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3 Tips for writing a contract for freelancers in the creative field

Table of ContentsUpdated Feb 16, 2017

Note: This article contains legal advice. We recommend you consult a lawyer before making legal decisions in your business.

If you work in the creative field, there is a good chance that you will do some or all of your work as a freelancer.

Meaning, you will work under short- or long-term contracts.

Unlike the employer-employee model, a freelancer works for himself, which could present specific business issues that need to be addressed prior to signing a contract for freelance work.

Before you sign your name, take a look at these tips for writing a contract.

Contract for freelancers

Include what you expect to be paid

One of the nice things about working for yourself is that you have more control over the contract.

When creating a contract with a client, you should include how much you are getting paid and when.

You should also determine ahead of time whether you will get paid some or all of your fees, even if the client doesn’t like your work.

Remember, your time is valuable, which means that you deserve to get paid if you put in a good faith effort to deliver a quality product.

Finally, you should include language that determines the penalties for failure to pay in a timely manner.

For instance, you could stipulate that there is a 10 percent penalty for failure to pay within 30 days or that you have the right to seek relief.

To ensure that you get paid, don’t forget to create a professional and clear invoice.

Both yourself and your client should get a copy of the invoice, and you can either keep paper copies or create digital copies that can be tracked through a CRM or other accounting software programs.

Get the contract in writing

Many graphic designers and others in the creative field come to agreements on their own with the clients.

However, it may be a good idea to work with a contract lawyer to create custom agreements, depending on the project that you are being asked to work on.

For instance, if you are being asked to create several articles for a newspaper, it would be wise to consider who the work belongs to.

Your lawyer may be able to stipulate that the client gets first print rights while you get all rights thereafter. Alternatively, the client may ask for all rights upfront and in perpetuity.

While there is no wrong way to craft an agreement, it is important that you understand what you are agreeing to and what rights you may be giving up in the process.

As you gain experience negotiating contracts, you will find that you can generally come to terms with clients without exposing yourself to unnecessary risks.

As a general rule, you are being paid for the rights to whatever you create.

In other words, you are essentially selling the rights for an article that you write or a poster that you create for your client. However, it may be a good idea to ask if you can include snippets of the finished product in your portfolio as a means of securing future work.

You’re on your own for taxes and benefits

You may notice on a graphic design contract template that there is no mention of tax withholding, workers compensation benefits or any other types of benefits.

This is because you are required to pay your own taxes and take care of your own benefits.

Remitting taxes to the government is relatively straightforward for those in the creative fields.

You rarely need to collect sales tax from clients, which means you are responsible only for sending in a quarterly estimated tax payment.

Wrapping it up

If you work for yourself, you need to know how to find clients, create agreements with them and then account for any money earned.

While accounting and legal professionals may be able to offer assistance, it is up to you to make agreements that you can live with.

It is also up to you to make sure that your taxes are paid on time and that you provide yourself with any other benefits that you may need.

Have you created a creative freelance contract? Tell us your advice in the comments!

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Written by Patrick Watt

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Patrick Watt was a legal officer with an MBA degree and years of experience with various companies. He is now a freelance writer in law and business dispute niche. He writes for Carter Capner Law, a progressive, innovative and strongly motivated law firm based in Queensland, Australia.

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  1. The experience you share in your article is so valuable – I can honstley not believe it’s free of charge, relatable and relevant at all times. Thank you so much for your efforts and words.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, June.

  2. Dragomedia says:

    Brilliant!!! This is a very useful article. I’ve worked as a freelancer most of my life.

    1. Thanks for reading. Glad you find this helpful.