Mike Monterio, co-founder of Mule Design, speaking at CreativeMornings San Francisco, has some good advice for those working in client services. Corresponding weblog post here.
Don’t start work without a contract.
You can’t retroactively create a contract. The same way you can’t slip on a condom after getting pregnant.
After the joyful climax of the business development process, everyone is excited to to get to work while there is still a lot of love and momentum. Negotiating the specifics of a contract can feel like a giant buzz kill that brings everything to a screeching halt. That’s too bad. That pressure to get started can provide leverage on negotiations.
Do NO work before signing. NONE. NEVER EVER. Not even a little.
Don’t blindly accept their terms.
(Most of the time they don’t know what’s in there.)
The larger and more established the organization, the more heinously skewed in their favor their terms are going to be. Always start from a strong position with your desired terms in mind and a good sense of what you are and aren’t willing to accept. There will always be other clients.
If you’ve done your work in the business development process, you have allies in the organization. You have convinced someone with some amount of authority that your work is indispensable to their success. That is influence and leverage. You might hear, “That’s just our policy with outside vendors,” but, as with the Geneva Convention, you’ll find that there is frequently more wiggle room in policy than you’ve been led to expect.