I've been a freelance writer and editor since 1993. And to be quite honest, nowadays I rarely ask my clients to sign any kind of contract. Following is some insight into when you need one, and when you probably don't.
3 Reasons NOT to Use a Freelance Writing Contract
1) Services Ordered: Most of your clients will order what I call standard web content (unless you specialize in something different like case studies or white papers). In my case an SEO writer, this includes mostly web articles and blog posts.
There's tends to be very little that's complicated about this, and all the details are usually handled via email, which we'll discuss next. Hence, there's no need to use a contract.
2) Record of Transaction: If you ever did have to get to the point where you have to prove something in court (fingers crossed not!), all you need for the most part is a record of what was promised.
As most of your back and forth with clients will be via email, you have that record. FYI, get in the habit of keeping all correspondence related to a project. I keep mine for years; rarely throwing it away. One reason is, if a client ever uses you again, you have a record of what they ordered, how much you charge them, what the project parameters were, etc.
This can alleviate a lot of back and forth (which clients appreciate), because you can say something like, "Same parameters as the last project, ie blah, blah, blah."
3) Tedious: Even if your freelance writing contract is simple, it can get tedious having a client sign one for every single project. Again, especially if the project is pretty straightforward and the client uses you over and over again.
Also, it can plant a seed in a client's mind that you distrust them. As most purchases are made on emotion, not price or any other factor, you never want to leave a client with even the hint of a bad taste I their mouth.
If they've proven themselves to you, let them know that you appreciate them being such a good customer and "Sure we can go ahead and handle that for you. Don't worry about the contract; same parameters as last time apply, ok?"
They'll get the message, ie, "She trusts us. Great! We'll be using her again!"
3 Situations in Which You May Want to Use a Freelance Writing Contract
Here are some situations where you definitely want to whip out the legal paperwork:
(i) If the project is very detail oriented and it requires some explaining to get you and the client on the same page;
(ii) It's a new client and you just get a funny feeling in the pit of your stomach that they're going to be problems; and
(iii) If it's a large order from a new client (please, please, please get a percentage up front before proceeding).
If you're new to freelancing, I'd advise using a contract until you got comfortable in your new business role. The right freelance writing contract will ensure that you dot all your "I's" and cross all your "T's," so you can focus your full energies on the project at hand.
About the Author: Yuwanda Black is the founder of New Media Words, an SEO writing company. She's also the publisher of the popular freelance writing blog, Inkwell Editorial. Ms. Black has written over 50 ebooks, mostly on/about freelance writing. They can be found on major outlets like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, in addition to her own website(s). Want to learn how to earn $50,000 to $75,000 per year as an online freelance writer? Get the SEO copywriting course that does just that.
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