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Got Marketing Clients? You Need Project Agreements

Monday, March 24, 2014/Categories: consultant-liability

Before beginning work on any consulting engagement, it’s a good idea for marketing consultants to protect their business and reduce their liability by getting their client’s signature on a comprehensive marketing consulting contract.

During the initial stages of project development, marketing consultants may tend to rely on informal communication, such as meeting notes and e-mails sent to and from the client. While notes and e-mail do provide a record of discussions and correspondence between you and your customer, legally, they can't stand in for a signed project agreement that clearly outlines the scope, milestones, payment terms and other important elements of a marketing consulting engagement.

Consulting Project Agreements Reduce Marketing Liability

Before you begin work or accept any payment, it's a good idea to have a signed consulting contract or project agreement in force. This agreement is a central component of a strong project risk management strategy.

Defining all project deliverables, milestones and limitations in writing, before work actually begins, could head off future legal troubles, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in legal defense costs as well as lost time due to fighting your case in court. A signed marketing consulting agreement can avert complications that could arise during your consulting project, reducing your marketing firm’s liability.

You could be weeks or months into a project when, for some reason, your client might decline to pay, try to negotiate a lower price than agreed to, or alter the engagement’s terms. In such cases, without a contract in place, you stand to lose both time and money, as well as your good relationship with your client.

What Marketing Consulting Project Agreements Typically Cover

Generally, a marketing consulting agreement defines the goals of the engagement, as well as the actions expected of both the consultant and the client to help attain those goals. It may establish performance benchmarks and a schedule for reviewing progress toward them. And, it lays out the limits of your responsibilities to the client, as well as your pricing and payment terms and how you’ll be reimbursed for any expenses you incur on the client’s behalf.

A consulting agreement generally protects both your and your client’s intellectual property rights, prohibits your client from bringing your employees on staff, and establishes confidentiality standards to protect both entities. A marketing consulting agreement can also cap your liabilities in the event that your client should suffer any financial or other losses arising from any errors or omissions on your part.

Additionally, a marketing consultant project agreement typically spells out who can terminate the contract, in what time frame, and how termination should be accomplished.

Depending on the type of work you're doing and who you're bringing in on the project, marketing consultants may also need additional contracts, such as:

  • Employment contracts
  • Staffing and placement agreements
  • Subcontractor or independent contractor agreements

If you plan to employ subcontractors or independent contractors on your marketing consulting engagement, you may need an agreement to define the functional details of the relationship between you and the people you bring on board. These types of contracts establish who owns intellectual property and help to ensure that your subcontractor cannot take your client’s business away or go to work for your client’s team.

With a legally enforceable contract in place at the beginning of your consulting engagement, both you and your client will have a well-defined reference point you can turn to when questions arise about project milestones, payment or other agreement terms. Eliminating surprises not only reduces your own liability, it also makes for a happier, more-satisfied client.

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