Creating freelance contracts can feel overwhelming. But you don’t have to spend hours researching or hiring expensive lawyers.
A freelance agreement is a crucial document that every professional should have in their back pocket. With one, you can protect yourself by clearly outlining the scope of the project, communicating your hourly rate and keeping a record of it. Without one, you run the risk of a client taking advantage of you if the project goes wrong.
Creating a freelance agreement isn’t as daunting as it sounds—really, it’s a rinse-and-repeat process you can use for most of your clients. All it takes is a simple template and a detailed understanding of the project at hand. Below, we share some can’t-miss components of a solid freelance agreement, so you can create and start using one today.
Step 1: Outline the Services You’ll Provide (Down to the Little Details)
As a freelancer, this should be the easiest section to mock-up. All you simply need to do is list the services you’ll provide for the client. At this point, make it as simple or elaborate as you wish. For example, you can list:
- 6x blog posts per month
- 20x Facebook posts per month
- Create and maintain a monthly editorial calendar
Or, you could take a more in-depth approach:
- [6 hours] 2x blog posts on business topics per month
- [6 hours] 2x blog posts on entrepreneur lifestyle per month
- [6 hours] 2x blog posts on financial tips per month
- [10 hours] Facebook post development and scheduling per month
- [10 hours] Monthly editorial calendar, creation and maintenance
Now, we’re getting to the nitty-gritty, but how you communicate your services is completely up to you, and your style preference. At the end of the day, just ensure you outline all the work that’s expected of you.
Step 2: At the Same Time, Clearly State What Isn’t Included
Freelance contracts are as much about what you will do as they are about what you won’t. Let’s say you’re a graphic designer and you’ve been hired to help create a website.
Without a freelance agreement, you could end up doing work outside your scope of the project, for instance, creating brand identity for social media and sales collateral. Similarly, if your contract ambiguously states you’ll “provide graphic design for the website,” your client could interpret that as your willingness to design a new logo.
Step 3: Write a Short Clause that Addresses “Scope Creep”
Scope creep is more common than we think. As a freelancer, it can be easy to fall into the trap of accepting more work in order to keep client relationships strong. However, it’s important to draw some boundaries when it comes to overbearing clients. If you clearly outline step 1 and 2, there’s less of a chance you’ll run into scope-creeping problems, but setting some rules never hurts.
Getting caught in scope creep is time-consuming and expensive so, in your freelance agreement, it doesn’t hurt to include a clause. In the most eloquent way, you want to communicate that any additional work comes at a cost. If it’s helpful for you, include a rate sheet with the contract outlining the other services you provide, so your client clearly understands their project boundaries.
Step 4: Explain Your Schedule and Contingencies
For freelancers, staying on deadline is extremely important. By documenting timeframes and schedules in your freelance agreement, you’re not only sharing your execution plan with your client, you’re also setting some expectations for yourself.
If possible, build your schedule directly into the contract. For instance:
- Milestone due dates for one-time projects
- Recurring due dates for ongoing projects (ie. due on the third Friday of every month)
As a safeguard, you want to also consider contingencies. Life happens—what will you do if you unexpectedly fall behind schedule? A contingency for late work might say:
If the due date needs to be extended, the Freelancer will inform the client via phone or email at least 24 hours before the deadline.
Setting workday boundaries are also important. If you structure your workday around a set timeframe, you could mention them here. For example, you are only available between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday). By outlining your day-to-day schedule in your contract, you ensure clients won’t try to reach you outside of working hours.
Step 5: Clearly Define the Termination of Contract
The best freelance agreements also include a note on contract termination. Not all working relationships work out, so it’s important to protect both sides. On the other hand, this is a great area to outline the anticipated project end date.
However, if you’re letting go of a client, it’s reasonable to give them a 14- to 30-day heads up. By giving them a buffer, they’ll have the opportunity to find a new contractor. Likewise, this will give you the chance to quickly find a new client, so your cash flow won’t take a hit.
Step 6: Let Your Clients Know How to Pay You
Knowing how to set your hourly /project rate is the key to being successful in freelancing.
This process goes beyond the simple calculations. You have to also do your part by communicating it to your client. Don’t be afraid to be upfront in this step—it makes everything easier and helps you avoid awkward conversations later on.
In your freelance agreement, consider including:
- The rate you’ll charge for the project on a one-time or recurring basis
- The upfront deposit or retainer amount
- Payment due dates for each ongoing installment
- Accepted payment methods (i.e. credit card or check)
- Rates for work outside the scope of your contract
By clearly outlining your payment expectations, it will help you get paid on time, every time.
Let Your Business Run Seamlessly With Your Handy Freelance Agreement
One of the keys to success is accountability—and that’s exactly what you get when you put together this little document.
At times, you can think that a freelance agreement is a waste of time. After all, you trust your clients and they trust you. However, contracts aren’t completely about trust. They ensure your communication is on point and everyone’s on the same page, each and every time. And once you’ve secured the work, get your free freelancer invoice template to ensure you get paid in a timely manner.
This is an archived post from the FreshBooks Blog and was originally published in April 2016.