When I started consulting, getting contracts in place was one of the most intimidating activities. The contract situation changes from client to client: some expect me to provide the consulting agreement, others expect to use their own 8-page agreement prepared by their lawyers, and the rare few expected me to start working just because we reached conceptual agreement.
If you have the funds, it is highly advisable to find a legal partner who can help you create and review contracts. However, when I started my business, I was strapped for cash and scrounged together whatever agreements I could get my hands on.
I stripped down some of the massive consulting agreements to create my consulting services agreement and also used my project proposal template as a lightweight contract. These agreements served me well until I was able to afford legal counsel.
I recently joined the IEEE to take advantage of the insurance benefits, when I discovered excellent consulting resources provided by IEEE and Beazly, one of the insurance underwriters.
I found two sample consulting agreements on the IEEE website:
Both documents serve as excellent starting points for creating your own consulting agreement.
If you're working off of a client's legal template, there is also an amazingly helpful Contract Review Checklist. You should work through the checklist for all agreements that come your way. Don't get bullied into an unfair and one-way consulting arrangement!
As always, Beazly, IEEE, and myself recommend getting your agreements reviewed by a lawyer as soon as possible.
P.S. If you think all of this is a waste of time, take two minutes to read "Why is a written contract important?".