Over the past few months, I have read numerous post on Facebook from Mobile DJs regarding the best way to handle contracts with clients. The topics have ranged from types of contracts, length of time you hold the date available, deposits or retainers and enforcement of the language contained within. Most of the comments have been helpful but I am amazed at the level of advice given that appears to be more speculation and assumptions than basic business common sense.
To be transparent, I am not a lawyer and will not provide legal advice within the context of this blog. However working in the banking industry and having to deal with contract and legal documents, I have a basic understanding of business law and have applied that knowledge to my own DJ business. Let’s look at some of the basic questions that have been asked and debated on social media boards.
Question: How long do you give a couple return a signed contract and are you obligated to honor that agreement after that specific date?
Thoughts: In general a period of 10 business days from the date of the contact is generally sufficient for a client to review the information and make a decision. Keep in mind that most couples like to review the information with a family member since this might be their first experience in dealing with a contract of this type. It would be a good practice to follow up with the couple and see if they need some additional time or have any questions prior to the due date. I have read a number of comments that DJs will play “hardball” with the client and hold fast and true to the commitment date. This approach can often be a deterrent to the client, and although they may like and want your services it could easily set the tone that you are inflexible or hard to work with. I have been told by couples repeatedly that they backed out of using another DJ, because of what they described as high-pressure sales pitches to sign a contract.
Question: The contract must be signed by the bride and groom because it’s their wedding day. Never accept a contract that is signed by the parent.
Thoughts: The contract should be signed by the person who is paying the bill. If a parent asks me to make them the responsible party for the contract, I do it without hesitation. We all understand that the bride and groom will be planning the day and working directly with us regardless of who signed the contract. Unless it specifically states in your contract that you can only plan the wedding with the undersigned obligator, I believe you are OK. I have never had a parent sign a contract and then interfere with the planning process between myself and the bride and groom. Just a thought, if the bride and groom cancel the wedding are you more likely to get paid, in accordance with the cancellation policy by a parent or the couple.
Questions: I do not need a contract for small events since I cannot hold them responsible if they should cancel the event.
Thoughts: I would highly recommend that you have a contract for any event you offer your services. This includes clubs, bars, corporate and non-profit events. A handshake will not secure your ability to collect on a debt owned you. One size does not fit all when it comes to securing a contract for your business, so take time to modify a contract to meet the needs of a club/bar event vs a corporate event or birthday party. It’s a good idea to have a small business attorney to review your contracts and provide any suggestions. Remember we are small business owners and in the event that a client does not fulfill their obligation are recourse is small claims court. A judge court-appointed mediator would most likely lean in your favor with a legal document supporting your claim for payment.
What are my best practices for handling contracts with clients?
- My contact is simple and concise written in plain language for clients to easily understand.I clearly identify what is my responsibility such as travel expense and what services are being offered.
- Provide the clients with a reasonable period of time to review the information and return it to me. Because we all lead busy lives, 99% of the couples return the contract within the due date intended.
- If I couple asked for additional time, I am more than willing to grant that request within reason.An additional week is not going to preclude me from speaking with other couples.
- I keep the lines of communication open and often follow up with an email or phone call during the review process. Taking these extra steps shows you willingness and professionalism which can often sway a couple to secure you services.
Thoughts on what not to do with pending contracts:
- Sending multiple emails in a short period of time asking for a decision or the signed contract.
- The tone of the email or phone call is threatening to give away their wedding date if you don’t get it back by a specific date.
- Refusing to accept a contract after the due date regardless if you still have the date open or not. I know you find this hard to believe but DJs have posted that this is their business practice.
Legal documents are a major thread in our business and its success. We need to keep in mind that we are small business owners and with that comes the ability to be flexible whenever possible. 99.9% of our customer understand that dates left open on our calendar is lost revenue, therefore reaching a balance in the sales process will insure a good working relationship with our clients.