When you are a freelance writer working with various contracts, you may be given a contract to sign. If not, you may want to consider creating one for your client to sign. It is a legal document that protects both of you in your professional relationship. If you’ve never created one before, you may wonder what one should look like.
What is a Freelance Writing Contract?
Before you know what a contract looks like, you need to understand the purpose of one and what it does for you and your client. A freelance contract sets the ground rules for your working relationship with your client. You will need one for each client you have, but you don’t have to start over from scratch. Create a template and just vary the details to fit each situation.
A contract provides confidentiality guidelines between you and your client. It also tells who owns the work when it is completed and how long the client has to approve or reject the contract. It may also detail how long the contract is good for.
Many writers and clients don’t create a contract for a one-time job, thinking that it isn’t important. They assume that nothing will go wrong with a short-term project. However, it is a good idea to have one in place even if the job only lasts a few days or weeks.
On the other hand, clients who plan to use a writer ongoing will often request a contract. If they don’t, you should suggest it. It protects you and those you work with.
Parts of the Contract
Opening – the opening of your contract will include your name and role, which is freelance writer, and the name and role of the client. It will provide the date the contract begins.
Nature of the Arrangement – Here you will describe the basic roles of each party such as who determines scope and details of work and who makes the decisions regarding the schedule and work. It also includes the fact that you can work with other clients and customers. You don’t want it assumed that you will be working exclusively for the client.
Copyright and Property Rights
This section is important to protect you and your client from concerns about who owns the work. If you are providing work-for-hire, it generally means that the content transfers to the client’s ownership once you deliver it.
On the other hand, if you retain the rights of the content, you must specify that the client doesn’t have the ability to make any part of it public without express written permission from the author. Another option is to have the content revert back to you at some time in the future.
This is the section that says you won’t disclose any information the client provides to you. You may want to go into detail about what type of information is to be included as confidential. For instance, you may not even be allowed to tell others that you work with the client or provide details about what work you are writing for the client.
Non Compete Agreement
Some clients require you to include this section saying that you won’t work for anyone who is a direct competitor to the client. For instance, if you write content for an attorney, you may not be allowed to work for another attorney in the same city or county. Of course, you don’t have to agree to this stipulation, but you should be aware of it if it appears in a contract.
Term and Length of Contract
In some cases, this will be an open-ended contract that has not specific end. The contract may say that it continues until one or both parties choose to end it and must give a certain amount of notice.
This section will outline proper procedures for how to end a contract. For example, the client may have to give written notice and pay all work completed. The writer may have to provide two weeks’ notice in writing.
After this portion of the contract, you may include special sections that allow you to include the client’s work in your portfolio or other specifics. You will also provide a warranty that says all work is your own and nothing has been plagiarized.
You will want to detail how a dispute will be handled or any requested changes to the contract. The final section is for the signatures and addresses of both parties.
Depending on the nature of your relationship with the client, you may not include all of these sections or they may include only one or two sentences for a section.
Tips on Writing the Contract
Following these tips can help you avoid problems in your relationship with your clients. First, make sure you define your role as an independent contractor. This can help prevent problems in the case of a dispute.
Search online to find sample contracts that you can customize. It makes the process easier now that you know what each part is for. If you have a complex or long-term relationship with a client, you may even want to have an attorney look at your contract.
If you are given a contract to sign, make sure you read it. Pay attention to everything and ask questions if you don’t understand something. It is imperative that you don’t sign anything you don’t understand. It can be costly to you if you violate the terms of the contract even if it was by ignorance.
A contract is an important part of your freelance writing career. It helps establish your writing as a business and ensures that others take your job seriously and that you treat it the same way. Most importantly, a contract protects you from unscrupulous clients who would take advantage of you.