Top Tips For Writing A Freelance Contract

As a freelancer, you no longer have the security of corporate counsel or in-house legal advice if something goes wrong during the execution of your duties. Having a sound, legally binding agreement between you and your client is a safeguard against unforeseen changes or complications with the scope of work required. It’s the legal assurance of expecting the best and preparing for the worst. As we know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Understanding the essentials of a good contract is a valuable tool in your freelancer’s kit because once you have established the basics, you’ll be able to easily adapt the terms depending on the job. A stitch in time saves nine.

Enough with the platitudes, now to contract fundamentals.

Clear language

Legal speak is often intimidating or alienating and replicating that style should be limited where possible. The use of jargon and ambiguous terms is unnecessary in this context, nor is this a creative writing exercise. Contract writing should be specific, definitive and lean.

Contract Identification and Introduction

The document header needs to state this is a contract between the parties involved. Clearly present business information relevant to you and your client, such as name, address, ABN and contact information. Then something as simple as a single sentence to state the following is an agreement between the two parties for the work supplied under the following Terms & Conditions.

Scope Of Work

This area of the contract is the one that you’ll need to adapt most, depending on your current role and the work you are required to do.

Specify details and responsibilities of the job proposal, including the number of revisions budgeted for and the potential for the project to expand beyond the original scope requested. ‘Scope Creep’ can occur when continual changes, growth or expansion of a project occurs that is not originally defined or documented. Indicating additional fees will be billed due to changes in scope is crucial to protect yourself.

Detail information the client plans to supply for the completion of works, whether that be research, staff, space or support.

Itemising timelines for deliverables, milestones or project deadlines is crucial. Completion dates and costings are linked to each other; making this clear upfront ensures a smoother payment process.

Stipulate for the possibility of renegotiation, if the project genuinely does change, expand or evolve.

Invoicing

How To Invoice Clients as a Freelancer is something you need to be crystal clear on; if you don’t detail your exact expectations for getting paid, miscommunication could cripple your client relationship and your livelihood.

Are you billing by the hour, day, or project? Are you seeking a deposit and if so, how much? Do milestone payments work best? Are your due dates 14 days, 30 days or 90 days? What are the late payment fees? And most obviously what payment methods do you accept?

If for whatever reason the client cancels the project, you still need to get paid so establish your cancellation policy.

Termination Clause

Unforeseen circumstances do arise and every professional will understand the need to cease an agreement, so consider your deal breakers.

Copyright

Freelancers retain copyright of all work created until payment is secured, then copyright is transferred to the client. You may wish to include a consent clause to display the completed work in your portfolio, on your website or have accreditation attached.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality clauses or Non-disclosure agreements (NDA) form legally binding confidential relationships between you and your client because your work may involve intellectual property, company secrets or sensitive information that you are prohibited from disclosing to a third party.

Indemnity

An indemnification clause is designed to identify who is liable if a third party sues the business over content you produced. The clause contractually obligates one party to assume responsibility for loss or damages over the other. Basically, it states who is responsible for legal disputes.

This clause may not always be relevant but there are serious legal and financial ramifications so seeking professional legal advice can be prudent.

Signing

Electronic signatures are the standard these days rather than the exception. Provide a space for both your signature and your client’s with an introductory statement such as, “I acknowledge and accept the Terms & Conditions of this contract as stipulated herein.” Electronically sign the document before sending it through to your client so they have a completed contract for their records.

Hopefully, those contact cogs are now turning. This subject benefits from as much research as possible, but once you understand the fundamentals you can write a freelance contract that will educate you, protect you and ensure you are at your professional best.