The freelancing world is a live battleground where entrepreneurs are required to sleep with an eye open. When filling the role of a freelancer, you are required to work in many different areas aside from your choice of trade. One of the big topics is legal documentation and paperwork.
The problem with working freelance is not having anybody to consult with (for free) or write contracts for you. Lets face it, some businesses and clients have a bad history of going back on their word, changing payment terms, requesting detailed revisions and many other cases. Educate yourself because it’s your job to protect yourself from these incidents.
We’ll be going over a few key tips for writing air-tight freelance contracts such as Exclusion clause. These will avoid or settle disputes between contractor and designer/developer regarding manner of project time, money, scope, etc. It is important to identify the information you’ll need beforehand so writing each document will be a piece of cake.
Why Write Contracts?
Younger freelancers or aspiring designers may question-why even bother writing contracts? With experience it is learned that not all clients are created equal and in the business world it is a nasty place. Contracts are used to bind people to be honest and sincere with their promised obligations.
This also gives each party an equal say in any dispute. Taking time to review the documentation before signing will give each member a chance to weed out corrections and dis-agreeable terms. Keeping business formal will also ensure you walk out with a pay day at the end of each work cycle.
These can be considered some of the most basic details to include in any contract. When writing you should start off defining each entity and their role in the project. This includes who will be doing the work and who will be receiving the project upon completion.
Provide a sample overview of what type of work will be required. This can include Photoshop graphics, video editing, social media marketing, application programming and countless possibilities, truly. The key here is to keep things detailed and ordered within the clauses. If you’re working with a client to touch up a few photographs, you are advice to mention how many items you’ll be working with and possibly what type of filters will be applied.
Ensure your client understands what your role is and where to draw the line. If you are hired to design an icon set that should be the limited scope of work for said project. Even if you are able to help with marketing or web development they should not be “included” for free since you are not being paid for that job.
Timelines and Meet-ups
As for corporate clients, a time line of events may help run things much smoother. Clients enjoy visually experiencing the project beforehand and a small list of possible dates for completion can help get the ball rolling.
Try adding times or scheduling days where both parties will meet to discuss terms and check-in on progress. This is best to be added into the contract so clients don’t assume they can bother you any time to day for a status update. Schedule a phone call 2-3 times a week until project completion, or even offer a once-a-week meetup to go over the changes.
It’s very important to keep your timelines realistic and don’t over-do scheduling. If you do not account for enough time you’ll wind up stressed out and procrastinating from ever completing the project. Allow for buffers of time each day where you can take a creative break to re-build your thought process.
Final Product Delivery
One of the most important clauses for any freelance contract is the final production environments. What will you be handing over to the client and what will you receive in return? This is very important to not only have written into contract but also agreed upon verbally by both parties.
This is the point when writing down detailed specific instructions may save you from a destructive project. Include exactly how many files will be sent to the client and what types. As an example consider the following list:
- 1 PSD website template mockup
- 1 AI logo design
- .zip archive containing website files and images
This is an example of what would be sent to a client requesting a simple website design. We have a Photoshop file described as the mockup document for our website template along with an Illustrator vector containing the project logo.
Exchange Final Estimates
Let your client know you mean business when writing in the payment section of your freelancing contract. It is important to consider exactly how much time will be required to finish the project and what payoff you’ll need to make the time worth it.
Freelance payments can be tricky since there is no set rate and prices fluctuate dramatically based on the type of work needed. Many professionals will charge by the hour and will write in contract their rates (usually ranging between $25-$85/hr).
The flat-fee is always another option which gives the client a bit more security. This style gives them reassurance that no matter how much time is spent completing the work they will only have to pay the certain amount. Granted many will try to secure revisions and extra work out of you, on your dime.
The populous expects all service employees to manage psychic abilities and copy the mental picture in their heads into reality. For web designers and many digital professionals this is literally impossible, and it never fails to cause drama and affect our everyday work flow.
Clients who understand they have room to push will plead for simple revisions after every project. Adding another column here, change the logo color, the list continues on and on. Adding an additional clause in your project contract to forbid this behavior is essential to protect yourself from these clientele.
It’s vital to write on the amounts which will be owed for each revision or potential update. This can be charged hourly or per task, depending on how you feel most comfortable. This is a piece in freelancing which isn’t so boilerplate and will vary based on the quality and type of work being completed.
For more references on these topics it’s great to join freelancing communities and chat with others in the field. The two most unique communities are TalkFreelance and Envato’s Freelance Switch. Professionals in the field 5+ years are always happy to help newbies and answer most any questions.
These are just a few of the core topics to include in your freelancing contracts. The life of a freelancer is non-stop and requires heavy grinding to make things work. If you’re interested further check out these productivity tips for web designers which fit right in with freelance guidelines and motivation.