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A Guide to Writing Contracts as a Freelancer

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A Guide to Writing Contracts as a Freelancer
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Decided you’re ready to wave goodbye to the standard 9-5 and work as a freelancer? Before you get wrapped up in the freedom and excitement of entrepreneurship, you’ll need to consider the legal side of things. As a freelancer, it’s important that you have a contract in place between you and your clients, to clearly outline expectations for both parties. You’ll also be legally protected should something go wrong. 

We’ve put together this complete guide on how to write a freelance contract so you know exactly what you need to cover. Once you know what to include in a freelance contract, you can fully embrace all that freelance life has to offer. 

Do you need a contract as a freelancer?

There are numerous benefits to working as a freelancer, from having a flexible work schedule to sharing your passion with the world. But those benefits can sometimes be overlooked by the downsides. If you don’t have a contract in place, you could risk not being paid on time, confidentiality being compromised and early termination by clients without notice. So if you’re asking ‘Do I need a contract for freelance work?’, there are certainly many benefits to having one.

Here are just some of the reasons why having a contract as a freelancer is so important.

  • Clarifying expectations: A contract between you and your clients clearly outlines the scope of work, deadlines, and deliverables, as well as the responsibilities of both you and the client. This can ensure both parties are on the same page and know what to expect, which can significantly reduce the chances of disagreements or misunderstandings. 

  • Payment terms: Contracts can specify payment terms, including your rates, payment schedules and your preferred method of payment. You can also include late payment penalties to encourage clients to pay you on time. 

  • Ownership rights: Contracts specify who owns the intellectual property (IP) created while working together. As a freelancer, this is crucial as it clarifies whether the client has full ownership over the work or if you retain certain rights to it, such as permission to use the work in your portfolio.

  • Confidentiality clauses: You may choose for your contract to include confidentiality clauses to protect any sensitive information shared. This may be important if you’re working with clients who work on trade secrets or proprietary data projects. 

  • Approval process: Contracts can include details of specific provisions, to address potential conflicts that could crop up, including how revisions and approval processes will work. By outlining these processes, you can avoid unexpected or last-minute demands and have grounds to push back where necessary. 

Key elements of freelance contract

A freelance contract is essential for setting clear expectations and protecting both you as the freelancer and your client. Here are just some of the key elements that should be included in a freelance contract:

  • Parties involved: You’ll need the names and contact information of both you (the freelancer) and the client, including addresses and phone numbers.

  • Scope of work: Make sure you include a clear, detailed description of the work you’re providing. This section should detail specific tasks you’ll be working on, as well as key milestones and deliverables. You can also outline the project timeline, including start and finish dates.

  • Payment terms: Detail specific payment terms, including your rates. Make it clear what you’re charging the client, whether it’s an hourly rate, flat fee or per-project cost. Next, define the payment schedule you expect, including the due dates of any payments and if an initial deposit is required before work commences.

  • Revisions: Clarify the number of revisions you’re willing to make to the work you produce, and if you charge extra for amendments. Should the scope of work need changing, outline the process for handling these changes and how this will be billed.

  • Intellectual property rights: As mentioned above, the contract will need to detail who owns the intellectual property rights to the work produced. For example, both you and the client may have shared ownership, or one of you may have full rights. If you, the freelancer, retain ownership of the work produced, make sure the contract details the terms under which the client can use the work, such as on their website. 

  • Confidentiality: Make sure you include a clause to protect any confidential information shared between yourself and the client. If you see it necessary, you may choose to include a separate non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to ensure any sensitive information remains confidential. 

  • Liability: You may choose to include a limitation of liability clause in the contract, which limits what you can be held responsible for, should a client take legal action against you due to events like damages, losses or injuries. This can protect you from being held liable for significant amounts of money, for example.

  • Dispute resolution: Include details of how any disputes will be resolved, such as mediation or arbitration, before resorting to legal action. You may also choose to include details of the jurisdiction and legal venue where legal disputes will be resolved if necessary.

  • Termination conditions: Outline the terms under which either party can terminate the agreement and the notice period required for termination, as well as any fees or penalties that may arise with early termination. 

Crafting a freelance contract: step-by-step

If you’re looking for tips on how to write a contract for freelance work, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to write a freelance contract step-by-step, so you have everything you need to get started.

1. Title and introduction

First things first, you’ll need to begin your contract with a clear and descriptive title, such as ‘Freelance Services Agreement’. Next, you’ll need to put together an introduction that outlines the purpose of the document and identifies the parties involved in the agreement. For example, you may write something along the lines of ‘This Freelance Services Agreement is made between [your name] and [client’s name], as of [date].’

2. Scope of work

The scope of work (SOW) section of a freelance contract sets clear expectations for both you and the client. You’ll need to detail the tasks, deliverables, timelines and responsibilities of the project, to prevent misunderstandings and ensure expectations are clear and understood. 

First, you should write a brief description of the project, as well as its objectives. What is the client looking to achieve? Explain how the work you’re producing will help them reach their goals. From there, you can go into more detail about the tasks you’ll be responsible for, such as ‘Write 20 blog posts of 1,000 words each.’ Make sure you also include the responsibilities of the client for you to carry out the work effectively. Perhaps you’ve agreed to weekly check-in calls, or for work to be reviewed within a week, for example. 

Finally, make sure you clearly outline what will be delivered at the end of the project, and on what date. Make sure you clearly explain how the work will be delivered, so the client knows what to expect and when.

3. Timeline

Summarise the start and end dates of the project and the estimated completion date. Include any key milestones or deadlines both parties should be aware of and if these are negotiable. 

4. Payment terms 

Make sure you clearly outline your payment rate, whether you charge an hourly rate, a flat fee, or per project. For example, you may choose to charge £30 an hour, or £100 per blog post. You’ll then need to write up your anticipated payment schedule, including due dates of invoices and acceptable payment methods. Should a client fail to pay you on time, you may choose to charge a late fee or penalty for delayed payments. If this is the case, make sure this is clearly explained in the contract too. 

5. Revisions, changes and confidentiality 

You may also choose to include other elements in your freelance contract, including:

  • Change requests: How will you handle change requests? You may choose to limit the number of amends you’re willing to action or ask that change requests be submitted within a certain time frame. 

  • Confidentiality clauses: Confidentiality clauses ensure that sensitive information shared when working together is protected. Make sure you define what constitutes confidential information, as well as any exclusions.

  • NDAs: You may choose to include a non-disclosure agreement in your contract, or as its own standalone document. This lets clients know you won’t share their confidential information or trade secrets with others.

Legal considerations in freelance contracts

It’s vital that you get your head around the legal considerations in freelance contracts. You’ll need to ensure your contracts comply with local laws, for example, you’ll need to consider specific laws such as the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977, which regulates contracts by restricting the operation and legality of certain contract terms. 

Another key legal concern to be aware of is the issue of intellectual property (IP) rights, as mentioned earlier. Employers generally have implied rights to freely use the material you create as a freelancer, but it’s vital this is clarified in your contract to avoid any issues. 

Can you use a template or should you seek legal advice?

Whether you use a freelance contract template in the UK is completely up to you, but there are pros and cons to consider. 

Templates are often free and easily accessible to freelancers looking for a quick solution. Having a ready-made template can save you time, especially if you’re new to the freelancing world and want to get stuck in as soon as possible. They tend to cover standard clauses such as confidentiality, termination and payment terms. But there are some disadvantages to keep in mind - while templates can save you time and money, they may not include the specific needs of your industry and may miss out local laws or regulations you need to include. 

With this in mind, you may benefit from legal advice if the project you’re working on is complex or has significant intellectual property implications. Having an expert at hand can ensure the contract includes everything you need it to, to avoid potential loopholes. 

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