Setting Up Your Consulting Practice

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Topic: Using Contract Templates

Contract templates save you time. Once created, have your attorney view the terms of your contract to ensure it holds up in all states where you do business.

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Templates prepared by Matt Weill, contact:

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Get contract templates for your firm. If you want to go more in-depth on this topic, I suggest you check out Episode 12 of Unleashed, where I interviewed Matt Weill, who’s an attorney in New York City, who works with many independent consultants and we go through contracts in detail. For this episode, we’ll keep it short. There are three main types of contract templates that you should have at the ready.

Number one is a master service agreement (MSA) with clients. Some clients will want to use their own template and then you have to kind of start with their document, but some clients won’t have an agreement that they have off-the-shelf for working with independent professionals and so then, you’ll want to be able to provide your own. The typical way these are structured is you have a master service agreement that has all the terms and conditions, and then for the actual project that you’re doing, you have a statement of work. That makes it easy for future projects that you do.

All you have to do is that sort of one-page statement of work saying — here’s the services we’re going to provide and here’s the fees and so forth, rather than going through that whole contracting process again, and again in that Matt Weill episode, we go through all of the terms that are typically addressed in a master service agreement. 

Those are things like: what are the entities that are in the agreement, that are agreeing with each other, it talks about termination, talks about indemnity, liability, payment terms, survivability of individual paragraphs if the whole thing is found to be… parts of it are found not to work, and arbitration or state of laws, how you agree ahead of time to resolve any disagreements. So, listen to that episode of Matt Weill to get more detail on master service agreements.

Number two is an agreement between you and a subcontractor. In many ways that mirrors the agreement of you with a client, but this time you are the prime and subcontractor. That can be structured in the same way, your master service agreement and then a statement of work for each project that you do together.

The third document is a non-disclosure agreement. Often times clients will have their own that they want you to sign, sometimes before they talk to you about any of the confidential details. But, in other cases, maybe some smaller clients, they might not have an NDA. They’ll want to sign one with you and they’ll say,  “Do you have an NDA that we could both sign so that we feel comfortable sharing confidential information with you?” 

The MSA that I mentioned before with clients often will include that sort of confidentiality and intellectual property protection, but in some cases, you want to sign just the bare NDA portion, so that’s number three.

In the extra material for this episode, we have a sample contract for each one of those types, again this is not legal advice, you’ll want to get those customized for your situation working with your attorney, but at least those are a starting point.