Like it or not, contracts and small business go hand in hand. Without contracts, your business is legally vulnerable.
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But if you employ an attorney to draft every contract your business requires, your bottom line will get devoured by legal fees. Isn't there anyplace else you can turn for simple contract advice?
More and more small business owners are finding contract assistance online. A simple search of the internet yields a multitude of websites offering sample contracts for either a small fee or completely free of charge.
However, using online sample contracts comes with some risks, too. Here are some tips to help keep your business on the straight and narrow as your surf the web for sample contracts.
Where to Look for Sample Contracts Online
As with most things, the best place to begin your online search is through a search engine like Google. Even the most cursory search will reveal hundreds of websites offering sample contracts covering a broad range of business scenarios. Wading through all those websites takes time, so fortunately there are sites that specialize in collecting and sharing standard, no-frills contracts. These websites include:
- www.allbusiness.com - This website offers a broad range of sample contracts which can be adapted to meet your specific needs.
- www.contracts.onecycle.com - OneCycle offers contracts that can be searched by state and corporation type, a nice feature for businesses interested in contracts tailored to their organizational and geographic situation.
- www.morebusiness.com - Like the other websites, More Business has a searchable, customizable listing of contracts for a wide range of business needs.
Cautions & Caveats
A contract is simply a written, signed agreement between two individuals or organizations. A legally-binding contract - well, that's something else entirely. The bottom line is that just because a contract is posted online doesn't mean that is legally enforceable.
Although online sample contracts can provide an inexpensive source of simple contracts, they should only be used as a guideline. You still need to practice due diligence in making sure the contract is legally viable.
For starters, be aware that many of the contracts posted online may have been drafted for a business located in another state. They may or may not be valid in your state.
Also, you should make sure your contract is specific and clear enough to protect your interests. However, resist the temptation to add outrageous clauses or requirements to any contract you find online. Courts regularly invalidate contracts that are deemed to not be fair or reasonable.
Finally, although you will save money by going online rather than having an attorney draft your contracts, you should still have an attorney review your contracts before you put them into service since the alternative (i.e. relying on potentially flawed contracts) may end up costing you much more than you saved in attorney fees.