Do you have a contract when you start an independent project? If not, you should. Working without a contract is an invitation that can be used.
A contract helps you to streamline your work and clarify all the details of what has been agreed between you and the client. Most importantly, you can avoid duplication of work and headaches.
If you started freelancing without a contract, it didn’t take long to feel like you needed it. A client may have refused payment or asked you to review your work so many times that you have requested a contract with a clause that charges for changes. All it takes is this one customer.
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Fear of contracts
We know the meaning of contracts, but we are so intimidated! If you are not a legal author, it goes without saying that you are afraid to write the document we know as a contract. But here’s the thing: using plain language is the best way to avoid confusion. You don’t need a lawyer to create a contract. You just need to know what works for you.
So grab some paper and a pencil (or open a Word document) and start working on your first contract. Don’t miss any of these clauses, because without them you really, really shouldn’t be independent.
1. Prices / tariffs
The most important thing to ensure the sustainability of your services is to clarify your prices. Write them down in the initial phase of the project. Do you charge by the hour or after a full project? Make sure your customer accepts the way you charge them so that they don’t refuse or withhold payment later.
If you bill by the hour, include a minimum and maximum working time clause. “Project Red takes no less than X hours and no more than Y.” The X is for your safety – you will be paid for these hours, even if you finish earlier. The Y is for your client’s safety. It doesn’t have to pay more than Y, no matter how long it takes you to get the job done.
2. Single Point of Contact
Oh boy! This clause is a lifeline. If you’ve ever worked with a client where two or more people have provided feedback and requested changes, you know it’s necessary.
By including the “single point of contact” clause, you limit your communication to one person. All comments and requests for modifications should be addressed to this one person, whether your client is a single sprinkler or a manager in a large company.
The larger the team looking after you, the more internal conflicts they have to resolve. A single contact avoids confusion and duplication. You don’t have to waste time and energy to satisfy three points of contact (aka people with the right to change) with different ideas.
3. Payment / Invoicing
Include a payment schedule in your contract. Do you want it to be half now, half on the payment schedule, or in 3 installments of 40-40-20? Some freelancers prefer 50-25-25. Everyone has a reason for their preferences. Personally, I prefer to be paid in three installments for large projects. Usually 40% in advance, 40% when the first draft is sent and the last 20% when the finished copy is sent.
The method of payment must also be included in the contract. Do you accept payment by bank transfer, check or PayPal? How long do you allow a grace period upon receipt of payment? Some organizations issue payments within a certain time after receipt of the invoice. Make sure you have corrected all of these folds before you start working.
4. Revisions and rewrites
We all had a client or a project where we just couldn’t get the results we wanted for various reasons. The client can be confused or fickle, or a perfectionist – one who can never be happy, no matter how many revisions you make.
The worst is the one that changes the entire focus or direction of the project in the middle of the timeline. All previous work that participated in the project could become unusable and you will start again, but without revised deadline.
Instead of spending a large part of your time reworking, rewriting, rethinking, recoding, etc. for hours, a clause in your contract can make it a painless process. Offer a number or free revisions / rewrites, then calculate the cost the customer wants to do. This would at least reduce the customer’s propensity to make the changes they want and make the necessary changes. Most freelancers offer 2 free revisions, up to 3, depending on the type of work they offer.
5. Kill Fee
Sometimes a project is canceled after you start working on it for reasons beyond our control. For freelancers without a contract, this may mean that they will not be paid for the work they have already done until termination.
A kill fee clause protects you from any disadvantage if a project is canceled. It guarantees that you are paid for the amount of work that you have done since you have spent time and effort. Both could be used for other projects you may have on the side.
Different freelancers charge different killing fees. Some have a detailed schedule for each killing fee. Others charge a flat rate of 50%, others only 25%. It depends on what you think is right. It is about receiving compensation for the work accomplished, but it is not used.
Depending on the nature of your freelance work, different copyright options are available. Freelance writers have most of the copyright options such as first series rights, printing rights, electronic rights, etc. For most freelancers, however, this amounts to having the rights until final payment.
The copyright of your work is essential if you want to prevent a client from running away without paying for your work or using it without authorization. On the other hand, it is also a form of protection for your client. If they paid the full amount, they already bought the copyrights from you, so they know and should expect that they won’t find the work elsewhere.
7. ‘Scope Creep’
A “scoop creep” is exactly what you think, how it sounds. He is referring to this nasty little bastard who seems innocent at first, but who quickly turns into a monster. Imagine a customer who pays on time and appreciates your work. He’s the perfect customer, right?
After a while, however, the scope creep will do things like “Hey, we have gone through the work and found that it will be even more impressive when xyz is added. Can you include it as well?” They say, “Of course it won’t be long, I’m just going to add this quickly.” And that’s how it starts.
This is repeated throughout the project and over time you will come to a point where you work more than what you have saved and for which you are not paid!
A range creep clause protects you. Reserve the right to adjust project rates if the volume of work or the workload increases significantly. In this way, the client knows that he has to pay additional fees for the additional requests he wishes to make.
No freelancer signs a project without deadline. A delay is required. Freelancers can often set their own deadlines. In other cases, the work is time critical, so that the client can schedule his own appointment. In any case, it is a security measure for you and your client to record it in writing.
For the client, this prevents the freelancer from delaying the completion of the project. The freelancer can modify the deadline if the client does not return in time with the necessary comments / information / permit.
With this deadline, you can also plan your future work before you start working on it. This way, you make sure you don’t have to do two projects at the same time while respecting your work schedule, which gives your income a little more stability.
Now that you know which clauses to include, it shouldn’t take you long to create a simple contract. Contrary to what you might think, this contract doesn’t have to look like a legal document. In fact, you can collect all the emails exchanged with the client, transfer the results of your discussions to the document, work out all the details and collect them.
You and your client must confirm that you have read and accepted the contents of the contract, sign it and keep a copy for future reference.
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