When I first started freelancing several years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew I wanted to make money online, but I had no clue how to do it safely. Don’t be like me! Use this freelancing contract template that’s 100% free to protect yourself in this gig economy.
Dealing will bad clients comes with the territory of being a freelancer. Don’t get me wrong, I love working online. I love making money on my own terms and being my own boss. But I don’t love tracking down payments, dealing with communication issues, and all of the other unexpected side effects of working online.
As a freelancer, you’re essentially a business owner. No matter what freelance job you choose, you’re in charge of who you work with, how much you get paid, and how your business runs. That means you’re also in charge of making sure things run smoothly.
This guide will share not only why you need a freelancing contract, but I’ll also be giving you MY freelancer contract template FOR FREE. It’s not even behind an email list, so you’re welcome.
While you’re here, check out this podcast for Offbeat Grad featuring my best freelancer tips! Learn more about freelancing and making money online by listening to more of my podcast.
Why Do You Need a Freelancer Contract?
What’s the point of having a freelancer contract? If you’re a business owner, can’t you just tell your clients what you expect and go from there?
Let me take you through a scenario. You find your dream client on Upwork or another freelancing platform. Maybe they even discover you on your own website. Either way, they want to work with you. Hurray! This is the dream life, right?
Let’s say you agree on payment terms and the scope of the project via email. You think you’re really clear, and the client is totally legit, so you’re not worried about them ghosting you or anything. It’s all good…or so you think.
You do your first project, everything is great, and you send your invoice. They don’t pay right away, but you’re not worried. They’ll get to it soon, right? You wait a few days, then you send a reminder. No response. No big deal. They’re probably just busy. You send another the next week, then another.
This cycle continues until you decide all hope is lost. You question your life choices and dabble in self-pity. Eventually, they pay you two months later, claiming something-or-other got in the way. Now they’re ready to assign you more work.
Do you see how this can be a frustrating cycle? Even worse, this is the Best Case Scenario. What’s the more common scenario? They don’t pay you at all. And getting paid as a freelancer is sorta the best part of the gig.
You need a freelancer contract to protect yourself. It’s a way to make sure your client understands the scope of your project, your terms, and so on. It’s a good way to make sure you both have your expectations out there in the fine print.
If you had a contract and your client had taken 2 months to pay you, it would have been possible to have some kind of late-payment fee. See how this would have been a help?
What Should You Include in Your Freelancing Contract Template?
What exactly needs to be in your freelance contract? Do you need a lawyer? Etc, etc, etc. I get it. Freelancer contracts sound complicated. Nobody likes legal speak.
Here’s a fun secret: you don’t need to be a lawyer to write your own freelancing contract template. In fact, it helps if you’re not. Your client probably isn’t a lawyer easier. You need something both of you understand.
What should be included in a freelancing contract?
- The scope of the project – You want this to be clear! Nobody likes scope creep, or when the project starts to grow bigger and bigger (without pay).
- Revisions – Are you willing to do revisions? If so, how many?
- Payment terms – How much do you charge? Will it be hourly or per milestone? A flat fee? How will the client pay? Is there a deposit?
- Deadlines – When will the client need to pay? When will the project be finished?
- Late-fees and add-ons – If there’s a fee for late-payment how much is it? It might be something simple like adding an extra 0.05% per day. Similarly, if the client needs extra revisions or other extras, how much will this cost?
- Intellectual Property Rights – Who retains the rights to the product/deliverables? Can you link to these things in your portfolio?
- Termination – What happens if the client cancels the agreement? You might charge a fee, keep the deposit, etc.
You can include all of these things or only the ones that apply to you. Every contract is different, and you’ll definitely learn as you go.
Best Practices for Your Freelancing Contract
As I said before, don’t fall for the myth that your freelancing contract has to be complicated and lengthy. It can be short, sweet, and to the point. Leave the legal jargon to the attorneys.
Here are some best practices to help you make the most of your freelancing contract:
- Use simple language – This isn’t the time or place to be ambiguous. You want to be as clear as possible, without any jargon.
- Be organized – Organize your contract with a concise format with headings, bullets, subheadings, and brief language. You want your client to be able to focus on the key points quickly.
- Customize – While I’ll be sharing a free freelancing contract template, make sure you fully customize it with your information and the client’s information. You might need to make changes depending on the project.
- Clearly define the project – Always be super clear about the scope of the project and your expectations. Make sure the client verifies these details.
- Spell out your role – Be clear about your role in this agreement. For instance, if you have a late-fee for missed payments, will you send a reminder email? These things matter.
These tips help protect yourself and your client. The clearer you can be, the better your relationship will be with your client. Happy clients are long-term clients!
Free Freelancing Contract Template
Here’s the freelance contract template that you’re free to use and customize to your needs! Click here to view the full text on Google Docs.
Freelancer Contract: Terms of Agreement
This services agreement (this “Agreement”) is made effective as of DATE, by and between CLIENT NAME (the “Client”) of COMPANY and YOUR NAME (the “Freelancer”).
1. DESCRIPTION OF SERVICES. Freelancer will provide the following services:
- Project task 1
- Project task 2
- Project task 3
All work will be original work by the Freelancer. The freelancer will ensure the work does not infringe upon any copyright, right of privacy, proprietary right, the right of publicity or any other right of a third party.
2. EDITS AND REVISIONS. Writer agrees that Client has the right to edit the work as it deems appropriate. The Freelancer will assist with up to 3 revisions of the final draft, at which point the Freelancer will charge an additional fee of $20/edit.
3. PAYMENT FOR SERVICES. The Client will pay the Freelancer for the Work. Payments will be made as follows:
- Deposit information ie: 0.25% charged upfront as a deposit.
- Payment amount/terms ie: Flat rate of X per milestone.
Payment will be invoiced via Paypal after the approval of each milestone. Unless otherwise specified in writing, invoices not paid within 30 days of the invoice date will accrue interest at 10% per week.
4. CLIENT APPROVAL. The Client is responsible for approval of work. Any verbal or written changes made by Client to the scope of the work following its initiation by Freelancer are subject to additional charges. Should such changes negate any part of the work already completed at the time of the changes, Client accepts responsibility for payment of the completed work and all services related to it, in addition to charges for the change itself.
5. COPYRIGHT. The Client agrees to pay Freelancer for the above-described services. The Client then has full property rights of the work. The Client owns the copyrights.
6. RIGHT TO REPRODUCE. The Freelancer is granted the right to use clips from the Work on his/her own portfolio website.
By signing below, both parties agree to the terms of the agreement outlined above.
Freelancer Contract Frequently Asked Questions
There ya have it! That’s the very same template I use with my clients, and it’s that simple. I was originally so intimidated by the contract process, so I hope this free template makes it much easier.
Because I get a lot of questions about freelancer contracts, let’s tackle some freelancer contract frequently asked questions.
How do I send a freelancer contract?
This confused me at first, but I’ve got a super simple process that’s so easy for both you and your client. I recommend using a free tool like HelloSign. You just upload your document, let it know where you need signatures, and you email it to your client right through the platform.
Then, your clients just have to click on the email, digitally sign, and you’ll get the signed contract sent back to you. So simple! HelloSign is free for individuals for up to 3 documents a month.
Of course, you can also just email your document to your clients and have them send it back to you. I just find this tool so simple. Check out my full guide to the best resources for freelancers for more tips.
What if the client won’t sign?
What happens if your client doesn’t sign your contract? Good news, friend! You just dodged a huge bullet. I know it sounds crazy, but when clients don’t sign the contract, that’s a big ol’ red flag.
If they won’t sign it they either don’t plan to pay or they don’t take you seriously. Either way, you don’t need that in your life. Any legitimate business owner will understand why a contract is good for both parties.
Can I take a freelancer contract to court?
While it’s unlikely you’ll ever need to take a contract to court, it will definitely be a resource if you end up doin just that. Small claims court has a lot of limits, and it can be expensive in most place. That being said, having a formal, written contract helps legally cover your back much more than emails or “spoken” agreements ever will.
What do I do if a client doesn’t follow my contract?
If a client won’t follow through on the contract they signed, you’ll have to follow through. It can be really hard to confront the client about late payments, scope creep, or anything else, but think of it another way.
Your client wouldn’t go to the grocery store, fill up their cart, and then just leave without paying. That would be stealing. They took something that didn’t belong to them. This is no different than what they did to you by not paying.
You’ll need to attempt to reclaim any lost payments, whether that means settling on different payment terms, charging a late fee, or simply accepting less payment. If you ultimately can’t get any payment, you’ll need to decide if it’s worth taking them to court or not. In most cases it probably isn’t.
Sometimes we have to learn hard lessons as freelancers. It sucks, but it comes with the territory. These hard decisions will just get easier the more experience you have.
Use a Freelancing Contract Template for Yourself
Now that you have this free freelancing contract template, there’s no excuse not to use it. Whether you’re landing your first client or your hundredth, make sure you’re protected.
A contract isn’t some magical formula for stress-free clients. There’s no special trick to find the best clients every time, but having a contract will definitely help!
You’re a business owner, so it’s time to start acting like one. If you’re ready to ramp your business up to the next level, try these other resources:
- Set up a freelancer blog in just 5 minutes
- How to start making money online as a freelance writer
- How to charge more as a freelancer