Contracts: Why You Need Them & What To Look For When Signing One

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They can be painful, right? I’ve got you covered, but first let’s talk about why we need them.

I had a pretty awful experience with my first condo. I was 19 years old with a baby and my landlord was terrible. It’s not uncommon to hear of bad tenants, but bad landlords aren’t so common. Nonetheless, I assure you this one was the worst. Thankfully, we had a contract. I was able to get out of the lease because my landlord did not fulfill their side of the agreement. Thank you, contract!

Contacts exist to protect both parties in any agreement, no matter how personal the relationship is. You, as a business owner, need to have a contract with your writing clients. All of them. I know, I know…everyone seems so nice in the beginning of a working relationship and you may even write for them as a guest before getting paid. It doesn’t matter; you still need a contract.

Here are a few of the top provisions you need to have in your contract as a freelance writer.

Disclosure: I am FAR from a lawyer. I write from my experiences. If you require legal advice, contact an attorney.

  1. What you will do

This is referred to as the ‘scope of work’ or ‘statement of work’ that you will have for your client. What work will you do for said client? This answers the “what” in your client agreement. Sometimes this is a word count, “300-500 words will be delivered biweekly”, for example. Read this closely and agree upon what it is you will be doing.

2. Who will own the content

Who will own the final piece of work? You, or your client? Usually, the client gives you an assignment for them to own. This doesn’t always mean your name won’t go on it, or that you can’t share it; it just means that the client has control over its use.

3. Edits and revisions

You can add in “revisions will be done, after edited by the client or editor, for a one time cost of x or free.” Edits or revision agreements should be in your contract so that you are not back and forth with constant edits if you agreed to one round.

4. What it’s worth

This is an obvious; you need to know how much you will be paid. Payment is to be agreed upon, then you and the client have the contract written, you will sign it agreeing, as will the client. Usually, payment is discussed before a contact is made up.

Simply put, clients are more likely to pay when their signature is on something, than they do if it’s not. I can’t guarantee you will be paid on time (or ever with some flaky clients), but this certainly helps!

5. Deadlines

Be sure you and your client are clear on the deadlines from the beginning.

Also, maybe include a trial period within the contact to be able to cut it short if one or both parties are not happy. This is something I have done with my clients who have never hired a writer, to validate their fears, and impress them.

I have been in a few bad situations without a contract, and so have many of my writer friends. Therefore, don’t go without one. To show you I mean what I say, I want you to know that Carol and I have a contract, and I consider her a good friend. Contracts don’t make bad blood, so don’t go without one!

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Janine Kelbach

Nurse and Writer at WriteRN
Janine Kelbach, RNC-OB, started her nursing career in a community hospital learning the basics of labor and delivery, admitting patients, the normal newborn, and scrubbing into the operating room. She quickly became a breastfeeding resource nurse and certified CPR instructor. In 2007, she took a position in a higher acuity facility in the Cleveland, Ohio area. There she worked postpartum and labor and delivery. She became the assistant manager and educated new nurses, developed educational content, and managed other labor and delivery specifications. She has worked homecare jobs with high risk pregnant women in the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio, obtained her CCW and decided her life was not worth losing over her work. She has 2 young boys, a husband, 2 cats, and a great Dane. Writing has always been a passion of hers, but launched her career while caring for her grandmother in 2012...and never looked back to the streets of Cleveland. She still works in the hospital part time as the charge nurse in labor and delivery.

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1 Comment

  1. […] face it: if you don’t have a contract in place, you don’t really have any leg to stand on when a client ditches you. You can yell at […]

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