Contracts are important because they protect the interests of both the freelancer and the client. It makes it clear what is expected and what will be paid for. You should have a contract for all work you do and for everyone you work with. If you’re new to freelancing, some of this might seem overkill or even downright paranoid but you need to be to protect your interests.
The problem is that many freelancers begin without contracts and quickly learn why they need them. Below are a few points that you could include in most types of freelance contract.
Cover the basics first of all. You should have the details of both parties on either side of the agreement written down, although you will know them already. You should have a written overview of the work needed that both sides read and agree to. It should be made clear that you are not an employee and should not be treated like one.
You should put together a highly detailed proposal and outline what you will be doing and what the client will be getting for their money. It is important that no one is able to misunderstand or twist the wording of the contract.
You should come to an agreement on a deadline for the project to be delivered. Though deadlines are never much fun, they are important and also help you to schedule your other duties/jobs around this project. That being said, you may need to have some flexibility on deadlines. Any changes to this should be communicated as soon as possible and agreed to by both sides.
Single Point of Contact
Sometimes you will get different people from the same organisation offering feedback and requesting changes they might not necessarily have discussed with each other. That will leave you working for different people and it will quickly become confusing. Agree to make someone a single point of contact so that the information you receive is consistent.
Your hourly, daily or project rate should be clearly stated and agreed to. Think about itemising your fee so that the client can see where their money is going. Many clients will underestimate the amount of time and energy that goes into preparation and research.
It is a good idea to ask for a portion of your fee upfront and the amount should be stated in the contract. Some freelancers prefer instalments throughout the project or a simple 50% before and 50% after.
It is natural for the client to want some alterations in the work. As a freelancer you should account for this and try to include about two edits in your fee. Some clients may try to squeeze more work out of you, even if it’s ‘just a little bit’. Those little bits all add up and it’s important to put your foot down and not get into the habit of being taken advantage of. Extra work should be chargeable.
Invoices commonly ask the client to pay within 30 days unless you make your own. You will also need to decide how you will accept payment, e.g. Paypal and whether that is convenient for the client.
Also known as a cancellation clause, the kill fee is a procedure in place if the client decides to cancel the project half way through. You should be compensated for the work that you have done because you could have been spending that time working on someone else’s project. It is up to you how much your kill fee is but it should at least cover the work you’ve done up until cancellation. Generally, most clients will be fine and expect this clause and the ones that aren’t are generally the ones you need the clause for.
You should agree how the project will be delivered to the client. This will largely depend on what line of work you are in but whichever way you choose to deliver, make sure it is simple and convenient for the client. You want this part to go as smoothly as possible if you hope for repeat clients.
Intellectual Property Ownership
To avoid having your work stolen, you should put in writing that you retain ownership of all your own work until you receive payment. If your client refuses to pay, they cannot legally use your work and you have grounds to sue.
Can you think of anything else you’d include? Have you ever regretted not having a contract? Let us know your experiences in the comments below.