The freelancer life isn’t easy; living paycheck by paycheck, pitching every day, and so many edits! But there are ways to make working for hire less of a hassle, by simply adding certain things to your agreements and negotiations that will make life so much easier.
To be seen not only as a professional freelancer, and protect yourself in the process, an essential item in your freelancer kit should be a strong and iron-clad contract.
Although it is well-known that the local freelancer scene is very “peace,” it is also common to run into shady businesses, being unpaid, and ideas being stolen. This makes a powerful contract that protects you and the client’s best interests extremely important in today’s freelance landscape.
To help young and established freelancers, we’ve compiled a list of common mistakes with freelance contracts that will make your day-by-day life easier and less stressful.
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Not Making A Contract, Period!
In general, most local freelancers don’t pursue signing a contract as an important part of the partnership process. Don’t Do It!
A contract is there to protect you, and clients that are unwilling to protect you and themselves are simply not worth the effort and at the risk of several issues.
When working as a freelancer, you have to think more as a business owner and less as a struggling artist. A simple contract written at a meeting may not cover everything that may happen, and could leave you in the dust, so create a template that you can modify for each client.
Remember, don’t start any work and don’t share anything until the contract is completed and signed. There is such a thing as a person/brand/agency that look for potential ideas then steals them either for an in-house team or a cheaper freelancer.
Not Using Milestones
When building your contract, you need to detail as many possibilities as possible, including the dreaded Scope Creep. A scope creep is when a project’s requirements and needs increase, such as 1 deliverable turning into a 10, which can leave you without getting properly paid for the extra work.
Use milestones instead of one strict deadline to provide peace of mind for both of you, this will help avoid helicopter clients, check-ins and micro-managers. It also shows them that you are a professional who is competent at managing projects, and allows you to add fees for extra work.
To avoid being underpaid, use milestones to show that you are obligated only to finish certain items. Include pricing for additional items in your contract, this will provide them with an understanding that they must pay you extra for the new items as well as extend deadlines.
Not Balancing Obligations
Most of the time, freelance agreements mostly lean on the freelancer; what they’re supposed to do, when it should be submitted, and clients only have to deal with payment.
For the best possible outcome, the agreement needs to be balanced; clients have their own obligations. Every experienced freelancer knows that for a project to finish well and on time, you need a willing partner or one who is forced to be a good partner due to contractual agreement.
Make sure to add that clients have to provide feedback within a certain timeframe, how many edits you will provide for free before adding fees, and the list of deliverables from their side you know you definitely need before you can start work.
Not Including Payment Terms and Other Necessities
This is one of the most important elements to any agreement, yet many tend to neglect important payment terms and conditions when agreeing to work together.
Some important payment terms are deposits for first-time partners/clients, fee for agreed work and fees for additional work if needed later on, late-payment fees, maximum delay of payment before late-payment fees, a “kill” fee for when a project needs to be terminated, and a dispute clause in case you can’t deal with an important issue.
Use your personal experience and needs to choose which ones to include in your contract.
Not Keeping Copyrights Until Fully-Paid
Most people don’t know that there are actually multiple types of copyrights for different types of work. As a content creator (writer, photographer, designer, etc.), the original work you create is ultimately yours, even if you were being paid by a company.
When creating your agreement with a client, make sure to include copyright terms. This can include
- Copyrights to content is not-transferrable until full due payment is provided
- Copyright to content (and You) is exclusive or not-inclusive
- Copyright to content is provided until ____
- Content can be used by creator for self-promotion, marketing endeavors and other personal promotional content and activities even after being used by brand
- How and where can content be used: on emails, websites, social media. Additional uses, durations and locations require additional payments.
- If content can be edited without permission, with permission or uneditable
Always tailor your agreement or contract to your personal beliefs and requirements, never only to your clients’. Contracts can be complicated or simple, but most importantly is that they are there, they are signed and you won’t work without one because it’s there to protect you.