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Creating contracts

From: Freelancing Fundamentals

Video: Creating contracts

When someone says they want to hire you for a project, you'll need to agree on a wide variety of points, what you'll do, how long it'll take, and what you'll get in return. If you don't write it all down, you're in trouble before you even start. That's what contracts are for. If you get work from a large organization that regularly uses freelancers, there's a good chance that they'll already have a contract for you. But very few small companies are that prepared and when starting out in your freelance career, a lot of your clients will probably be small companies.

Creating contracts

When someone says they want to hire you for a project, you'll need to agree on a wide variety of points, what you'll do, how long it'll take, and what you'll get in return. If you don't write it all down, you're in trouble before you even start. That's what contracts are for. If you get work from a large organization that regularly uses freelancers, there's a good chance that they'll already have a contract for you. But very few small companies are that prepared and when starting out in your freelance career, a lot of your clients will probably be small companies.

So it's wise to have a generic contract ready that you can edit to suit individual clients as needed. Again, I can't give you specifics, because they change from place to place. Also, I'm not a lawyer so I can't give you legal advice, but here are some overarching themes to get you started. The essence of a contract is in two elements, Agreement and Consideration. The agreement part is where you spell out what you're going to do, and then the consideration part is where it says, what you're going to get in return.

Sounds simple, right? The reason that contracts tend to be long is that the details can be quite complicated. But they don't have to be long. The important is that your contract contains everything that you and your client need to understand each other. These things are usually set out in sections known as clauses. The contract itself might not give the details of the work to be done. Often, those things are put in to a separate addendum, so that the contract can be used for multiple projects with only the addendum changing.

There's a sample contract and addendum in the exercise files that you can use to start thinking about what to include in your own contract. It's a good idea to have a lawyer review it before presenting it to a client, but let's get on to those clauses. A contract often has an introduction that states who the parties are and provides a definition of terms. For example, rather than saying the name of the company throughout the document, the introduction might define it as the client, simply for simplicity's sake.

Then comes a description of freelancer responsibilities aside from a description of work to be done. One example is that the freelancer agrees not to give away any of the client secrets. Matching that clause is one saying what the client's responsibilities are. Primary among them is that you get paid. But there are others as well such as to provide content that will let the freelancer complete the work on time. Then there are the clauses that deal with legalities. Some of them are: Who owns the finished work? What can each party do with it? What's the legal relationship between the parties? Who pays for expenses? Other clauses spell out what it means to break the contract and what the consequences are.

For example, a lot of American contracts specify that both parties will first attempt to settle the matter outside of court. There might also be a clause that specifies the location of the contract; that is what local laws prevail. This is called the jurisdiction and it can matter if like me, most of your clients are outside your home state. After all of these clauses, comes the signature and date lines. Those are to prove that the parties truly have a meeting of the minds. So that's the contract that rules over all the projects that you do for this client.

But we didn't give details for the specific project that you are about to do. Those, as I mentioned earlier, can either go in the contract itself or in an addendum. They should include what both you and the client will do, when it'll be delivered, payment details including your rate and any other terms. For example, how you'll handle changes once the job is started. You might need to add sections to your contract that are specific to your work, the client, or the industry you're in. Don't use my example as your sole source.

Also, look at contracts that have passed through your hands and talk to your colleagues for further ideas. And don't forget the Internet is a source. I found that a search for a sample freelance contract turned up a lot of hits, including some sites where you simply fill in the blanks and get back a completed contract. Now if you do turn to the Internet, check that the contracts that you find are relevant to your situation. And again, review the resulting contract with an attorney to settle any lingering concerns that you might have.

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This video is part of

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Freelancing Fundamentals

42 video lessons · 24271 viewers

Tom Geller
Author

 
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  1. 10m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 53s
    2. What is freelancing?
      2m 53s
    3. How freelancing and employment differ
      2m 33s
    4. Preparing your mindset
      3m 31s
  2. 9m 24s
    1. Defining career goals
      2m 48s
    2. Sharpening your market focus
      3m 18s
    3. Transitioning to freelancing
      3m 18s
  3. 16m 11s
    1. Preparing your portfolio
      3m 11s
    2. Estimating costs
      3m 10s
    3. Funding your startup
      2m 42s
    4. Establishing your workspace
      3m 35s
    5. Building your professional network
      3m 33s
  4. 8m 51s
    1. Getting licenses, permits, and insurance
      2m 15s
    2. Creating contracts
      4m 23s
    3. Finding professional service vendors
      2m 13s
  5. 12m 54s
    1. Setting prices
      3m 13s
    2. Establishing payment systems
      1m 36s
    3. Invoicing and getting paid
      3m 50s
    4. Keeping the books
      2m 32s
    5. Managing taxes
      1m 43s
  6. 14m 41s
    1. Announcing your availability
      3m 16s
    2. Finding work through agencies
      2m 2s
    3. Onboarding clients
      2m 59s
    4. Avoiding scams
      3m 25s
    5. Choosing assignments
      2m 59s
  7. 11m 27s
    1. Interacting with clients
      2m 11s
    2. Delivering quality work
      2m 28s
    3. Getting referrals and recommendations
      2m 34s
    4. Losing and firing clients
      4m 14s
  8. 10m 48s
    1. Deconstructing big jobs
      3m 34s
    2. Adopting time-management tools
      2m 35s
    3. Creating schedules
      2m 30s
    4. Turning off the clock for "me time"
      2m 9s
  9. 20m 6s
    1. Staying motivated
      3m 3s
    2. Increasing your rates
      2m 52s
    3. Marketing beyond your professional network
      2m 56s
    4. Growing through hires and partnerships
      3m 30s
    5. Building passive income
      3m 48s
    6. Changing focus
      3m 57s
  10. 4m 52s
    1. Case study: Publishing a book
      2m 47s
    2. Next steps
      2m 5s
  11. 12m 42s
    1. Freelancing Q&A
      12m 42s

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