Writing Contract

Common Contract Disputes with Writers and How to Resolve Them

Find out effective strategies to resolve common contract disputes with writers. Ensure smooth collaborations and avoid misunderstandings with these expert tips.

Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice, then it’s best to consult a lawyer for their professional opinion on your unique situation.

There is no document more important to the client-writer relationship than the freelance writing contract. After all, it’s meant to protect the interests of both parties throughout the content creation process. But while having a formal agreement in place can set the stage for a successful partnership, it’s still common to encounter contract disputes with writers. And this is where things can get tricky.

On the one hand, you want to be flexible in meeting their demands to save your relationship with the writer and their work on your project. On the other hand, though, you don’t want to be taken advantage of, and you definitely don’t want to encounter any formal legal issues. So, what do you do?

In this article, we’re going to explore some of the most common contract disputes with writers, and give you some tips on resolving them.

What Is a Contract Dispute?

Before we get into some examples, let’s clarify what we’re talking about here. Simply put, a contract dispute occurs when the affected parties disagree about any aspect of a contract. It could be about anything from the terms to the conditions to the responsibilities outlined in the agreement.

It’s important to note that a contract dispute doesn’t always involve a breach of contract. It often has to do with its interpretation, and that’s where some of the most common contract disputes with writers can arise.

Common Contract Disputes with Writers

The first step towards resolving these disputes is understanding why they’re happening in the first place. Here are some of the most common reasons for writer contract disputes:

Payment and Pricing Issues

While you may think that you have a fair and reasonable rate and payment structure in place, your writer may disagree. If it’s not in the contract, they may request something like a deposit, an hourly rate instead of a per project one, or a higher rate altogether.

And when you consider that about 30% of freelancers are often paid late, they may want to see something about late fees in your agreement too.

Scope Creep

Scope creep occurs when the requirements of a project appear to increase after the writer begins work on it. If they think you’re suddenly asking for more than what was originally laid out in the contract (and especially if you’re not paying more), then you may have a dispute on your hands.

Non-compete Agreements

Some hiring managers like to include a clause indicating that the writer may not work for their competition while completing their particular project. But when it comes to freelance work, this means writers may lose out on other opportunities. 

So, if they believe that this means they’re going to have to turn down assignments and give up paychecks, then you may receive some pushback from the writer.

Use of AI Writing Tools

With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) tools, people in all kinds of industries are looking for ways to leverage them in their work, including writers. With Google now penalizing AI content, though, it has become important for agencies to specify their AI policy in writing contracts.

But since the use of AI writing tools can help writers improve their productivity, they may still want to use them in their work. So, if they submit an AI-assisted article that you won’t accept, there may be an issue. 

How to Resolve Common Contract Disputes with Writers

As you can see, there are a variety of reasons why you may get into a contract dispute with a writer. Fortunately, the ways to prevent, navigate, and resolve these issues are largely the same.

Work With the Writer to Negotiate Payment Terms

It’s not common for writers to get the short end of the stick, so to speak, when it comes to negotiating and receiving payment for their work. Some companies are looking to get as much as they can out of a freelance writer for as little money as possible, so it’s understandable why they’d want to protect themselves in this area.

So, consider working with the writer to see what they think is fair in terms of payment. You may even want to begin by letting them suggest a rate and structure, and negotiate from there. 

But before you do that, you’ll need to nail down exactly what it is you’re looking for from this project. It’s hard to come up with a reasonable rate when the scope of work is unclear.

Make Your Contract As Clear As Possible - And Stick to It

This is one of the most important things you can do to avoid contract issues with writers. By starting your working relationship off with a clear and straightforward contract, you leave little room for any contract-related misunderstandings down the road.

Take the “scope of work” section of your agreement, for example. Here, you'll want to use clear, unambiguous language to give a detailed description of your expectations for the project’s implementation and deliverables.

This is also essential for your clause regarding AI. If you don’t want them using AI writing tools, then let them know that their content will be run through an AI detector to ensure originality, and won’t be accepted if it achieves a certain score.

And to prevent accusations of scope creep, make sure you stick to whatever you outlined in the contract. Asking a freelancer to do more work for the same fee is really opening yourself up to contract disputes, as they don’t work for free. If the project ends up requiring more work than necessary, then the fairest thing to do is renegotiate with the writer.

Communicate Professionally, Respectfully, and Regularly

Instead of getting defensive when a writer comes at you with a contract dispute, invite them to have an open, honest, and respectful discussion about their concerns. The issue may result from a simple misunderstanding, and this would be the perfect opportunity to go over the contract together and clarify things.

In fact, you may want to schedule a check-in meeting with your writers regularly. This gives you the chance to clear up minor issues before they become major disputes, and helps keep the line of communication open between both parties.

Include a Dispute Resolution Clause in the Contract

To avoid any further issues down the road, it can be helpful to include a dispute resolution clause in your freelance writing contract. This outlines the steps that both parties will take to effectively handle any kinds of disputes during the working relationship.

For example, the steps in a dispute resolution clause may look something like this:

  1. Cooperation: Where both parties will sit down and try to work through the problem together, without outside influence
  2. Mediation: If cooperation doesn’t work, then both parties will sit down with a mediator to help resolve the dispute
  3. Arbitration: If mediation doesn’t do the trick, then they will try to settle through arbitration. This is a more formal approach where an arbitrator will come in and make a legally binding decision.
  4. Litigation: Your last resort should be litigation. Going to court can be an expensive and time-consuming process, but it may be necessary in some cases.

The Best Way to Resolve Contract Disputes Is to Avoid Them in the First Place

In conclusion, drafting a clear, concise, and fair contract in the first place is the best way to avoid the most common contract disputes with writers. By working with the writer, communicating openly and regularly, and not allowing any room for misunderstandings, you can prevent a dispute from affecting your working relationship and the timeline of your project.

And if all else fails, you’ll at least have a clear path to resolving the issue by including a dispute resolution clause in your contract. There’s a good chance that you’ll both want to avoid litigation, though, so let’s hope it doesn’t get that far!

Jess Sawyer

Jess Sawyer is a seasoned writer and content marketing expert with a passion for crafting engaging and SEO-optimized content. With several years of experience in the digital marketing, Jess has honed her skills in creating content that not only captivates audiences but also ranks high on search engine results.

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