Landing a client for a freelance project is something to celebrate. Regardless of whether it’s your very first client or just one of the many in your history of freelance success, you shouldn’t ignore the opportunity to pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
It’s very tempting to jump right into the project and get right to work. Before you do, it’s important that you take a few steps to protect yourself before entering a freelance work agreement.
Put it in writing: The importance of a project contract:
Having a contract protects you as the employee as well as your client. It’s lovely to think that every client will become a paying client, but unfortunately, that’s not that case. For the most part, if you get your freelance jobs from a site like Elance.com, they take care of a decent amount of the legalities. However, if you get your clients by word of mouth or other methods, you should still have a contract to protect both sides.
Sign where? The types of contracts you may be asked to sign:
There are quite a few contracts that you may be asked to sign. Being familiar with the different contrasts and the ideas behind them will work in your favor. You can find a number of contract examples online so that you can get an idea of what the general jargon is.
In most cases, a client will ask you to sign an NDA or non-disclosure agreement which says that any information that you are made privy to needs to remain private. This prohibits you from sharing the inner trade secrets of your client and sharing or selling them to or with any other party.
If you are doing content creation or article writing, you client may have you sign a data release form. This signs over any and all rights to the content that you write over to the client. Although the specifics in a data release can range, they usually cover the fact that you are unable to publish the work on any other site, including your own. If you plan on using this work in your portfolio, it’s a good idea to consult with the client on this specifically. If they agree to allow you to have the work in your portfolio, make sure you have them write that into the contract as well.
You should also create an agreement of compensation based on what terms you negotiate. Don’t ever take someone’s word as scripture. Everything that you discuss with the client; timelines, expectations, compensation (amount and how frequent), etc. must be put into writing and signed by both you and the client. If you happen to get the client who tries to escape his/her invoices, you’ll be glad that you have the agreement.
When a client refuses to sign a contract
Although rare, you may encounter a client who refuses to sign any kind of formal agreement. If this happens, you should really consider whether or not you want to do work with this client. The majority of people will want a document protecting them from any sort of business disagreement. Not wanting to sign even a compensation agreement, which basically just says the client agrees to pay X amount for your work should raise a huge red flag. No matter how much money, or how amazing the project may sound, if there’s no contract, the chances of getting paid or the client being a reliable source of reference in the future are very slim. If you decide to proceed with a client without a contract, know that you have zero legal grounds to pursue the client if he/she fails to pay.