When you work as a freelancer it’s important to protect your interests by putting an agreement or formal contract in place. Freelancer agreements make the scope of a project clear to everyone, manage expectations, and confirm the costs. Some freelancers feel uncomfortable asking clients to sign a contract, but the process doesn’t necessarily need to be so formal. A written agreement, such as an email outlining the project, is just as effective. It demonstrates that both parties know what’s involved, and what the outcome will (or should!) be.

We’ve put together some of the key points that a freelance contract should include, whatever format it’s in.

The basics of freelance contracts

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.

Be specific about the project

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.

Agree a time frame for delivery

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.

Who is your 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.


Clearly state your hourly, daily or project rate! 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.

Does your quote include the cost of alterations?

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.

Payment terms for freelancer agreements

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, and whether that is convenient for the client. It’s also worth considering whether or not you want to charge late payment fees. If you do, let your client know if advance!

Do you want to include a cancellation fee?

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.

Confirm the delivery details

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.

Who owns the Intellectual Property rights?

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.

Find more resources for freelancers in our info hub, or contact us for help!


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