Are You a Writer Without a Contract?

By Rohi Shetty

Contracts are legally binding documents that ensure you give the clients what they deserve and your clients give you what you deserve. A contract is also proof that your clients have agreed to your terms. You set the terms and they agree, though all the terms are negotiable. 🙂

However, though it’s important, most freelance writers have probably never sent a contract to their clients. They might feel intimidated by the very idea of drafting and sending a contract. Or they might feel that drafting a contract requires legal knowledge.

Fortunately, creating contracts is easier than you think. Here’s all the information and tools you need to draft your first contract:

What makes a contract valid?

Every contract has two basic elements:

  1. All parties are in agreement (an offer has been made by one party and accepted by the other).
  2. Something of value has been exchanged, such as cash, services or goods (or a promise to exchange such an item) for something else of value.

Does a contract have to be in writing?

Some contracts such as real estate transactions must be in writing to be valid. Check your state’s laws to find out which contracts must be in writing. However, it’s best to have a written contract, even if not legally required, because oral contracts can be difficult to prove.

How to write a contract?

Make use of contract templates and customize them to meet your specific needs. You need to include these eight provisions in every contract:

  1. The Scope of Work
  2. Ownership of Work
  3. Revisions
  4. Deadlines
  5. Payment Amount
  6. Payment Timing and Late Fees
  7. Reimbursement of Expenses
  8. Early Termination

Freelancer Contract Templates

Use any of these three templates to help you draft your contract.

  1. Sample contract from California State University Northridge

It is complete and specifies all the necessary elements. Use this template as an outline to create your own contract.

  1. Contract Killer

Though this template is written for web developers and designers, you can adapt it for freelance writing. Its main appeal is its jargon-free approach. However, it seems to be too informal, especially the summary at the beginning.

  1. Client Nonpayment General Contract Template

This is another useful template, especially if you are creating a contract for the first time.

Study all the above three templates and customize them to create your own contract template, which you can then use repeatedly. Over time, you may have to modify little clauses here and there, as your terms change or your fee increases. 🙂

Using paper contracts means you have to print, sign, scan, and upload them before you can send them. One way to reduce your hassle is to use DocHub, a free online service that allows you to sign contracts from your device.

Bonus tip:

Do not start work until both parties have signed the contract.

Don’t do it. Ever.

Rule of thumb: Always, insist on a contract if the work is likely to take longer than two hours.

Reference:

The No B.S. Guide to Freelance Writing by Ian Chandler (highly recommended)

(Whether you are brand new to writing or wishing to step it up, this book will immediately become a useful resource that you will consult again and again.)

Resources:

Writer Beware: Why Not to Sell All Rights to Your Work

The Only Thing That’s Stopping You From Freelance Writing Success

30 Days, 30 Queries (E-course) (Break into top publications with a marketing strategy that works.)

Join the conversation:

Have you ever used a contract?

Have you had any “interesting” experiences with clients because you didn’t sign a contract?

Let us know in the comments below.

(27 July 2016)


Rohi Shetty has published nine Kindle books and blogs about writing and digital publication at rohishetty.com. You can download all his books for free here.


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