How often do you trust your gut in business? When a potential partnership just seems ‘off’. Or you have a bad feeling about pressing publish on a blog post.

Chances are…you don’t trust that intuition. At least, not nearly enough.

Over my years of working with contracts, I’ve developed my own little set of Spidey Senses when it comes to documents and whether they’re going to be a success or a colossal pain in the keister.

You can do the same. All it takes is five years and a few thousand pages of contract review. Or – you can sneak a peek at my Top 3 Contract Red Flags below, and save yourself time, hassle and a whole lotta highlighter ink.

Here are the top three ‘uuuuhhhh this doesn’t feel right’ triggers to watch out for in your next contract.

Red Flag #1

You receive a contract with mis-matched fonts, spacing or writing styles.

Why: This is a sign that the document was copy pasted from multiple sources. It’s a patchwork, and that means there may be language that doesn’t belong or makes no sense. If paragraphs alternate between sassy ‘Hey Girl!’ informality, and stuffy ‘hereinafter, notwithstanding’ legal speak, chances are the overall contents of the deal will be similarly disjointed.

The Fix: Send over your own document. It’s easier to negotiate and agree on terms when you know the contract inside out. PLUS yours will be professional and not a hot mess patchwork, right?

Red Flag #2

Your contract comes back with changes and strikeouts all over the place. But no comments to tell you why.

Why: This is a red flag because it shows that the person reviewing may not have read thoroughly, or given thought to why they were making changes. A contract being returned like this means that you’ll have your work cut out for you in figuring out what’s important and what’s not.

The Fix: Have a joint review session. Go through the document clause by clause, and ask “can you please explain these changes to me?” Take great notes, ask follow-up questions, and make sure that you understand each tweak being made. That’s how you’ll be able to counter with a great solution.

Red Flag #3

Insisting that no contract is needed.

Why: Whoa! This is the biggest red flag of all. NO matter how well you know a client or partner, or how simple the project appears to be, you always need a contract. Someone not being willing to sign a contract to commit to their side of the deal is an indicator that they’re not looking to pull their weight in the first place.

The Fix: You, Ambitious Entrepreneur need to stand your ground and insist on a signed agreement. It doesn’t have to be long and fancy – there’s a great power in even a simple document – but you need to have one.