The phrase “contract negotiation” can sound like nails on a chalkboard for those uncomfortable with this necessary business practice.

Fortunately, negotiating fair contracts doesn’t have to be an impossible, sticky situation.

For small businesses and contractors alike, there are certain strategies both parties can use to ensure the process is as painless as possible.

Get Everything in Writing

How often to do you hear this advice when it comes to business?

And yet, just as often, you hear stories about people not getting the work they expected because they made a verbal agreement or “shook hands on it.”

Even if a contractor is “your guy” and you trust him or her to understand your expectations, it’s always best to have a written contract.

Likewise, contractors themselves will want to have everything in writing for their own protection.

Have a Clear Scope of Work

Transparency is key to successful completion of a project.

Business owners need to have reasonable expectations in terms of how much they would like to get done in a given period of time.

At the same time, contractors should be honest about their bandwith and the amount of resources they can contribute to a project.

Get Educated

As the article, “How to Improve Your Contract Negotiation Skills” points out, contractors can learn strategies by taking business courses.

But it’s just as important for those hiring contractors to be educated in terms of knowing proper cost estimates for a given project. If a contractor’s bid is too low, they may not be as professional as they’re letting on.

Be on the Same Page About Third Parties

At the start of negotiations, everyone should have a clear sense of who is going to be involved in the completion of a project.

A contractor may have a specific crew that he or she always works with and already has an established, effective dynamic. A small business owner may have a partner that’s only partially involved in day-to-day affairs.

Whatever the case, there needs to be a clear understanding of who reports to whom and who gives final approval on decisions.

Check Reputations

Going into a negotiation, business owners should check references and read reviews of contractors work if they’re available online.

Meanwhile, contractors should be just as proactive in researching the reputation of the client proposing a project.

They can talk to other contractors who have completed work for that company to ensure that they are reputable and make payments on time.

Set Dates & Progress Milestones

Before signing contracts, both parties need to agree on numbers. This means payment amounts and dates on the calendar.

Everyone should be on the same page about when certain invoices are due and when they’re paid out. Contractors should have a clear sense of what costs they’re expected to cover.

Likewise, both parties need to set progress milestones and agree on what the repercussions are if those deadlines aren’t met.

By adhering to these strategies, both contractors and small businesses alike can ensure they get what they want out of contract negotiations.

About the Author: Kristin Livingstone covers small business topics on the web.