You’ve heard it before. Use a contract, use a contract, use a contract. But what should be in a contract?
A disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.
There are lots of sources for contracts out there, which I’ll write about another day.
When I first started my business (AKA freelancing) I didn’t use a contract. I was worried that it would scare potential clients off, or that I would get something wrong. But as I became more experienced, I realized that it is just good business.
My current contract is short: one page. I call it an “Agreement” and it covers the basics. Although it has not been reviewed by a lawyer, I have researched the language and it’s simple enough to be easy to understand. Having a lawyer review it is on my to do list (and I’ll share parts of it on the blog once I do).
I only have clients sign the Agreement once, and then it is in force for as long as we work together. For projects which will be billed by the hour, the Agreement is enough. For projects that are being billed by project price quote, I add a Price Quote document that lays out the scope, timing, and price of the project.
What should be in your contract or agreement? Some of the things my agreement covers:
Hourly rate (and that it is subject to change with notice)
Billing policies (I bill in 15 minute increments with a 30 minute project minimum; I list things that may be billed including emails, phone calls, and meetings; rush fees)
Copyright (I generally transfer copyright after payment in full for the final work, but I retain the copyright to work which was presented but not accepted by the client) and that I retain rights to use the work for my own promotions and portfolio
A disclaimer that the client owns or has rights to use any materials they supply to me, and the client is responsible for any legal issues that arise from the use of those materials (so that if a client gives me a photo to use and it later turns out that they didn’t have the right to do so, I am protected)
There is more, but those are the most important parts to me.
Do you use a contract? Why or why not? What do you think are the most important items to have in a contract?