Important Contract Areas Freelancers Need to Consider Before Signing Contract with Clients
For whatever reasons, many job-givers and employers out there today want to pay next to nothing for jobs done for them. Many are the means they have devised to achieve this exploitative vice. Chief among them is the terms and conditions of the contract they prepare and ask Freelancers to agree to and sign. Don’t get me wrong, a contract is not bad in itself; that’s not what I am saying. The focus is the written terms and conditions stated in the contract, especially when they are meant to heavily restrict you as a freelancer or consultant and use you as much as possible for their maximum benefit.
Contract terms and conditions are one big ditch ahead that there’s usually no signpost to warn a freelancer about it. Navigating through it is mostly learned when you have plied the route one or two times and you were badly hit. Then, you tend to take your time to carefully read and understand every sentence and legal terms deployed on it. If you find any bit a disadvantage or might hinder your effectiveness, you quickly ask that it be removed or adjusted. Anyways, this article is here to help you ensure you don’t hit the ditch anymore.
Areas of a Contract to Carefully Consider Before Signing
It is possible for you as a beginner in the Freelancing business to avoid getting caught up in the web of unfavorable contract terms and conditions. Below are key areas of a contract that you must be sure the dictates therein are in your favor or you can accept.
- Work Scope and Schedule. Work Scope is the nature and totality of the work to be done. You must be sure that every detail of the job (both yours and client’s) is stated in the contract and you are very sure that all that is expected of you is not beyond your capacity. If not, ensure you openly and clearly let the client know what you will be able to deliver effectively and conveniently considering the budget available. If there’s any bit you perceive should not be included, see to it that it is removed before you go on to sign the contract. Work Schedule, on the other hand, has to do with feasible dates and times for each step of the work depending on the availability of both parties and funds. Be sure that the chosen duration for the work is convenient for you. Make sure to specially negotiate extra hours and weekends, be it for meetings, conferencing, or fieldwork, whether remotely or on-site. And perhaps, always ask to be notified early enough whenever extra hours are necessary. You must know that it is both your time and expertise you are offering any client so, they have to pay for both adequately. Otherwise, you might be better off not signing the contract.
- Remuneration and Payment Methods. How much you want to be paid for your time and energy must be clearly stated. You are to decide the eventual price to be in the contract. Of course, clients can propose an amount they are willing to offer but agree only if you’re sure it suits you well. Check the breakdown carefully and ensure the total does not fall short. Negotiate extra hours separately, and be sure the amount would be enough to cover your costs. On Payment Methods, specifically note when you want to be paid what, your preferred means of payment is, and possibly the implications of any default. This may just be professional, and not really a punitive or strike action. Choose a payment channel that you won’t have to incur exorbitant charges in order for you to access the money. Though, a middle ground is better in which transfer and receipt charges would be minimal, and shared by both parties.
- Client’s Credibility and Capacity. Someone once said that allowing yourself to drink from every cup of water that looks good and clean is the easiest way to drink poison. This holds true when you, as a freelancer, fail to run a background check on clients that approach you in order to know for sure their existence, market viability, and financial capacity to bankroll the job/project before getting into a contract with them. Who or what they say they are in the contract must be verified. One can only fail to do this at his/her peril as a freelancer. As a rule, you are to research a prospective client before getting into a contract with them; it is a duty you owe yourself as a freelancer.
- Ownership and Usage Rights. This is an area freelancers involved in intellectual and creative works must be mindful of. Who owns the work and what usage rights both parties have to the work are important details that must be clearly spelled in the contract. Intellectual property theft is a serious matter nobody wants to be involved in whether as a freelancer or a client. For you as a freelancer, your best bet is to ensure that the stated details in the contract clearly associate you with the final work. This is what entitles you to any future royalty or commission in the case of any endorsement or awards the work might receive and/or reprint/reproduction, translation, revision, expansion, etc. after it was first done. It also allows you to make reference to the work in any future work of yours. How long both parties have rights to the work must be clearly stated, and perhaps the terms for possible renewal or forfeiture. Do not take up any deal that completely alienates you from your intellectual property once it’s done and you are first paid for it. It’s not fair to you in the long run.
As I conclude, firstly, I want you to know that there would be times clients won’t come up with a written contract, and at such times, the safe thing to do is come up with the contract yourself. As such, the key areas highlighted above are to be developed as discussed. A no-contract situation can actually be worse than when the contract traps and exploits a freelancer. The no-contract situation can result in no pay at all because the client can claim never to have worked with you since there won’t be any written and signed document for the freelancer to prove otherwise. Word of mouth is never enough to get a job started. No matter how bad its terms and conditions, and exploitative contract still gives room for some remuneration for work done, just that the amount won’t be commensurate with the standard of the job done. So, as a freelancer, you are better off when you work with a written contract with favorable terms and conditions for you and your client, agreed to and signed by both parties. Secondly, as a rule, you should form a habit of carefully reading to understand the dictates of any contract about two to three times, make note of corrections, and see to it that they effected in the final draft of the contract. It’s a good move if you actually consult a lawyer to help you interpret all the legal jargons that may be in the contract during the reading phase. “I didn’t know that’s what that means” holds no water once you have signed the contract. Also, ask the lawyer to help you uncover all the “fine lines/writings” the contract might contain and amend or remove them if they are not favorable for you.