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What Should Be in a Freelance Contract?

What Should be in a Freelance Contract?

While freelancing can be exciting and offers a world of opportunities, it's essential to always have a well-crafted contract that specifies the roles and responsibilities for you and the client. It's not just a document, but a shield that safeguards your rights and guarantees you'll be compensated properly for your skills and efforts. 

A freelance contract represents a legal agreement between you and your client. It sets out the rules and parameters of your professional relationship. If you are wonderinghow to write a freelance graphic design contract, you might want to also consider website design contract templates.

Here are elements of a freelance contract that you should consider:

Information About the Parties Involved

Every contract must clearly state the parties involved (e.g., the freelancer and the client). Full names and contact details are usually included in this section. Avoid ambiguity by using legal names (not nicknames or business abbreviations) and ensure you have the correct contact information. A missing or incorrect contact detail can create complications in the future.

Itemized Scope of Work

The contract should precisely define the work that needs to be completed. It can include details such as tasks, objectives, milestones, or deliverables. 

Be as specific as possible to avoid scope creep, a situation that happens when the client asks for extra work that was not initially agreed upon. If you are asked to do work above and beyond, it's essential to refer to the contract and remind the client of the agreed-upon scope of the project. If the client still wants the additional features, you should negotiate an amendment to the agreement–this would include new tasks, any changes to the timeline, and additional compensation.

Clearly Defined Payment Terms

Include detailed payment information with the total fee and how it's broken down (hourly, per project, etc.), payment deadlines, and payment method. Precise due dates should be specified in the contract. For instance, you might request payment within thirty days of invoicing or have specific milestones in the project at which time payment is due.

Spell out your preferred method of payment. This could be a bank transfer, PayPal, Venmo, a check, etc. Double-check your account details to avoid payments being sent to the wrong person. To avoid late payments, include a late fee clause. If you are working on a sizable project, consider a deposit or upfront payment to mitigate risks.

Duration of the Contract

The contract should specify the start and end dates or milestones that trigger the conclusion of the contract. Ensure the timeline is realistic and gives you enough room to complete the project–overcommitting can lead to missed deadlines and strained client relationships.

Rights and Ownership

You should outline who holds the rights to the work and under what circumstances. One common practice is to retain ownership of the work until full payment is received. This provision helps protect you from situations where a client uses your work, but doesn't pay for it. It incentivizes clients to make final payment promptly to gain full rights to the work. 

In some cases, it might be appropriate to offer ‘first rights’ to a client, meaning the client has the right to be the first to publish or use the work (such as when contributing an article to a magazine), but the rights revert to you at a later date. Intellectual property rights need to be negotiated in a way that is relevant to each situation because there isn't a one-size-fits-all way to approach this issue. It's essential to understand your industry standards, the nature of your work, and the client's needs.

Confidentiality Clause

The confidentiality clause protects any sensitive or proprietary information that you might come across during your work. Clients often have trade secrets, business strategies, internal data, or other confidential information they want to remain private. By including a confidentiality clause in the contract, you're legally bound not to disclose this information. 

Understand that there are limits to this clause. If the information becomes public knowledge through no fault of your own, you should not be held responsible.

Termination Conditions and Dispute Resolution

State conditions under which the contract can be terminated, along with any notice periods or penalties for early termination. Make sure the termination clause is fair and balanced. 

You should have the ability to exit the contract if circumstances change or if the client breaches the agreement. The contract should define how disputes will be resolved–this could include arbitration clauses or agreed-upon jurisdictions for legal disputes.

Summing Up

So, does the freelancer make the contract? In some cases, the client will have a standard contract they want to use. In other cases, you can create the contract to set terms that are fair and favorable to you, rather than having to negotiate a contract made by the client. 

The Contract Shop® offers an array of lawyer-drafted legal contract templates created specifically for freelancers like you. Our contacts and templates not only protect your rights as a freelancer, but also provide you with peace of mind!

Kevin Gallagher
Kevin Gallagher

Kevin Gallagher is the CEO of The Contract Shop®, a contract template store for creative entrepreneurs, freelancers, coaches, and more. His background is in helping online businesses grow, having previously worked at Allbirds managing part of their operations. He is proud to report that his digital artist wife Mandy is a happy customer of The Contract Shop®, and his main motivation is to help as many people like her as possible with the tools that they need to confidently manage their businesses.

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