I’m pretty sure that hiring a lawyer is not one of your priorities when starting your new entrepreneur project. There are several reasons for this: lack of money (they don’t come cheap!), lack of time (to find one, to discuss with him/her about your needs,…) and probably the feeling that the kind of product/service you offer is not so critical to make this a priority (most likely, you’ve outsourced the management of payments to PayPal, FastSpring or similar so you don’t store customer personal data, credit cards,…).
Myself, I’ve now (after 6 months of starting migratetoWP.com) added a “lawyer-approved” full terms and conditions document in my site. Why now and not before?. There are several reasons. For instance, I’ve now a little bit more time and money available and after working with many clients since I started, I’ve now a better idea of what things can go wrong. At the beginning it would have much difficult to identify the points that need to be covered by the terms and conditions
But really, by far the most important reason to do it was peace of mind. After encountering a couple of toxic clients that even threaten to sue me (I knew it was a bluff but still…) I realized I had to be prepared in case something really bad happened one day. I realized that I could lose a lot of money not because some client tried to sue me or asked for a (unfair) refund but just because I could lose a lot of productive hours by discussing with angry clients that either on purpose or simply by ignorance (i.e. clients that have no idea of WordPress and thus they have unrealistic expectations of the result of a migration to wordpress) complain about the quality of the work.
Most likely (crossing my fingers here) I’ll never need to resort to these terms and conditions but I know I’m covered and that if a situation arises I can always tell the client s/he already accepted those conditions when purchasing the service.
A different discussion is how long/precise these terms and conditions need to be. I tried to keep them as simple as possible so that those clients that want to do it can even understand them. So, probably, there are still some uncovered scenarios but I’m confident we’ve covered the most relevant ones.
I’d love to you know your position on this topic. Have you done something similar (why/why not)? Have you noticed if this has made you lose some clients (I’ve the feeling that some clients could be scared by this, even in fact, we accept terms and conditions that we don’t even read all the time)?
Btw, if you want to know more about legal issues for small software entrepreneurs / freelances, check My Lawyer Gabe