You may have worked with one or heard of one before. They often ruin your day, week or month. Who is it that I’m speaking of?
For the freelance writer, it’s the dreaded crappy client.
Don’t be fooled by other names given to them:
The scope-creeper: a client who asks for one teeny tiny extra thing at first and then demands more and more of you, going beyond what you agreed to do for them.
The dodgy dancer: a client who never fully gives you all the information to help you with your content creation. Then, when you submit your work, complains you didn’t create the content they had envisioned.
The micro-managing monster: a client who constantly wants an update from you or who emails you constantly and has a hard time giving up control.
The late payer: a client who always pays late, never apologizes and makes you feel like a nagger for wanting to get paid on time.
For many new freelance writers, this is not an uncommon client. Crappy clients are everywhere and it takes experience to spot them before you decide to work with them.
Luckily for you, there’s an easy way to protect yourself from bad clients who may walk all over you because you are new to freelance writing. So what is it?
It’s the contract.
This is the last post in my blog series, Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies. For my last post, I’m adding another variable, a contract, to the freelance writing success equation.
So far in my blog series, I have laid out some key elements to a successful freelance writing business:
- How to land your first high-paying client
- Key questions to ask a prospective client
- How to determine your rates
My blog series is intended to help new freelance writers navigate the path to better paying clients. So, let’s get started.
Why Are Contracts Important for Freelance Writers?
I’m sure you’ve read about it or heard from others, that whenever you are working with someone new, to “get it on paper“. Even if that someone is a friend or family member.
What is it? It refers to what you and a prospective client has agreed to. Just shaking hands on it won’t give you peace of mind when it’s a new month and you still haven’t gotten paid for the work you’ve done the previous month.
So, why is it important to get it in writing?
- It protects you if the client decides to ditch you and your content.
- Helps you avoid any misunderstandings or communication glitches you may have, before you begin a collaboration with a client.
- It shows that you are a professional and you mean business when you present a contract to a client.
- It helps in getting paid (but not all the time. There are still people that will take advantage of you and not pay you for your work. Having a contract, however, helps lesson this chance).
So why don’t many freelance writers (including myself) have a contract when they first start? For me, I’m in the process of drafting a contract for future collaborations with local businesses and for online companies.
Up until this point though, I didn’t have a contract, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t sign any. Currently, I’m under my clients’ contracts for any services I preform. These clients hire many freelance writers and journalists so it’s nothing new for them to hire a writer.
There are other reasons why new freelance writers might not use a contract:
- They feel the writing project is miniscule and doesn’t require a legal contract
- They don’t know how to draft a contract
- They think if they worked with family or friends they don’t’t need a contract
Whatever the case is, not having a contract in place is a HUGE risk to you. Your chances of getting screwed by a scope-creeper or a micro-managing monster is greater when there’s nothing in place.
What’s to stop a client from paying you right away? Since there’s nothing in writing, he could wait years before paying you.
So, if you don’t want to get walked all over, consider putting a contract or service agreement together. Here are 7 crystal clear clauses you can put in your freelance writing contract
1. The Scope of Your Work Clause
To tame the scope-creeper, determine specifically what services you will do for the client. This is your chance to make it clear to the client what services you will perform. Your clause can mention work outside of this scope, but it requires a new contract with new rates. For example, you should mention:
- Effective date to begin services
- Length of time for services (if the client doesn’t have an end date, you can specify an indefinite period of time)
- Itemized list of services to be preformed (blog post of set amount of words based on a topic choice you or the client chooses, revisions, fact-checking and research and anything else like social media marketing, newsletter creation etc…)
Also mention the nature of your work. What I mean is to make it clear that all work you create is original and that you are the sole author. It’s also a good idea to mention that any stats or resources you do use are, to the best of your knowledge, accurate and truthful and that it doesn’t infringe on any copyright or privacy rights.
The scope of work is contingent on what you and the client agrees to. It’s wise for a freelance writer to write everything down when interviewing the client to get a better picture of what they want.
Moreover, it’s a good idea to send an email re-hashing what you discussed before you write your contract in order to get all the facts straight.
2. Ownership Clause
It’s generally understood that companies you end up working with, will have complete ownership to your work once you are paid.
In North America, this is referred to as a, “Work-for-hire” agreement. A freelance writer, once paid, will give up all ownership to their content.
It makes sense to give up ownership to your content when you receive payment. I mean, if I hire and pay a contractor to re-model my kitchen, I don’t expect him to come back years later and demand his counter tops and cupboards back!
The kitchen and the work done to the kitchen is mine. And it’s the same for your content.
What’s of concern for freelance writers like myself, is having recognition for the work we do. We want to be able to add to our portfolio at the same time as having our brand reach new customers.
The best thing to do is approach your client and ask them about having an author byline or author name on your content once it’s published. If you two agree, then put it in writing.
3. Payment Terms and Conditions Clause
For freelance writers, state your rate and how often you will be paid (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, every 30 days etc…). Also mention how clients can pay you (PayPal, direct deposit etc..) and the turnaround time from when you submit your invoice to getting paid.
Other terms you can mention in your contract:
- Whether or not you require an upfront fee before beginning any work. This is usually between 20%-50% of your rate.
- Protocol for late payments. For example, you might include a 1.5% interest amount per month for late payments. Having interest accrue is enough incentive for many clients to pay on time.
- Rush job payment schedule. You may have a %50 upfront fee for rush jobs.
It’s wise to also state if the work requires more time or if there are changes to be made, that renegotiation occurs and a new rate and clause is drafted.
4. Revisions Clause
You might want to specify what is entailed for your revisions and how many revisions you will do. Also mention what editing tools you will use, how you will check your facts and any research you will do. Some clients may not comprehend what you do when you revise your content, so having a clause can help alleviate any concern your client may have.
5. Deadline Clause
It’s important to state when the deadline is for submission and what the turnaround time is for revisions. Sometimes clients start with 1 blog post a week and then move up to 2 or 3 posts a week. If this is the case, state this in your contract so that you won’t be surprised when your client asks for 3 posts in one week.
6. Early Termination Clause
Clients can change their minds about your content and terminate your services without any notice. If this should happen most likely you’re left trying to fulfill another job so you won’t be late on your month’s rent.
To protect you from this happening, have a per-determined dollar amount a client pays should they ditch your services for someone new. This amount is usually %20-%50 of your agreed payment for your content. Some freelance writers require %100 of payment for work they have done regardless if the client ends services early or later.
7. Independent Contractor Clause
It’s a good idea to make sure the client is aware that you’re an independent contractor, not an employee. When you’re an independent contractor you are responsible for all federal, state and/or local taxes when preforming services for your clients.
When It Comes to Contracts: K.I.S.S
So before you write your contract remember to Keep It Simple Simon! (K.I.S.S). Write it out in plain language or if that’s not your thing, send an email detailing what you and your client agreed to and have them email you back with an approval.
At least it’s on paper and you have documentation to back you up, should you need it.
While I’m still in the process of framing my contract, I can’t give you my sample, but I can direct you to some sample contracts I found useful when researching for this post!
This is the end to my series. I hope you found this information useful. I enjoyed writing my blog series and I plan on making it into an eBook that I will give away to new subscribers in the future!
So for experienced freelance writers, do you find having a contract in place beneficial? Do you notice that you deal with a lot less crappy clients?