It’s important to have a reliable paper trail of what you and your client have agreed upon at the beginning of the freelancer-client relationship. This not only establishes the must-have basics (such as project scope and payment terms) and manages expectations but acts as something you can refer to should there be any discrepancies later on down the line.
This ‘paper trail’ is usually performed by having a written agreement or client contract in place.
Aside from the essentials, such as parties to the contract, what else should you consider including in your freelancer client contract?
Here are 9 things to consider:
A description of the work and services you will perform. This generally covers the project scope, what you are going to do and when, and includes the project’s duration, date of delivery, and any milestones and deadlines.
Knowing who is doing what and when at the outset can help mitigate scope creep, i.e. when the project gets out of hand because more deliverables are added.
The description can be on a separate Statement of Work or another document as long as you refer to it in the contract.
2 Timescale for client feedback
Not getting feedback on time can derail a project, especially if there are multiple deliverables that all rely on one another. It can also stop you from getting paid on time.
Therefore it is a good idea to have a timescale for client feedback.
For example, if you don’t hear back from them within 7 days, you will assume the work has been completed to the client’s satisfaction.
Following on from the above point, it helps if there is some form of client-side accountability within the contract. For example, if I do X, the client will do Y.
It could be as simple as you agree to do the work, and the client agrees to pay you. It ensures you all know what is needed to make the project succeed and manages expectations on both sides.
4 Payment terms and conditions
This isn’t just the price you will be paid but should also cover how and when you get paid.
It could be that you will be sending recurring invoices, partial payments throughout the term of the project, or paid on completion.
Either way, being clear about how and when you get paid is key. If you need a deposit before you commence work, this needs to be stipulated in writing.
Invoice Ninja can take the pain out of invoicing; with its professional and customizable invoice templates and many online payment gateways to choose from, it makes it easy for clients to pay you in just one click.
Furthermore, it can accept partial payments and deposits. After your client pays the deposit, the invoice will automatically update itself with the balance due and set the new final invoice due date.
5 Copyright and ownership
Who will own the copyright of the work on completion? This is usually applicable to freelancer work such as design or copywriting. On completion of the project (and receipt of full payment), the copyright is usually assigned to the client.
This stops clients from using your work without your permission.
6 Portfolio work
For freelance creatives, such as copywriters and web designers, you might want to suggest a clause that allows you to use the work as part of your client portfolio – even though the copyright now belongs to the client.
This way, you can woo other clients with examples of your work – or provide it if requested.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to all client work as some work and services may be confidential, and some clients may not agree to it.
7 Cancellation fee
If the client cancels the project, you may want to ensure you are paid for at least the work completed to date and any costs. Alternatively, you can stipulate a cancellation fee.
8 Refund policy
It’s worth considering if, for whatever reason, the client is not happy with your work if you’ll have a refund policy in place. It could be that your refund policy is that you don’t have one – so it’s worth clarifying in the document either way.
Does the work you perform lend itself to revisions? For example, web or graphic design or copywriting. If so, it’s worth considering adding this to the contract. But be careful what you mean by revision. For example, if you are a copywriter, do you mean a full rewrite or minor tweaks? Or do you not offer any revisions at all? Again, worth stipulating in the contract to save headaches down the line.
Please bear in mind that the tips in this post represent generic guidance and do not constitute legal advice or opinion.
When drafting a contract, you should seek professional legal advice as there are other crucial clauses to cover, such as the law in your jurisdiction, limitations of liability, and confidentiality clauses, to name a few that may also need to be considered.