Editor’s Note: Hi friends! Jorden here. I’m SUPER excited to share that today’s blog post is the FIRST EVER guest post for Writing Revolt, and it’s all about helping you avoid SERIOUS freelance writing contract mistakes. Show Ashley some love by sharing this post on social media. And remember – while these are excellent guidelines, nothing on this blog is legal advice and/or replaces advice from a lawyer. Cool? COOL. Let’s jump right in!
Congrats! You got company X to agree to pay you $450 per article.
They even signed your freelance writing contract.
You’re feeling like a big, bad writer now.
…That is until you realize that they only hired you for one article – ever.
This scenario even happens to both new and seasoned writers who are eager to land a new client.
You get so caught up in trying to woo a new company that somewhere along the way you forgot to cement a retainer along with a price point.
It is important to establish a minimum amount of work each month because that ensures that your rent check won’t bounce at the end of the month.
Unfortunately, this is not the only mistake that freelancers make when entering a contract negotiation.
Here are seven other classic freelance writing contract mistakes that you should steer clear of:
Seven More Freelance Writing Contract Mistakes to Avoid
1. Failing to add payment terms
It doesn’t matter if you get a client to agree to pay you $1,000 an hour if they never pay you.
In your contract, set payment deadlines and late fee to keep clients accountable.
Don’t forget to include when you will take legal action on non-paid invoices. This is more applicable to clients that do not have a freelancer payment system in place.
Unless you are doing a huge load of work each month for one client, it is best to invoice at the end of the month. In my experience, this is usually the natural flow of how companies do business and makes it easier to get paid.
Try a statement like:
“Freelancer will invoice client on the last business day of each month for that month’s delivered work. Payment must be received by the client by the 15th of the next month to avoid a late fee of 5% late fee on the next invoice.”
2. Forgetting an attorney fee cushion
No one likes taking legal action on a client, and many freelancers won’t because the legal fees are too excessive for the payment they wish to collect.
Stating in your contract that your client will be responsible for all legal fees if you have to sue them for nonpayment will keep you safe.
Clients are more likely to pay you to avoid costly fees, and you will feel bolder taking down non-paying clients instead of letting them slip because of the trouble.
3. Not establishing clear freelancer/contractor terms
You’re a freelancer, so don’t let a company treat you like a full-time employee without benefits.
It is important to know your rights as a freelancer, as well as what is not legal.
For example, a company can set deadlines for work, but they cannot demand freelancers or contractors to work from two set times or to be “on-call.”
Here are the guidelines from the Texas Workforce Commission to give you a better idea what a freelance or contract employee’s rights are.
Check with your state’s laws to fully understand how you are protected, and where you can point your client to if they complain.
4. Signing a non-compete
Some companies will want you to sign a non-compete. Agreeing to a non-compete can kill your freelance career if you aren’t careful.
As a finance writer, I have been asked to sign non-competes against all other financial companies. I have even applied for some positions that wanted freelancers to sign a non-compete with all other writing jobs.
Every time, I tell them that I will not sign a non-compete, especially if a client isn’t paying me 100% of my desired monthly income goal.
In some cases, it might be acceptable to sign a non-compete with a few defined companies. This way you can steer clear of two or three main competitors and still have the freedom to grow your career.
If you do sign a non-compete, make sure you know how long it is in effect after you cut ties with the company.
5. Not defining work guidelines
Don’t be a victim of scope creep.
When I first started freelance writing a decade ago, a writer was expected to write the article. That’s it.
Now, some clients expect writers to find images, do keyword research, revise five times, make a pinable graphic, conduct interviews, create social media prompts, share to social media, and more.
None of these extras are wrong if you agree to do them and are getting paid for them.
The problem is when you quote yourself for doing a set amount of work, and the client slowly adds more to your plate without paying more.
To prevent this from happening to you, put the exact tasks you will handle into your freelance writing contract.
If a client asks you to do more than your agreed upon job duties, then you can refer back to the contract and say no or quote them at an additional price.
6. Not setting up a kill fee
You pitch the perfect idea, and your client loves it.
Then, you painstakingly craft your best words into an article you are sure your client will weep over, only to find out that they changed their mind or content direction.
This sucks, but it is even worse if you don’t get paid for your piece.
Set up a 50% kill fee in your contract, making it clear that the article is still your property.
This kill fee helps you get a small kickback for your hard work and gives you the option to sell it or use it somewhere else.
7. Failing to get a down payment
For work done with new clients or companies that do not have in-place freelancer/contractor practices, consider asking for a partial down payment before starting.
Not all companies will operate in this fashion, since they regularly work with freelancers and never miss a payment.
However, if you are hired by a company that wants you to rewrite their entire website copy or deliver a year’s worth of email copy in a month, a down payment is smart.
Depending on the size of the workload, agreeing on a 25-50% down payment to start shows that the client is serious about the job.
If a client seems hesitant to fork over cash before you start working, be sure to include wording in your contract that protects them.
Your contract should state that they get their money back if you fail to deliver by the agreed upon deadline.
Final Note: A Freelance Writing Contract Benefits Everyone.
Look, I’m not a lawyer, but I play one on TV.
Seriously though, take all of this contract talk with a grain of your own research and create a contract with a real lawyer.
Yes, it will cost a chunk of change to get a template set up legally, but it is worth it.
Feel annoying sticking a contract in every new client’s face?
Your freelance writing contract is a simple way to protect both you and your client, clearly define expectations, and keep you both accountable.
Writer Bio: Ashley Eneriz has been a finance writer for over a decade and worked with Reader’s Digest, Fidelity, Discover, and more. Check out her productivity planner for freelance writers to organize your pitches, set income goals, and more.