5 Must-Have Clauses for any Freelancer Contract


Working with contracts is essential for running a reliable, functioning and secure freelancing business. Contracts serve as a safety net for both you and your client, making sure neither one of you gets mistreated and even help you out in front of court if worse comes to worst.

Nevertheless, many freelancers are reluctant to draft their own contracts, whether because they believe that they can’t master the legal language or are afraid of forgetting the “fine print”. While it is generally good advice to contact a lawyer the first time you draw up a contract, one can get the hang of it by him- or herself as well. To help those of you who are on their way to drafting contracts on their own, we comprised a list of five clauses which should be an inseparable part of any freelancer contract.

1) Price and work rates
First and foremost, a contract should leave no doubts whatsoever regarding how your payment is determined. Are you going to charge a certain sum for the whole project or for the hours you put in? It is recommended you charge by the hour, since foreseeing just how long your work might take, can be extremely difficult. If things end up piling up, you want to get paid for the actual time you spent working on the project.

Additionally, a minimum and maximum work-hour clause is recommended if you charge by the hour. It states that the project will take no more time than X and no less than Y, serving as a safety net for both you and the client.

2) Payment schedule and methods
Secondly, you should decide on a certain payment schedule. Receiving all the money at once might not be the best idea, especially if you are just starting out. Some prefer getting paid in three installments, separated into 40/40/20 or 50/25/25. Others agree upon receiving half of the money upfront and the rest later. This is entirely up to you, but is important you make it as clear as possible in the contract so that both parties are happy. What is more, a freelancer contract should specify the exact method of payment as well. Do you prefer PayPal, checks or direct deposits? How much time does the client have to pay you? These are all very important details which can save you a lot of hassle later on.

3) Deadline
Generally speaking, every freelancer contract has a deadline. On the one hand, it helps you plan out the project tailored to your own time schedule, on the other it can even help with motivation. The client, of course, benefits from the inclusion of a deadline clause as well. Try to negotiate that with them and find a middle ground that suits you both.

4) Kill Fee
If you happen to have bad luck with your clients, a kill fee is often a clause that will save you from not getting all the money you have earned. A kill fee is exactly what it sounds like – if the project is terminated for whatever reason (client goes bankrupt, cancels the project, etc.) the client is obliged to compensate you financially for the time already put into the project.

5) Copyrights
Last, but not least, don’t forget the importance of copyrights – they determine who actually owns the work. There are some particularities to most freelancing professions with regards to this clause, though. For example, designers might want to retain their rights on sketches, which weren’t used for the project. Freelance writers could include a clause that allows them to reuse their content after a certain time has passed.

For the majority, including a clause that retains all copyright of your work until the project is completed and paid for is very good general advice. After the work is completed, your client will get the rights and you will be obliged to not use or sell your work to anyone else. Once again, this clause should be composed in a way beneficial to both parties.

Did you find these tips helpful and can you think of other clauses that must be included in every freelancer contract? Feel free to discuss anything we might have missed in the comments below.

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