How to Write a Freelance Contract from Scratch

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"writing a freelance contract"Haven’t we all heard the oldest advice of them all: To never start any freelance work without some kind of a binding agreement?  Whether you’re a freelance writer or designer, having a written contract will not only protect your interest, but of your clients as well.  We’ve all known how important a fine print is when it comes to freelance work and just how do you draft one at all?

The Basics of a Freelance Contract

You don’t have to be a lawyer to draft your own freelance work contract.  Some may even call it a ‘professional services agreement’ and you may even download plenty of templates online for free or for a fee.  It has been long debated if freelancers should have a contract or not, and to help you avoid dead beat clients, it’s better for you to create one.  So, what’s in a contract exactly?

Service Terms

This is the part where it states when the project will commence and when it is due.  By defining dates, you avoid getting scope creeps.

Service Provisions

You can also label this as ‘Project Description’ where you will have to state what services you are providing to the client within the specified service terms or dates.  You need to be clear in what you offer the client so you can meet his/her expectations.

Project Rate

You will have to state how much you will be paid for the services you will provide to the client.  You need to set your rates right and know that each project may have a different rate, based on the difficulty of the task and the service terms.

Payment Terms

Many freelancers feel that this is the most important part and yet, many are missing crucial points like how they charge for a project.  Is it a fixed price or an hourly payment?  How will the freelancer invoice the client and at which phase of the project should s/he needs to get paid?  Will you allow installment terms if ever the client cannot pay on time?  Will you charge late payment fees or give discounts for early payments?  Will you ask for an advance?  What percentage will the bonus be, if ever? Where and how will you get paid?  You need to define them all here as the last thing you want to do is be subjected to a messy collection process.

Revisions

There will be times when you need to revise work delivered and you need to state just how much revisions you will allow, for how many days from the time you delivered the first work will you, and for how much you will charge for changes.  Some freelancers don’t feel the need to charge clients for minor revisions and for others, time is money – no matter how big or small the changes will be.  Stating this in the contract will remove the burden when the time comes.

Client’s Duties

This is the part of the contract where it will state what the client will provide in order for the freelancer to do the work.  For example, if the client wants to make you design a logo for his website, you can state here that the client will provide details on the logo.  If training materials are needed for you to do a customer service job, you have to write it here as well.  The key here is to spell out all the things the client must provide – at zero cost to you, the freelancer.

Warranties and Imdemnification

This is the part where it will state that anything ‘verbal’ will not be valid unless it is backed up by a written agreement.  This is to help freelancers protect themselves from being misunderstood by the client.  Although take note that in some places, like New York City, oral agreements may be legally binding.  By warranties, it means that you give your client a guarantee that your work is free from intellectual property infringement.  Imdemnification here means that you will agree to protect your work against damages that might be paid to third parties and the scope will depend on the nature of the project assigned to you.

Intellectual Property

This is the part where you acknowledge existing copyright, trademark, patents and intellectual property rights of the client, which includes materials shared with you.

Confidentiality

It is unethical for anyone to sell, share or copy trade secrets and this part of the contract protects your client from this practice.  If you need to include your client or project’s name in your portfolio, you have to ask for written permission so you won’t violate this clause.

Force Majeure

There will be times when you may breach the contract because of situations beyond your control, like acts of God, war, fire, flood or similar catastrophes.  This clause will not hold you accountable if ever disaster strikes.

If you’re not familiar with legalese, you can go check this site and download a template that you can revise for your own.  Putting up a contract is no simple task, but the rewards can be priceless.  The end goal here is to keep it clear and simple so both parties completely understand what they’re agreeing upon… and don’t forget to have everyone involved sign.

Do you think that a written contract is needed when you have established trust with your client?  Share your thoughts!

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