Doing work as an independent contractor carries different risks than working as an employee providing the same services. To protect yourself, you should use a written freelance agreement (as one of your business contracts) that includes provisions that ensure you get what you want in exchange for the work that you’re doing.
Here are 7 important things that you will want to include in your freelance agreements.
1. Description of the service(s) you will provide as a freelancer.
A well-written description of the scope of services you will render is important. Equally important, to prevent misunderstandings, is to make clear in your description what is not covered. For example, if you’re writing content on a freelance basis, you may include in your description that the scope of work includes one set of revisions but additional revisions will cost more.
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2. Your independent contractor status as a freelancer.
To exercise the freedom you need to get the work done, and to prevent confusion on taxation issues, it’s important to make it clear in your freelance agreements that you’re working as an independent contractor instead of as an employee of the business that is paying you for your services.
3. When the work is to be performed.
If there is a deadline for performance, the date should be clearly stated in your contract. Similarly, if there are any milestones, those should be identified as well within the written agreement.
You will want to make it state that your performance by any deadlines is contingent upon your client’s cooperation. Needless to say, you shouldn’t be penalized for failing to meet a deadline for delivery if the reason for delay is a non-cooperative client.
4. When and how will you get paid.
- Will you be pre-paid in part when the freelance agreement is signed?
- Will there be installments paid as certain milestones are reached?
- How much will you be paid when the project is completed?
- What types of payment will you accept? Credit card, PayPal, check, ACH, bank wire, or some other method of payment?
5. Who owns the intellectual property for the work you do?
Will you retain ownership of the work and license it to the client for use?
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Will the client exclusively own the intellectual property when the project is completed? If so, have you charged more to reflect this ownership?
Will you be able to re-use the work you’ve done for a client to provide services for other clients in the future?
6. What law applies to your freelance agreement?
Many independent contractor agreements involve parties from different states or even different countries.
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Your contract for freelance services should identify which laws govern your agreement in case there’s a dispute that needs to be resolved by interpreting the terms of the contract.
7. How will disputes be settled?
Unless you like lawsuits, your freelance agreement should include alternative dispute resolution provisions. Many freelancers prefer to use mediation as the first step in resolving disputes followed by binding arbitration if the matter can’t be settled in mediation. Whatever your preference, it should be in writing as part of the contract.
What type of written freelance agreement should you use?
Never just “borrow” a freelance agreement to use because you may be committing intellectual property theft by using the legal document without permission of the copyright owner.
Even if you have the legal right to use the agreement, many of these contracts contain terms that protect the client paying for the services rather than you as the freelancer.
If you want the protection of a professionally customized agreement, it’s probably best to retain a qualified business lawyer to prepare a freelance contract that suits your individual needs. Be sure to check out our firm’s Business Contract Legal Protection Package.