How to Write a Contract for Freelance Work
A freelance contract is a legal document. It describes the terms of an engagement between a freelancer and a contractor. It is important for both the parties to have an agreement and it will enable the project to succeed. There are many variables that can go wrong in a business engagement. A freelance contract covers such situations.
Why is a freelance contract essential?
A freelance contract is an outcome of a well-thought process. Disagreement between a freelancer and his client is common. Humans are susceptible to misunderstandings. The contract document provides directions on when such a disagreement happens.
A freelance contract provides legal binding between the freelancer and his client. It also protects both of their interests.
Must have clauses in the freelance contract
- Freelancer, client, dates and contact information.
- Scope of work.
- Payment information
- Project schedule
- License and copyrights
- NDA and non-compete terms
- Indemnity clause
- Termination terms
- Documents enclosed
We will go through each of these clauses in detail below. I have presented these clauses in a logical order. There are no hard and fast rules about the order of these items.
1) Freelancer, client, dates and contact information
Like any legal document, start with the parties involved. Give the official names of all the parties involved. You should include the agreement date, the when it becomes active and when it will expire. You should also include the contact details of the freelancer and contractor.
2) Scope of work
I wish to resist calling out one clause as an important one. Because all the clauses listed are important for the contract. But still, 'scope of work' is first among the equals. This describes what this is all about. Gives a detailed description of the freelance work.
In a standard service scenario and large projects, the scope of work (SOW) will be a separate document. Here, in the freelance context, this will be a part of the freelance contract. You should give your most attention and describe every aspect of the work in detail.
Every freelance project will have a deliverable. Be it a freelance writing assignment, a graphic design project, web development work, photography gig or maybe a video editing freelance work, they all have deliverables. Any type of freelance work has one or more deliverables. You should list all the deliverables in the freelance contract.
4) Payment information
What are the terms for payment? You should answer payment related questions in this section of the contract.
- How much amount is a freelancer going to be paid for the work?
- How many instalments will the payment be made?
- Are the payments tied to project milestones or phases?
- How much is the advance amount?
- What is the payment mode, currency?
5) Project schedule
A freelance project should have a trackable schedule. It is good for both the freelancer and the contractor. A freelance contract should include the project schedule. It should have a 'work breakdown structure'. Each task item has an estimate and delivery time unit. Actually, it's a detailed project plan.
Freelance projects come in all sizes. Like an hour of work, to work that spans a few months. When a job is too tiny, then you need not include a detailed project schedule in the freelance contract. Work deliverable in a few hours or days qualifies as tiny. Only the work start and end dates are enough in such a scenario.
6) License and copyrights
This clause of the freelance contract describes who owns the outcome of the work. The end product, deliverables and licensing details. For example, if you are a freelance graphic designer, you may create images as part of your freelance work. You need to have proper licensing terms for all those artefacts that emanate out of the work.
Clients might impose restrictions on using their brand for marketing a freelancer. You may wish to use the client's name in the testimonials, portfolio and similar places. If there are any restrictions by the client, they have to be called out in this part of the freelance contract.
7) NDA and non-compete terms
A client may pass on a variety of information to the freelancer as part of the freelance work. Describe terms about how the freelancer should handle this information in this clause. The non-disclosure agreement (NDA) will be a separate document in most cases. The freelancer may sign the NDA during the pre-sales stage itself.
A client may ask the freelancer not to work with their competitors following the project. You may include domain, duration and similar information in the non-compete clause of the contract.
What happens if the freelancer or the contractor goes against each other? In the event of a breach of this contract, this clause of the freelance contract describes:
- Who covers the risk?
- What will be the terms for a refund?
- Who will bear the losses, etc.
9) Termination terms
Every agreement should have terms to stop the contract for the parties involved. Many things can go wrong in an agreement. Contractors may not like the progress of the work made by the freelancer. Mutual relationships may not go in a positive direction.
Certain events may trigger dissatisfaction. It may prompt the contractor to press for the cancellation of the freelance contract. Examples of such events are, failure to meet milestones and poor quality in the deliverables . Describe how both the parties deal with such a situation in this clause of the agreement.
10) Documents enclosed
Following are the list of documents that you can attach to a freelance contract. These documents add credibility to the agreement. It will give confidence to the parties involved. Government issued documents add to the trust.
- Business registration certificate.
- Identity proof.
- Address proof.
A freelance contract is a mandatory document for both freelancers and contractors. It is not a one-sided document to help one of the parties. It is for the protection of all the people involved. A well written freelance contract is a critical element in the success of a project. This will enable the freelancer to build trust with his client.
You should write it in a simple and concise language. As a freelancer, do not go for incomprehensible legal terms. Keep things simple. Focus on terms that will enable project continuity and work success. Remember this freelance contract is for all the parties involved. So make sure that everyone signs the contract.