FcF: Tell us about yourself?
Jaime: I grew up in a small town north of Toronto, Ontario. When I went to undergrad, I really enjoyed my criminology courses and ended up getting my degree in Legal Studies, and then law school at Western University. I didn’t love law school. I felt really out of place and thought that I probably wouldn’t practice law for very long, but I stuck with it. After a string of typical law jobs, I still felt very disconnected from the work and the clients I was serving. At the same time, I became obsessed with listening to business podcasts. Eventually, I decided to take 9 months off to figure out how I wanted to design my life and career. I knew I wanted to own my own business, but not sure how that would look. I took a career coaching course, but after working with a few clients it didn’t feel right. Eventually I realized it wasn’t the law I didn’t like, but really the work I was doing. I decided to switch gears and only serve entrepreneurs as they built their dream businesses. Shortly after, I opened my law firm, Wild Coast Law and then launched Contracts Market.
FcF: What is the Contracts Market?
Jaime: Contracts Market is an online shop that provides industry specific and easy-to-use legal contract templates for Canadian entrepreneurs that are a fraction of the price you would pay to work with a lawyer. There are various client service agreements, contractor agreements and other contracts available in the shop that entrepreneurs need in their business, available individually or in bundles. I like to describe my contracts as a “Choose Your Own Adventure Style” - since they’ve been drafted with a number of options to be able to be customized to reflect that person’s own business practices.
When you purchase a Contracts Market template, you get lifetime access to all updated versions of the contract you purchased so you’ll always have access to the most up-to-date contract I offer.
FcF: How did you come up with the Contracts Market?
Jaime: A big issue with law is how inaccessible it is to most entrepreneurs just starting out. It’s also not the sexiest part of starting a business and is often an afterthought for most people. In my personal practice, I saw a lot of ‘Cut+Paste’ contracts that my clients were using that were based on American law, and also that were really one-sided - often in favour of their clients rather than protecting themselves while still being fair! I also know entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed and unsure about what contracts they need for their business and whether the ones they are using will actually protect them. Often by the time I work with my clients in my personal practice, they’ve been using a basic contract that they pieced together on their own and that wasn’t really working for them: either they had some client issues come up and their contract didn’t have provisions to deal with that scenario, or they knew it was pretty sparse, and was ready to have something that looked more professional.
I created Contracts Market so that entrepreneurs could have a great contract from the start in a way that isn’t intimidating. I don’t think great contracts should be available only to those who have the means to hire a lawyer. I wanted to create great contracts, specifically for Canadian entrepreneurs (no matter where in the world their clients are located) so they felt confident knowing the business they built was protected and set the tone for a great working relationship. I also wanted my contracts to feel modern and not like they were taken from a dusty old legal textbook, so I was really thoughtful in drafting the contracts to be written in plain English so no one reading it would need a legal dictionary or a degree in Shakespearean Studies to understand them. My favourite feedback from entrepreneurs who have purchased a template or bundle is how seamlessly they’ve integrated my contract templates, as it feels like an extension of their branding as well as how much more confident they feel in their business now that they are using them. I couldn’t ask for feedback more inline with why I started Contracts Market than that!
FcF: What were the first 3 steps you took after you knew you wanted to pursue this idea?
1. Market Research! I’m a talker and I loved talking with other entrepreneurs and lawyers about the viability of my idea. I knew there was likely a market for it, especially since there were successful companies in the USA with similar offerings, but I didn’t see a great option for Canadians entrepreneurs. After speaking with a number of entrepreneurs and also seeing how many clients wanted to work with me in my personal practice, but didn’t have the funds available to hire me personally, I knew there was a need for great contract templates at a more affordable price!
2. Get to work! I then started drafting a master contract that was used as the basis for many of the other contracts which are then tailored to be more specific to the industry. This took almost a year to complete (and I’m still updating them!) but I wanted them to be thorough and customizable to reflect each individuals different business practices. In this stage, it was really hard to not get distracted on all the “fun things” in the business, like thinking about branding, my website etc., but I really wanted to make sure my templates were solid and ready to go before I brought on team members to help me launch! And yes, I hired help with my website, logo, branding, copy etc. I knew this wasn’t my strength so invested in some help!
3. Sent out Contracts for Testing - Before I started on my branding etc. I sent out contracts for testing by various users across industries for their feedback. I wanted to make sure that the templates were user-friendly and easy to implement. I took their feedback, tweaked the contracts and came up with the final templates!
FcF: What are some resources (or general tips) founders and entrepreneurs can look through to learn more about the importance of having contracts to legally protect themselves and their company?
Jaime: When you’re starting your business, it’s a great idea to get yourself a community of other entrepreneurs who also get what it’s like to be in the business building phase. Ask entrepreneurs who have a bit more experience than you if they’ve ever had a situation come up in their business where they wish they had a contract, or a client issue that could have been dealt with by having provisions to address that in their contract (hindsight is 20/20!). Taking their (or your own!) pain points (like rescheduling, deposit issues etc.) can be a great way to learn what you might want to address in your contract. I find a lot of podcasts also bring on lawyers to speak to their audiences and that’s a great way to get an overview of some of the high level legal issues (and how to deal with them!) in your industry. I am always adding blogs to the Contracts Market website too to educate entrepreneurs about the legal side of their business, so that is a great resource too!
FcF: What advice do you have for other women who have a start-up idea or side project idea?
Jaime: Start before you’re ready, you’ll never have all the details figured out. Then, dedicate as much time as you can, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day to work towards your idea. That might just mean journaling about your ideas, dedicating a few minutes to developing your product or listening to a podcast in the specific niche you want to be in. I found podcasts and immersing myself in entrepreneurial groups etc really helped to keep me inspired during hard times. I also like to remember that “Comparison is the theif of Joy” so don’t get too hung up if other people are doing or creating something similar to your offer. They aren’t doing it with your same expertise and how you would do it, so just focus on you and your company, and clients will be drawn to your product or service, because you’re doing it in your unique way.
FcF: How can the Female CoFounder community help you?
Jaime: Spread the word! If you know entrepreneurs, no matter what stage they’re at in their business, I’d love for them to know there is an easy way to put great contracts into place in their business. My goal with Contracts Market is to make entrepreneurs more confident in their businesses knowing they are legally protected, and I know my contracts help people feel that way. I’m always open to educating and sharing what legal ‘stuff’ entrepreneurs need to know about, so if there are any speaking or podcast opportunities, I’d love to be considered for those! y
FcF: How can people contact you?
Jaime: I love chatting with entrepreneurs all things business and legal! The best place to learn more about available contracts is at www.thecontractsmarket.com and sign up to our email list to be the first to know about sales and new contracts that are available. You can find me on Instagram at @contractsmarket!
Or you can DM @Jaime Bell in our Slack Group!
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