We talk a lot about freelance contracts at Millo, because it’s a vital part of your success as a freelancer.
Depending on where you live, a handshake or even an email may not be enough to settle payment disputes, copyright issues and other legal matters that can be hard for us freelancers to wrap our brains around.
I recently posted a question about freelance contracts on the Millo Mastermind group because I too struggle with when and how to introduce a freelance contract to a new client.
Every single comment suggested a different contract tool. After doing a little digging, it became obvious that everyone, freelancer or not, struggles with these same issues when it comes to freelance contracts.
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The important things that came out during my investigation were this:
- there are really good free and paid tools available for managing freelance contracts
- no matter which tool you use, you will probably want a lawyer to review the contract
- not all tools are created equal, and choosing which tool to use is not as important as the fact that you need to have a contract
So let’s take a look at some of tools available to help you with your freelance contracts.
Any Word Processor
You can download a free contract template and edit the language to suit your own needs. Once you are satisfied, don’t stop there. Contact a lawyer and have them review it. This is probably the easiest option, because everyone who uses a computer has a free copy of document editing software.
Once the freelance contract has the blessing of a legal professional, you can create a PDF and use the digital signature tools built-in to Adobe Acrobat to email a signed copy to your client.
But unlike the other tools we will discuss, this is very inconvenient for your client. They may just print it out, sign it and send it back.
Docracy is an open source collection of contracts for various professions—including freelancers and small businesses. You can edit them in Word or PDF format.
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Unlike a word processor, they have online tools that allow you to send and receive digital signatures. This is a step in the right direction, but the word Open Source means that you have no idea where these documents are coming from. If you choose to go this route, you still want a lawyer to review them.
Bonsai is a free contract program that is created for freelancers. They also have integrated payment options, which makes it convenient for you to handle payments as well.
For more, make sure to take a look at our in-depth review of the Hello Bonsai App for freelancers.
Shake Law lets you send simple freelance contracts for free. It may be a great option for those of you who are just starting out or doing a low volume of business. The FAQ page of Shake states it works well for freelance contracts, but not for complex or high-end transactions.
If you are starting an agency or planning to grow your business into a mega-corporation, this may not be the right tool for you.
Hello Sign is free for up to three freelance contracts a month. Similar to Bonsai, they offer a very straightforward pricing plan. It integrates with Google Drive so you can create, send and store your documents easily.
They have an API available that lets you integrate with other applications, but this is not included in the simple pricing they claim to offer. And they don’t offer payment acceptance.
Bidsketch is an online proposal software created by two software developers. In integrates with Zapier, Basecamp, and a long list of popular project management and accounting programs.
You can choose between three levels of pricing: agency, studio or freelancer. All plans allow hosting on your own domain. You also get team management and collaboration options that work well for remote teams. This way your designer and copywriter can update the proposal at the same time and everything stays updated.
How do you manage your freelance contracts?
No matter which tool you choose to use, don’t forget that the single most important part of having a contract is to protect both you and your client. Whether you choose to use a word processor or something more sophisticated, don’t forget to seek legal help and be consistent about enforcing your agreements.
Have a favorite tool that wasn’t mentioned here? We would love to hear about it in the comments!
2 Disclaimers: This is not legal advice. If you have further questions about how to write a contract or what should be in it, please consult a legal professional. We also were not paid to promote any companies mentioned in this article.
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