Writing a Good Freelance Contract

Knowing how to protect yourself legally is always a good idea, especially if you are planning on exchanging money for services. This is by no means a replacement for legal council. Hire your lawyer friend.

Protect this house

As a freelancer you run the risk of some fairly common mistakes. One of the worst is to undervalue your work. Yes, you are required to be competitive and use competitive pricing for your products or services, but you don’t have to work for peanuts. This may not gain you the respect of the people you work with, and it certainly won’t help you to succeed.

The one time you have a shot at securing the healthiest terms for your work is when you draft the contract. If you have already agreed to a price, the contract is going to do things that ensure you are not taken advantage of and it will show that you respect the client and offer a high quality product or service with very clear terms.

How do you write a good contract? Firstly, get negotiations out of the way. Set the price and get a basic understanding of what the job entails. Then, if you have the funds, run everything by legal counsel. If you cannot afford it, ask around among other freelancers or your various networks, as there is usually someone who will give a contract a once over gratis or at a deep discount. Just like you, you have to start somewhere, small steps first. Here is another article about crawl, walk, run.

If this is not an option, go online and look for free creative contract templates. These contain the kind of language you will need and cover all of the points that you might have overlooked.

For instance? Well, the most substantial is the scope of the work. In addition to clarification about prices and itemizing what is not being done for the price agreed upon, your contract has to be honest about the scope of the work. This is the only way to avoid what too many freelancers have experienced, and what many call “scope creep“.

It seems to be especially problematic for creatives. It is when a client asks for more than agreed upon and speaks of their demands as if they are no big deal. As an example, you might be a website designer in Dallas, Texas and hear your client’s feedback as something like, “Yeah, I love it, but I think we need some additional buttons and pages. They shouldn’t take that long.”

Now, the contract should have identified the number of buttons and pages, and the client should not have any leeway to demand this extra work. To make sure this does not happen, you set contingencies for any scope creep. You might say that additional design or development of website content will run at an hourly rate of “xyz”. Value your work as the high quality gift it is, no matter your dedication, scope creep is not acceptable.

Another thing to consider is the ownership rights of the materials you produce. Make sure you can still use them for portfolio purposes, but clients want to make sure they have the full rights, give it to them.

Yes, you want to deliver a beautiful website or service, but it should respect your work, time, and creative energy. A good freelance contract will always stop scope creep and protect you.

Working in your strengths

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