The first and most important rule is READ THE CONTRACT! After you have read the contract, if there are items you do not understand or disagree with, do not sign it until you are completely satisfied with the answers and understand every clause or until you have consulted with your attorney. Never blindly accept the explanation or assurances of the other party about the meaning of any terms in the contract. Get any explanation or changes agreed to in writing and added to or attached to the contract. Once a written contract is signed, courts generally will not allow verbal understandings to be considered in the event of a dispute. Also, watch out for unduly harsh penalty clauses or any clause in which you agree to waive any rights that you otherwise may have under the contract or under existing law. Finally, as a practical matter, you should be sure that you can meet the obligations imposed by the contract, whether that be payment of money or providing goods or services.