Signing an event planner contract

Event Planner Contract Dos and Don’ts

As a professional event planner, you’ll want to make sure you have simple, easy-to-understand, iron-clad contracts for all of your clients. A good contract protects both you and your client from the unknown. You both agree to the terms in a legally-binding document.

Here are 8 standard clauses you should make sure to include in every contract.  Today, we’re going to talk about the dos and don’ts to follow when writing and using your contract.

Do: Use Simple, Straight-Forward Language

Event Planning Meeting

Your contract doesn’t have to be 20 pages long, nor does it need to contain a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo in order to be effective.  Using simple, straight-forward language will ensure that your client understands the terms outlined in your contract.

  • Try not to use terms like “the client” and “the provider”. Instead, use “you” when referring to the client and “I” or “we” when referring to yourself or the company. This simple change can make a contract much easier to understand.
  • Use short sentences or bullet points wherever possible. Try to avoid long or rambling sentences. Remember, a contract is not a marketing document.
  • Avoid using ambiguous language that can be open to interpretation, especially when describing amounts or timings. Don’t use terms like “many”, “few”, etc. instead, use numbers wherever you can. For example, using words like “5 or more servers” is infinitely better than “many servers”. You don’t want to get into a legal battle with a client over your interpretation of the words “adequate notice”.

Don’t: Write Your Contract from Scratch Every Time

Many event planners are all about the “personalized approach” and making each client’s experience unique in its own way. However, a client contract is one of those things that really shouldn’t be highly personalized for each client.  You should have standard contract templates for your services, and simply fill out the few key details that will change from one client to the next (payment dates, services rendered, etc.).

Do: Consult an Attorney

Consulting an Attorney

You don’t need a lawyer to go over every single client contract that’s signed, but you definitely should have your lawyer go over your contract template with you to ensure it’s legal and enforceable. You can find tons of contract templates online, and most of them should be perfectly fine for your business, but you really don’t want to find yourself in a situation one day of being sued by your client and learning that a clause in your contract was invalid all along.

Don’t: Trust Your Clients to Read & Understand the Contract

Clients should never sign something without thoroughly reading and understanding it first, but the reality is many, many people do just that.  While a signed contract is still enforceable whether the client read it thoroughly or not, it’s good business to make sure your client actually does understand and agrees with your terms of service.

So while it’s perfectly reasonable to give your client a copy of the contract to read over on their own, you should also sit down with them to go over each clause one-by-one with them.  Ideally, you do this when you first give your client a copy of the contract. Read the contract together and answer questions, and then have them take a copy home with them to go over it themselves before signing.

Do: Re-Read & Sign the Contract Yourself, After the Client

signing the contract

It’s extremely rare and devious, but some clients will think they’re smart and try to be sneaky by making changes to your contract themselves before signing it.  Whether these changes are enforceable is up for debate. But one way to avoid the headache is to leave a signature line for yourself on the contract, and only sign it once the customer’s signed their part.  This is especially important if you send your contract to your customers via email.

When the customer returns the signed contract to you, re-read it in its entirety and look for anything that seems “off”.  Pay close attention to whether any words were changed/altered, or if anything has been added to or removed from the contract.

Here are some ways you can make it harder for clients to alter your contract:

  • Only give your clients a printed hard-copy of your contract, and make sure it contains a watermark of your logo. These will be much more difficult to alter without you noticing.
  • If you do email your contract to clients, never send it in a word document. Use a secure PDF instead.
  • Use an online contract service like DocuSign – these services make it virtually impossible for your client to alter your contract.

Note: If you catch a client trying to alter your contract without discussing it with you, consider this a massive red flag and think long and hard about whether you want to work with this person.

Don’t: Refuse to Negotiate

A contract is, at its core, a business agreement. And a business agreement is up for negotiation.  While 99% of your clients will likely be perfectly fine with your contract the way it’s presented, some clients will ask for minor updates to your clauses, and you should be open to hearing them out.

Some common changes clients might ask for include:

  • Changing the terms of the cancellation clause to give themselves more flexibility
  • Changing the payment schedule to meet their budget, align with their paychecks, etc.
  • Changing the terms of service if they want you to take on extra responsibilities

These are usually fairly reasonable requests and can be accommodated by most event planners. Just be sure you don’t agree to a contract change that makes you uncomfortable. Hear your clients out, but it’s alright to push back or meet somewhere in the middle.

Some changes clients might ask for that you should NEVER agree to include:

  • Eliminating or changing the indemnification clause. Don’t open yourself up to liability like that. It’s never worth the risk.
  • Changing the terms of the Force Majeure. Again, this clause is solely present to protect your business in case of an unforeseeable emergency. No reasonable client will have a problem with this.
  • Change the payment terms to make everything payable after services rendered. This is a MASSIVE red flag that a client either can’t afford you at all or is planning to stiff you after the event. While it’s sometimes acceptable to negotiate the payment terms if the customer asks you to modify dates, that’s very different from a customer asking that you remove your requirement that they pay you a deposit!

Negotiation - Event Planners shaking hands

When starting your event planning business, contracts are one of those things that you use but don’t think about too much. That is until something goes wrong.  So do yourself a favor: use these important dos and don’ts to ensure your event planner contracts are useful to you from client number one!

What did we miss? Let us know in a comment!

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