Being a freelance designer or developer gives you the chance to do what you love with a degree of flexibility and creativity that you may not have with a more traditional 9-to-5 job. To that end, you still have to take care of the business side of freelancing to save yourself headaches on down the road.
That’s right — I’m talking about contracts.
Working without a contract is an invitation to be exploited and swindled. A good contract protects you and your client and establishes a strong business relationship from the beginning. You can streamline your work around a set schedule, and offer clear details of the scope of the project. Whether you are just starting your freelance career or you have years of work experience under your belt, here are a few must-have clauses to include in your contract to make sure you cover your butt and get paid fairly for your time.
Clause 1: Services Rendered
What is the nature of the project? Does the client need specific deliverables? Your contract should state your client’s expectations from the project so you are aware of what they want from you as you work with them. A contract with clear, concise language that spells out the services rendered will remove any surprises and prevent ambiguous results at the end of the project. (And if it doesn’t, there’s an additional clause you should add, but I’ll talk about that in a bit.)
Clause 2: Pricing and Rates
Along with a non-refundable deposit, your contract should also list your rates and the pricing structure set out for the project. Make sure to include a schedule of when payments are due that lines up with the timeline for the project. Having these costs detailed in the contract means you can avoid any disputes about payment later on. Be very clear on how you want to be paid (checks, bank transfers, PayPal, etc.) and don’t forget to include penalties for late payments!
Clause 3: Kill Fee
Sometimes, for reasons beyond your control, a project could get canceled after you’ve already started working on it. Here’s where a kill fee clause comes in play. This can save you from being put at a time or financial disadvantage by getting paid for the work you already have done up to that point in the project. The amount of the kill fee could be a flat fee or a percentage depending on the scope of work already completed. Charge what you feel is fair, but make sure that some form of compensation for your work is spelled out.
Clause 4: Revisions
Endless revisions from clients can slow down momentum on any project. Here’s where you need to have a clause in your contract mentioning a limited number of free revisions (maybe two or three) with additional revisions available for a cost. Keep in mind that lots of revisions can affect the project timeline, so in order to deliver the project on time, this is necessary. This should also reduce the client’s tendency for constant revisions. But if it doesn’t, guess what — at least the client is made aware of the cost, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to them.
Clause 5: Scope Creep
We’ve all faced it — the dreaded scope creep. This occurs when a client adds change after change to the scope of the project, which increases the amount of work you have to do. Effective project management can usually stop scope creep before it happens, but nonetheless, you should have a provision for it in your contract. No one wants to be overworked and underpaid! As the vendor for your client, you reserve the right to adjust the rates of a project if the scope significantly increases. Don’t be afraid of this!
Listen — contracts can be intimidating, but when it comes to business, you have to protect yourself and your client. Having a contract with these clauses is the best way to avoid confusion down the the line and prevent you from getting exploited. Now go forth and create!