It’s imperative that you have your freelance contract in place before taking on any new projects.
Demonstrate to your clients that you are professional and organised, as well as proactive in implementing security measures for both parties. It usually highlights your level of experience when you ask your clients to sign a freelance contract – you have been there and done it before and understand the risks associated with freelance arrangements.
My guess is that you have either:
- Previously experienced problems with clients,
- Or you want to avoid foreseeable problems in the future.
There are some good services you can use to establish a freelance contract with your client. The platform I use is Docracy.
Docracy is a free website where contracts are socially curated by the communities that use them. In other words, users create and share the contracts they use, so that you don’t have to script your own contract or pay lawyers to do it for you.
The contracts are easy to personalise. The platform overall is very simple and easy to use which means you can find, customise and send your contracts to clients very quickly. Time is precious for freelancers so this really is a big bonus.
So to speed up this process for you even more, here is my general marketing freelance contract template that you can save, edit and send to your own clients:
If you prefer to write your own from scratch, then this article might provide some useful advice:
I always send my scope of work and invoice documents at the same time of sending my freelance contract agreement for signature. I think that keeping everything in one place makes it easier to manage and organise your files. If you need help creating these additional documents, then check out these links for some templates:
So, now you should be all set up and ready to start working. Your client will have hopefully signed your freelance contract, paid any deposits or milestones prior to project launch and have agreed on your scope of work. Everything has become as official as you will need it to be.
I’m on the verge of having a conflict, help!
There are steps you can take to avoid having a conflict with your client. Try incorporating some of these helpful practices:
- Be realistic about your clients expectations and their limitations.
- Decide how important the matter is and if it is really worth disputing.
- Be honest and communicate openly. Freelancers should make it clear to themselves and others what they want, need, or expect.
So the obvious follow-up question would be…
“What can I do if my client refuses to make payment?”
It’s the freelancer’s worst nightmare. You put all your time and hard work into creating something really special for your client and then they either disappear, or question the contractual obligations.
So this can be broken down into two sub-follow-up questions then…
What happens if I have no formal agreement and my client declines to pay me?
I know a few people that this has happened to. To illustrate the importance of a freelance contract, one person I know had nothing in writing with a client and made no formal agreements prior to delivering upon their brief. In this case, the freelancer didn’t have much leverage when the client refused to pay. They tried sending lots of email and phone calls, but the client just ignored them. Sometimes when you work like this, you have to take it on the chin and learn from your naivety.
If something similar has happened to you, then the best course of action to take is to first try and resolve the issue informally. Following one or more of these methods might diffuse the situation:
- Take a step back and try to be objective about the situation.
- Try to put yourself in your clients position – perhaps there is a compromise?
- Explain your position to someone you trust so that they can take a look at the situation and give their honest feedback about whether you are being reasonable.
- Get someone to negotiate with your client on your behalf. This can be effective if you are too close to the problem or are becoming emotional about it.
- Get an informal mediator – someone whose judgment and fairness from all parties is trusted.
If this doesn’t work and you’re adamant to take it a step further, then there’s a bit of effort involved on your part…
Formal conflict resolution solutions
If all else fails and your client just isn’t playing ball, then there’s nothing else you can do but follow legal guidelines to resolve your conflict. Dispute resolution processes fall into two major categories:
Adjudicative processes: arbitration or litigation (a judge, jury or arbitrator determines the outcome).
Consensual processes: collaborative law, conciliation, mediation, or negotiation (the parties attempt to reach agreement).
If the amount of money you are owed is really worthwhile in trying to recuperate, then you can hire a conflict resolution professional or consultant. I posted a question on Quora on your behalf to ask where you should go to find the right conflict resolution consultant. Any answers provided should be awaiting for you here.
What can I do if my client signs my freelance contract but then disappears?
When everything is set up properly and formally agreed upon, it is difficult for the client to get away with refusing to meet the freelance contractual terms. Docracy agreements are valid and legally enforceable as they are ESIGN Act compliant (Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act [Public Law 106-229]). Email addresses are used to identify all the parties involved and all the content is encrypted. Choosing to type or even draw your signature means it becomes legally binding. The freelance contract is executed the very moment signatures from yourself and your client are appended with a time stamp that is automatically added to the online document and PDF copies. Signed documents are also securely stored, which can be accessed anytime by signing into your Docracy account.
“But won’t Docracy put Lawyers out of jobs” I hear you say? Well, as Docracy itself puts it…
“We believe that it shouldn’t cost hundreds, or even thousands of dollars for people to make an enforceable agreement. We want to create a library of industry standard documents which will help you save on legal fees and transaction costs.”
In fact, there’s even a dedicated section for lawyers who commonly use this service, which you can check out here.
So what happens if your Docracy freelance contract is unlawfully broken? Try all the possible solutions outlined above. If that doesn’t work, you have a solid grounding to see your client in court…
Breach of contract is the legal term that describes the violation of a contract in which one party fails to fulfill its promises and this can mean in whole or in part. If your freelance contract is breached, then you will have to take the client to court to prove it. This is annoying to everyone and sometimes if you state your intent, the client will just pay up to avoid the inconvenience. If he accepts your dispute and is willing to defend his case in court, then as a plaintiff you shall indeed see him in court to seek a legal remedy.
If you go to court and are successful, then the court will assign an appropriate court order. This can be anything from receiving your money owed, compensatory damages, liquidated damages, nominal damages or exemplary damages (which by this point you will probably be hoping for to punish your client if he is indeed found by court to be at fault!).
Freelance contract advice from my own experience
Here’s a few final pointers from my own experiences of being a freelancer that may help you establish a solid contractual routine to implement with your future clients:
- Get everything established in writing and signed before starting anything.
- Make sure what you are asking your clients to sign is valid, complete and representative of the work you will undertake (important if anything ever goes to court).
- Meticulously stick to your freelance contract agreement,
- …but go the extra mile when required,
- …and retain a certain level of flexibility. Changes to the scope of work that increases workload can always be undertaken as part of a separate contract agreement.
- Keep a secure recording of all electronic communication (you never know when you might need to produce this if problems arise).
Have you ever had to resolve a conflict with a difficult client? How did you manage it? I’m sure the readers will love to hear your experiences in the comments section below…