Running a successful business is not always easy and it requires you to have a good balance of personal touch and necessary formality.
Don’t let personal relationships cause you to avoid necessary business practices.
How you sign your business contracts is extremely important because you need to show your clients and the world that your personal life and business operations are entirely separate things. Regardless of who you are photographing – a new client you acquired through a cold call, a repeat client, or your best friend – you will need to sign a contract in the official capacity you hold in your business, such as President or Manager.
How do you do this and what does it look like?
First, you always want to make sure that you are using the formal legal name you have registered or formalized in your state through your articles or certificate of organization. For example, if you registered your company as “Ultimate Photography, LLC” with your state, then where you define your business as a party to the contract it should say “Ultimate Photography, LLC”.
Second, you should never deviate from the name, even in seemingly minor ways. In the example above, using “Ultimate Photography Company” instead of “Ultimate Photography, LLC” may create enough ambiguity to open you up to personal liability. One way to avoid deviating from the formal name is to create a template contract that has your company name pre-set.
Of course, there is an exception to this. Isn’t there always an exception in matters of the law! If you create a formal “Doing Business As” or “DBA” with your state, such as “Ultimate Photography, LLC dba Ultimate Photography,” then you can use “Ultimate Photography” without the same risk.
Finally, you need to make sure that there is a signature block at the conclusion of your contract.
The signature block should list your entity’s legal name above the signature line. You sign your own name on the signature line, but must include your business title with that signature. You can do that in a couple of ways, such as listing your title immediately after your signature:
Ultimate Photography, LLC
Ima Photographer, President
Or by using a full signature block:
Ultimate Photography, LLC
Name of Signer: Ima Photographer
Title of Signer: President
Date: October 1, 2016
Either option shows that you are signing your name in your official capacity for the business.
Should you ever deviate from a formal process?
You may often provide photography services for good friends and family. Having formal contract processes feels a bit impersonal and unnecessary in these situations, but lawsuits happen even among family and friends.
I also recommend that you have all clients sign a new contract for each transaction, even repeat customers. Just because you have history with a client does not mean that future sessions won’t hit speedbumps.
All in all, I believe you should never make exceptions to signing a contract using your formal business name. Even though it may feel impersonal and unnecessary to you, your clients probably don’t see anything unusual about it. This is, after all, business and almost every time money passes from hand to hand these days a contract is involved.
In the end, running a successful business is not always easy and it requires you to have a good balance of personal touch and necessary formality. This does not mean that you cannot treat your clients as more than clients, it means that you should not allow your personal relationships to cause you to avoid necessary business practices. Do what you love, let your passion shine through, and protect your hard work.
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