Do social media managers need a contract?
We often talk about the questions social media managers (and community managers) have and ask in our Facebook Group. On this blog, we take the time to answer those questions that are asked over and over. One such question is about contracts.
Freelance social media managers ask questions like ‘what should go into a contract’, ‘how can I execute a contract’ and ‘why does a social media manager even need a contract?’ Of course, if you are an employee, you’ll have an employment contract and then things will look a bit different.
In today’s article we are going to answer question about contracts for freelance social media managers.
We are here to help you be the best social media manager you can possibly be. We at Social Media Pro believe in the power of contracts, the enforcement of contracts, and we believe that having a contract in place with each and every client you work with is one of the most important steps you can take with each new client to set you up for a long-term client relationship.
Here are 7 reasons why all social media managers need a contract.
1. Sign a Contract for the Sake of Professionalism
Sure, you can work with anyone without a contract. You can take over their social networks, dabble in graphics, create a marketing strategy, add in some customer service and call it social media management.
Does that give you a long-lasting confident and satisfied client? More often than not, no!
Not having a binding, legal contract creates miscommunication and misunderstandings about all of the things (see below) but more importantly, it sends a signal your new client. The signal reads “I am not a professional business owner.”.
This is exactly why social media managers need a contract!
If you hire a contractor, you want to make sure s/he is bonded and insured. You sign papers to go ahead and start the work they promise to do. You don’t blink an eye but pay a fee for building materials to get started.
When you call an exterminator to get rid of pests like termites, you sign a contract for them to guarantee that you will be termite-free and for them to come back monthly to check the traps and continue the treatment.
Signing the types of contracts like mentioned above, gives peace of mind (hey, they know what they are doing), clear understanding of scope of work (they promise to do xyz) and a place to start a conversation when things don’t go as planned (our contract states xyz but you delivered only x.)
A contract makes you, the consumer feel like you are well taken care of, right? That is the feeling you need to give your next client and all future clients.
How do you build that type of trust with a new client?
By executing a contract. The contract protects both of you and builds mutual respect.
2. A Contract Between Client and Service Provider Gives Clarity
Have you ever been to the doctor or dentist for a potentially scary diagnosis and received so much information that you came home only to realize you don’t quite remember all that was discussed and all that needs to happen to move on to treatment?
Yes, that happens to the best of us and that same thing happens when we, social media managers, talk ‘shop’ aka all things digital marketing to business owners. While a proposal, a Zoom meeting and a talk about social media strategy might give them a basic understanding of what it will be like to hire you to manage their social media accounts, a contract gives clarity about
- what to expect from you
- when to expect it
- what it will cost
Leaving details to chance, or a verbal agreement only, opens you up to all sorts of misunderstandings and muddy waters. Instead, we encourage social media managers to execute a contract before gaining access to their new clients' social media accounts.
3. It Spells Out the Scope of Work Preventing Scope Creep
Once you’ve sent a proposal and it’s accepted by your new client, adding the scope of work to your contract is the simplest way to ensure that scope creep won’t happen on your watch.
What is scope creep?
Scope creep is a client asking you to perform tasks outside of the work you previously agreed upon.
A client might ask you to do ‘this one extra thing’ and then it turns into a project and hours of work, without you getting paid for it.
This happens to the best of us, and if you love your client and have been serving them for many years, this year (2020) could be the year to be extra generous with some additional hours here and there to help the client through.
However, imagine what would happen if each client asked for an additional hour a week of social media marketing help. If you have eight clients, that eats up a whole day of work without getting paid!
Copying the scope of work exactly as written in your proposal into your contract, is by far the best way to prevent scope creep.
In conversation, when needed you can refer back to it. “Per our contract, that is outside of the scope of work we agreed upon. I can do that additional work for an added fee of $100/hour. Please let me know if you’d like me to proceed.”
One Power Tip: In addition to your scope of work, also include what you will not do into your contract!
For example, if you do video editing for social posts only, add to your contract ‘professional video editing not included’. Or, if you create images for social media, include ‘images for websites not included’. It might seem overkill, but trust me on this one – this leaves no room for misinterpretation on the client’s end!
4. Contracts Specifiy Payment Options to Prevent Late or Non-Payment
Raise your virtual hand if you’d like to get paid, and paid on time! Ha!
Did you know that some social media managers struggle with getting paid? Yep.
Clients pay late, simply refuse to pay or disappear altogether.
Spelling out the following in a contract will protect you and will allow you to be paid for the work you are doing.
- Upfront cost (for set up or strategy)
- Monthly retainer fee
- Hourly rate (for additional out of scope work)
- Payment due date
- Method of payment
- Fines for when payment is late
- Non-payment penalties
- When work grinds to a halt if payment is x number of days late
- And.. what is not included unless specified i.e. travel, meeting times, training
You can’t get much clearer than this. If you are a business owner, you need a legally binding contract with another business owner. Simple as that!
5. Social Media Managers Need Contracts to Keep Communication Lines Open
If you’ve been in this industry you know as well as I do that there are terrific clients to be snagged, but you also know that even the best clients can have bad days, or weeks. While you can love your clients through rough patches, you are not a charity.
Be clear on what you offer the client, and then deliver it.
Ask the client to be clear on what they need, and then deliver that.
If needs change, adjust. Pivot when things change in your business, or theirs.
In order to do that you need clear and open lines of communication.
You are the social media specialist, the expert in all things social media!
Set up a weekly email check in time, a Zoom meeting, or a call. Whatever the best type of communication is your client, use that. A weekly check-in will do a lot to keep everything on track.
6. Contracts Limits Legal Liability
A contract limits your legal liability should something go terribly wrong. Whether you share something on your clients’ social channels that was copyrighted, got their Twitter account suspended by no fault of your own, use a social media management tool that got shut down and shut you out of an account – things happen. It’s social media and you are on ‘rented’ space. You do not own and control Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest…
You are bound by their limitations and thus having a legally binding contracts limits your legal liability should something out of your control go wrong.
7. Contracts Provide Legal Enforceability
At the same time, a contract gives your legal enforceability should something go wrong between you and your client. If the client refuses to pay, you’d have a recourse, a starting point for a lwa suit should it come to that.
Without a contract, you have no leg to stand on, no recourse, no way to go after money owed to you.
Stop. What is Missing From Your Contracts?
If you are scratching your head at this point and realize you need a contract STAT, we’ve got a resource for you.
We’ve listed the most important items that your contract should have. We are not qualified to give legal advice; please contact a lawyer in your home state (if you are in the United States) or country, and seek advice from a professional. Only an attorney familiar with local laws can help you create a contract to use in your local business.
First-Time Freelancer Contract Tips
If you are a first-time freelancer, you certainly need some additional tips. Check out this previous article on our blog to learn more about what you need to know about contracts.
I am a Certified Social Media Manager, Strategist, International Keynote Speaker, Organic Specialist and Agile marketer! Blogging is my creative outlet. Running, hiking and skiing are how I recharge. You'll recognize me on stage and online by my always present orange glasses, a nod to my Dutch heritage.