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Consultant Service Agreement

A consulting service agreement is a legal document outlining the terms, rights and responsibilities of a working arrangement between a consultant and their client. 

The contract should detail the consultancy services being provided, the level, manner and frequency of compensation, and also clearly define the working relationship between the parties.

1. Why do you need a consultant service agreement?

When you provide consultancy services, you need an agreement in place to bring clarity to the working arrangement. Both parties must understand their roles, responsibilities, and the requirements necessary for the successful completion of the project. 

The contract must also stipulate how disagreements are handled to ensure delays and obstacles are kept to a minimum. And, if unable to reach a compromise when disputes arise, the contract should clearly detail the manner in which the agreement can be terminated, and what happens to the money paid and money owed in this scenario. 

No matter how big or small the project, freelance consultants need a watertight consultant service agreement in place to protect their livelihood and keep projects on track.

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2. What should you include in your consultant service agreement?

Your contract should include the following information:

2.1. Who’s involved in the project

You should include the official names, job titles, company names, and locations of all parties involved.

2.2. What it is you’re being hired to do

In as much detail as possible, outline your role and responsibilities. This will help you avoid awkward situations further down the line if the client is demanding extra work or asking that you perform a role outside of the agreement.

2.3. Payment

How much are you being paid, and how often? Clearly state the method of payment and the due dates too. 

2.4. How your expenses should be handled

  • Will the client cover mileage?
  • Air travel?
  • Lunch?
  • Do you need to submit receipts?

Make sure you’re both on the same page before you start.

2.5. Who owns the rights for created materials

If you produce a bespoke solution under the terms of the contract, you need to clearly stipulate who owns the rights, and how these rights can be transferred (usually upon payment of the final invoice).

3. Tips for designing a clear-cut consultant service agreement

Read on to discover our best tips for putting together an agreement that will solidify your working relationship with the client.

3.1. Avoid legal jargon

When you create a consultant service agreement, you need to make sure that, above all else, it’s easy to understand. Although a contract will offer you limited legal protection, its true purpose is to act as a means of establishing and managing client expectations. If you treat it as such, you can use it as the foundation for a successful consultancy project. 

So, the best thing you can do is limit (or eliminate altogether) legal jargon. Especially if you don’t understand it in the first place! Words and phrases take on very specific meanings in law, so it’s important that you don’t introduce any ambiguity into proceedings. 

Instead, keep things simple: Say what you’re going to do; how you’re going to do it; who’s responsible for what; and how much you’re going to be paid for completing the project. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated or confusing than that. 

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3.2. Detail client requirements

Chances are, to complete your consultancy to a high standard, you’re going to need information, materials and/or access to software from your client. 

But what happens if they’re slow out the blocks providing you with the things you need?

Your project becomes delayed, right? And how often does the blame for this land back at your feet? Probably more than you’d like!

While this is a very common and frustrating phenomenon for consultants, it’s one that can be avoided if client requirements are detailed in the agreement. Make it abundantly clear that work cannot commence without the resources you need and that any delay on the part of the client will result in the deadline being pushed back. 

You can even specify that failure to provide resources can result in the termination of the agreement and the loss of a deposit. 

3.3. Establish lines of communication

As a freelance consultant, your time is money. The last thing you want is that time being wasted by meaningless client meetings or unwelcome phone calls at all hours of the day.

Of course, for the sake of a happy working relationship, you need to work well with your client. But you should also be prepared to keep them at arm’s length while you do your job — and the best way of achieving a respectful distance is to build it into your consultancy contract:  

  • Make it clear that you’re to only be contacted via a particular email address, and that your client can expect a response within a specific timeframe (i.e. between 8:00 and 18:00 during workdays; never on weekends).  
  • If your client wishes to speak with you on the telephone, they should email first to arrange a time. You can then schedule a call into your diary and send them a calendar invite. 
  • If your client wishes to speak face-to-face, you should establish your office hours and make it clear that the client should email first to arrange a meeting. 

By following these tips, the next consultant service agreement you create will help you keep your client expectations in check and your project on track.   

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