Some people love the intricacies of the law, contracts, and non-disclosure agreements. These people are called lawyers. The rest of us deal with legal documents because we have to. It'd be nice if we could just operate by handshake and word of honor, but in the business world, it pays to protect yourself.
Once you've made the deal and even before there are a few legal documents that will ensure that both you and the client are getting a fair deal. Understanding how these work and how they benefit you is essential to making sure you and the client are truly partnering joining forces, not opposing forces. While there are plenty of good books out there on legal issues on the Web, and you should run your documents past a lawyer before signing them, here are some basic definitions of some of the most common legal documents. As a bonus, we've provided two of them for you to use or adapt to your needs.
The Non-Disclosure Agreement
The mutual NDA is a sign of trust. It obliges you to keep important information secret, so your client can feel more comfortable telling you about upcoming plans and competitive strategies. This agreement states that if your client's competitors learn some confidential information, and your client can prove you were the source of the leak, you can be held liable for damages.
Here's a sample NDA you can adapt and use! Provided by Digital Planet.
Memorandum of Engagement
A memorandum of engagement is a commitment on both sides to begin work while negotiating the details of the contract in earnest. This short document establishes penalties if either the client or contractor should pull out of the deal before the contract is signed. When dealing with larger companies, I recommend getting a purchase order as soon as possible along with the memorandum of engagement.
There is much more on all of these issues, plus information on copyrights, transfer of rights, and making a fair deal in the book. If you don't own it yet, get yours now!