Do you have a freelance writer contract for your business?
If you said no, don’t panic. As a new freelance writer, you might not know what a freelance contract is or why you need one. And even if you’ve been freelancing for a while, you may not be in the habit of using contracts with your clients.
I certainly wasn’t when I first started learning how to get paid to write online. At the time, I was finding most of my gigs through freelance writing job boards and sites like Upwork. The clients I worked with often didn’t require a contract.
But freelancing has changed a lot since then and now it’s pretty much standard practice to sign a contract any time I get a new freelance writing gig.
And that’s a good thing because it means that I’m protected legally from day one. As freelancers, we need every protection we can get since we’re technically not employees; we’re independent contractors. Being an independent contractor means you don’t have the same rights as a regular employee.
Whether you’re a month into your freelance writing career or you’ve been at it for years, a freelance writing contract is something you can’t run your business without. But what if you have no clue how to create one or what should go into it?
I’ve got you covered. This guide breaks down everything you need to know to protect yourself legally as a freelancer.
What Is a Freelance Writer Contract?
It’s simple. A freelance writing contract is a legal document that spells out exactly how you and your clients will work together.
These documents can also be called contributor agreements, freelancer agreements, independent contractor agreements or consultant agreements. But regardless of the name, they all mean the same thing.
Your client might ask you to sign a contract before you get started on a project they’ve hired you for. And if they don’t offer a standard contract, you can ask them to sign one of your own.
Freelance writing contracts typically include:
- Your name, address and title
- Your client’s name and contact information
- Verification of your independent contractor status
- The scope of services you’re providing
- The rate you’re paid for those services and how you’ll be paid
- An effective date for when the contract begins
- A timeline for completing the work
- Who’s responsible for paying any expenses you incur as part of the project
- A description of who owns any intellectual property (i.e. blog posts, articles, etc.) you produce
- Policies and procedures for resolving disputes
- Guidelines for terminating the contract
Some independent contractor agreements can also include non-compete clauses or non-disclosure agreements. These are two important things you need to watch out for.
A non-compete clause means you agree not to work for any of the company’s competitors while you’re writing for them and/or for a certain time frame after terminating your work agreement.
Whether you want to agree to this kind of clause is totally up to you. Personally, I wouldn’t because that limits the number of clients you can take on in your niche. And that can cap your earning potential, which isn’t a great thing if you’re trying to write your way to six figures.
A non-disclosure agreement is a legal tool companies use to protect their proprietary information. Signing an NDA basically means that you agree not to spill the client’s trade secrets or discuss details about the project you’re working on with anyone else.
One other thing a freelance writer contract can include is an indemnification clause. This clause essentially states that you won’t hold the client responsible for any financial losses, including lawsuits, that you incur as a result of the work you’ve done.
This one’s tricky if you’re a newer freelancer since you might be worried about getting sued and having to cover the costs yourself. But unfortunately, it’s a clause that most clients who work with a contract will insist on.
Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is signing and dating the contract and having it countersigned by your client. Without signatures, your contract isn’t legally valid.
Why You Need a Freelance Writer Contract
Every freelance writing client is different. Some will be a dream to work with and others will end up being a nightmare. Having a freelance writer contract in place protects you in case things don’t go as smoothly as planned.
For example, one of the most frustrating things about freelancing is working with clients who don’t pay on time. You did the work so you want to get paid, right?
Having a freelance writing contract in place gives you legal means to address their late payment. For example, you could include a clause in the contract saying that you’ll charge a 15% late fee for each week payment is past due.
You can also use a freelancer contract to protect yourself against scope creep. So what is scope creep?
In a nutshell, it’s the bane of a freelance writer’s existence. Scope creep happens when you agree to do a certain amount of work for a client at a certain rate. But then little by little, they start asking you to do more things without offering you any more money.
Most of the time, they’re not doing this to intentionally cheat you. But if you get in a situation where a client is asking for more work without offering extra pay, you can refer them back to your contract and the scope of work that’s included.
They can either agree to keep your workload and pay rate the same. Or you could be in a position to bargain for more money to do the additional work. You could offer them a new contract, with new rates so you don’t get caught in the scope creep crunch.
Having a freelance writer contract can also protect you when it comes to making edits or doing rush jobs.
Ideally, when you turn in a piece it requires minimal edits from the client. You don’t want to get stuck making endless revisions if the client isn’t pay anything for them since that drags down your hourly rate.
Building a clause into your contract that limits you to a certain number of unpaid revisions can keep that from happening. You can also specify what rate you’ll charge for edits above the freebies you’re offering. (And if you’re wondering, two is usually a good number to stick with for unpaid revisions.)
With rush jobs, clients may expect a faster than usual turn-around for work. You can make the most of that by asking for a higher fee for rush jobs that need to be done on short notice in your contract.
For example, say your contract says that you’ll deliver work within five days of it being assigned. Your client asks you to cut that down to two days. If your contract says that you can charge a 25% premium for rush jobs, then that’s 25% more money going into your pocket.
Last and most importantly, your freelance writer contract can be a shield against legal action. Say you write something about a major brand for a client and that brand accuses you of defamation. (Sounds like a longshot, I know, but it could happen.)
Your contract can include legal remedies to help protect you in those scenarios. Fortunately, I’ve never had any legal issues with a client or any of the work I’ve done. But I know that if I did, I’d have a contract in place to protect me against legal trouble.
How to Create a Freelance Writer Contract
Okay, so you know why you need a freelance writer contract. The next question is, how do you actually make one?
Unless you’re also an attorney, this is not something you want to do on your own. You could hire an attorney to create a freelance writing contract for you but that can cost you big bucks. And that’s something you might not have if you’re still trying to land your first freelance writing jobs.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to get a professionally-made legal freelance writing contract you can customize to use with all of your clients.
Amira is a bona fide attorney and an expert on how to legally run a business. Her Independent Contractor Template is extremely comprehensive and covers all of the most important things you’d need and want to include in a freelance writer contract.
The template is downloadable as a Word document and is completely customizable, so you can tailor it to fit different clients. The same template can be used over and over again; you only have to buy it once.
That’s important because not every freelancing client operates the same way when it comes to things like the time frame for deliverables or when payments are issued.
The Independent Contractor Template lets you:
- Clearly spell out the scope of the work being done
- Establish your preferred payment terms
- Set guidelines for dispute resolution
- Determine who has ownership rights over the content you’re creating
- Avoid getting sued because you’re legally protected
You can get your contracts set up in just a few minutes and get them out the door to your clients so you can start making money. And the best part is, you can use this same contract to hire independent contractors of your own.
So say your freelance writing business explodes and you need to outsource some of your writing gigs or hire a VA to help you manage things. This exact same template can be modified to protect you and any independent contractors you work with.
The template is insanely affordable, costing you about a third of what you’d pay a lawyer for just one hour of their time to draft a contract. Plus, when you buy the Independent Contractor Template, you get three bonuses that are valued at $550:
- Non-solicitation and non-recruit agreement. If your freelance writing business is so busy that you need to outsource some of your work, you’ll want to have a non-solicitation and non-recruit agreement. This document keeps other clients from trying to scoop up the independent contractors you’ve hired to help you in your business.
- Non-compete agreement. Again, this is something that’s handy if you’re hiring independent contractors and you want to make sure they’re not moonlighting with any of your competitors.
- Mediation and arbitration agreement. If a legal issue arises, having a mediation and arbitration agreement in place can keep you and your client from being sued.
Now I know what you’re thinking — aren’t there websites that offer freelance writing contracts for free?
And the answer is yes, there are. But if you want peace of mind that the contract you’re using is 100% legal and doesn’t include any loopholes that could hurt your business, you’re better off paying for it.
Do You Have a Freelance Writer Contract?
Are you using a standard contract for your freelance writing business?
Hopefully, the answer is a firm yes. And if so, tell me which contract template are you using?
If you’re not using a freelance writer contract yet, what’s keeping you from putting one to work for your business?
Head to the comments and tell me about it, then pin and share this post if it helped you!