As a freelancer, if you do nothing else, make a contract. Let me repeat that because it’s so important: make a contract. Take it from someone who’s opted out of a freelancing contract one-too-many times. It’s not optional.
It’s easy to think you don’t need a freelancing contract when you’re first getting started.
It’s also easy to think you need an expensive lawyer to write up a freelancing contract for you.
In reality, you can create your own freelancing contract in about five minutes—no lawyers or complicated know-how required. It’s so easy that I’m going to guide you through it in this quick guide before.
Want to skip all the lawyer-jargon altogether? Just skip to the end for a free freelancing contract you can copy-and-paste. (Tip: I highly recommend customizing your freelancing contract with the tips in this guide to cover your bases, but do what you will.)
In this blog:
- What is a freelancing contract?
- Frequently asked questions about freelancing contracts
- Sections to include in your freelancer contract
- How to make your freelancing contract
- Free freelancing contract template
What Is a Freelancing Contract?
In short, a freelancing contract is an agreement between the freelancer or business owner (AKA you) and the client. It’s a way to make sure you’re both on the same page before you enter a business relationship.
Though you can get these written by an attorney, that’s not necessary. The key thing is to have some kind of written formal agreement that you could point back to if things go south. For example, if your client disappears off the face of the earth and decides not to pay their invoices, it’s a lot easier to take them to small claims court if you have a written contract signed by both parties.
Beyond simply covering legal bases, your freelancer contract is also a way to make sure you and your client are both on the same page. Contracts cover things like:
- Scope: What’s the scope of the project? What’s included, and what’s extra?
- Timeline: How long do you plan to work with the client? This might be monthly, or it can be a set period of time. You also might request a notice period if the client wishes to cancel their services.
- Payment: Of course, contracts also iron out the nitty gritty of payment terms, how much you’re owed, etc.
- Revisions: If you’re in any business that might provide revisions (design, copywriting, etc.), you’ll want to spell out just how many are included.
- Copyright: Who retains the legal copyright to the work when completed?
As you can see, freelancing contracts are serious business. They’re not only in your best interest, but they’re in your clients best interest as well.
Frequently Asked Questions: Freelancer Contracts
With that in mind, let’s address some of the most frequently asked questions about freelancer contracts. Before I begin, let me remind you that I’m not an attorney. If you have a specific question related to your situation, you might want to follow up with a qualified attorney in your state.
Do I need an attorney to write a freelancer contract?
In most cases, the answer is no. You don’t need an attorney to write a basic freelancing contract. As a small business owner, you’re free to write your own contracts with any language you wish. However, it’s important to be as clear as possible. You should always ask yourself if it’s clear enough to stand up in court without any confusion.
The only exception is if you’re handling someone’s physical safety or providing a hazardous service. If that’s the case, please have your contract reviewed by a professional!
What happens if I don’t have a contract as a freelancer?
If you don’t have a contract as a freelancer, nothing major will happen. In the worst case scenario, you’ll run into some frustrations with clients who might not pay on time—or at all. While you can still take them to court, especially if you have written agreements through email, this all becomes much more complicated.
In the vast majority of cases, not having a contract isn’t the end of the world. Still, having a contract makes you appear so much more professional, and it ensures both you and the client are on the same page. That’s worth the effort on its own.
My client has their own contract, now what?
In some cases, your clients might have their own contract for working with independent contractors. It’s totally up to you whether you feel comfortable signing this contract. Either way, be sure to read through it and ask any follow up questions. Make sure the payment terms are agreeable and that everything matches your expectations.
If there are some things left unclear by the client’s contract, feel free to send your own supplemental one. You can also request revisions to the original contract from the client. This should always be a two-way discussion.
Sections to Include in Your Freelancing Contract
Now that you know why a contract is so important as a freelancer, let’s explore the different sections you should include in your contract. These often vary by industry, so consider how you prefer to work with clients. It’s also okay if your freelancing contract changes over time.
Description of services: To begin, a description of services is a basic outline of what you’ll be doing for your client. This could be bullet points, something more vague, or a specific outline of the project.
- Freelancer will provide the following services: 5,000 word article with keyword research and 1 email newsletter monthly. All work will be original work by the Freelancer. The Freelancer will ensure the work does not infringe upon any copyright, right of privacy, proprietary right, the right of publicity or any other right of a third party.
Edits and revisions: Next, what edits or revisions are included within the scope of work? If you fail to include this section, you could get trapped in the dreaded revision cycle that never ends. If the client wishes to continue revisions beyond this, set a fee.
- Freelancer agrees that Client has the right to edit the work as it deems appropriate. The Freelancer will assist with up to 3 revisions of the final draft, at which point the Freelancer will charge an additional fee of $20/edit.
Payment terms: Now we’re onto the juicy stuff! Here’s how you plan to get paid, how much, and when. You might request a deposit, if needed. Be as clear as possible here!
- Client will pay Freelancer for Work as follows. A 25% deposit of the final amount is charged upfront. The rest of the balance is due on the 30th of each month. Payments will be invoiced by Freelancer via Paypal monthly. Unless otherwise specified, invoices not paid within 30 days of the invoice date accrue interest at 10% per week.
Approval: Who is responsible for approving the work? If you’re working with a larger team or a big business, you might want to designate a specific individual to avoid the dreaded back-and-forth.
- Client is responsible for approval of work. Any verbal or written changes made by Client to the scope of the work following its initiation by Freelancer are subject to additional charges.
Copyright: Another important question is who owns the copyright to the work? If you retain the rights, you run the risk of legal action down the line if the company is sued in any way. While rare, it’s important to protect yourself. Additionally, you want to assure clients that any work you produce belongs to them and is free from plagiarism.
- The Client agrees to pay Freelancer for the above-described services. The Client then has full property rights of the work. The Freelancer ensures all work is free of plagiarism. The Client owns the copyrights.
Right to reproduce: If you want to include your work for clients as part of your own portfolio, it’s helpful to include this in your contract. While not all clients will be okay with it, many are more than willing to let you share any of your own work on your website or portfolio, especially if it’s not linkable.
- The Freelancer is granted the right to use clips from the Work on his/her own portfolio website.
Contact information: Finally, confirm any contact information for the client or business through the signed contract. You should include the address, email information, and contact name of your client or brand representative.
Where Can You Make a Freelancer Contract?
You don’t need any fancy tech tools to make your own freelancer contract. You can find some styled ones on my shop, but you can also use this template above in Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
When sending your contract, it’s usually preferably to send it as a PDF. This makes it easier to print and sign, if needed. I personally prefer to use an online tool like Hello Sign to avoid having to download any documents for printing purposes. Hello Sign sends a completed copy to both you and your client, plus it’s free for freelancers to use.
If you want, you can brand your freelancer contract using your logo, colors, and more. This is completely optional. However, make sure your branded contract is easy to download and sign. It’s most important that it’s functional—not pretty.
Free Freelancer Contract Template
Freelancer Terms of Agreement
This services agreement (this “Agreement”) is made effective as of DATE, by and between CLIENT NAME (“Client”) of COMPANY and YOUR NAME (“Freelancer”).
1. DESCRIPTION OF SERVICES. Freelancer will provide the following services:
- Project task 1
- Project task 2
- Project task 3
All work will be original work by the Freelancer. Freelancer will ensure the work does not infringe upon any copyright, right of privacy, proprietary right, the right of publicity or any other right of a third party.
2. EDITS AND REVISIONS. Client has the right to edit the work as it deems appropriate. Freelancer will assist with up to 3 revisions of the final draft, at which point the Freelancer will charge an additional fee of $20/edit.
3. PAYMENT FOR SERVICES. The Client will pay the Freelancer for the Work. Payments will be made as follows:
- Deposit information
- Payment amount/terms
Payment will be invoiced via Paypal after the approval of each milestone. Unless otherwise specified in writing, invoices not paid within 30 days of the invoice date will accrue interest at 10% per week.
4. CLIENT APPROVAL. The Client is responsible for approval of work. Any verbal or written changes made by Client to the scope of the work following its initiation by Freelancer are subject to additional charges. Should such changes negate any part of the work already completed at the time of the changes, Client accepts responsibility for payment of the completed work and all services related to it, in addition to charges for the change itself.
5. COPYRIGHT. The Client agrees to pay Freelancer for the above-described services. The Client then has full property rights of the work. The Client owns the copyrights.
6. RIGHT TO REPRODUCE. The Freelancer is granted the right to use clips from the Work on his/her own portfolio website.
By signing below, both parties agree to the terms of the agreement outlined above.
Protect Your Freelancer Business with a Contract
Ultimately, it’s up to you to make sure your business is safe and sound. While things can happen whether you have a contract or not, it’s important to put yourself and your best interests first.
Luckily, it’s never been easier to put together your own freelancing contract, no attorney-know-how needed. I’ve been freelancing for almost a decade, and this contract has helped me through a number of tricky situations. I hope it helps you just the same! Best of luck, freelancer friend! 🥳
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