Contracts: Why Your Clients Should ALWAYS Sign One + 4 Terms To Include

Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

As a freelancer, it is in your interest to clearly spell out the terms of service each time you take on a project or client. Not only does this protect you should your clients turn out to be shady or dishonest, it also keeps everyone involved on the same page, and makes for a seamless contractor-client relationship.

If you’ve been a freelancer long enough, you would have encountered client situations that drive you up the wall. From late payments to scope creep, these are all occupational hazards that come with freelancing. While you won’t be able to eliminate these completely, you can make your life easier with a contract.  

You don’t have to be a big corporation to have a contract in place either. If anything, the smaller you are the more you should take advantage of any protection you can get. And this is what a contract essentially is:  A means to protect the interests of all parties

There are tons of templates online that can help you draft a contract, but it is always a good idea to have a lawyer look over it to be sure you haven’t left out anything important.

So what are some terms you need to include in your contract? We’ll look at some of them below:

Timelines and deliverables

Your contract should clearly state what you will be doing for your client and when. Be sure to include the start and end dates if it is a time-bound project. It should also state whether you will accommodate revisions and how many.

You should make this as clear and specific as possible to avoid any surprises. If your wording is vague or allows loopholes, this is where scope creep begins to happen and we don’t want that.

Your fees & terms of payment

One of the biggest headaches of the freelance life is clients who won’t pay on time. To help prevent this, your contract should state your fees, whether you require a certain percentage paid upfront, how you want to be paid (bank transfer, cheque, paypal...) and what happens when they don’t pay on time. Most contractors give a grace period for payments, after which the client has to pay a surcharge of about 10-15%.

Your expectations from the client

As a contractor, you will most likely require input from your client for the project to be successful. It could be documents, design templates, style guides, equipment, funds, etc. Whatever you need from your client to execute the project without a hitch, be sure to state clearly, what you need from your client, and when you need them to provide it.

Channels of communication.

It is important to establish how you want to communicate and when. This is important for two reasons: You want to make sure that boundaries are clear. You also want to be sure that information can flow without any interruption.

Establish a channel for exchanging information, (instant messaging, phone calls or emails?) the ideal times for contacting each other, how to reach you in the case of an emergency, what constitutes an emergency, etc. This will help you establish boundaries (you don’t want a client blowing up your phone when you’re trying to relax!) and help the project move along that much more smoothly.

What happens should either party decide to terminate the contract

you or your client might decide to opt out of the relationship for whatever reason, so it’s best to prepare for the possibility by including a clause to that effect in your contract. Be clear on how this should be communicated by either party and the conditions for termination. Most opt for two weeks to a month of notice or money in lieu.

As important as it is to have a contract in place, it is even more important to have both parties agree to the stated terms and sign the contract before work begins. Especially since the whole point of a contract is to ensure that the interests of all parties are protected.

This is by no means exhaustive, but it gives you a baseline to start. The more experience you have serving your clients, the better you can anticipate issues before they arise and address them in your contract.

Experienced freelancers, over to you! What did I miss? What would you include or omit in a contract?