Client Tactics: Freelance Contract Basics Part 2

As said in part one of this article, contracts are one of the most vital and misunderstood tools of the freelancers arsenal. Here in the fifth installment of the Client Tactics Series, we will look at schedules in contracts between a freelancer and his clients.

What is a Schedule?

A schedule is just a fancy legal way of saying “this is my work process and this is how you (dear client) will pay me.”. Schedules like contracts benefit the client and the freelancer in the fact that it lays everything out on the table. No hidden surprises, everything is accounted for.

Where To Put It?

Depending on the length of language on your contract. Your schedules could fall on the same sheet or a secondary sheet. I opt for the secondary sheet, (It’s not OCD, it’s just a compulsion; okay?) That way it isn’t muddled into the middle of the contract. Lets face it, once the client signs your contract and they get their copy, they will only look at it should problems arise. By putting the schedules on its own page, the client will be more apt to look at that page more frequently.

What does a Schedule Look Like?

How many schedules one has depends on how one break apart one’s design flow and invoicing style. For smaller projects I have two, bigger projects three. Here’s what a sample schedule would look like:

SCHEDULE 1 for My Eager Client provided by MyDesignStudio
Item 1 The Freelancer’s Fees: My Hourly Fee ($xx.xx)
Estimate of Time Needed: xx hours.
Special Software: Expression Engine ($xxx.xx)
Item 2 The Premises: MyDesignStudio, INC.
123 Maple St.
Anywhere, TN 37067
Item 3 The Services: Custom Expression Engine Template Development
Valid xHtml and CSS
PHP
Search Engine Optimization
Item 4 The Products: One fully licensed install of Expression Engine. Twenty-two (22) Fully licensed stock photos, and a completed website.
Item 5 Commencement Date: 05/01/2010
Item 6 Termination Date: 07/01/2010

The above would only need to be duplicated for situations for multiple invoice stages, which are a definitely beneficial idea. State what you are doing and what was being utilized in each section, saving the products until the last schedule unless they are needed during that particular phrase or schedule.

Additional Questions To Think About.

Here are some additional questions to comprehend when building a contract.

  • What are the grounds for terminating this Agreement?
    • Late payments, Missing Deadlines, Etc.
  • What notice must be given before termination is permitted?
    • In most contracts this is either thirty or sixty days.
  • What penalties are there for termination, if any?
    • I advocate a “walk away clean” strategy. Finish designing what ever they have paid you for and then part ways, if that means you give them a logo and a splash screen instead of a whole website, so be it.
  • What happens when there is a delay on the part of the freelancer?
  • Is the freelancer going to sub-contract out some of the work under the Agreement?
    • Being upfront with this information will be beneficial to the client as well as spread the love with design community. Plus you don’t want to be asked a Django question and no nothing about it. I usually include a line like: “Custom Design: xHtml, CSS, and jQuery by Jeff Boshers Additional Development: PHP by X, Photography: 22 Photos by X”
  • Who will be liable for any sub-contractors who provide the Products or Services?
    • This should always fall to the freelancer unless the client hand picked the sub-contractor for the job. This is a nightmare.
  • What are the means of communication between the client and the freelancer?
    • This is where you’d say if you didn’t want that 2am phone call about your client’s cat blog.
    • Also detail out what number the can call. When they can call it.
    • Explain your turnaround time on email or text message.
  • Who gets to sign off on completed design work.
    • Names, phone numbers, and blood types. By having this info you’ll know who can make what changes. This will keep you out of revision hell later.
  • What happens when the client wants to make a change after the designs have been signed off?
  • How are notices to be provided to the client and or freelancer under the Agreement?
    • Written notice is best, opt for traditional snail mail that way there’s a signature.

Using Pre-Made Contracts or Templates.

When making your first contract its wise to look over a pre-made contract or the contract of a freelance buddy. The most intimidating part of writing a contract is legalese. Its boring, hard to understand, and complicated. Like my writing style. According to wikipedia here is the definition of legalese:

Legalese is an English term first used in 1914 for legal writing that is designed to be difficult for laymen to read and understand, the implication being that this abstruseness is deliberate for excluding the legally untrained and to justify high fees.

By starting with a template and adding in the special bits that make your business different, you’ll decrease a lot of the overhead that would come by either having an attorney write up or having to learn all the in and outs of contracts. By looking at either a pre-made template or one from a freelancing friend, you’ll be able to pick up legalese and be living it up like Robert Shapiro! Okay so maybe you won’t be living it up like Mr. Shapiro but you’ll at least know what a tortfeasor is.

Would you guys like to see a complete downloadable sample contract written by yours truly and distributed through 1webdesigner? Do you have any questions or comments leave them below and I would be glad to help out.

Jeff Boshers

Jeff Boshers is a freelance web designer from Tennessee. He enjoys discussing classic design principles, css, printing techniques, and client management among other things. You can find him on twitter @boundbystars and see his work. He is currently doing a 52 week project called 52 luchadors.

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Comments

  1. David Silva says

    I was searching for a template earlier this morning so that I could get an idea of how I should write mine. Lot’s of good info here on how I will make one, but would still like to see one distributed too.

  2. says

    Great articles Jeff!

    The importance of a good contract is often one of the last things to be considered, often after a bad experience.

    Would love to see your sample contract. I hope it is an easy read!

  3. Keri says

    Thanks for these articles- can’t wait to see the sample contract =)

  4. crazywabbit says

    Hi, Would you have a repeat client sign a contract for every little job the want? Signing and mailing or faxing is very annoying to some clients, what is your solution?

    • says

      I use one contract but I update the schedules. When I send them the contract packet I sent them another copy of the contract they have signed from before.

  5. says

    @mike – I definitely agree with you. That should be in a “hold harmless” section. Which is basically where you say that the content and views expressed are their own (Client) and doesn’t reflect on you or your business.

    Thank you guys for all of your comments! Well I guess that settles it then. Look for a sample contract soon!

  6. Guy Williams says

    Excellent article Jeff. I’m keen to start freelancing on the side and a downloadable contract template would be helpful with starting out. Thanks.

  7. says

    Nice articles! I have started freelancing within the last year, and would certainly like to see your contract sample. Thanks for sharing!

  8. says

    I remember the first job I ever did I never used a contract… but, oh boy, the second job and every subsequent job I did! You’re left hanging from a rope of your own creating without a good contract

  9. Mike McKeown says

    Great article, and great timing since I plan on revising my contract within the next week.

    One thing I put in my contracts is that the client is solely responsible if they use the website in an illegal fashion or use copyrighted material without permission, especially for CMS websites.

  10. Michael says

    I would like to see the downloadable contract template. I am looking to pic up some freelance work on the side to bring in some extra cash.

  11. Tim says

    Excellent series of articles! I’m going to be starting up my own freelance business in the next few months and this is exactly the sort of information I’m looking for.

    In answer to your question, I would love to see a sample contract distributed through 1STWD.

    Many thanks and keep up the good work.

    Tim

  12. nathan says

    Great Article.

    I would be very interested in seeong a full version of one of tour contracts.

    Many Thanks