Writing up Contracts
Do you use contracts? As a professional interested in the world of freelance, I’ve come across tons of horror stories from freelancers not being paid in a timely manner. What ends up happening is that these professionals end up chasing down their clients for what they deserve. Below are some tips I’ve come across in putting contracts together.
Contracts don’t have to be lengthy. They can appear similar to an invoice, but the information you provide needs to be specific as possible. You should be specific with your roles on the project. You also want to be very clear about the process. This means setting a time frame. No one likes working with deadlines, but this could help your clients know when to respond to you. You don’t want to be almost done with your project, and then your client approaches you with a dramatic change. Along with this, you want to outline the delivery details. You want to provide some type of expectation of when your role on the project will end. In regards to revisions and alterations, include a statement of how many will be covered by your fee. You don’t want to get into a situation where a client is coming back over and over with requests after the project is finished.
Most importantly, your expectation for payment needs to be stated. Many freelance professionals state that it’s best to ask for a portion of your fee upfront. Other advice has been outlining a payment plan, setting up late payment penalties or providing an early payment discount. Some have also advised adding a line that states you will get paid even if your client decides to take a different approach after you’ve completed the project. You want to be paid for the work you’ve completed.
I’ve come across a site that has a great contract template, http://www.acuitydesigns.net/freelance-contracts/. The site is addressed to designers, but any freelance professional can use the content.
My next question is how should you have the client sign the contract? The best way I would think is to have the client sign a paper copy, but I know this is not always possible. This is especially the case for freelancers who are conducting their business online. Other options I have seen is to fax or scan over the contract to the client and asked for it to be returned to you with a signature. I’ve also read on some legal sites that email contracts can work. You can send an email message with your contract, not attached but in the body of the message. You would just make it clear to your clients that this is a contract and to respond with a statement of agreement.
I’m interested in hearing from other IT professionals. What advice do you have on putting together contracts?