12 things you need to include in your freelance contract

Preparing to work with a new freelance client or on a new project with an existing client? Here are 12 things you need to include in your contract with them.

Whatever industry you work in, if you are a freelancer or contractor then you need to agree on a freelance contract with your clients before you start work. This will help to protect you from any expensive and painful costly situations that may result from clients setting their own (less favourable) terms. Or worse, having no terms at all, and therefore no legal rights!

You may think, “I don’t need a freelance contract. My client seems like a nice person,’’ but gambling on your client’s good nature is a dangerous game. You may find later on, to your cost, that your previously charming client is actually very difficult when service creep begins, or they don’t pay on time.

12 things you need to include in your freelance contract

To protect yourself from nasty surprises, start as you mean to go on with a legally binding, clear contract that lays out how the project will progress and what your requirements from your client are. If your client is honest they won’t object to singing a freelance contract – on the contrary they’ll appreciate your professinalism and the protection it gives you both.

But what needs to be in a freelance contract? Here are 12 things you need to include.

1) The project scope

Before agreeing to work on any client’s project, define its scope. In your contract, outline precisely what your contract entails.

For example, if the client wants a 26-page informational web copy, define clearly the word count for each article, enquire if there are specific keywords to be used, and much more.

Examine the difficulty level of the project. For example, it is much easier to write two 500-word blog posts a day than to design a website in a day. Based on the ease of working on a project, you can set realistic deadlines.

2) The price

In your freelance contract, you need to clearly state the price for the services you are offering, and what is included in that price.

If you’re charging a set price for the entire project, specify what is covered by that. Does it include all amends? And what is accepted as a reason;e amend, rather than extra work or a new brief?

It’s common to limit the number of rounds of amends (two is an acceptable number of rounds of amends). This avoids you ending up in a position when you are on round 101 of amends, and working for practically nothing as a result. It also helps the client to be more decisive, and put more onus on them to be responsible and thoughtful in their amends.

Don’t price too low either. Cheap clients are often the least grateful and the hardest work. Price for the value of the work you are doing, the hours you will spend on it, and your experience. (If you need help to raise your freelance prices, read this article.)

When you price appropriately you’ll attract clients who love what you do and respect your work (and are easier to work with) and you’ll be rewarded appropriately.

3) Any deposits or upfront fees

Requesting half or full upfront pay is a common practice for freelancers, especially for a new client on a big project. If this is something you wish to ask for then set out your terms on your freelance contract and make sure you don’t start work until you have the peony safely in your bank.

4) A deadline for final draft revisions

In your freelance contract, state the information regarding deadlines for final draft revisions. This will protect you from clients who may show up months after your project ended demanding more changes. (Restricting the number of rounds of amends, as already mentioned also helps avoid this situation.)

5) Any guarantee

Do you guarantee satisfaction to your clients? If so, include this as a clause in your contract. Please note though that this is not a requirement of freelancers. If clients have seen your previous work (having samples to send them is a good idea) and they are happy with the quality of that work then there is no reason why they shouldn’t be delighted with your work for them.

6) A kill fee

Don’t worry – we’re not suggesting your contract involves murder! A ‘kill fee’ is simply the amount you charge a client as a penalty for canceling an ongoing project. So if a client’s ned change, or they just change their mind about your project, you have an agreed amount they will need to pay you to ensure you are not out of pocket.

The amount you agree for a kill fee can be a percentage of your up-front fee or the full up-front fee. Agreeing this upfront saves all parties inconvenience and discomfort in trying to negotiate it later on. It will also ensure that your clients are clear about the consequences of changing their mind, and are less likely to do so on a whim. Stating it in your contract also eliminates time wasters from the start.

7) Significant project changes

We’ve already covered agreeing how many rounds of amends your client is allowed and your kill fee. But what if they want or need to make significant changes to the brief part way through the project? This needs to be clearly addressed in your terms and conditions.

You may decide to state that any major alterations in the initial project instructions will call for a revisit to the project terms. This could include major changes in both pricing and the time needed to complete the project.

8) Final copyright

Don’t forget to mention copyright in your freelance contract to define who ‘owns’ the work. Usually the copyright goes to the client, as they have commissioned and paid for the work. However, you should include conditions that you may use such work for your professional portfolio. 

9) An expiration date

As a professional freelancer, you need to plan your work. Don’t assume that your clients will all get back to you within 24 hours and your projects run to the perfect timeline you have constructed in your head. What if a client sits on a project for a full month and no communication whatsoever? And then gets back in touch needing changes within a day… when you’re busy on another project?

To avoid timetabling issues, clearly indicate the expiry date of the project in your freelance contract. This puts responsibility onto the client for feeding back any changes to you in a timely manner. As long as you meet your deadlines then you are protected.

10) The payment schedule

In your terms and conditions you need to set out when you will get paid for your work. Typically, one-off projects should be paid for upon completion. Long-term contracts may be paid for after an agreed period such as bi-weekly, weekly, or monthly.

11) Payment methods

Be clear from the start which payment method your client will use to pay you – that may be PayPal, Skrill, bank transfers, or any other for of payment. Just make sure that both of you are comfortable with the method agreed on. This will avoid hiccups that may arise after project completion and you can’t access funds.

12) Signature lines

Last but not least, at the bottom of your contract, include two lines for signatures. This shows that both of you have agreed to all terms and conditions stated in the contract. 

Having a good freelance contract will put your firmly in the driver’s seat while dealing with clients, increase your clients’ confidence and build your own confidence in your business. And importantly, it will also protect you from losing income and wasting time!

Bianca J Ward used to be a divorce coach, but now she is a professional essay writer at EssayWriterFree.

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