Every business requires certain documentation to protect itself (and you) in the event that a client refuses to pay for your services at the project's end. Freelancers are just as much in need of a solid contract as any other business type. As an independent contractor, you have unique risks that should be accounted for in a freelance contract template.
It all starts with having a freelance agreement in place to define your working relationship, payment terms, and more. Let's take a closer look at what your contract should include to protect your business.
Why Do You Need a Freelance Contract?
Every independent contractor should have a detailed contract in place before they begin any working relationship. You may feel like this is an unnecessary and time-consuming step, but you will eventually be glad you prioritized it.
First, it protects your project from scope creep. This phenomenon is surprisingly common with demanding clients who feel like you should always deliver above and beyond what you initially agreed upon for a set rate.
While you can certainly take on more work, a freelance contract ensures that you will be fairly compensated for that work.
Freelance contracts also protect you financially. It is clear to everyone what you are owed and when it is due. If a client defaults on payment terms outlined in your freelance contract template, you may have grounds to pursue it through arbitration or court.
Last but not least, a solid freelance contract projects an air of professionalism to your clients. They can see that you are serious about your business from the very beginning of your working relationship.
It fosters some semblance of trust between you and your client, especially if they have never met you in person.
Important Pieces of a Freelance Contract Template
Now that you know a written agreement is important for all freelance projects, it is time to drill down into the necessities of what a contract should include.
Here are the ten must-have items in a freelance agreement that will serve to protect you well into the future.
1. Identifying Information for Both Parties Involved
At the very beginning of your freelance work, you should know exactly who you are working with and define this in the contract.
Both parties involved need to be named so that the freelancer knows who they should look to for the final approval of a project.
In this section, you will want to list out the names of supervisors as well as the names of those you will work closely with throughout the project.
Always know who you are expected to report to, and include this somewhere within your written agreement.
This prevents you from receiving approval from one party and a demand for revisions from another.
2. Scope of Work and Deliverables
As mentioned earlier, scope creep is extremely common in working relationships with an independent contractor.
From the outset, you need to be crystal clear on what you will deliver to your client.
If you suspect that your project will be subject to scope creep, spell out what it will cost in the freelancer contract template.
For example, you might include rates for add-on services not covered under the existing contract or for revisions if you suspect that editing will be a spot of contention.
3. Agreed Upon Rates for Your Working Relationship
Both the freelancer and the client need to know what the rates are for the completed work. Everyone needs to be paid for the work they complete, whether they are freelance writers, designers, or SEO consultants.
When you customize your own freelance contract template, one of the most significant aspects is detailing your rates.
All parties involved should know what your rates are, whether you choose to work hourly or on a per-project basis.
This is also a good time to discuss how many hours each week or month you will put into the project alongside your rates for these services.
This sets you up for greater success when a client demands more work. You can point to the contract and let them know that you have already worked your allotted 20 hours this week.
They can opt for more hours, but it will come at an additional rate.
4. Payment Details and Terms
Once your written agreement contains the exact amount of money you will make, you need to outline when and how you will get paid. Freelance projects may require different types of payment terms. Some freelance writers prefer to be paid before they start on a project. Freelance designers might want an upfront deposit to cover web hosting fees.
Generally, employed freelancers will also receive a 1099 from the client at the end of the year for the contractor's role in the business. This is perhaps worth writing the entire agreement for freelancer work.
One thing to keep in mind here is your capital or downtime costs. Make sure you include some money in your contract for the initial investment in services for your client, as well as the cost of downtime while you wait for a client to get back to you with revisions or questions.
If there will be sick pay or other competitive engagements, this is the time to include them, though it is not frequently offered to the self-employed person.
5. Project Milestones and Schedule
Every freelance contract should also help you define the project in terms of scheduling. What will you deliver along the way as you progress toward the final stages of completion?
Getting on the same page with your client in a written agreement protects both of you.
Some freelancers may deliver the entire project at one time when it is completed. Others may prefer to check in with clients at various milestones throughout the process to make sure they are on the right track.
Independent contractors need to be clear in their own contracts about the level of communication that will take place surrounding a scheduled project.
Keep in mind that if you set a schedule and do not stick to it, you may not be able to collect payment according to the courts. If there is an adjustment made to the schedule, be sure to secure it in writing.
6. Revisions Required
As a self-employed worker, you need to protect your time from unreasonable demands. Consider how many edits you are okay with making and set a fee for any above and beyond this amount.
For example, you might be willing to spend one hour on edits. If they require more than that, maybe you will offer a special rate on revisions (which should be outlined in this section).
For those who put together a legal document that outlines their schedule and deliverables, you likely have an indication early on that your work is not hitting the desired mark and can back up to get it to the desired goal.
Revisions are an area where scope creep can easily take place, so every self-employed worker needs to protect themselves from this.
7. Copyright Information and Intellectual Property Rights
How do intellectual property rights work when independent contractors are in the mix? Oftentimes, a freelance contract template will outline that you establish clear ownership transfer to the other party.
A good freelance contract will help you to set guidelines for who owns what and at what point in the contract ownership transfer takes place.
Freelance workers often do not own the copyright or intellectual property rights to their work once it is handed over to their client.
Whether you will retain the rights to the freelance project or will turn it over to your client should be spelled out in the contract templates.
Legal clarification for both you and the client is crucial. This is one of the most important aspects of the entire freelance contract work.
8. Confidential Information and NDAs
Some clients may trust their contract workers with sensitive data or confidential information when working on a project.
This confidential information should be protected under the freelance contract template.
You may incur legal expenses if you share the information with anyone outside the team hired to work on the project.
There is also a possibility that you will not be able to reference these completed services in the future.
A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is often part of a free template for a freelance writer, designer, and other freelance workers. Generally, self-employed workers have no claim to the project when finished.
Make sure you know what you can share in relation to this project as the independent contractors may not be able to share everything. For example, you might gain instant access to trade secrets that should never be shared with anyone, so get sufficient detail about what can be shared with your workers.
9. Grounds for Termination of the Freelancer Contract
The other party may not always be happy with the work freelance workers put forward. Alternatively, there may be a time when the contract period ends — whether it is because work is completed or some breach of contract took place.
A termination clause is standard practice in a freelance contract template for an independent contractor. It can go both ways: the freelance work can be terminated if a client does not uphold their end of the deal or a client can end the freelancing relationship due to missed deadlines or subpar work.
It will allow you to seamlessly hand the project off to someone else and find more work to cover your bills.
10. Signed Contract
Every time you take on a new client or multiple clients, you need to ensure you have a freelance contract template in place.
It takes just a few minutes to send it over for the signing process, and most of it can be done digitally these days. This makes it easier than ever to book a new client with a standard freelance contract template.
If you receive pushback from the other party, it might be time to walk away.
Check out our info on influencer contracts to help you get the most out of your relationship with influencers while maintaining a secure agreement.
Free Freelance Contract Template Examples
If you don't want to worry about drafting your own freelance contract, then you may want to look for something that is already formatted and laid out for you online.
Here are a few free freelance contracts that only require you to fill in the pertinent details of your agreement.
All you have to do is edit the scope of work, payment terms, and the schedule you will stick to when it comes to deliverables.
One of the benefits of using the Bonsai freelance contract is that you can send and sign it completely online.
Chances are that you have heard of Rocket Lawyer before if you needed a legal document drafted online. They can also help you draft an independent contractor agreement using many of the same fields as the Bonsai example above. It even outlines the termination clause in the event that you or your client don't hold up their end of the deal.
Answer key questions to fill in your free freelance contract template, save it, and then send it electronically for the signing process.
These fill-in-the-blank areas are noted in orange, so you will have a hard time missing them!
It even includes confidentiality and a non-disclosure agreement (which you could remove if it does not apply). Get the document signed, and you will officially be in business.
Final Thoughts: Nailing Down Work with a Freelance Contract Template
Every independent contractor or freelancer needs to ensure that they protect themselves financially before entering into a working relationship with a client. A freelance agreement is essential before day one of the project commences to ensure you get the work done right and get paid for your efforts.
Whether you decide to use a free freelance contract template or create your own with the components here, you are setting yourself up for success.
Don't neglect establishing a legally binding agreement in your business simply because it seems like one extra step!