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How To Create a Freelancing Contract

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Whether you're a freelance copywriter or a freelance graphic designer, you need a contract in place to protect yourself and to let your clients know exactly what they're getting from you.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: 1-2 hours for initial creation. A few minutes after you begin using your template regularly.

Here's How:

  1. You can create any sort of document that appears as an invoice. Many word processing programs contain a document wizard and several invoice templates. Open up one of these templates or create a new one.

  2. Your contract needs to be as specific as possible. In the upper right hand corner of the document you can type the words SERVICE TERMS, CONTRACT or any other variation in a bold, 12 or 14 point font size (larger than the rest of your contract type).

  3. On the left side, type your name, title, address, telephone, fax, Email, etc. Make sure all of your contact information appears here.

  4. On the right, type the date and complete contact information for your client.

  5. Assign the project a job number and write it down for your records. Also include this information on your contract, usually above the client's contact information for easy reference.

  6. Make a few lines to detail the job description. If you're giving a price quote for a TV commercial, write as much detail as you can. For example:

    Job Description: Joe's Used Cars (:30 TV Commercial)

  7. Are you charging by the hour or offering a flat rate? If charging by the hour, be sure to put your hourly rate on the contract and an estimate of how long it will take you to complete the project. If you're charging a flat rate, be sure to put on your contract that this is the bottom line price.

  8. Your contract can resemble an invoice (lines for a description, price, etc.) to be more professional. Of course, you don't want the word INVOICE to appear on your contract. But you can easily save a copy of this document as an invoice so when you complete your work, you can send an invoice that mirrors your contract. Less confusion and less room for debate over paying up.

  9. Now you're ready for the heart of your contract. Be very specific on what the client is getting. Just because you have your policies on your Web site doesn't mean you can be skimpy in your wording here. Example:

    Commercial Copy
    • Copy Due DATE
    • Revisions and rewrites included as defined in policy
    • Payment for services due within XX days of final revision

  10. Type in your price for the project (or estimated hours if you are working on an hourly rate). If you are working on an hourly rate, be sure to include terms on how you handle going over the hourly estimate. If you estimate 3 hours at $100 an hour and you come back with a job time of 8 hours, you're going to have a hard time convincing the client to honor their end of the deal.

  11. Write a line that acknowledges the client is accepting the terms by signing the contract. If you are doing your business via fax, as most freelancers hardly meet their clients these days, you'll want to tell the client they need to sign the contract and fax it back to you. You will sign the contract before you send it to them for their signature so they will have your signature on their copy.

  12. Make two lines at the bottom of the contract. One for you with your name typed below the line and one for your contact person at the ad agency or individual business with their name typed underneath the line. This will be your signature lines when you and a client accept each other's terms.

  13. Save your contract so you can plug in the details for your next project without having to start all over again.

  14. That's it! To see a sample of your finished contract, click on the link under the "Related Resources" section at the bottom of this page.

Tips:

  1. Don't be shy about getting your client to sign a contract. Getting their signature is no guarantee they will pay but it does increase your chances.

  2. Should a client not pay within the time you specified on the contract, send a formal, friendly letter along with a copy of the contract they signed. Be sure to reference the contract and the fact that your payment terms were outlined on the contract itself.

  3. Having this piece of paper is not bulletproof protection. However, it can help you tremendously should you ever run into a client that refuses to pay. If someone has breached a contract, consult an attorney. As a freelancer, just be sure you've exhausted all efforts to get the money you earned. Otherwise, the client could spread the word and other agencies may be leery of doing business with you.

  4. Consider putting a line in your contract that you will get paid even if the project does not make it to print. A client could say the project was killed or changed so that your copy wasn't usable. And this results in you not getting paid for the work you have completed.

  5. Ad agencies and business owners are not bad people! Contracts are in place to protect you just as much as they are to protect them. It's rare that you will find someone who won't pay for the work you completed. The contract can help ease both parties to know you are going to complete the project you promised the agency/business and they are going to pay you for your hard work.

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