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Promises and commitments are made every day over the Net. It is very common for those involved in alleged deals not to have a clue about contract essentials. Many feel that small business owners have no recourse if they don't want to pay. A friend, a graphics designer, had a contract broken once with a man who felt he didn't have to pay. Her retort, "I'll see you in court." And, she did.

Just in the past month, I had two different vendors breach a contract. One, I am letting go for the time being. The other has been informed that I expect payment on the rest of the contract. Whether or not, I have to take it further is yet to be seen.

A friend who consults, on asking for a contract recently was told, "...could you provide me with one?." The women giving her the work didn't even have a template to offer. We are working in a world of constant legal slip-ups. Small business vendors who do this without thinking twice are just hoping that the person slighted wouldn't go to small - claims court. It is a whole lot of trouble to collect a relatively small mount of money. The Better Business Bureau is an alternative route to voice one's complaint.

Our educational system is lacking in their failure to teach the basics of business law to students before they enter the real world. It is one of those situations where people don't know and don't know what they don't know.

Knowing the elements of a valid contract will give you an edge. Besides the five basic elements of a valid contract, you also need to consider a cancellation clause. Something I am embarrassed to admit just cost me some money in a contract dispute. Give both parties a bowing-out clause so neither feels as if they have the right to say ‘stop' at any arbitrary time without consequences.

There is also the issue of written versus oral. There are different state laws. Minimally contracts must be in writing for anything dealing with real estate or an agreement that can't be finished in a year.

Moving on, the five elements necessary for a contract are very simple. The first element is a meeting of the minds. Of course, there is no way to absolute ensure that two parties are thinking exactly the same when they enter into a contract. However, there better be enough evidence, if taken to court, to convince a judge there was. It means, you both have to be on the same page. Then, comes the offer. You offer to sell your services or buy some one's goods. If it came down it, the offer and acceptance are supposed to be delivered and received in the same way. But no one is splitting those types of hairs these days. Someone accepts your offer and then? There has to be consideration. That means money for most of us. There can be, however, a valid contract where barter is the compensation.

Parties involved have to be adults or it isn't a valid contract. Age differs by state. The contract can't be for something illegal. Sounds, like common sense, but there isn't much of that around these days.

Through email, keep copies of all documents exchanged. It would also be a good idea to print and fax copies to the other party if the option is available

There are numerous links to be found for templates.(Go to ask.com.) Don't be too timid to demand a contract for a business deal, over the Net especially.

Anybody frightened about the idea of putting a contract together needs further education before starting their own business.

Laura Bell is Freelance Writer and owner of www.bellbusinessreport.com. The Bell Business Report offers common sense business advice and how-to info for running your business. It takes the everyday headlines apart, dealing with business news, and shows you how to put that information to work for you.

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