Do you enter into a binding written contract with a client before doing any billable work?
Before you engage in any billable work, the two parties must enter into a binding written contract. This ensures contractual obligations are clear on both sides, mitigating the potential for disagreements down the line and protecting both you and the client in the event of a disagreement. Binding contracts can take the form of Terms and Conditions, Emails and Instant Messenger or even verbal agreements.
- Terms and Conditions - A signed copy of standard Terms and Conditions are mandatory before billable work commences as they explain the terms on which you work and the rates which will be billed. Some clients may also have their own set of Terms and Conditions which you should consider signing if agreeable. It is also common for clients to ask you to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) which you should always consider. Long term clients should re-sign the Terms and Conditions every couple of years. Signed Terms and Conditions should be stored in your CRM system against the relevant client (you could enter it in as an attachment to a note).
- Proposals - At the conclusion of a Specification Review, you should provide a proposal to the client. This will include all of the relevant information you have discovered during the Specification Review process. The proposal may take the form of a PowerPoint presentation (preferred) or a Word doc. However, the proposal is not a contract. It does not supersede the Terms and Conditions. In effect, the proposal is a sales document which describes broadly the scope of the work to be done and our capacity to complete that work. In an Agile project, it is not a working document from which the project is managed. The project will generally be managed using Scrum, with a backlog in TFS.
- Ad Hoc Emails, Instant Messenger and Verbal Agreements - The most common form of mini-contract is a confirmation email. Electronic communication such as email and Instant Messenger are extremely useful in getting decisions confirmed quickly but it is important to follow strict standards to ensure any agreements are clear to everyone. You should not generally rely upon verbal agreements, always confirm anything agreed verbally in writing.
The following are important rules to follow:
Email, IM and (confirmed) verbal agreements are utilized extensively during a project where newly discovered work, delays, or other work outside the initial scope is required.