It's not discussed enough.
Lately, the topic of contracts has popped up more frequently. It has been brought up for discussion from the perspective of business owners and clients. My straight to the point advice for both parties is: make sure you have one in place and read before you sign!
Business Owners: You should not make any type of transaction without a written agreement to cover yourself. At minimum you should provide details of the service(s) you are offering, deadlines, what will be received and pricing. You should contact a business lawyer in your local area to assist, which is an investment for sure! But until then, have the basics of the services you offer in a formal agreement. There are several sites that offer beginner contracts to get you started until you can make that investment. As a business owner you have to do what is best for you and your client. It is your responsibility to make sure you are legally covered. It's also an added level of comfort for your clients and sets you apart.
Clients: First, lol read the contracts! You should never scroll past the contract verbiage and just sign. That is for your own protection. The information business owners have listed is very important. In my field of photography, my contracts include package information, pricing, turnaround times, late fee information, cancellation guidelines, Acts of God clauses and a lot more. These are all questions I frequently get after sessions are completed. My first thoughts are, "They skimmed through the contract". It happens, I understand. But, I want you all to be more careful with what you are signing and being knowledgeable about the services you have chose to invest in. It also saves us time because we have learned what information our clients needs and have taken the steps to provide it beforehand.
So, my conclusion: It's a win-win for everyone when it is done properly. The business owner is able to clearly state what their obligations are and the client understands and agrees to it. Therefore, they know what to expect. In the event the contract is breached from either party, you have documentation to cover yourself and can fight your battle legally! Let's all get in the practice of using the tools that have been provided to benefit us both.