As a freelancer who is starting off, having a solid contract in place between you and your clients can have many great benefits down the line. Even if the relationship between you and your clients tends to be all about ‘yays and high fives,’ sometimes you’ll encounter a rogue situation that will feel unworthy of the cushy fee or the freelancer portfolio boost that you originally got excited about.
Having a written document in place that outlines the freelancer-client relationship and manages expectations can be essential to curbing unpredictable or difficult situations, along with keeping your freelancing sanity. Here are some common contract provisions you should get to know as a freelancer:
1. Deliverables and Scope of Work: Managing your clients expectations is a big part of keeping your freelancer sanity intact. It’s also a good business practice. Therefore using your freelance business contract to clearly describe and outline what you will and will not deliver is important for many reasons. A well-crafted and defined scope of work adds clarity to the relationship, thus minimizing potential misunderstandings.
2. Payment, Payment Due Dates, and Late Fees: As a freelancer who may be living pay check to pay check, getting paid is a top priority. You can approach payments in various ways, but setting a specific date or dates for payment and specific payment amounts adds an extra boost of clarity that many freelancers forget to include in their contracts. Also, if you require an up-front lump sum, say it in writing. If you expect full payment upon delivery, state that clearly too. Also, do not feel bad about including a late payment fee- even if small, adding a fee can keep the money flowing when due!
3. Revisions and Tweaks: I get it, people change their minds- but are you getting paid for when they do? When a client keeps asking for add-ons, tweaks, do-overs, and endless changes to your already completed work, having a contract that details how many revision rounds are included in the scope of work adds transparency to the professional relationship. Clarity when citing any additional cost for the “I’m not feeling it” revisions can be a mini freelance life saver. Also, defining terms like “round” or “revision” can add some clarity brownie points.
4. Milestones, Deadlines, and Timelines: Keeping tabs on milestones or deadlines is a definite crowd-pleaser. If the project gets extended because of endless revisions, make sure you can also extend the overall deadline. Including these items in a contract helps keep your progress on track, and ensures the client knows when to expect your awesome work delivered.
5.Ownership and Intellectual Property: Even though you are hired as a freelancer to produce work for your client, the work can still technically belong to you. Freelancers and independent contractors can assign or license the copyright to their work in certain situations, so make sure you touch upon intellectual property rights in your contracts. Think about how you may want to use the work for someone else in the future or whether or not such control is a concern- but make sure it’s spelled out nicely in that agreement!
6.Freelance Sanity and Early Termination: Sometimes things do not go as planned. If your client calls you up (or emails, or tweets, or sends you a passive aggressive Instagram photo of them that reads “It’s Over”), how do you part ways and still get paid? Including a “kill fee” (early termination fee) in a contract can help you out! With a kill fee, you can secure a lump sum payment upon early cancellation or carve out a safety payment in the future that is based on milestones already met for work already delivered. Boom, freelancer gold.
Bottom line: Even if you think it’s casual freelancing, it’s still your livelihood- so treat it that way. Having a contract that touches upon these (and other important topics) can help ease you out of a hairy situation.
Disclaimer: Remember, this is not legal advice! This is for general information and educational purposes only. This does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor does this substitute for attorney advice, so please do not rely on this for anything but a conversation starter.