Legal Problems to Avoid as a Freelance Writer

Avoiding Legal Issues As a Freelance Writer

Protect Yourself From Legal Problems as a Freelance Writer

Being self-employed as a freelance writer comes with tremendous freedom, but it also requires protecting yourself from the legal problems that can go along with self-employment. When you’re a “regular” employee receiving a steady paycheck and a W2 at the end of the year, you don’t have to be concerned about things like setting up quarterly tax payments—but when you’re a freelancer, neglecting these things can have far-reaching consequences. 

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Contracts and Compensation

Before taking on a new project, make sure that you have a contract spelling out the important details of your agreement. If you or your client have specific deadlines, milestones, or requirements, it’s best to include all of that in a written contract. It’s also important to secure a contract that covers your compensation. Be sure to consider all the things that could affect your pay, like the number of revisions and requests for additional projects beyond the original scope. 

Intellectual Property: Who Owns Your Work?

It’s important to do some research into copyright and IP law to understand the rights that apply to your work. When selling your work to publications, it’s common to grant the First North American Serial Rights (FNASR), which gives a publication the rights to be the first to publish your work in North America. Other types of rights include one-time rights, reprint rights, and anthology rights. Beware of publications that want to buy All Rights, as this is exactly what it sounds like. The authors of the Nancy Drew series famously sold all rights to their work, receiving only $125 for each book, despite the fact that the series went on to be one of the most beloved and best-selling of its time.

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What Licenses Do You Need? 

Even if you’re working at home as a freelancer, you may need a business license. Check with your local municipality to find out the requirements for licensing in your area. If you live in a home governed under a home owners’ association, you may be subject to additional rules, like restrictions on traffic generated by your clients.

Stay Current With Your Taxes

As a self-employed person, you’ll need to pay your own taxes via quarterly estimated payments, otherwise you’ll have to pay all the taxes on your earnings at the end of the year – and that’s usually a big number. Keep good records of your expenses (including mileage) and income so you have all the information you need to file your taxes. If you’ve never done your taxes as a self-employed person before, it’s probably worth hiring a professional to see how it’s done. 

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