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My Biggest Mistake: Flexible contract gave away the store

April 11, 2011 |  6:03 am

Consultants, self-help gurus and moms agree: Mistakes are how we learn. Small-business owners tell us their biggest error. Here is this week's:

ChmbrImgs_101123_0087 Business owner: Desiree Frieson, New York

Company: Mahogany Communications

What I did: Failed to specify the work that would be covered in a client’s contract

Background: After three years of doing public relations for a nonprofit, I decided to break out and start my own business. My friend referred me to a client who said she was holding a fashion show and needed help creating a buzz to promote her event.

The mistake: We met to talk about her needs and I put them in the service agreement. And I also put in a line that said “other work, to be decided.” I had allotted 30 hours of work for this client, but I ended up providing about 150 hours. I felt like I couldn’t say that because I had that “to-be-decided” in there.

What I learned: Never be afraid to talk to a client about paying more money for more work. And be mindful of what you put in the service agreement. I really shortchanged myself.

Have you made a mistake from which other small-business owners can learn? Please tell us about it at

-- Sharon Bernstein

On Twitter @sharonbernstein