Freelancers certainly have a lot to consider when operating their business, and a freelance contract (also known as an Independent Contractor Agreement) helps with a lot of it. Some of these things are so fundamental to how you do business that both you and your clients will be happy having it all laid out in an official document.
For example, establishing details like compensation, ownership rights, and the nature of the partnership can help start the relationship off smoothly. Let’s take a look at the biggest reasons you should have a freelance agreement with your clients.
Mutual Understanding with a Freelance Agreement
A contract isn’t a substitute for a conversation with your client—it’s complementary and in the same spirit. The difference is that a contract takes into consideration all the little nuances that could actually become big factors in the partnership. For example, if your client prefers that invoices be filled out in a particular way, the contract can account for that. It can also cover details like the duration of the contract (the number of calendar or working days until completion).
In an Independent Contractor Agreement, each party’s responsibilities (such as payment, delivery, and quality assurance) are clearly laid out, which ensures both you and your client know what to expect from one another.
One of the misconceptions about contracts is that they place too many restrictions on both parties, which can constrict the relationship. However, all relationships—even business ones—grow when both parties have an understanding of the parameters, expectations, and nature of the relationship, and a freelance agreement can help in this regard.
A Contract Ensures You Get Paid Properly
You might also be thinking about all the financial details you’d like to outline in your contract. Your client will likely want to have their budget noted, and you’ll want them to clearly understand your fees. However, there are other details you may want to include but might not have considered, such as:
- When and how (through which forms of payment) you’d like to be compensated
- Whether you’ll be charging fees for work that’s submitted late
- If there are costs outside the parameters of the project (additional expenses such as travel costs) and which party will cover them
Of course, you want to be paid properly, and your client won’t want any surprises on their invoice. This is one of those areas where even the most minor slipups can have major consequences, so it’s a good idea to have a contract that covers these details.
Intellectual Property and Ownership Rights in a Contract
You should also consider what you’d like to happen to your work after you complete the project. In particular, consider who will have ownership and all the rights to the product.
Intellectual property, as it pertains to freelancers, includes any copyrights, trademarks, and other rights associated with the product. Intellectual property determines which party owns the product and is able to use (or even reproduce) it as they like. This is where things can get a bit more complicated.
For example, let’s say you’re an author and you write a short story for a client. The client pays for the product along with all the rights associated with it, and then, a year later, makes a short film out of it. Because they purchased all of the rights to the story, including the right to reproduce it, the copyright is theirs, so all the profits are too.
As a freelancer, you might run into issues regarding ownership rights. Usually, you have the option of holding onto the rights to your work, and you can opt to sell those rights later if an opportunity comes up. If all you want is recognition as the author of your work, be sure to include an intellectual property clause in your freelance contract.
It’s About Both the Project and the Partnership
Think of a contract as being complementary and supplementary to your conversations with clients. A freelance contract covers the important topics that almost always come up in a partnership, but does so right from the start which helps to avoid any future misunderstandings.
A freelance contract ensures you get paid properly, and that your client isn’t surprised by any additional fees you need to charge them. The contract also lets you hold onto your work and receive appropriate compensation for its reprinting or repurposing.
A freelance agreement will help you cover all the bases in your professional relationships and build the kind of partnerships that could last far beyond the project.