There’s a lot more to closing a deal with prospective SEO clients than just generating leads, crafting effective proposals and delivering eloquent presentations. Putting everything you agreed on with the client into writing is a crucial component to having a fruitful working relationship. To make everything formal and to keep both parties true to their word at the start of the engagement, you’ll need to have a well-written service contract that both entities sign off on.
This is a vital but often neglected document by freelancers and startups who don’t have the awareness or structure to formalize their transactions. It’s not shocking, therefore, to see stories on the Internet about service providers who have clients that are refusing to pay their retainers. The problems actually go both ways as there’s an equal number of clients who end up getting scammed by fly-by-night contractors who go cold and run off with their money.
To minimize the risk of having unpleasant business experiences in the inbound marketing world, take the initiative and professionalize each engagement you enter. You don’t need a legal counsel or a background in corporate law to get started. There are dozens of free templates out there that can get you on the right track.
In the case of my company, GDI, we’ve been using a custom service contract template as we onboarded several new clients in the last few weeks. Using this template makes the preparation of written agreements as easy as using the Find+Replace function of MS Word and customizing the appendix so it reflects the scope of work that you and your client agreed on.
As a disclaimer, I take no credit in the creation of this template. This is a document that was inspired by dozens of others that I’ve seen throughout my tenure with Fortune 500 businesses such as Emerson and the Brady Corporation. Feel free to download it and tweak it as needed:
Download: SEO service agreement template
The template allows you to:
- Define the scope of work to guide you and the client on what the deliverables are. This helps the client guarantee the effort that he or she gets from you. This also helps you to politely and justifiably decline requests that are not part of what was originally agreed upon.
- Set the tone for a professional relationship. Knowing that there are formally defined parameters that will guide the engagement usually keeps both parties honest and respectful towards each other.
- Avoid abrupt deal terminations. You can stipulate that there should be a notice and a set number of days for a contract termination to be considered proper. This allows agencies and freelancers to wrap up the work engagement properly and to transition smoothly to other projects. On the part of the client, it helps guarantee work continuity should the agency be the one to terminate the deal for whatever reason.
- Guarantee confidentiality. In most cases, service providers will want to maintain a degree of confidentiality about what went on in their engagement. In the interest of reputation management, intellectual property rights, trade secrets and general good faith, you’ll want to maintain a high level of secrecy pertaining to your business relationship.
I know a lot of you freelancers and agencies are getting tons of leads during these months of the year. If you were looking for a foundational document for all the agreements you’ll be signing, this document should provide you with a few ideas. Enjoy!