"I was recommending your contracts to a friend this week and they asked me how the templates comply with various state laws. Apparently here in --------, independent contractor laws are complicated (per my friend, who is not a lawyer but was consulting with one). I didn't know the answer."
True story, this email ends up in our inbox every few months, and it's about time we got around to answering it here on the blog.
Can your contracts be carried over state to state, province to province, or even between countries? Do they work where you live?
This is going to sound like weak sauce for a sec but stay with us…!
Getting your contract template reviewed by an attorney in your area is a good idea, but starting with a contract template will save you a ton of money because if you didn’t notice, attorneys are expensive.
They probably also don't understand that your calligraphy clients NEVER approve their proofs on time or that the mother-of-the-bride will blame YOU if the U.S. Postal Service destroys her only daughter's custom-designed wedding invitations.
So, having something (and a very well-drafted, peer-reviewed, used-by-many something at that) is better than nothing.
And now for the long answer!
Pretend like we’re in a relay race — our templates here at The Contract Shop® have run 9/10ths of the race for you, and it’s up to you to finish out that last tenth of a mile.
If you poop out now and kinda jog to the finish, you still win because you finished the race. If you sprint ahead with one last lawyerly review in your jurisdiction, you win, just ahead of the competitors.
The alternative to our templates is.... Scary.
You either don’t have a contract at all, or you can get something for free or very cheap on the internet or at “big-box” template sites, but these Frankencontracts you piece together from various sites that don’t take into account your unique business needs. Or you spent waaaay more money than you needed to hire a few lawyers who have no idea what an "online course" even is…
For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, one of the biggest questions you’re going to get from couples is “how can I use my images once they’re delivered to me?”
(Either that or your clients are just going to start doing all kinds of wacky shit with your photos. Like putting ugly ass filters on them. Or screenshotting them and using their crappy resolution screenshot as their profile photo. Yikes!)
A contract is there to lay down the law and tell them exactly what they can or can’t do, but unless you’re a photographer (been there) and have experienced this first hand (done that) there’s no way a regular lawyer or big box site is going to know they should include this.
At the end of the day, you provide a service. Clients need that service. Now, what you do and how you provide that (and how well you provide that) is indeed unique— we’re not discounting that.
However, we have yet to see state laws that are significantly different from state to state. Where language is important, these state-specific statutes have been included with our templates. For example, the equine photography contract template comes with state-specific equine statutory language since the exact wording varies by state.
As far as the reader’s question, however, IRS regulations around independent contractor classifications don’t differ very much from the states w’ve seen. Our guess is that the reader’s friend/her attorney have experienced what we all do at some point — classifying an independent contractor vs. an employee is a gray area and frankly can be a pain in the ass.
We don’t think there’s anything tricky in the contract or regulations of states per se, but we do think most business owners have a hard time distinguishing when someone becomes an employee because it’s so unclear.
Consider this: In a law firm, a fully custom agreement typically runs a purchaser anywhere from $2,500-$3,500.
Tweaking and revising one of our templates costs the client much less — somewhere around $500.
Since the templates are pretty complete, they save purchasers hundreds of dollars should that purchaser choose to get it reviewed by an attorney. As you might imagine, to make these templates absolutely perfect for every state/province at any given moment is impossible—laws change, industries change, and technically there are federal, state, city, township, and licensing rules to comply with.
Rather than spend 80 million hours making the perfect template for your profession in your zip code, we ask ourselves this question when we create any template:
What is the most important outcome for both the service provider and client?
To us, the most important thing to preserve within any contract template is the client experience. Therefore, when we draft or revise these templates, our main concern is how the terms benefit both you as the service provider (since you all have stolen our hearts) and how you can provide the best experience possible to these clients.
Client experience starts with their contract, and ends with a referral and a five-star review on Google in our opinion.
You may have noticed that we have an option to select your country when purchasing one of our templates (many of our contracts are available in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia). That’s because we want to make it as easy as possible for you to hit the ground running. We want you to be able to download this, plug in the info you need, and then 10 minutes later send it off to your client.
The different contracts also have some obvious language changes (like changing the z to s in many words). We’ve also worked with international attorneys to ensure these contracts comply with local laws, so nothing is left out.
Think it's time to double-check your contract? We do too. And actually, we suggest doing this once or twice a year because your business changes as you change your services and products. Get the Client Contract Checklist to dot your i's and cross your t's.
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