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Writing Effective Terms and Conditions for The Small Business Owner

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There are several key areas you cover properly in your terms and conditions statement, in order to protect you and your business. 

1. Liability

Perhaps the most important reason to ensure you’ve dotted the Is and crossed the Ts of your T&Cs is to limit your liability against loss and damage arising out of use of your products and services. This is non-negotiable and if you want to protect your business down the line, this really needs to be watertight.

2. Roles and responsibilities

Make the basis of the agreement between you and the client clear in terms of the services you will be providing and what you expect in return.

3. Payment

On that note, set out how and when payment is to be effected by the client (e.g. within 14 days of invoice and any payment methods you may or may not accept.) If you don't establish this with the client, how will you know when their payment is overdue? In addition, set out the steps you will take if the payment is not settled and any interest you may charge for a late payment (within legal limits, of course).

4. Delivery

Again, set out your responsibilities, including a timeline for delivery, who is liable for the goods up to the point of delivery (if relevant) and what constitutes delivery. This will vary from state to state and will often be laid down in law, so consider hiring a legal professional to clarify this for you. Better to cover it in the T&Cs where the customer is aware of the law from the outset, instead of during a dispute further down the line.

5. Returns, refunds and exchanges

Set out under what conditions you are willing to offer the above. You will usually have a statutory obligation to offer refunds in certain situations but the rest is often discretionary. How flexible you wish to be is up to you – just put it in the T&Cs.

6. Guarantees and Warranties

Clarify the terms of any guarantees and warranties you choose to offer. Also set out anything the customer may do which would limit your liability and invalidate the guarantee or warranty.

7. Copyright protection

Protect your ideas, images, written work and logos by stating in the T&Cs that they cannot be used, copied or reproduced. The strength of this is up to you – can they copy them if they cite you? Can they copy them with your express permission? Are they never to be reproduced except by you? Think and draft carefully.

Displaying the T&Cs

Above all, ensure you properly display and make available your terms and conditions to your clients. If you fail to do so, they are unlikely to be binding and you will be unprotected. If you have a physical premises, display them behind the main desk. Attach them to each invoice you send and set them out in full on your website, ideally available as a PDF download.

Remember: well-drafted T&Cs depend heavily on the specific nature of your business. It is well worth setting aside some money to hire a legal professional to draft them. You could save yourself.

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