Eighty three.

Butt-saving clauses you need in your contract.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from WordPress developer Morena Fiore. She says:

“Hi Frankie and Steve,

I’m a web developer specialising in WordPress and SEO.

I’m still fairly new to freelancing and am wondering if my clients’ contract is strong enough. 

I think I’ve covered myself for scenarios I’ve already experienced, but I worry there might still be things I haven’t accounted for because I’ve just not experienced them yet??

So my question is: What butt-saving clauses have people got in their clients’ contracts?



Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:01:03] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie. And this is Steve.

[00:01:12] – Steve
Hello! Yes, each episode we take a question from the Doing It For the Kids community and do our best to answer it. But we start each episode by looking back at the last episode. Last one we were talking about…

[00:01:22] – Frankie
It was Laura offering lots of different services in her business and worrying it would be confusing.

[00:01:27] – Steve
We’re just going to read one comment out this week because it’s a long comment, but it’s a good comment. So, Claire Gallagher got in touch. Claire says:

“Laura’s question really resonates with me. I’ve added and removed a bunch of smaller services over the years. I reckon a lot of service providers want to be as useful and valuable and accessible as possible. But at some point, as Laura said, it gets confusing and people aren’t clear what you actually offer.”

And then she quotes:

“’the confused mind doesn’t buy’. I think Donald Miller said that.” 

We’re not sure, but it’s it sounds wise, right?

[00:02:00] – Frankie
Someone said it.

[00:02:01] – Steve
“Creating multiple sites and socials can be a head-melter unless you have a team and a consistent full night’s sleep. There can be a point where breaking things up into little microservices can be a disservice to clients and also a nightmare to market and sell. Especially if they’re inexpensive services, lots of hustle for little return. No, thanks. 

If the copywriting and mentoring services both speak to the same outcome and the overall brand message remains relevant across the board, there’d be no reason you couldn’t do both. There’s a great book called Built To Sell about productising your services. You don’t actually have to be selling your business. It’s about structuring things so that you get to do your best work and get the best results possible for your clients.”

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:07:00] – Frankie
Okay. Episode 83. Our question comes from Morena Fiore. Her website is morenafiore.com.

“Hi Frankie and Steve. I’m a web developer specialising in WordPress and SEO. I’m still fairly new to freelancing and I’m wondering if my client contract is strong enough. I think I’ve covered myself for scenarios I’ve already experienced, but I worry there might still be things I haven’t accounted for because I’ve just not experienced them yet. So, my question is: what butt saving clauses have people got in their client contracts? Thanks, Morena”

[00:07:36] – Steve 
Butt saving clauses. There’s a book title.

[00:07:39] – Frankie
Yeah. Right.

[00:07:42] – Steve
First up, neither of us are WordPress developers.

[00:07:47] – Frankie 

[00:07:48] – Steve 
You know, fine. Listen to us two waffling on. Because you’re here now may as well. But I’d be tempted as well to ask this question in a WordPress community or to somebody who you value within that sort of space. If that makes sense.

[00:08:03] – Frankie 
Yes, definitely.

[00:08:04] – Steve
In case there were technicalities, you know, just like if I was, uh… giving advice to an illustrator. Like illustrators really need tight stuff on like…

[00:08:12] – Frankie

[00:08:13] – Steve
Copyright and licensing. Yeah. 

So, is that our caveat? That feels like a butt saving clause

[00:08:20] – Frankie
At the start of this episode. Yeah. 

I think the first thing to say here is she’s doing pretty well. Because if she’s new to freelancing and has got a contract, that’s the first step. I mean, she doesn’t say how she sorted that or with whom or whatever but having something is better than nothing. Right? Because I’ve been freelancing for 10 years and I only sorted mine about 18 months ago. So, she’s already doing better than me!

[00:08:47] – Steve
I always feel like a good contract says — beyond like the legalese and the clauses, butt saving clauses included — it says what it is you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it, how much you’re going to charge and how you’re going to get paid.

[00:09:06] – Frankie
Mmmm… but also what’s going to happen if shit goes wrong.

[00:09:10] – Steve

[00:09:11] – Frankie
Writing a contract and getting the right stuff for your business built in comes down to essentially catastrophising your life and making a list of like worst case scenarios. Because the whole point of it is to protect yourself from those worst case scenarios. So maybe sitting down and going… Well, she says already, “ these are the things that have gone wrong for me that I know I need to protect myself against because I’ve experienced them”. But I need to think about the things that have not yet gone wrong, but I know are an issue in my industry. Things I know could happen in this type of work that I’m doing or if I don’t know what those things are — as we mentioned before — speaking to my community of developers or whatever about those common problems and then addressing those within the contract. A lot of it I think is about looking for the shit storms and trying to prevent them basically.

[00:10:00] – Steve

[00:10:00] – Frankie
Or trying to protect yourself in spite of them.

[00:10:03] – Steve
So that’s what a contract would normally have. But then obviously there’s extensions to that, so maybe we should cover areas or topics which we think might make up a butt saving clause?

[00:10:13] – Frankie
Yeah. Like the stuff that from our experience has been the most useful.

[00:10:18] – Steve
One thing which comes up for me is around timelines and expectations. So, here’s the ultimate deadline, but if we’re going to hit a deadline, we need these things from each other to make that happen.

So, what you need from them — it might be assets that you need in order to continue the build or when you need feedback so that you can do revisions so we can keep it on the timeline.

Like that feels like the first butt saving clause, if you like, because that way, if a timeline is slipping, you can show that you said from the outset, “I need these things by this date” otherwise it’s not my fault. And that may impact on the final delivery, blah, blah, blah.

[00:11:02] – Frankie
Yeah. Yeah.

[00:11:02] – Steve
That is one of the things which I’ve come up against most — particularly making videos for big corporate people — is that whole review feedback, turnaround, final deadline, timelines, that kind of thing. People love to push the blame onto you. So, it feels really good to be able to say, well, no, we agreed right at the beginning that this needs to happen in order for…

[00:11:25] – Frankie
You didn’t send me the copy till 48 hours before the deadline. So…

[00:11:29] – Steve
I refer you to butt saving clause, 7.6!

[00:11:34] – Frankie 
Along similar lines. I’ve had two clients over the years who have paid a deposit to book me in for a job, but never sent me anything. Which is on the face of it, is great. But there’s always that niggling feeling that they’re going to come back and ask for their money back, you know, five, 10 years later. 

So now I have a clause in my contract that says, “if you don’t deliver the assets to start this job within X amount of time of you signing this contract, you’re not getting your deposit back”.

[00:12:04] – Steve
Nice. Yeah. I think that’s a good — a butt saving clause around deposits and payments.

[00:12:10] Frankie
Well generally, if you haven’t thought about how you’re going to charge people and when — when you get your contract written up is a fantastic opportunity to do that. And if you don’t, if you haven’t introduced deposits of some kind, now is the time to do that. 

The most common is a deposit of some percentage to initiate the project, to book you in and then they’ll pay the rest of the balancing payment before the final work is released to them. But some people also have interim payments. Maybe if it’s a really long-term project, they’ll have a one that’s, you know, a few months in and six months in, nine months in, whatever… It depends what the kind of work you do is. 

But at the very least, I would say some kind of deposit payment in your contract and the balancing payment and what the terms are around that. And mine very explicitly say, “you won’t get any high res design work from me or any final brand assets until you’ve paid this invoice”.

[00:13:02] – Steve

[00:13:02] – Frankie
So holding back that work before they show you the money is quite a useful one that might save your butt at some point.

[00:13:11] – Frankie
Do you know what’s going to save your butt? A haemorrhoid cushion.

My first child taught me that.

[00:13:20] – Steve
As an extension, maybe this is a sub butt clause, is… like you might agree a fee for something. What if the project start date is then delayed for ages?

[00:13:34] – Frankie

[00:13:36] – Steve
How long is that fee still your fee? Because basically I could quote for something in January 2022, but if for whatever reason work never begins on that until September 2023. Well, my rates may have gone up, my raw materials (depending on what I work in) may have gone up in price.

[00:13:54] – Frankie

[00:13:55] – Steve
If we haven’t started work and it’s your fault by this point, then my fees may be increasing.

[00:14:02] – Steve
Another butt saving sub clause to that sub, sub clause 0.665… (sounding like a star Trek log now!) is around cancellation and delay fees — kill fees. Yeah. What if they cancel? This kind of links into deposits, like you mentioned.

[00:14:20] – Frankie
What if YOU cancel?

[00:14:20] – Steve

[00:14:22] – Frankie
I’m sure I have a clause in there about if I have to cancel a project, because — particularly when you’ve got families and stuff — like there are a million reasons why you may no longer be able to complete that job or you booked it in and life has changed and you can’t do it or you, um… I’ve had this issue. You discover something about a client that you know is at odds with your morals or your own business objectives or whatever. And working with them is no longer appropriate for you. And you need a right to get out of it. 

There are reasons why YOU might end the job as well. We don’t just blindly say yes to stuff and see everything through, life is more complicated than that.

[00:15:02] – Steve
What about an issue around copyright or ownership of things and stuff like that? If I was a website developer, I would think, well, I’m not responsible for the images that you are using on your website. Ultimately, whatever you are giving me, I’m trusting you that these are okay to use and that you have the right to use them. Likewise with copy. That is not my responsibility. You have agreed to give it to me, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:15:25] – Frankie
Yeah. Owning the copyright of images is an absolute classic. Particularly as a designer, I get sent images where it’s just clearly been ripped from Google. People just don’t respect the fact that photographs and illustrations have been created by somebody and that you can’t just take them off the internet. I mean, I think people are getting more educated about that, but it’s still a massive issue. I see it all the time. 

So yeah, I’ve got a very specific clause in my contract that says any images you send me, you sort out the right to use them. I don’t even want to get into that. I just need to know that what you’re sending me is legally okay for me to use in this brochure or whatever it is that I’m designing. So again, it’s like, what’s the worst case scenario here? The worst case scenario is I get sued by the owner of the copyright of that photograph. But really that’s not my responsibility because you signed my contract that says it’s your responsibility.

[00:16:21] – Steve

[00:16:21] – Frankie
You need something around who has the rights to use what.

[00:16:26] – Frankie
A good one to add in. Maybe… I don’t know. I don’t know if I have this, but around expectations on when you will and won’t work — as in, a lot of us work in school hours, for example, or certain days of the week.

[00:16:36] – Steve
So a boundaries, boundaries and communication settings?

[00:16:39] – Frankie

[00:16:39] – Steve
Yeah. That’s good. Yeah.

[00:16:41] – Frankie
Like my out of office says I work Monday to Thursday during school hours basically, but you could have that on your contract. “I work these days and these times outside of those times, I may get back to you. I may not.” 

Also, I have a clause specifically about how I want to be communicated with. We’ve talked about this so many times in other episodes about how, you know, being clear with clients about how you want information to be exchanged. 

I have a clause that says everything has to come in writing. You cannot send me a voice note in WhatsApp with amends and expect me to pick those up. It ain’t gonna happen! If you want to give me feedback, you need to put it in an email. And I imagine that’s going to be the case for most of us here because we’re picking up emails at weird times and you know, 1:00 AM on a Wednesday maybe.

[00:17:19] – Steve
Yeah. It’s interesting. Isn’t it? Because we can think of butt saving as saving your butt from being kicked in it. Right.

[00:17:25] – Frankie

[00:17:26] – Steve
But also some things can just be a pain in the butt. Some of these things are just niggling things, which actually it would be better just for everybody if they’re there in it. So, it’s saving your butt from pain rather than utter demolition kicking.

[00:17:44] – Frankie 
Have we covered all the things? I don’t think we have covered all the things. I think it’s just important to reinforce that having a contract is a really good idea. And I know I sound like your mum, but it’s also a really good idea when you have your own family and like, you know, people are depending on your income and whatnot. One wouldn’t not have life insurance. One wouldn’t not protect ourselves in other ways. So why not get a contract written up?

What would your advice be?

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