Do you have terms and conditions for your business?
If not, go sort them out now!
Not only will this help protect you in the future in case of any dispute but they make you look more professional and can help you gain business. Your clients need to know exactly what they are getting and feel protected from their end also.
Today, I was in the process of booking a photo shoot with a photographer who asked for a deposit up front. I was more than happy to pay this but requested T’s and C’s with contract first. And then came the silence …….
They didn’t have any! This made me feel very aware that I was handing over my money with no protection on my side. What if I needed to change the date or cancel? How long would it take to get the photos after the shoot? What if the photos weren’t good enough?
Hasten to say, I didn’t pay the deposit and cancelled the shoot.
As a bare minimum, your terms and conditions should include:
- The scope of the work with a clear definition of what products and services will be provided.
- Timelines for the work to be completed,
- What it is going to cost and your payment terms
- What happens if either party is unhappy and/or wishes to cancel.
Without clear terms and conditions, confusion can occur with the client thinking they may be able to pay at the end of a service but you need payment up front. Or it may be that they think the service will be delivered to a different timescale than you can work to.
Have you ever encountered any problems with clients in the past? What was that problem? Think how to incorporate terms and conditions that will stop this scenario happening in the future such as a client having to supply you with information required within a given period (this is a huge problem for web designers where they are sat waiting for info before they can complete the project and get paid!).
There are plenty of templates online to use such as at SQL Legal but do make sure that you read them carefully to ensure they cover all you need for your specific business.
Who has copyright ownership of works you commission?
How often do you outsource work or hire freelancers to do work for you? This could be anything from paying someone to design your website, create a logo for you or write some content for your website.
I suspect as a small business owner that the majority will have paid for some works to be done at some point. But when you agreed this work, did you get terms and conditions signed by both of you and if so, did you check these carefully? Did you ensure that those t’s and c’s transferred ownership of the work and the copyright to you and your business upon completion of payment?
And did these terms and conditions get signed in ink by both parties?
You may be in for a shock!
If not, you may be in for a shock.
As the law stands, and as I learnt from attending an event by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), even if you pay someone to do work for you that you will use in your business unless you have a written and signed agreement in place to transfer ownership, the person who created the piece of work for you will retain the ownership and copyright.
Therefore, if you decided to change your website designer but keep the same or similar layout, text etc, they could stop you or sue you if you go ahead!! Also have a read of the article ‘Do you really know who owns your website?‘ for more important information.
The only exception to this rule is if the work completed was carried out by an employee of your business as they would have deemed to have done the work in the course of employment.
There is a lot more information regarding copyright ownership on the Gov.Uk website.
The real danger of not having copyright ownership
What concerned me more than anything was learning that if a less than honourable person completed a piece of work for you without a signed agreement, they could if they decided to use the work that you had paid for and sell it on to other parties!
I thought in reality a problematic situation probably didn’t happen that often but since speaking to an IPO solicitor and also getting feedback from people on social media, it is a more common occurrence than I thought.
So this is something that every small business owner needs to be aware of and to be on the safe side, with any future work, always get a written agreement in place to transfer the copyright ownership to yourself and make sure both parties sign it. You have been warned!
N.B. If you are in the creative market and need a contract, a site that has been recommended to me (although I have not used myself so cannot say how good it is) is Own-It. The site has a range of fact sheets and articles along with both paid and free contracts for you to download.