Writing a contract for your freelance business can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Most freelancers shy away from writing their own because they believe you need a lawyer to do it for you.
Although having a lawyer draft your contract is ideal, the good news is that anyone can write a contract. The goal of a contract is to protect you by having your client acknowledge the rules of engagement. A contract outlines the terms of the agreement between you and your client, including the scope of the work, the payment terms, and any intellectual property rights.
Most contracts include several clauses to govern what is acceptable for the project’s duration. Each clause addresses a specific aspect of the agreement. For example, you can have a clause that includes the payment terms and what happens when the terms are not met.
When writing a contract for your freelance business, here are some key clauses to include:
Both parties’ full names or business names should appear at the beginning and throughout any contract. You should also include contact information for yourself and your clients, including a mailing address, email address, and phone number.
The contract should include the overall timeline for completing the work. This will help ensure that the project stays on track and that both parties know the timeline.
Scope of work
The more detailed and specific you can list the work covered in the contract, the better. Without a description of work, many freelancers experience scope creep, and the amount of work within the project increases without a change in budget or payment.
The contract should include the rate or amount to be paid and the date these payments need to be made. It should also specify the following;
- When will the client receive invoices
- Acceptable payment methods
- Late payment penalties
Project milestones and deliverables
Project milestones are specific goals or achievements that mark significant progress. They help break down large projects into more manageable milestones and provide a clear framework for monitoring progress and measuring success.
I like to think of milestones by the different phases of the project, such as discovery, planning, design, development, and quality assurance. You can also set your milestones by deliverables.
We’ve all had projects where we lost control and let clients run wild with revisions. That’s why you should include a set number of revisions in your contracts and feel confident to tell clients no. When addressing revisions in your contracts, you may want to include the following:
- The number of revisions included
- Specifying deadlines for revisions
- Additional costs after the included number of revisions are exceeded
- How feedback should be provided
Additional Services & Fees
As much as we try our best to plan for everything, there will be times when you need to bill your clients outside for items that fall outside of the initial scope of work.
When this happens, you want to ensure you have a clause in your contract that outlines how you bill for these services and how these add-ons will affect the project timeline. Aside from project add-ons, you may want to include other fees such as:
- Restart fees – This helps when a client goes ghost, then pops back up, ready to get back to work.
- Late payment fees – You may have covered this in the payment terms clause, but it doesn’t hurt to put it here again
- Overage fees – Charge a fee if a project goes over its expected timeline when clients cause extended delays
Agreement to use project management software
Have you ever had a client wanting to call, text, or even email you randomly with multiple requests? If you’re not currently using a project management tool like Asana or Monday, I recommend you start.
PM tools help streamline client communication and decrease the likelihood of forgetting an important task. However, sometimes clients can be reluctant to try new tools and insist on doing things their way.
That’s why I recommend adding a clause to your contracts that require clients to use your project management software. And if they refuse, then you can include terms to terminate the contract and fire the client.
It sounds extreme, but the most important thing you can do as a freelancer is to set boundaries with your clients.
Don’t wait until your client takes 2 weeks to respond to your request for feedback or review. Including a communication clause in your contract can help you avoid delays by specifying the time clients should respond to you.
This clause also applies to you as a freelancer. Consider adding a minimum response time when clients contact you for help or questions. Here are a few things you want to consider in
Refunds are one of the last things you want to deal with as a freelancer, but things happen. However, you can include provisions in your contract to soften the blow if you need to refund a client. Some things to consider when creating your refund policy are things like:
- Do you offer refunds, and if not, then how will you handle situations where clients may request them?
- Are clients entitled to a full refund at the beginning, middle, or even after a project is marked complete?
- Will you deduct the client’s retainer or deposit from their refund request?
Intellectual property rights and ownership
The contract should specify who will own the rights to any work produced as part of the contract. This is important because it determines who has the right to use, modify, or distribute the work.
Suppose the work involves sensitive or confidential information. In that case, the contract should include provisions that protect that information and prevent it from being disclosed to third parties.
The contract should include provisions that outline how and under what circumstances the contract can be terminated. This could include a breach of contract, failure to meet deadlines or other factors.
Take it a step further
The clauses in this post are just the beginning. Depending on your freelance business, there may be other clauses you’ll need to add based on your interactions with clients.
However, all of the clauses above are a great place to get you started. The next step is creating your own freelance contract. Download the freelance contract template to get started.