LaunchHER Law :: More Than A Handshake

More Than a Handshake
Kara J. Jensen Zitnick, Esq.
Jensen Zitnick, P.A.
Twitter :: @LaunchHERLaw

The material contained herein is meant as general information only and should not be taken as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship exists as a result of merely reading this article. Should you require legal assistance, you may inquire further via email at

There was a time when business arrangements could be decided and sealed with just a handshake. In this day and internet age, I think the only person who still literally operates this way is my 90 year-old grandfather. But figuratively speaking, I encounter clients on a regular basis who are conducting business in various forms without a written agreement. Here are the 4 most common business situations where a written agreement should exist:

1. Non-Disclosure Agreements
Before you start talking to anyone about anything relating to your new business idea or fabulous invention, have them sign a non-disclosure agreement. No matter what their relationship to you.

2. Co-Blogging
Blogging with a friend is becoming more and more common. It makes so much sense, really, to share the blogging duties. Not only do you share the work, but presenting blog posts from a different perspective adds a whole new dimension to your content. Which adds a whole new dimension to the business of blogging.

3. Guest Blogging
Even the most popular blogs around utilize guest bloggers from time to time. Whether a guest blogger is asked to write as an expert on a particular topic or provide new content while the blog owner takes a much-deserved break, a guest blogger relationship presents yet another business situation that should be covered by a written agreement.

4. Independent Contractor
In the world of a small business owner, the term “independent contractor” can apply to a variety of different people. Vendors, graphic designers, virtual assistants, web gurus, and PR consultants can all be characterized as independent contractors, and should be working with you under the terms of a contract.

Now that you know what situations should be covered under the terms of a written contract, and not just on a “virtual” handshake, here are the terms such a contract should address:
  • Ownership of material — whether it’s a post from a guest blogger or a co-blogger, who owns what material published on a blog should be addressed.
  • Compensation — it’s a sticky subject and one that most people want to avoid. But if you don’t address the matter of compensation, whether it is it for an independent contractor or someone blogging for you, the situation will only get stickier the longer the matter isn’t addressed in writing.
  • Scope of Duties/Expectations — reducing the expectations of a a guest blogger, blogging partner or an independent contractor down to a written document clearly defines the parameters under which all parties are expected to perform. Having a conversation about duties and expectations before a relationship is truly formed may seem awkward, but waiting to have the conversation until after the guest blogger submits material and posts it, will only make the situation more awkward.
  • Termination of the Relationship — coming up with an exit strategy at the start of a business relationship will make ending the relationship, if it comes to that, so much easier. Clearly defining termination terms at the beginning, before much time and effort is expended on behalf of the business, is actually an easier conversation to have than one may assume.

As silly and impossible as it seems in this day and age to seal a business relationship with a simple handshake, when you operate your business venture without a written agreement, you are doing just that. While having the necessary conversations, up front, to draft the documents necessary to form a good business relationship may seem too uncomfortable, imagine your discomfort when the business relationship falls apart and you both address, for the first time, the terms of the business arrangement.

When entering into a business arrangement, take a moment to reduce the expectations of all involved into a written document. You will be glad you did.

As a practicing attorney specializing in providing flat-fee legal services to independent business owners and entrepreneurs, especially in the start-up phase, Kara Jensen Zitnick can draft any agreement necessary to protect you and your business interests. Ms. Zitnick proudly offers custom contract drafting starting at just $150.00 and can be reached at

©2010 Kara J. Jensen Zitnick, Esq. All rights reserved
No part may be copied or reproduced with express written permission from the author.


  1. monkey-toes says:

    Love this! I just cut and pasted the terms a contract should address for future use! Thanks for the great info!

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