It can be easy to kid yourself that providing you and your client had a quick chat to outline what was expected, everything’s fine. 

This can work well until one day, everything’s far from fine. That’s why I say: you need a contract.

A contract isn’t your enemy, tying you down; it’s your best friend, protecting you, your work and your career. By clarifying what’s expected and when, from both you and your client, a contract can prevent future misunderstandings, disappointments, delayed payments, arguments and, in the worst-case scenario, legal proceedings.

To define what exactly is expected of you

This is vital, so that you and the client are clear that if anything else is required of you, you are within your rights to refuse to do it - or to demand a higher/extra fee and extra time if you say yes. 

To clarify what happens if either of you need to cancel the arrangement

Your illness. Family sickness. A bereavement. A sudden relocation offer to your partner. Your client’s illness, relocation, bankruptcy…

Nobody expects these things to happen or can predict when they will, but as far as freelance working is concerned, it’s best to expect the unexpected - and make sure that the relevant financial compensation, terms and notice periods are covered in your contract. 

To define interim pay points, tasks or completion stages

If you’re working on a long-term project, it’s best for you and the client if you have agreed deadlines and interim pay points for completion of project stages or specific tasks. This ensures your cashflow is maintained and gives both of you an extra level of protection if things go wrong – and if one party or the other disappears into the ether…

To protect your work and ideas

Who will own any designs, documents, campaigns, programs, diagram or content you create for you client. How can it be used and who by? How long will they or you retain rights to it? Can they sell your work on or share it with a third party? Ensure your contract answers these questions.

To define your responsibilities and liabilities

You think you’re designing a glossy, multi-page brochure, fondly imagining that any relevant texts and images will be sent to you. You then you discover that actually, you’re expected to design it by using the skills of a team of 4 people you’re expected to manage and coordinate to complete the brochure on time. 

Or perhaps you’ve developed a lovely, useful little program for a company based on what they’ve told you about their IT infrastructure. They neglect to give you the full picture, they run the program on that server in the Netherlands that nobody’s updated in the last 6 months, and suddenly their network is crashing around their ears – and it’s all your fault. 

They claim you’re responsible and liable. A good contract will leave you in no doubt as to the limit of your responsibilities and liabilities.

Download a range of contracts and agreements, including a Service Agreement - the standard contact to use when working with a new client. 

Article by Freelancer News – www.freelancernews.co.uk