Freelancer contracts – what should they include?

Sinead McIntyre
Sinead McIntyre
October 26, 2017

For many freelancers, a huge motivator in their work involves freedom. Freedom to choose working hours, location(s), and sometimes even specific days of the week to work. However, despite how flexible freelancing has the potential to be, its freedom comes with a price. This price is finding and maintaining a steady stream of work and clients, and managing your business on your own. Protecting oneself while being self employed is a significant piece of this pie; the health of your one-person business relies on clients paying you regularly and on time. One way to ensure this, is to create a freelancer contract with your clients before work commences.

When a freelancer creates a contract for a potential client, it’s doesn’t necessarily have to be a legal document, but it still constitutes proof of the work to be done, should any disagreements arise. It also gives both sides transparency when it comes to a project’s specifics.

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Clients and contracts

Each client works a bit differently. While clients should have a contract with each freelancer, even for a one-time gig, it’s important to note that clients will often have their own standard contract for working with freelancers, and this is tends to be more prominent in larger companies. Upon reviewing and possibly agreeing to the terms of a contract, a freelancer should always make sure that his clients (or his own) contract include the following:

  • Start date and estimated end date – Some projects entail a definite deadline, while others are more flexible, and are expected to be completed months from the start date, or “as soon as possible,” which is still relative. Regardless, the contract should include a start date, as well as an estimated end date. In the event that there is a hard deadline, then the deadline must be included.
  • Scope – One of the biggest issues both freelancers and their clients experience in the process is what the scope of the project consists of. Often times, a lack of detail or communication regarding details can result in some pretty unfavorable situations for both parties. Therefore, it’s crucial to receive and clarify a brief given by a client. The more detail provided, the more understanding is created, and expectations stay realistic.
  • Price – Depending whether you charge hourly or a flat fee, what does it include? This goes back to the scope, in addition to revisions, which must be crystal clear, so that the client doesn’t get carried away, or misunderstand what your pricing entails. For example, if the 3rd round of revisions is beyond scope, it’s best for you to state your hourly price, so even the debate between deciding how to charge the client should depend on the scope of the project.
  • Communication – How much/often will communication take place, and in what form? This means that obviously you don’t want your client calling you at 2 a.m., but you should still establish when exactly you will be available to discuss the project as progress is made. You might decide to have weekly update calls, or a certain response time for emails. Give your contact details to the client, and make sure that the contract includes how you expect communication to take place, i.e. email, Skype, phone, etc.
  • Payment – The last vital aspect of a freelancer contract should include payment, meaning how and when the payment will be carried out. This means everything from timeframe to preferred currencies. Would you prefer to be paid X amount every week, for example? If you’re unsure, there are Freelancer’s rights that explain what you can do in terms of payment, as how, prior to signing on with a client.

Key takeaways

Now that you have an idea as to what clauses to include in your freelancing contract, you’re ready to draft one to provide to clients that do not have one available. This isn’t difficult, as there are plenty downloadable freelancer contract templates that you can edit to your liking. To ensure a positive experience with your next client, come prepared with a detailed contract, and make sure to really go over any contract presented to you. The aforementioned link is a great way to understand your rights as a freelancer, so if you have any doubts or questions, there are plenty of resources from the Freelancer’s Union in the link that will bring forth some more clarity in this aspect your work.

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