As I have been getting more work, I have been thinking more about contracts, and whether I need them, and if so how elaborate they need be. For most things, I prefer to work without them, and my individual projects are small enough that it seems to work out. Here is what I know about contracts:
1. They are not self enforcing.
2. They are only as valid as the good faith efforts on the part of all parties to them.
3. If a contract is broken, you had better be prepared to shell out a lot in legal fees and stress or to just let it go.
Noting the above, I have decided for now not to have a contract for any project worth under $10,000. Life is too short and I know from past experience how shitty an experience it is to take someone to court. The person harmed most is yourself. Better to let anything under that amount just go, it isn’t worth the hassle. That isn’t to say that there aren’t scope of work documents and specs to lay out exactly what I will and won’t do for a fee. But outside of those, I prefer to work in a trusting environment and get burned a couple of times rather than to start from the assumption that everyone is out to screw me (in the bad way, that is). There may come a time where I will ask for money upfront or other such things to protect myself. And there may come a time that I will send reams of legalese to a client. But I hope that time doesn’t come soon.