Freelance contracts: what are you signing up for?

Full-time freelancing might sound like it’s all coffee-shop work days and writing emails in your pyjamas. Obviously there’s some of that (OK, a lot), however, donning your serious specs and drawing up a sturdy business contract can save you time and hassle in the long run. While writing freelance contracts may not be the most exciting task in the world, keeping an eye on the legal side of your livelihood protects you as a self-employed member of the workforce.

Are freelance contracts actually necessary?

You might think of contracts as the lofty work of professional lawyers, but drawing one up yourself isn’t too difficult. What’s more, it doesn’t have to be filled with all that posh legal jargon either. A good freelance contract can be simple and concise, and still protect you and your client from any grey areas or awkward moments.

Does it still count if it’s an email and I haven’t actually signed anything?

Pens and paper are so last century, and so is signing on a dotted line. Even email exchanges and SMS messages in ‘txt spk’ can be interpreted as agreements these days, and quite often are, especially where freelance contracts are concerned. It all boils down to intention. Be clear about what stage a contract is created at, so you’re not in a scramble later on. Yes, it’s stating the obvious, but it’s better than spending hours working out whether the chicken or the egg came first.

Payment options

Setting out your terms of payment within the contract will keep the cash flowing nicely. Without some sort of breadcrumb-style paper (or email) trail, a client can just refuse to cough up.

Everyone should be crystal clear about payment terms before the work starts. It’s down to you, your client and the type of work as to what those arrangements are. As a freelancer, you need to get comfortable with the nitty gritty of talking numbers. This is business, after all.

Have a chat to My Accountant Friend about the features in their dashboard. Invoicing is easy peasy, and you can clearly mark out your payment terms so that your client has no excuse not to get the cash to you on time.

This is my work… isn’t it?

Having a contract to hand also means that you’re covered if there’s confusion over copyright. The good news for freelancers is that by working under a (jargon alert!) ‘contract for services’, you own the copyright for your work, unless you specifically agree otherwise. The bad news is that clients and freelancers often don’t realise this. Avoid confusion, and a potential legal wrangling, by including copyright ownership in your freelance contracts.

Protect yourself!

Sorting out professional indemnity is your suit of armour to cover any costs if a client makes a legal claim against you and your business. Even if you’re not at fault, defending a case can be costly. The bottom line is that despite everyone’s best intentions, it’s possible to get caught up over disagreements. Professional indemnity insurance comes in all shapes and sizes and won’t break the bank. There’ll be no need to worry about perfecting the kung fu moves once you’ve got it in place, either.

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