Freelance contract: how to write it the right way?

As the wise will tell you, "until the contract is signed, nothing is real."

No matter what kind of freelance work you’re doing, having a contract in place before you start working can save you a lot of trouble down the line.  

As the wise will tell you, “until the contract is signed, nothing is real.”  

A contract can help to protect you from non-paying clients and other risks associated with freelance work. A global online survey commissioned by PayPal found that 58% of freelancers have experienced not getting paid for their work.

Yet, a vast majority of freelancers don’t use contracts.

The reason? Drafting a contract can be a hassle, especially if you’re not fluent in ‘legalese.’ But, fret not as we’re here to help. Our step-by-step guide will teach you how to craft a freelance contract the right way.

1. Name the Parties to the Contract

The full names of the parties to the contract should appear at the beginning and throughout the contract. Also, make sure to include the contact information (physical address, phone numbers, and email) of both parties.

If the client is a corporation, make sure to use the company’s full legal name to avoid any misunderstandings or ambiguity down the line.

2. Define Your Role and Project Scope

Here, you’ll need to define your role as an independent contractor.

Start with the deliverables. Outline your responsibilities as an independent contractor in as much detail as possible. Don’t skip anything here.

Define the scope of the work you’ll deliver with sufficient clarity so the client will know what to expect of you, and you’ll know what work falls inside or outside the contract. Check out this freelance contract template from Bonsai to get a gist of what to include in this section.

3. Outline the Payment Terms

You need to be as explicit as possible when it comes to payments. Here’s the information you’ll need to outline in the contract.

  •    Your rates
  •    The payment schedules
  •    The payment methods
  •     Penalties for late payment

By laying this information beforehand, you’ll help prevent misunderstandings and disputes down the line.

4. Include a Deadline and Revisions Clause

Deadlines need to be clearly stipulated in the contract.

But these are not your deadlines (the ones you established in the scope of your work). They’re for the clients. The client will dictate when they expect the work to be completed, and you’ll assess whether you’ll be able to deliver the work within the stipulated time frame.

The client will also be responsible for providing the resources and information you need to complete the work on time.

You’ll also need to include a clause on changes and revisions. The last thing you want is the client asking for endless revisions. This clause avoids the problem by defining the number of changes or revisions included with the initial payment.

5. Define the Ownership Rights

Make sure to include a copyright clause that establishes who owns the work.

Since the client is the one paying for the work, they’re likely going to ask for full ownership and copyright rights to the work. But you can discuss with the client to retain some degree of ownership to the produced work.

For instance, you can include a clause granting you the right to get credit for all your written work via a byline (unless you agree to ghostwrite), as well as the right to feature some samples of your work in your portfolio.

6. Wrap It Up with the Termination Clause

The termination clause is critical as it outlines the circumstances under which either party could terminate the contract.

Termination terms could be based on deadlines, quality, missed payments, etc. Should any of these terms be breached, the other party will be at liberty to end the agreement without violating the terms of the contract.

Also, make sure to include the notice period, termination fees, and what happens to the final payment if the client ends the contract voluntarily. This can help protect you against wrongful termination and ensure you will get paid for the work you delivered.

That’s it! You’ve just crafted a freelance contract in six simple steps.

The British Institute of Recruiters is the Professional Body operating The Recruitment Certification Scheme

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