I’m shocked–floored even. Many of you do not have the one thing that will protect your business and your personal assets. This was the first thing we did when we started back with our balloon shop in 1998; before we ever met with a single client. We knew that without this one item of the highest importance, we would be out of business and quick. Maybe even out of all our personal things–our home, cars, cash…it would all be gone.
I’m talking about a client-business agreement. A contract. A piece of paper that will protect the bride from me defaulting, explain the details to her in black and white and save my business from ultimate destruction in a court of law (liability insurance is a very close second).
If you have one, don’t stop reading now. Did you write it or was it prepared/approved by an attorney? If you do not have the funds to have an attorney draw up an agreement, at least invest a couple hundred dollars to have an attorney review it after you write it.
Don’t think you need one? Think again. Working with the public is a ticking time bomb–someone, someday will try to take advantage of you and sue you for whatever reason. If you have the client sign an agreement for services prior to the work and the agreement covers the topic of the complaint by the client, you may have a small fight ahead of you but ink on paper trumps anything you say verbally, or worse, didn’t say at all.
An agreement also saves you from other troubles…once I had a Mother-of-the Groom, who didn’t want her son to marry his fiance, try to sabotage the wedding by changing her flowers. Since the agreement was between Bloomtastic and Sally Bride, it prevented the Mother from changing anything (in fact I flat out refused to talk to her once I realized what was going on).
Now that I’ve convinced you, let’s take a look at the pieces of an effective agreement:
Date of Services
Location(s) of services
Who the agreement is between (“Sally Bride” and “ABC Company”)
What the agreement is for (wedding services)
Consultation schedule (how many, are there fees involved, time limits, locations, etc)
Minimums/Maximums (if you have a minimum/maximum time alloted, dollar amount for services, etc )
Retainer amount (don’t call it a “Deposit” unless you are giving it back after services are rendered and make sure to state it is non-refundable)
Payment schedule (when payments are due, how much payments are, when final payment is due, what happens if payments are not received, forms of payment accepted)
Refund policy (The closer to the wedding the less the bride gets back; retainer is non-refundable)
Delivery/Setup policy (your delivery area, fees involved
Cancellation policy (for entire wedding as well as individual aspects of services, i.e., centerpieces, sheet cake, mailing services for invitations, etc. Include if there is a refund for items cancelled or if you charge a fee for cancelling the entire wedding order)
Changing the order policy (if and how you accept changes, up to what date)
Additions policy (if and how you accept additions to the order, up to what date)
Substitutions policy (Legal paragraph entitling you to make substitutions in the best interest of the client should something not be available)
Samples policy (if you provide samples detail costs, when they get to see them, etc)
Rental policy (if you rent items, be sure to list what they are, retail value the client will be charged if not returned or broken, if the client is to return or if your company will pick up, etc)
Legal policies pertaining to your services (florists should include statements explaining the flowers are fresh, perishable product and will die; the company is not responsible for ingestion of flowers; bakers should have a allergy statement; Photographers should have a weather policy statement; etc)
The agreement should also include record of how much was paid, payment method, a place for the client to sign statting that he/she has read the agreement and agree to it’s contents. The company representative needs to sign and both parties need to date as well.
The company needs to retain the original signed copy; the client can also have an original or a copy of the signed document.
Store your copy in a safe place (better yet, scan it and store on a cloud in a folder for the bride. You can keep other things, such as her proposal, pictures, etc in the folder, too!
Does your agreement cover something not listed above? Please share in the comments below!!