Most agencies have bloated contracts full of legal jargon. They are unnecessarily complicated and hard to read. Bad writing can leave clients confused and frustrated. Conversely, when your writing is clear and direct, you build trust, manage expectations, and communicate your agency’s value.
Above all, a contract is a tool for communication. Writing well means communicating clearly on important matters relating to your agency’s projects. And the business case for good writing in contracts is simple: When everyone can read and understand a contract on the first reading, everyone is on the same page about timelines, costs, and obligations. More importantly, you can get that deposit in hand more quickly and get the project underway.
The bottom line is that your contracts don’t need to be full of Latin or legalease to protect your agency. They can (and should) be simple, direct, and accessible. That ensures you write contracts for the audience who needs to understand it, not how you think a lawyer would write it.
Simple Contracts Written in Standard English Still Pass the Legal Test
When we talk about “good writing” in your contracts, what do we mean? It’s not about impressive vocabulary, clever turns of phrase, or weaving some compelling narrative.
Good writing for an agency contract involves normal language, active voice and simple verbs. Stick with standard English and the writing process that goes along with it. Edit out needless words and avoid complexity. Don’t try to incorporate “lawyerly” things you may have seen in other contracts.
A contract is a legal document, but it doesn’t have to be so long, impenetrable, or formal that only a seasoned lawyer can decipher it.
People assume contracts must be packed with stilted language like herein and heretofore or redundant triplets like give, devise and bequeath to be enforceable. Based on all of the contracts you may have seen in your life, you may assume there’s some magic language needed to cast the right spell.
That’s just not the case. Contracts that are clear and direct are entirely enforceable and always appreciated by your client.
Good Writing Can Create Value for Your Agency
When your contracts are easier for everyone to understand, there are numerous advantages for your agency.
The benefits of clear, well-written contracts include:
Less negotiation. Cuts the time and expense spent on lawyers to sift through the confusion.
Quicker to get a deposit and start the work.
Increases your deal cadence and allows you to onboard new clients more frequently.
Builds trust. Confusing words and terms create uncertainty.
Smooths workflow for projects. When everyone knows the ground rules, it’s easier to manage expectations.
Communicates value and enhances your brand.
Additionally, good writing in your contracts means you can think about charging more for your services. Good writing creates more trust with your customer because it demonstrates the value of your work and your agency.
Bad or Unclear Writing Can Create Confusion and Delay
Contracts that are overwritten and full of legalese create a lack of trust with your clients. Long-winded contracts look like you’re signaling for a fistfight. Do you want your client calling lawyers and wasting time and money because of poor communication? Further, writing poorly puts more work on your audience. Contracts filled with jargon can become cumbersome, inviting more opportunity for misinterpretation, more rounds of revision, and lost trust.
Also resist the temptation to put every possible rule of engagement in your contract. Legislating too much detail makes a contract so long that nobody could possibly remember everything.
Instead, good writing in a contract becomes the foundation for clear communication with clients. It provides the framework for your team to communicate over the course of the project. A well-written contract gives your project managers a strong place to stand when having conversations about money, scope creep, etc.
Clear Contracts Can Differentiate Your Agency
How do you think your simple, straightforward contract would be viewed by a client considering your agency among others? If you’re competing against two or three other agencies for a project and your contract is the most easily understood, that’s a distinct competitive advantage.
Furthermore, you already strive to make good writing central to your agency’s work product. Your agency’s website, marketing materials and portfolio are filled with clear and compelling writing. But if your contracts are brimming with confusing language, cluttered clauses and unwieldy legal jargon, clients and prospects will be perplexed by the disconnect.
We’re not saying the language should be the same, of course. These documents are doing a different job than your day-to-day marketing efforts. But if your agency is selling effective communication while your contracts do anything but, what does that suggest to the client?
Your contracts personify your brand and reflect how you communicate with your clients. Stay on message and stick with language everyone recognizes.
Give Your Agency a Boost with Better Contract Writing
Skip the Latin and get straight to the point. Don’t use three words when one will do. Leave the legalese alone. Be true to your agency’s voice and tone.
Whether it’s setting your agency apart from the competition, saving time and money on review and revisions, or avoiding unnecessary confusion and frustration, the value of clear and direct writing in your contracts is clear.
If you want to learn how Matchstick can improve your agency’s contract writing, we’d love to hear from you.