Preventing Client Confusion with a Clear Freelance Writing Contract

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When you make a career as a freelance writer, contracts are an essential part of your work. A client contract will not only ensure you get paid, but also that projects go how you expect them to. Sometimes, new writers are hesitant to send clients a freelance writing contract. They may worry that the clients will object to the terms and decide not to work with them. This scenario is unlikely to happen. However, if it does, then you probably dodged a bad freelance writing job.

Contracts are incredibly helpful in making sure that both you and your client are clear on the terms of your arrangement. Therefore, you can easily avoid conflicts and confusion in the future. In many cases, you will encounter clients who have never worked with a freelance writer before. Subsequently, they will need the contract to clarify the arrangement as much as you do. Here is what you need to know about freelance writing contracts.

Your client may have his or her own contract, and that may be a good thing.

If your client is accustomed to working with freelance writers, they may have a contract written up already. This arrangement can be fine. However, you should look over the contract carefully and ensure it covers all of the important points. At a bare minimum, the contract should include the scope of the work, the deadline, any milestone deadlines on the way to the final due date. Additionally, it should note the pay for the assignment. It should also address who owns the writing once it’s delivered and how you will be credited, if at all.

Read your client’s contract carefully. If you’re satisfied with the terms and the information included, it is acceptable to use that as your written agreement. Many clients come into freelance writing arrangements with a standard contract that they use for freelance workers, so it is not unusual. However, if you find it is lacking in any parts or doesn’t address the agreement as you understand it, it is fine to ask for addendums or changes.

When writing your own contract, be as thorough as possible.

If you have to write your own contract, you will need to cover the same basics that your client’s contract does. The points that should be in the freelance writing contract include:

  • Date of agreement
  • Final due date of assignment, plus any milestone dates
  • Pay for the work
  • Due date of final payment, plus any deposits or milestone payments
  • Late fees that will apply to late payments
  • The scope of the work you will perform
  • How many edits are included in the price
  • Who will own the final rights of the piece
  • How the work will be delivered

Be as detailed as possible. For example, laying out the scope of the work you will perform is very important. Does the job as presented by the client involve research, or will you be creating content from sources provided by your client? Will you include photos with your work. Alternatively, will you conduct any interviews while creating your pieces?

You should set limits to avoid confusion.

If you don’t define—and limit—the scope of your work, then your client may assume that services are included that are not. Clients who are not used to working with freelance writers, for example, may assume that it is not a big deal to ask you to add photos to your assignment after you’ve already agreed to a price. Or, they may be surprised and even upset that you didn’t include photos. Laying out these details in the contract will prevent any kind of confusion over services that your client may simply assume are part of freelance writing.

It is also enormously important to specify the number of edits you are willing to perform. It’s normal for one or two edits to occur on a piece. However, if your client is asking for excessive edits, it is likely because they keep changing their mind or they didn’t present a clear initial assignment. Excessive edits eat into your time to work on other projects and to seek new clients. Furthermore, they make your current assignment less profitable. If your client wants more edits than you are willing to provide on any assignment, then agree on a price for the additional work.

Kill fees should be part of your contract.

A kill fee is paid if the client backs out of the project before the deadline. It isn’t necessarily unusual for a client to kill a project, but if you’ve already spent time on it, you should be compensated for that work. That is where the kill fee enters the picture.

Kill fees can vary greatly, but it’s not usual for the fee to be 25% of the agreed upon rate for the project. Sometimes, kill fees can be confusing to clients, especially those who aren’t used to freelance writing agreements. You can determine what kind of kill fee you think is appropriate for the kind of work you’ll be doing. You might even create a sliding scale for kill fees, in which the fee increases the closer you get to the deadline. Some freelance writers also offer a window of time for cancellation without penalty. However you decide to approach a kill fee, having one is reasonable and protects your business as a writer.

Milestone payments may be necessary as well.

Milestone payments are not appropriate for every project. However, if you’re doing a large project that has multiple, smaller due dates on the way to final submission, tie those smaller due dates to milestone payments. Milestone payments can also take the form of deposits or a weekly or monthly fee for a large-scale project. These payments protect you from devoting significant time a major project, only to deal with a client who fails to pay.

Contacts make your life easier as a freelance writer. So does Writers Work. We help high quality clients who are motivated to hire freelancers find you, and our editing tools help you produce your best work. Join today for a 30-day, risk-free trial.

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