We’ll close the series on a more practical – but equally necessary – note: Would you like to get paid? Would you like to be paid on time? Would you like to know who is paying you? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then read on. Even if you’re doing pro bono work (or pro-Bono work, if that’s your thing), setting expectations allows you to put aside the small stuff and get to work.
The ideal client will not, under any circumstances, work without a contract.
Jonathan Colby, OpenArc COO
It really is all about expectations. A strong contract protects both parties and defines the rules of engagement – scope of work, timeline, payment, and especially for software development, intellectual and creative property – and if we are going to build and keep lasting relationships, then we must foster an atmosphere of both having and meeting expectations. It’s like building a house, and that agreed-upon set of expectations serves as the foundation and the only real base to build on and move forward from.
Design guru and Twitter gadfly Mike Monteiro puts it this way in a raw, funny-because-it’s true talk he gave in 2011: “All clients, I think, start the business relationship with the best of intentions. And things go wrong. Things that you weren’t expecting.” (Fair warning: Monteiro’s talk is funny and extremely insightful, but not for the faint of heart. Headphones up.) If those core elements aren’t in place from the beginning, your expectations can become misaligned – and when you boil misaligned expectations down into a scope of work, there could be magnitudes of difference separating you. MakerBot’s Thingiverse community recently addressed this issue, unveiling a genius riff on their terms of service that makes certain there are no surprises for either party.
Ultimately, this doesn’t have to be an arduous endeavor. Just be clear from the start, define your roles and maintain a high level of communication throughout the process. (And, you know, get everything signed.) Good things will happen.