The following four words could be the simplest business tip you will ever read – but they could make an enormous difference to the way you do business.

Get it in writing.

If you’re running your own business, when dealing with clients, staff, suppliers, contractors, landlords, managing agents or other parties related to your company, it always pays to have written confirmation of everything you agree to.

Setting clear expectations for everybody involved means any future disputes, complaints or issues can be easier to handle – and you could save time and money along the way.

An agreement might start with a phone call, a handshake or even a casual discussion in a coffee shop, but here are just some examples of when it’s vital to take the next step and get it in writing.

Before you provide goods and services

As part of your risk assessment process when you’re starting a business, it’s worth setting up clear and documented terms and conditions written by a lawyer. These should outline how you provide your products or services and might include information on your payment terms and conditions to make sure you have the best possible chance of getting paid on time.

When you’re quoting for work, be really clear about what is included in your quote. You could itemise your quote and outline the process involved if your client wants to change the scope of the project along the way.

If you’re running a promotion as part of your social media or other marketing strategies, get it all in writing. You need to be very clear on the scope of your promotion, including any timeframes, costs, competition licences and other factors that could have an impact on your customers.

When you’re providing your services

If you’re engaged to provide your services and during the project your client asks you to do extra work, it’s important to get this in writing. This is because the original terms of your contract are being changed, so both you and your client need to be clear on what to expect.

You could confirm these variations by email, but in many cases it’s better to have a more formal process. Ask your client or contractor to give you written authorisation and sign a confirmation of the variation.

When you’re seeking an overdue payment

There’s every chance that at some point in your business you will be chasing an overdue invoice. Document this process by keeping a paper trail of your friendly-but-firm correspondence or letters of demand. This will give you evidence of how you’ve tried to follow up the payment if you later need to seek legal advice or dispute resolution services.

When you’ve received something you’re not happy with

If a supplier has provided goods and/or services which don’t meet the terms of the agreement you had with them, it is important to put this in writing. Even if you call them first, follow up with an email or letter of complaint outlining the situation and the resolution you would like to see.

When you’re leasing business premises

If you lease premises to run your business, there may be a time when you need to give formal notice to your landlord. Perhaps you want to exercise your options, ask for permission to assign the lease or change the permitted use of your premises.

Some tenants assume that a text message or email notification will be enough – but often this is not the case.

Check your lease to find out how notices need to be presented to your landlord. Usually you will need a written and signed letter. Sometimes, the written notification will trigger a timeframe for a decision by the landlord – for example, they need to respond in writing within 28 days. Without proper notification (if you email or text) this time frame might not be triggered, which could mean the issue is not addressed and could go on for some time. For guidance with this and other commercial leasing matters contact our team of specialist leasing advisers.

More information

Please remember, the tips and details provided here in our blog are intended for general information only. If you're entering into a contract, or seeking legal advice for your business, we recommend reading:

If you would like advice about your specific situation, remember you can turn to us for free business advice. We also offer a low-cost dispute resolution service and a range of other services to help you in your business.

Legal and risk
16 September 2020