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The only thing I can find is a sales order, but the problem with that is it isn't legally binding. To be more specific on what I mean:

Say that we want to sell someone business cards that includes a specific amount of time for graphic design. And we want to get paid after the graphic design, but before printing. Is there a way before graphic design starts to have a client binded to an agreement that they'll pay us for work done, and if/when design is approved, printing?

I know a contract would work, but for something as common as business cards - it seems like overkill and would put people off. Purchase orders from customers would be great, but most of them are too small to use them. Are there any options that are simple like a PO, can state a list of terms, and be very easy for customers to get through?

Every contract we've had written has been so long that customers don't fully understand the terms. Simple is better for a quick job like this so they DO get the terms clearly.

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There's a tradeoff in written contracts: The more precise and comprehensive, the longer they have to be.

The basics of a contract are described here, and it's possible to have a legally valid contract without writing anything at all.

But the more you care about avoiding ambiguity and covering "corner cases," the more you need an experienced attorney to write your contract.

You can ask an attorney to avoid "legalese" to the extent possible, and to try to make a contract as "easy to read and understand" as possible. Some are better at that than others.

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  • Thank you for the links. Reading about the contract - couldn't we just create our own purchase orders, put some clear terms on it, and have the customer sign it for agreement and we each get a copy? That would meet all of the conditions wouldn't it? If so - does that sound like a reasonable idea? Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 18:37
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    @SherwoodPro: Personally, I might do something like that, but there are many people who would argue I'm "unreasonable" ;) And I don't think anyone here is going to tell you to go ahead and write or even sign a contract without paying a lawyer for legal advice.
    – feetwet
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 1:03
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The only thing I can find is a sales order, but the problem with that is it isn't legally binding.

Why on Earth would you say that? An agreement for one party to sell something to another party is a legally binding contract no matter what paperwork, if any, is involved. If you ordered a cappuccino at a coffee shop this morning, you and they entered into a legally binding contract. See What is a contract and what is required for them to be valid?

If you publish a price list for your services: say 500 business cards for $25 including a $10 charge for graphic design payable before printing, and a customer orders that then you have a legally binding contract.

The real question is what do you do if the customer send you an order for $25 payable on completion? Well, if you decide to accept that offer then that is your contract. This situation is commonly known as the Battle of the Forms.

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I work in the Logistics and SCM industry and come across various small scale vendors and retail customers. My best bet is to drop them an email stating all the Terms and Conditions and ask for an email confirmation. If you are more into physical documents, just print the same email via a word file and have them signed the same.

Basically what you are looking for is a written confirmation which is valid in the court of law in case the buyer defaults in payment or skips the pre-agreed T&Cs.

This is what we guys in India do as many people are put-off by long agreements. We call it "Jugaad" which is a makeshift approach which is also legal as long as it has a written confirmation of the buyer.

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