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The Importance of Using Contracts in SEO

Using comprehensive contracts in your SEO business will prove invaluable. Not only will you feel more confident about running your business, but you will also have peace of mind in knowing that you are covered from a legal perspective should any issues arise.

I think it goes without saying that having a contract is a must for any type of service you provide, especially if you deal with thousands of dollars of service value. Not using a contract could cost you dearly in this business, especially if a client chooses to take off before they pay you. Then there’s also the worry of them making continual change requests throughout the project lifecycle if they decide to stick around.

This is why a contract should clearly specify milestones, expectations, specifications and a project schedule to allow both parties – client and consultant – to monitor deadlines and the project overview before getting started. To be qualified as valid, a contract will need to be mutually agreed upon, meaning both parties must sign and date the document. Once your client signs the contract, he or she clearly accepts the conditions laid forth within.

Remember, it’s always easiest to work from a pre-made SEO contract template to fast track the entire process, rather than starting from scratch each time.

Components of a Solid Contract

One thing you should always keep in mind is to include the essential components of your project. To give you an idea what could be included in an SEO contract, here are some examples;

* Work scope
* Payment terms
* Time-frame of the project
* How to deal with delays (initiated by either party)
* Dealing with liability issues
* Cancellations
* Copyrights, etc.

Obviously this is just a rough guide, but certainly a basic framework for you to work from as a starting point. Again, having a solid contract is a smart move in the world of SEO – not having one can lead to serious legal problems.

Key Contracts

While there are numerous contracts, documents and letters that you will be using daily, by far the most common contracts and documents that I’ve found myself using time and time again, regardless of the project type are:

* SEO Proposal
* SEO Contract
* Work Order

Let’s look at why these contracts are the most used contracts in freelance web design.

SEO Proposal

The SEO proposal is the corner stone document of any SEO business. Put simply, it’s your entire sales pitch on paper. This document allows you to showcase your overall proposed solution to your client. It’s the one document that has the potential to gain interest from the prospect and help secure the deal.

The SEO proposal should contain the following information:

* Project overview
* Site recommendations and objectives
* Project benefits
* Functional specifications
* Technical specifications
* Information architecture
* Considerations, assumptions, constraints etc.
* Cost summary including itemized quote
* Project phase or workflow

In a nutshell, the SEO proposal is intended to assist in the understanding of the proposed project for the development of the client’s website. It provides outlined functional specifications and requirements in brief that are intended as guides only without obligation, to the business owner or director. It is designed to direct project and overall implementation, and to give a better
insight as to the procedures involved with promoting the requested site, along with estimated costs.

SEO Contract

As already stated, not using a contract before getting started with any client is certainly not advisable. The complications and issues that could potentially arise are endless. By using a contract, you clearly define the project, set limitations to the amount of work requested, and layout your terms and conditions, including payment terms.

The SEO contract should contain the following information:

* Maintenance agreement
* Payment terms
* Project workflow
* Change requests
* Copyrights and trademarks
* Liability
* Indemnification
* Content ownership
* Non Disclosures
* Project cancellations

The main purpose of the contract is to ensure both the client and the consultant understand they are entering into a binding contract under which they both have obligations and responsibilities. Particularly useful when disputes or legal matters arise. If ever you have a prospect that refuses to agree to your terms and conditions as set-out within your contract – don’t do business with them!

Work Order

The work order is the essential “what’s gotta be done?” document. This document is perfect to use when itemizing each particular section of the requested task. Whether it be an entire website audit, restructure, or a quick fix, the work order allows you to clearly outline in detail exactly what has to be done, and what doesn’t. I’ve found over the years that’s it’s always smart to include
“exclusions” in the work order as well.

This prevents the client from suggesting that they requested something afterwards that wasn’t originally part of the project specification.

The Work order should contain the following information:

* Name of both parties, date and work order number
* Project overview
* Project benefits
* Completion dates
* Project specifications, including exclusions
* Agreement terms including payment, cancellations
and general notations

Obviously the more involved the work, the more detailed the work order needs to be, however the basic principle still applies – itemize the requested work ahead of time to ensure both yourself, and the client are on the same page.

Understanding Contracts

One common argument business owners and clients often have is the way in which the contract is specified. Unless you are a lawyer who is familiar with legal terms it can be hard to really understand what the contract actually states.

My advice is to double-check with your lawyer or solicitor. It is important contracts are written with humans in mind. They should be easy enough to understand and comprehend while clearly stating the legal side of doing business with your clients.

About the author: John Roberts Romaine is a self-employed freelance consultant, web developer and full time internet marketer, from Sydney, Australia. John operates the website which provides ready made SEO proposal templates and contract documents for self-employed SEO consultants.

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