Writing Contract

Key Terms to Include in a Freelance Writing Contract

Freelance Writing Contract Must-Haves! Protect yourself and your work with these key terms. Avoid legal headaches and build strong working relationships.

Disclaimer: Please note that the following is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice, consult an attorney.

Whether you’re hiring a freelancer or you’re one yourself, knowing which key terms to include in a freelance writing contract is essential to a successful working relationship. Not only does it help both parties avoid misunderstandings about the work in question, but it also offers protection in court if someone breaches the agreement.

In fact, in some cases, it’s against the law not to have a written freelance contract in place. In 2017, for example, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act (or Local Law 140 of 216) came into effect in New York. Among other things, this law gives freelancers the right to a written contract, and failure to do so can result in penalties.

So, if you’re looking to make your working relationship as smooth and uncontroversial as possible, then drafting a top-notch written agreement should be on the top of your to-do list. And in this article, we’re going to help you do just that.

Here are some of the key terms you should include in a freelance writing contract.

1. Contact Information

In case there is ever an issue with the project or the contract itself, having everyone’s correct contact details on hand makes it easy to get in touch with the other party. But perhaps more importantly, it’s also a great way to start your relationship off on the right foot. It shows that each party is willing to be held accountable for their actions throughout the project.

So, make sure your freelance writing contract includes a spot for everyone’s full legal names (or company names, if you’re dealing with incorporated businesses), email addresses, physical addresses, and phone numbers. In some cases, it may also be appropriate for contracts to include the freelancer’s EIN (employer identification number) or business number.

2. Scope of Work

This is where you set clear expectations for the work in question. And you really do want to make things clear, here, as this is often the section that causes the most misunderstandings. The more detailed and specific you can be, the better.

As an example, let’s say you’re hiring a freelance writer to provide blog posts for one of your clients. Your scope of work description should include (but isn’t limited to) information like:

  • The number and length of blog posts they need them to write
  • Whether this includes keyword research
  • If applicable, the process for revisions and approvals for the project (if this is especially long, consider including it in its own section)
  • Who will be providing the images, if any
  • The expectations regarding the use of AI writing tools, and if the content needs to be run through an AI content detector to ensure its originality
  • Contract start date, end date, and deadlines

On the other side of things, a freelancer in this situation may also benefit from including a section on what they will not provide in terms of services and deliverables. This helps prevent scope creep, where the client starts asking for more during the project while expecting to pay the same fee.

3. Fees and Payment Terms

Of course, a company needs to pay a freelancer for their services. It’s not as straightforward as just writing down their rate, though - there are a few other important factors to include in the payment terms section.

This includes:

  • Whether its an hourly or per project rate, and the amount
  • If hourly, the minimum or maximum number of billable hours
  • The payment schedule, like if it’s on delivery, at certain milestones, or after a specific period of time (include exact dates where possible)
  • Whether a deposit is required
  • The person or company responsible for covering project expenses, including equipment, training, and supplies
  • Acceptable payment methods

Note that freelancers in particular may want to make sure that this section acknowledges another payment-related issue: late fees. According to a survey, nearly 75% of freelancers aren’t getting paid when they should be, so freelancers and responsible employers should pay close attention here.

4. Copyright and Ownership

A freelancer may be completing a specific project for a company, but that doesn’t mean the company automatically owns it. According to copyright law, whoever creates the blog post or other type of original work has the copyright. That is, unless it falls under the category of “works made for hire”. In this case, the company has copyright if the project in question is either:

  1. Created by an employee (not a freelancer) as part of their regular responsibilities, or
  2. There is a written agreement between the creator and the company specifically ordering the work. 

And the latter is why it’s so important to include ownership in a freelance writing contract.

Whoever holds the copyright can typically alter, reproduce, and do whatever they like with the final product. So, if either party decides to give up their rights here, they should be aware of the repercussions.

5. Terms and Termination

Sometimes, the freelancer-client relationship just doesn’t work out. And that’s ok - not everyone works well together. But to protect yourself in this scenario, you should include a section in your contract outlining the grounds for and consequences of an early termination.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a termination with cause (like a company abandoning the project) or termination without cause (such as a freelancer not meeting deadlines) scenario. The freelance writing contract should state the amount of notice each party will give each other, and how the freelancer will be paid for their work up to this point (when the company cancels a project, this is commonly called a “kill fee”).

6. Confidentiality and Nondisclosure Agreement

When a freelancer is working with the hiring company, they may have access to sensitive, confidential information. This can be anything from client lists to marketing strategies, to anything else that a business wouldn’t want others to get their hands on. It’s therefore important to include a nondisclosure clause in your freelance contract.

In some cases, it may benefit the company to also create a separate, more detailed non-disclosure agreement (NDA), and have the freelancer sign off on both.

7. Independent Contractor Terms

This section specifies that, as an independent contractor, the freelancer will not be held to the same expectations as an in-house employee. This typically means that the client isn’t responsible for providing the freelancer with equipment for the project, they won’t manage their schedule, the company and freelancer do not represent each other, and the freelancer is responsible for their own taxes.

8. Dispute Resolution Clause

If a conflict arises between the hiring company and the freelancer, it can be helpful to include a dispute resolution clause in the contract. This outlines the steps that will be taken to resolve any type of conflict in the working relationship.

For example, this section could specify that both parties will attempt to resolve the problem through mediation before resorting to arbitration or litigation.

9. Signatures

Finally, both parties need to provide their signatures to officially make it a legally binding contract. If only one person signs it (or no one signs it at all), it’s not valid, and it will not hold up in court.

Final Thoughts

A legal written agreement is crucial to an effective freelancer-client relationship. By including these key terms in your freelance writing contract (and having everyone sign off on it), you can protect everyone’s best interests, and navigate this partnership with confidence.

Please note that is not an exhaustive list - depending on the company and work involved, it may benefit you to include additional terms in your contract. This can include a non-compete agreement, indemnity clause, a dispute resolution clause, or insurance clause.

While this article can be used as a starting point, it’s always a good idea to consult a legal professional before creating any kind of contract. They can help you make sure you’re using the right language, including the right protections, and, ultimately, setting the stage for a mutually beneficial working arrangement.

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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