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What is a consulting contract?

When crafting a consulting agreement, it's important to cover all the necessary bases.

If you're unsure, using a consulting agreement template can help you to make sure you've included all the important details, in order to protect you and your business.

Fortunately, this simple guide has expert advice on drafting a consulting services contract that works for both you and your clients.

Consulting agreements define the working relationship between consultants and their clients.

They cover all the key terms and conditions -  including but not limited to:

  • The exact services the client is purchasing.
  • When the work will be completed.
  • How the consultant should be compensated.

The agreement must be accepted by every involved party.

If you're concerned about ensuring your document includes everything you need, then contract templates can be invaluable.

What should a consulting contract template include?

When you're trying to draft contracts, knowing exactly what you need to include is vital. This comprehensive list covers all the key clauses, and why you need them:

Consultant and Client Details

This includes all basic details such as client name, consultant company name, postal addresses and contact information.

Description of Consulting Services

This section will underpin your entire agreement. It will give you, as a consultant, the opportunity to fully define your services, and layout any associated terms and conditions.

It's a good idea to write out each of the services you will be performing -  highlighting what they are, when they will happen, and what products or materials you may pass on to the client.

As a consultant, remember the more detailed your description, the less likely you are to run into issues further down the line.

Total Costs and Payment Terms

It's essential that you clearly define your payment conditions within your consultant agreement, to ensure that you're compensated fairly for your services.

Make your cost breakdown as accurate as you can. List all costs associated with your service, and provide your client with an accurate total. If you must estimate any costs, keep the figure as realistic as possible, and highlight that is an estimate that may be subject to change.

You should also stipulate how and when your client needs to compensate you for your services, especially if you require a deposit or multiple payments over time.

Schedule of Services

Scheduling issues are a common cause of conflict - so ensuring both parties are able to define their expectations early on can be very beneficial.

Use the itemized list you provided in your Description of Services to guide you when writing this section. Indicate how long each task will take, and provide completion dates for each stage of the service - in addition to a final completion and payment date.

It is also important to stipulate whether your plan is subject to change, and what your team will do in the event that work falls behind schedule. This agreement shall come with the expectation that timings will be kept up to date with the term agreed upon.

Business Permits and Licenses

This section must outline all documents required to complete the work - such as work permits. You should also stipulate who is responsible for obtaining these licenses and ensuring they remain valid for the duration of the service.

You must also define who owns any intellectual property created during the service, and how it may be licensed for reproduction or future use.

Conflict Resolution

In the event that one party wishes to terminate this agreement or violate its terms in any way, you must detail how the conflict will be resolved, and in what circumstances the consultancy agreement may be changed or ended early.

You should also stipulate any costs or compensation that may be incurred there ends up being the termination of this agreement due to the actual term of this agreement not being followed, and the period of notice required by both consultant and client.

Indemnification Clause

This section will outline which party is responsible in the event of damages or agreement violation.

It should also define who is liable to cover any associated costs or losses, especially if a third party becomes involved.

Confidential Information

The confidentiality clause should define how proprietary information or sensitive content is handled and utilized by all involved parties.

You must stipulate whether Non-Disclosure Agreements are required, and how confidential information will be distributed across parties.

Signature of All Involved Parties

This should include the dated signatures of all involved employees, indicating that they accept the terms of the agreement document.

Why is having a consulting contract important?

Having a consulting services agreement shall help tremendously for several reasons.

Firstly, it ensures that all parties agree on the particulars of a service before the work is begun. This way, you're far more likely to have a positive working relationship, and won't have to worry about miscommunication.

It's also one good way for everyone to define their expectations. The consultant can stipulate their time, resource, and payment requirements - whilst the client can highlight what they wish to gain from the service.

Finally, a consulting agreement is the best way to account for logistical issues that may arise during the working relationship. For example, both parties can define how they require confidential information to be handled, and you can iron out issues surrounding intellectual property and contract termination.

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The simplest way to create a legally sound contract. Check out an example below

Consulting Contract Template

This Contract is between Sample Client (the "Client") and John Doe (the "Consultant").

The Contract is dated [the date both parties sign].

1. WORK AND PAYMENT.

1.1 Project. The Client is hiring the Consultant to do the following: The Consultant will assist the Client with professional services.

1.2 Schedule. The Consultant will begin work on March 09, 2021 and the work is ongoing. This Contract can be ended by either Client or Consultant at any time, pursuant to the terms of Section 6, Term and Termination.

1.3 Payment. The Client will pay the Consultant a rate of $40.00 (USD) per hour. Of this, the Client will pay the Consultant $1,000.00 (USD) before work begins.

1.4 Expenses. The Client will reimburse the Consultant's expenses. Expenses do not need to be pre-approved by the Client.

1.5 Invoices. The Consultant will invoice the Client every two weeks. The Client agrees to pay the amount owed within 15 days of receiving the invoice. Payment after that date will incur a late fee of 5.0% per month on the outstanding amount.

1.6 Support. The Consultant will not provide support for any deliverable once the Client accepts it, unless otherwise agreed in writing.

2. OWNERSHIP AND LICENSES.

2.1 Client Owns All Work Product. As part of this job, the Consultant is creating “work product” for the Client. To avoid confusion, work product is the finished product, as well as drafts, notes, materials, mockups, hardware, designs, inventions, patents, code, and anything else that the Consultant works on—that is, conceives, creates, designs, develops, invents, works on, or reduces to practice—as part of this project, whether before the date of this Contract or after. The Consultant hereby gives the Client this work product once the Client pays for it in full. This means the Consultant is giving the Client all of its rights, titles, and interests in and to the work product (including intellectual property rights), and the Client will be the sole owner of it. The Client can use the work product however it wants or it can decide not to use the work product at all. The Client, for example, can modify, destroy, or sell it, as it sees fit.

2.2 Consultant's Use Of Work Product. Once the Consultant gives the work product to the Client, the Consultant does not have any rights to it, except those that the Client explicitly gives the Consultant here. The Client gives permission to use the work product as part of portfolios and websites, in galleries, and in other media, so long as it is to showcase the work and not for any other purpose. The Client does not give permission to sell or otherwise use the work product to make money or for any other commercial use. The Client is not allowed to take back this license, even after the Contract ends.

2.3 Consultant's Help Securing Ownership. In the future, the Client may need the Consultant's help to show that the Client owns the work product or to complete the transfer. The Consultant agrees to help with that. For example, the Consultant may have to sign a patent application. The Client will pay any required expenses for this. If the Client can’t find the Consultant, the Consultant agrees that the Client can act on the Consultant's behalf to accomplish the same thing. The following language gives the Client that right: if the Client can’t find the Consultant after spending reasonable effort trying to do so, the Consultant hereby irrevocably designates and appoints the Client as the Consultant's agent and attorney-in-fact, which appointment is coupled with an interest, to act for the Consultant and on the Consultant's behalf to execute, verify, and file the required documents and to take any other legal action to accomplish the purposes of paragraph 2.1 (Client Owns All Work Product).

2.4 Consultant's IP That Is Not Work Product. During the course of this project, the Consultant might use intellectual property that the Consultant owns or has licensed from a third party, but that does not qualify as “work product.” This is called “background IP.” Possible examples of background IP are pre-existing code, type fonts, properly-licensed stock photos, and web application tools. The Consultant is not giving the Client this background IP. But, as part of the Contract, the Consultant is giving the Client a right to use and license (with the right to sublicense) the background IP to develop, market, sell, and support the Client’s products and services. The Client may use this background IP worldwide and free of charge, but it cannot transfer its rights to the background IP (except as allowed in Section 11.1 (Assignment)). The Client cannot sell or license the background IP separately from its products or services. The Consultant cannot take back this grant, and this grant does not end when the Contract is over.

2.5 Consultant's Right To Use Client IP. The Consultant may need to use the Client’s intellectual property to do its job. For example, if the Client is hiring the Consultant to build a website, the Consultant may have to use the Client’s logo. The Client agrees to let the Consultant use the Client’s intellectual property and other intellectual property that the Client controls to the extent reasonably necessary to do the Consultant's job. Beyond that, the Client is not giving the Consultant any intellectual property rights, unless specifically stated otherwise in this Contract.

3. COMPETITIVE ENGAGEMENTS. The Consultant won’t work for a competitor of the Client until this Contract ends. To avoid confusion, a competitor is any third party that develops, manufactures, promotes, sells, licenses, distributes, or provides products or services that are substantially similar to the Client’s products or services. A competitor is also a third party that plans to do any of those things. The one exception to this restriction is if the Consultant asks for permission beforehand and the Client agrees to it in writing. If the Consultant uses employees or subcontractors, the Consultant must make sure they follow the obligations in this paragraph, as well.

4. NON-SOLICITATION. Until this Contract ends, the Consultant won’t: (a) encourage Client employees or service providers to stop working for the Client; (b) encourage Client customers or clients to stop doing business with the Client; or (c) hire anyone who worked for the Client over the 12-month period before the Contract ended. The one exception is if the Consultant puts out a general ad and someone who happened to work for the Client responds. In that case, the Consultant may hire that candidate. The Consultant promises that it won’t do anything in this paragraph on behalf of itself or a third party.

5. REPRESENTATIONS.

5.1 Overview. This section contains important promises between the parties.

5.2 Authority To Sign. Each party promises to the other party that it has the authority to enter into this Contract and to perform all of its obligations under this Contract.

5.3 Consultant Has Right To Give Client Work Product. The Consultant promises that it owns the work product, that the Consultant is able to give the work product to the Client, and that no other party will claim that it owns the work product. If the Consultant uses employees or subcontractors, the Consultant also promises that these employees and subcontractors have signed contracts with the Consultant giving the Consultant any rights that the employees or subcontractors have related to the Consultant's background IP and work product.

5.4 Consultant Will Comply With Laws. The Consultant promises that the manner it does this job, its work product, and any background IP it uses comply with applicable U.S. and foreign laws and regulations.

5.5 Work Product Does Not Infringe. The Consultant promises that its work product does not and will not infringe on someone else’s intellectual property rights, that the Consultant has the right to let the Client use the background IP, and that this Contract does not and will not violate any contract that the Consultant has entered into or will enter into with someone else.

5.6 Client Will Review Work. The Client promises to review the work product, to be reasonably available to the Consultant if the Consultant has questions regarding this project, and to provide timely feedback and decisions.

5.7 Client-Supplied Material Does Not Infringe. If the Client provides the Consultant with material to incorporate into the work product, the Client promises that this material does not infringe on someone else’s intellectual property rights.

6. TERM AND TERMINATION. This Contract is ongoing, until ended by the Client or the Consultant. Either party may end this Contract for any reason by sending an email or letter to the other party, informing the recipient that the sender is ending the Contract and that the Contract will end in 7 days. The Contract officially ends once that time has passed. The party that is ending the Contract must provide notice by taking the steps explained in Section 11.4. The Consultant must immediately stop working as soon as it receives this notice, unless the notice says otherwise. The Client will pay the Consultant for the work done up until when the Contract ends and will reimburse the Consultant for any agreed-upon, non-cancellable expenses. The following sections don’t end even after the Contract ends: 2 (Ownership and Licenses); 3 (Competitive Engagements); 4 (Non-Solicitation); 5 (Representations); 8 (Confidential Information); 9 (Limitation of Liability); 10 (Indemnity); and 11 (General).

7. INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR. The Client is hiring the Consultant as an independent contractor. The following statements accurately reflect their relationship:

- The Consultant will use its own equipment, tools, and material to do the work.- The Client will not control how the job is performed on a day-to-day basis. Rather, the Consultant is responsible for determining when, where, and how it will carry out the work.- The Client will not provide the Consultant with any training.- The Client and the Consultant do not have a partnership or employer-employee relationship.- The Consultant cannot enter into contracts, make promises, or act on behalf of the Client.- The Consultant is not entitled to the Client’s benefits (e.g., group insurance, retirement benefits, retirement plans, vacation days).- The Consultant is responsible for its own taxes.- The Client will not withhold social security and Medicare taxes or make payments for disability insurance, unemployment insurance, or workers compensation for the Consultant or any of the Consultant's employees or subcontractors.

8. CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION.

8.1 Overview. This Contract imposes special restrictions on how the Client and the Consultant must handle confidential information. These obligations are explained in this section.

8.2 The Client’s Confidential Information. While working for the Client, the Consultant may come across, or be given, Client information that is confidential. This is information like customer lists, business strategies, research & development notes, statistics about a website, and other information that is private. The Consultant promises to treat this information as if it is the Consultant's own confidential information. The Consultant may use this information to do its job under this Contract, but not for anything else. For example, if the Client lets the Consultant use a customer list to send out a newsletter, the Consultant cannot use those email addresses for any other purpose. The one exception to this is if the Client gives the Consultant written permission to use the information for another purpose, the Consultant may use the information for that purpose, as well. When this Contract ends, the Consultant must give back or destroy all confidential information, and confirm that it has done so. The Consultant promises that it will not share confidential information with a third party, unless the Client gives the Consultant written permission first. The Consultant must continue to follow these obligations, even after the Contract ends. The Consultant's responsibilities only stop if the Consultant can show any of the following: (i) that the information was already public when the Consultant came across it; (ii) the information became public after the Consultant came across it, but not because of anything the Consultant did or didn’t do; (iii) the Consultant already knew the information when the Consultant came across it and the Consultant didn’t have any obligation to keep it secret; (iv) a third party provided the Consultant with the information without requiring that the Consultant keep it a secret; or (v) the Consultant created the information on its own, without using anything belonging to the Client.

8.3 Third-Party Confidential Information. It’s possible the Client and the Consultant each have access to confidential information that belongs to third parties. The Client and the Consultant each promise that it will not share with the other party confidential information that belongs to third parties, unless it is allowed to do so. If the Client or the Consultant is allowed to share confidential information with the other party and does so, the sharing party promises to tell the other party in writing of any special restrictions regarding that information.

9. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY. Neither party is liable for breach-of-contract damages that the breaching party could not reasonably have foreseen when it entered this Contract.

10. INDEMNITY.

10.1 Overview. This section transfers certain risks between the parties if a third party sues or goes after the Client or the Consultant or both. For example, if the Client gets sued for something that the Consultant did, then the Consultant may promise to come to the Client’s defense or to reimburse the Client for any losses.

10.2 Client Indemnity. In this Contract, the Consultant agrees to indemnify the Client (and its affiliates and their directors, officers, employees, and agents) from and against all liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including reasonable attorneys’ fees) related to a third-party claim or proceeding arising out of: (i) the work the Consultant has done under this Contract; (ii) a breach by the Consultant of its obligations under this Contract; or (iii) a breach by the Consultant of the promises it is making in Section 5 (Representations).

10.3 Consultant Indemnity. In this Contract, the Client agrees to indemnify the Consultant (and its affiliates and their directors, officers, employees, and agents) from and against liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including reasonable attorneys’ fees) related to a third-party claim or proceeding arising out of a breach by the Client of its obligations under this Contract.

11. GENERAL.

11.1 Assignment. This Contract applies only to the Client and the Consultant. The Consultant cannot assign its rights or delegate its obligations under this Contract to a third-party (other than by will or intestate), without first receiving the Client’s written permission. In contrast, the Client may assign its rights and delegate its obligations under this Contract without the Consultant's permission. This is necessary in case, for example, another Client buys out the Client or if the Client decides to sell the work product that results from this Contract.

11.2 Arbitration. As the exclusive means of initiating adversarial proceedings to resolve any dispute arising under this Contract, a party may demand that the dispute be resolved by arbitration administered by the American Arbitration Association in accordance with its commercial arbitration rules.

11.3 Modification; Waiver. To change anything in this Contract, the Client and the Consultant must agree to that change in writing and sign a document showing their contract. Neither party can waive its rights under this Contract or release the other party from its obligations under this Contract, unless the waiving party acknowledges it is doing so in writing and signs a document that says so.

11.4 Notices.

(a) Over the course of this Contract, one party may need to send a notice to the other party. For the notice to be valid, it must be in writing and delivered in one of the following ways: personal delivery, email, or certified or registered mail (postage prepaid, return receipt requested). The notice must be delivered to the party’s address listed at the end of this Contract or to another address that the party has provided in writing as an appropriate address to receive notice.

(b) The timing of when a notice is received can be very important. To avoid confusion, a valid notice is considered received as follows: (i) if delivered personally, it is considered received immediately; (ii) if delivered by email, it is considered received upon acknowledgement of receipt; (iii) if delivered by registered or certified mail (postage prepaid, return receipt requested), it is considered received upon receipt as indicated by the date on the signed receipt. If a party refuses to accept notice or if notice cannot be delivered because of a change in address for which no notice was given, then it is considered received when the notice is rejected or unable to be delivered. If the notice is received after 5:00pm on a business day at the location specified in the address for that party, or on a day that is not a business day, then the notice is considered received at 9:00am on the next business day.

11.5 Severability. This section deals with what happens if a portion of the Contract is found to be unenforceable. If that’s the case, the unenforceable portion will be changed to the minimum extent necessary to make it enforceable, unless that change is not permitted by law, in which case the portion will be disregarded. If any portion of the Contract is changed or disregarded because it is unenforceable, the rest of the Contract is still enforceable.

11.6 Signatures. The Client and the Consultant must sign this document using Bonsai’s e-signing system. These electronic signatures count as originals for all purposes.

11.7 Governing Law. The laws of the state of Alaska govern the rights and obligations of the Client and the Consultant under this Contract, without regard to conflict of law principles of that state.

11.8 Entire Contract. This Contract represents the parties’ final and complete understanding of this job and the subject matter discussed in this Contract. This Contract supersedes all other contracts (both written and oral) between the parties.

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