Clear definitions, clear expectations


They say it’s the most popular Creative Mornings talk of all time. Its title, like its message, is

crystal clear: ....You, Pay Me. 

In this talk, speaker Mike Monteiro provides designers with valuable advice on how to get paid for the work they do and brings his lawyer along for added measure. The advice is not just for designers – any small business owner who has faced the pain of poor payers will get value from his forthright talk.

The gist of the talk is this: have clear definitions and clear expectations – and do this by having contracts in place.

Contracts mean lawyers and one thing Monteiro has is a great lawyer – Gabe Levine. The part Levine values most in contract negotiations is making sure everyone understands what they’ve agreed to. More often than not, they don’t.

Friendlier contracts that align with your values and help build relationships is the premise behind the Centre for Integrative Law in Cape Town, which was founded by lawyer Amanda Lamond. These “conscious contracts” are easier to understand, more user-friendly and serve to build healthy relationships between the business and its employees, suppliers, and stakeholders (without diminishing your safety or certainty).

Similarly, Monteiro reminds us that contracts are there to serve you as well as the other parties. Certain compromises, however, should never be made. A warning sign is a client who avoids putting payment terms in a contract and uses words like “trust us”. Monteiro insists that you cannot start a relationship in this way. “Let this be a sign of what’s to come and walk away,” he says.

If you don’t have a set of terms and conditions for your business, Lamond offers practical advice for getting started, “Work out your terms and conditions more or less by looking at other websites or similar service providers to yourself. Get a feel for what is important to you content-wise. That will also be cheaper than asking a lawyer to draft your Ts and Cs from scratch. They'll just pull out a precedent and charge you.”

Lawyers cost money, we know this. According to Monteiro, however, a good lawyer can also make you money. He says the money he pays his lawyer is a pittance in comparison to what he would have lost in revenue had he not had a lawyer in the first place.

So what is a good lawyer? The Centre for Integrative Law offers these attributes:

  • They help the parties check that they have the right partner at the outset.
  • They include a way to make course corrections to keep fast-paced businesses aligned.
  • They are multi-dimensional – not only fighters but designers and problem solvers too.
  • They understand how their role can help build relationships.
  • They integrate learning from other disciplines, like economics, psychology and organizational development.

When you’re ready to find a good lawyer, Levine says you should interview lawyers, just like you would a potential employee. Most of them will give you 20 or 30 minutes of their time. Ask questions, ask about costs, and if they don’t answer in a way that satisfies you, then it’s time to move on.


Take out: Contracts, with terms and conditions, help set clear definitions and clear expectations with your clients (and staff and suppliers). With the right lawyer, this can be a friendly process that helps build relationships. Contracts can also prevent you from losing money. Carefully choose the right lawyer for you by interviewing potential candidates.

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