Terms and conditions: essential scenarios you might not have considered

You’ve got that sinking feeling in your gut.

This project isn’t going well.

Your client keeps changing their mind and you’re spending way more time than you had allowed.

They can’t expect you to do all this extra work at no charge, can they?

Well, unless you told your client this situation wasn’t covered in your quote – yes, they can.

Enter: your terms and conditions (sometimes called, terms of service).

Terms and conditions are much like the rules of a game. They let everyone know the basic parameters in which they must operate and how all the players interact.

When I started Copywrite Matters I had about five terms and conditions nicked from, I mean ‘inspired by’, examples I found online. As I worked with more and more clients, I encountered specific scenarios that pushed the relationships into murky waters.

I crave clarity. Clear expectations make life so much easier. Each murky situation I encountered resulted in a new addition to my terms.

Benefits of terms and conditions

If you’ve ever wondered if you really need terms and conditions, here are three big reasons they’re a must.

  • They make your service inclusions and exclusions clear so you’re never left explaining why you’re okay with endless revisions.
  • They clarify what happens in challenging scenarios (like too many revisions) helping to settle disputes faster and more amicably.
  • They boost your professional image thanks to fewer projects that end up in dispute.

Here are some tips on creating your own terms and conditions (or terms of service) and some scenarios you might not have considered.

Tips on creating your T&Cs

Make sure they are clear. This is not the time to get all highbrow with your language and pretend you’re a legal eagle. If you have the opportunity to have a legal representative look them over, do so but ultimately, you simply need your client to understand their responsibilities. And yours.

Make sure they are comprehensive. You don’t need to cover off every single possible scenario but you should cover the most common areas of change or challenge.

Include some definitions.

The Client means the person or company that has formally entered into the agreement. (That’s you)

Copywrite Matters refers to the business entity trading as Copywrite Matters, ABN xx xxx xxxxx. (That’s me)

Quotation means a formal proposal document or price estimates provided over the phone or email.

Approved copywriting brief means the materials from which the work is to be based upon, subject to the approval of the Client.

Urgent work means copywriting work needed (finalised) within 7days.

Larger projects mean projects requiring more than 25 hours of work.

Here are some scenarios you might not have considered.

#1 Is there any limitation to the quote you’ve provided?

Your proposal document is often the first time your prospective client reads your terms of service. That makes it a good place to outline the boundaries to your quote. I specify that my quote will be confirmed after the copywriting brief is approved (as that’s when I know everything about the project) and previous estimates are no longer valid. I also specify how long the quote is valid for (30 days).

Examples:

  • Quotations are valid for 30 days from the submission date.
  • The copywriting investment will be confirmed on receipt of the approved copywriting brief from ‘the Client’ when most of the complexities of the project are known. If ‘the Client’ chooses not to proceed, the time spent on the copywriting brief will be billed (only).
  • Any project estimates provided before ‘the Client’ approves the copywriting brief are not guarantees of delivery and should not be taken as such.
  • This proposal includes 2 sets of revisions. Additional revisions are charged at time and materials @ $nnn + GST per hour.

#2 Does your client need to send you anything before work can commence?

Some examples are written approval of your quote, a deposit or other payment before you start work, a reviewed or approved project brief, specific information about the business, or a nominated contact person. 

Example:

  • Approval of the copywriting brief should be via email or will be assumed when ‘the client’ sends an amended copywriting brief to Copywrite Matters. Approval of the copywriting itself, is via an online approval form. If this form cannot be completed, approval should be provided in writing by ‘the client.

I also include a statement that “All materials provided by ‘the Client’ are assumed legal and accurate.” 

#3 What happens if the project scope changes?

As you and your client start digging into the brief and ideas start to surface, project scope changes can enter the picture. I request the right to requote based on new project requirements. The key is to let your clients know their exciting new ideas ain’t getting done for free!

Example

  • A set amount of revision time is included in each quotation. If the project objectives and requirements change requiring the work provided to be significantly altered, Copywrite Matters reserves the right to charge additional writing on a time and materials basis.

#4 What happens if the project is cancelled after work has commenced?

There are all kinds of reasons a project might be cancelled. You might charge your client for the full amount, or pro rata for the work already completed. I recommend the second option as you can part on good terms without losing money for the work you’ve done.

Example:

  • ‘The Client’ may terminate the job at any time. In this instance, Copywrite Matters shall invoice for the time spent and work completed to date.

#5 What are your payment terms?

Your T&Cs are a great place to outline your payment terms, especially what happens if the client doesn’t pay within the time specified and what happens if you incur a debt as part of your debt collection work.

Examples:

  • A non-refundable commencement fee of 50% of the total quoted amount is required on acceptance of the quote by ‘the Client’.
  • The upfront deposit paid will be deducted from the remainder (50%) due 14 days after the first draft is delivered. All revisions will be finalised as per our agreement.
  • Payment may be made by direct deposit or PayPal. ‘The Client’ is required to pay PayPal fees and so PayPal transactions are subject to a 3.4% surcharge for fees.
  • Unless prior arrangements are made, payments not received within the specified payment terms will attract a late fee charge of $25.
  • If payment defaults Copywrite Matters may list ‘the Client’ with the appropriate debt collection and credit reporting agencies.

#6 Are there any specific circumstances or charges for “urgent” work requests?

It’s quite common to charge a surcharge for “urgent” work, offering you two benefits. Firstly, the client may just rethink how “urgent” the work is, taking the pressure off you and, secondly, you are compensated for any work you’ve had to put off.

Example:

  • Urgent work will incur a 25% surcharge. Why? Because of the other projects shifted around to accommodate.

#7 Are there any exclusions your client should know about?

Copywrite Matters quotes don’t include liaising with other agents such as graphic designers, web developers and so on, or meetings outside of the initial brief. These might seem like little things but they can really eat up your time if they blow out.

Example:

  • This proposal doesn’t include liaising with other agents such as graphic designers or web developers unless specified, or meetings outside of the initial creative brief. Travel time will be itemised on invoices for additional onsite meetings.
  • Any costs that are added to the services ordered (including couriers, other media and travel costs) are in addition to the amount quoted and shall be charged to the ‘the Client’ as required. These costs will be itemised separately in the invoice.

#8 Do you have any limits on time frames, such as how long clients can take to respond with approval or revisions?

Copywrite Matters has a 14-day cap on revisions to ensure each project is wrapped up in a timely fashion. This time limit helps everyone involved, copywriters and clients alike, stay focused enough to ensure the end result is amazeballs.

Examples:

  • Proofreading will be completed once approval for the copywriting has been submitted or on version three of the copywriting.
  • Revisions should be submitted within 14days of the first draft being delivered. If revisions are not received, approval of the copywriting will be assumed and the project finalised.

#9 What happens if you can’t meet the agreed deadline (for whatever reason)?

A common response to this one is to let the client know in writing as soon as the situation is known, with revised delivery dates. Your client may want recompense for late delivery so be prepared to handle this.

#10 Are you happy working with teams or do you prefer one contact person?

I request that one contact person is nominated to centralise project contact and revisions. This one came about after I was getting phone calls and constant requests for updates from five different people. Revisions by a committee are the worst!

Example:

  • ‘The Client’ is asked to nominate one primary contact to centralise all revisions and contact throughout the project.

#11 Do you offer any guarantees of results? If not, spell this out.

I don’t offer any guarantees on conversion or traffic, etc. This is because there are so many factors that contribute to successful marketing– from the graphic design and distribution to other marketing activities and how nice the receptionist is when people call.

Examples:

  • With so many factors contributing to the success of a piece of copywriting, Copywrite Matters cannot make any guarantees as to the performance of the copy created for ‘the Client’.
  • Due to the complex nature of search engine ranking, Copywrite Matters cannot guarantee any specific ranking as a result of publishing optimised copywriting.
  • Copywrite Matters accepts no responsibility or liability for any actions taken by ‘the Client’ that cause the website of ‘the Client’ to be penalised or banned from any Search Engine.

#12 Do you work with subcontractors?

If you do, it’s good to let your client know in your T&Cs and give them assurance of your quality control. You might want to explain if your client can, or cannot, contact subcontractors.

Example

  • Copywrite Matters reserves the right to assign work to subcontractors to ensure project deliverables are met. All subcontractors adhere to Copywrite Matters’ standard and style of copywriting. “The Client” is not to have direct contact with the subcontractor without the authority of Copywrite Matters.

#13 Do you hand over or retain copyright of the work undertaken? If you hand it over, at what point?

Copywrite Matters retains copyright of all work produced until the final invoice is paid. Until then, the copy can’t be used.

Example:

  • It is agreed that the copyright for any work delivered to ‘the Client’ remains the intellectual property of Copywrite Matters until all monies due have been paid.

#14 Are you responsible for how your work is used?

It’s important to have a statement indemnifying you from claims, costs and expenses incurred as a result of the work we undertake at the request of a client. I’m not sure how it would stand up in court but I know the indemnity insurance companies like it!

Examples:

  • Copywrite Matters cannot be held responsible for how the material produced is used once ‘the Client’ has approved the final draft.
  • ‘The Client’ agrees to indemnify and to hold Copywrite Matters harmless against any and all claims, costs, and expenses, including solicitors fees, due to materials included in any work undertaken at the request of ‘the Client’.

 

So there you have it – 14 scenarios that might help you flesh out your terms of service and examples taken from my own terms and conditions. I’d love to know if you cover off any different scenarios in your T&Cs.

Belinda

15 Responses

    1. I really like your whole signature setup Bridie and it’s something I’ve considered for Copywrite Matters. It’s so easy.

      What’s the tool again? (for everyone else)

      PS thanks for commenting!

      1. Hey David, and welcome!

        I send my terms and conditions at the time I give a price. That’s usually in a formal proposal but if it’s a quick quote over email I link to a page I created on my site. That means, if they decide to go ahead they’ve always been exposed to them. In my proposal it states that by choosing to proceed, they are agreeing to all the terms and conditions.

        In terms of enforcing them, most of them simply explain how I work but I have had to point a few out to clients who: are using the copy and are overdue on their invoice or are really overdue and I’m starting to get heavy. Both those scenarios have only happened once, for the same client.

        I’m always polite, naturally, but it is good to be able to say “as stated in the agreed terms and conditions….” It usually only takes a little nudge to get things back on track.

  1. Everytime I look on your blog I learn something useful and of value. I have now altered my T&Cs (again!) to reflect your tips. I particularly like the idea to incorporate them into my website, you should include that on the blog too.

  2. Hi Belinda,

    Excellent article, being in the business of website design I am revising my terms and conditions ongoing in case anything ever arises that I don’t want to happen. Generally it is always a bit of scope creep so I love the point of you saying that you reserve the right to requote for additional work.

    1. Thanks Nicole!

      Scope creep bit me in the ass a few times but once I built that flexibility into my process, I felt much better about putting my foot down. Another good approach with scope creep, if you will end up requoting or adding charges, is to make sure clients know the change is coming. I wasn’t clear enough with one client and she was surprised to see additional charges on the invoice. We sorted it out but I made a mental note not to let clients get blind-sided again!

      We got it all resolved, and amicably too, but it reminded me to *really* spell things out when it comes to money.

  3. You talk a lot of sense, Belinda. I agree with your three key benefits. In addition, business cash flow is often improved from reduced late payment, profitability gets a kick from reduced write-offs. In the right set up, business owners can save a lot of time chasing debtors through more streamlined credit management.

  4. Pingback: E74: Hot Copy Q&A

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