Welcome to Rule 7 in “The 12 Rules of Freelance Writing” series. Today is all about writing contracts. The what, why and how to protect yourself and your client.
Please note that I am not a lawyer, so for professional legal advice you should see a lawyer.
Why do you need a writers contract as a freelance writer?
Having a signed piece of paper from your client is simply sound business practice. You are offering a PAID service to your client and you want to protect all parties involved with a contract.
How does a contract protect everyone?
- It will protect you if your client reneges on your written agreement for services provided.
- A clear contract helps to avoid confusion or miscommunication between you and your client.
- It ensures payment for your work.
- A contract ensures your client understands exactly what you are providing for them, and sets out clear expectations.
As a nurse it has been drummed into me “if it is not documented, it never happened”. Whilst this refers to our need to write in our legal notes everything that we provided for our patient, and what happened through the course of the shift, it is a saying I have also taken on board in my freelance writing business. If you do not write it down, what is to stop a client from saying that was never the agreement?
So, if you don’t want to be treated like a doormat, write it down! Create a Writers Contract or a Letter of Agreement (LOA) today.
Elna Cain has a fantastic post “FreelanceWriting Jobs for Newbies: Writing a Crystal Clear Contract” on her website. She provides an easy to follow
If you would prefer a professional to write it, but don’t want to hire a lawyer LEGAL 123 has a great contract template you can buy. Just keep in mind that it is an Australian website, you will have to do some searching depending on what country you live in for a template relevant to you and where you live.
What should you include in a writing contract as a freelance writer?
You can design your own contract to include pretty much anything that you believe is important for a clear and concise contract. However, there are several clauses that should be included in each contract you write.
- The scope of the project.
- Detail the services you will provide for your client. I usually create an itemized list of each part of the project.
- Make sure you also undertake a creative brief. This will help you and your client thoroughly understand all the details of the project, and exactly what you need to deliver to meet your clients’ demands.
- Ownership of the work.
- Usually, once you have been paid for your work the company or business will then have complete ownership of your work.
- You can add a clause so that you can add this work to your portfolio.
- If it is ghostwritten (therefore your name is not on the project) you may be able to negotiate with your client that you can show an excerpt or a link to the website on your portfolio.
- Payment Terms and Conditions.
- Set out your rate, how you wish to be paid and when payments are due.
- You should also state any up-front fees, such as 50% deposits, and set out payment milestones if it is a huge project (such as x amount upfront, x amount upon completion of the 1st draft, and balance to be paid once the project is finished).
- Include a note here if you charge late fees.
- When is the final project due? Or is it an ongoing package, such as a monthly blog post?
- If you have a big project, such as an eBook or novel you can create milestones for due dates – such as when an outline is due, the first draft, revised draft and final copy.
- A brief sentence or two about how you will not reveal any business or company information without express permission from your client.
- Some clients may also ask for a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).
- Early Termination.
- Set an early termination fee (usually 20-50% of the agreed-upon total of the whole project).
- If for some reason YOU pull out of the agreement, you need to refund any sums of money already paid to you, within reason.
What is a Letter of Agreement (LOA)?
A LOA is a simplified version of a writers contract. It still sets out the terms and expectations of your working relationship however it is less formal and is quicker to write.
I tend to use an LOA for those smaller projects, such as one off blog posts or product descriptions. However, I will use a writers contract for those projects that are more involved or are an ongoing package.
What to include in a LOA?
As mentioned above, it really is a briefer version of a writers contract. So you will still include most of the things listed above:
- Scope of work.
- Fees and Payment Terms.
I don’t tend to include an early termination fee here if it is a one-off project. However, feel free to add in or take out whatever you need in order to make it work for you and your client.
If you are working without a contract or LOA, stop! You need to take an hour or so out of your busy schedule to create a template for a contract and an LOA (or alternatively grab my FREE templates).You need to protect yourself, and your client. Don’t be a doormat. Don’t work without a contract or LOA.