What do you do when you receive a contract and you’re not sure about some of its terms?

The first thing to consider doing is just asking the other party to change the term! If you have a term you prefer, you can ask for a change. Depending on the term, how much they care about it, and how much they want to work with you, they may just agree right away. Or they may not. But usually there’s no harm in asking.

Not everyone is comfortable asking for changes to the other sides’ contract, perhaps because they want to avoid conflict. My suggestion whenever you are looking to negotiate an agreement – is to approach the issue mindfully. Don’t just ask for a change, but instead briefly and respectfully explain why you’re requesting the change. You are more likely to get the change you want if the other side can understand why you’re asking, and even if you don’t get what you want this approach will help preserve the relationship.

If your new to your business and aren’t sure whether a change is appropriate to ask for, it’s not a bad idea to ask others in your industry what’s normal. If you’re a creative professional, for instance, see if you can find an online group of your peers to ask whether the term you are concerned about is an industry standard or something out of the ordinary. This can give you more confidence in asking for a change, or help you decide it may not be worth pushing. Asking an attorney can be helpful, if your attorney is familiar with your industry.

But what if they say no? Generally the worst thing that will happen is that they’ll say no and things will move on. Occasionally they will give you a nastier reply, perhaps suggesting that it is absurd you would even ask for the change. The choice of how to proceed at that point is yours, but often if they are behaving poorly merely because you asked for a change that is a sign they may not be a good business partner. If you suspect the response is a prelude to things to come, consider whether you want to enter a business relationship that might turn rocky.