed will forfeit the retainer and incur additional fees. If you not only have this clause in your contract but also pointed this clause out to them prior to them signing (and have that in writing via this email we're talking about), you have double proof that they agreed to that policy! This is good news for you to hopefully resolve the issue easily between you, and is great evidence to support your argument in court if it gets that far.
Email Template Language
Here is a template email that you can copy & paste when you create your own template email to send your contract to your clients:
Thank you so much for chatting with me [via Facetime/over the phone/last week at the coffee shop]. I am so excited to get to planning your event more in depth. In order to officially book your date all you'll need to do is pay your retainer fee and sign the contract attached here to this email. Once you open the contract and review it, please let me know if you have any questions. I'm more than happy to jump on a call and go over it with you if you need any further clarification. I always like to point my clients to a couple specific clauses that you can take an extra peek at just to make sure we are both on the same page with my services and you can fully understand what they mean:
- Clause 2 - Fees & Retainer [then explain here in your own words what your policies are and why]
- Clause 4 -Cancellation & Rescheduling [then explain here in your own words what your policies are and why]
- Clause 7 - Delivery of Images & Online Gallery [then explain here in your own words what your policies are and why]
- Clause 9 - Model Release [then explain here in your own words what your policies are and why... and probably explain to them if they need any changes due to privacy concerns to contact you prior to signing]
Thanks so much and I look forward to working with you!
[enter your name]”
THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT & IS FACT-SPECIFIC. A proper legal analysis is necessary based on your location and contract. Consult an attorney in your home state for advice regarding your contract or specific legal situation.