Take your time to review and negotiate a contract.
Avoid, if possible, reviewing, making changes or negotiating a contract under self imposed time constraints. You may have less leverage to negotiate a contract if it is known that you are pressured to enter into an agreement due to a deadline. If necessary, and if there is flexibility, ask for more time to thoroughly review and negotiate the contract.
Always take the initiative to negotiate the terms of a contract.
There are certain terms that are not discussed but may be included in a boiler plate contract that may severely limit your rights or impose costs, such as mandatory arbitration or shortening the statue of limitations on certain claims. Make sure you challenge language in a contract that is adverse to your interest.
Don't assume that you have to sign the contract "as is."
Discuss questions, changes and request that changes to be made with contracting party. If you are told that the contract is "non-negotiable," then make sure that it is confirmed in writing.
Review and re-review the contract prior to signing.
Make sure all negotiated terms are incorporated into the contract and that superfluous terms are stricken. Confirm that additional language adverse to your interest isn't added at different stages of contract drafting.
Several heads are better than one.
Involve key players and decision makers in the review, negotiation and drafting of a contract, such as an attorney or accountant. Individuals with specialized knowledge can protect your interest, identify legal and financial risks or clarify any uncertainties.