Contracts are crucial in the precarious world of freelancing.
A cushion from conniving clients they can limit the prospect of late-payment, providing you with some legal legs should a relationship turn sour. As such when going into any job ideally you ought to have one, a decent contract providing protection and some peace of mind.
Keen to contract up but in dire need of some pointers? Here’s some tips for constructing contracts that’ll keep both you and your client happy...
First, find a base from which to build
As a creative freelancer I’d wager that you’re not too hot on legalese, the process of constructing a contract something that probably appears quite daunting.
If you’re struggling to find your way, looking at contract samples
is a good place to start, these providing you with an idea of what to include and a platform from which to build. Use them as they are or adapt them for your own needs - whatever the job in hand dictates.
Ensure everything is clear
Integral to a happy freelancer-client relationship is knowing what’s expected of each other, so from day dot clarify your responsibilities and incorporate this info into your contract.
Whilst this is likely to be well known by both parties from the outset, it’s a good idea to get it in writing as this can help prevent hiccups later down the road. You’ll have a contractual agreement to point to should a dispute arise and the client ought to feel more comfortable with legal agreements esatblished at your end.
Use your legal teeth
Purely for your own protection try to get a basic grasp of the legal protections out there, and, where possible, apply these in your contracts.
Here in the UK for instance the Late Payments Directive recently came into force, providing you with the power to penalise clients proving sluggish with their payment. Incorporating legislation like this into your contracts you can punish the unscrupulous out there, limiting the likelihood of late or non-payment.
Include a kill fee
Occasionally projects can be terminated unexpectedly, a client changing their mind and ending a relationship abruptly. To limit the impact of this you can include a ‘kill fee’ in your contracts, this helping you receive a degree of payment should something go wrong.
The level of a kill fee is up to your own discretion, but the standard level to go in at is generally 25%. The smaller jobs may not deem a kill fee but the bigger most certainly should, a kill fee important to include when a project looks lengthy.
Be prepared to play hardball
Don’t get ambushed into signing a contract and always fight your corner - this is your livelihood after all.
Support your arguments with evidence, perhaps pointing to a portfolio to prove your worth. Don’t undervalue yourself and elsewhere, don’t get forced into agreeing timescales that simply aren’t achievable. Construct contractual agreements that are realistic - you don’t want your failure to meet them leading you into a dispute.
Guest Post From: A former freelance writer, Mark James
currently works in-house for Crunch, who provide online accounting software
for freelancers, contractors and small businesses.