How to Create a Freelance Contract that Benefits You & Your Clients

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Signing a contract

Signing a contract

Welcome, my fellow freelancers — let’s start with a simple question:

How often do you make sure you’ve got a signed contract in place with a client before doing any work?

Chances are, it’s not every time. Certainly, from speaking with my peers and asking around in freelance communities, contracts are seen at best as a “necessary evil” and at worst as “not necessary at all.”

And that’s a problem — because used well, contracts not only protect you and your client, they’re also a way to build trust, manage expectations, and keep everyone happy. Yes, freelance contracts can actually be a force for good. If you spend some time creating a great freelance contract, getting it in place becomes easy.

A note: Before we go on, it’s important to state — I am not a lawyer! I’m just a simple freelance writer who has carried out research and created a contract of my own that I use successfully with clients. Naturally, if you want to check your contract over with a lawyer, you should do so. Nothing I am saying here constitutes legal advice, and you shouldn’t take it as such. OK, back to the article…

The Benefits of Having Your Own Freelance Contract

Contracts don’t just have to be legal prose, designed to inoculate you from a bad client. Yes, protecting yourself is certainly part of what a contract does, but they have several other benefits too:

  • A contract protects the client as well — A contract doesn’t just have protections for you, it also tells your client the protections they have. It defines the terms both you and your client are working to and makes sure you both have a common approach.
  • A contract manages expectations — A contract is a formalized agreement. Once it’s signed, it tells both you and your client what they can expect, when they can expect it, to what quality, and for what price. It’s an essential part of a project, as it helps you set the scope.
  • A contract is a document to refer to in case of disagreement — Disagreements happen. If you’ve got something noted in your contract, it’s your fallback position. It helps you clarify exactly what you will and won’t do.
  • A contract holds you and your client to certain standards — You can set certain requirements in a contract, for example how quickly a client needs to respond to reviews and revisions. These requirements can make a freelancer’s life much easier.
  • A contract is mutually beneficial — Ultimately, a contract should make any working relationship better, for everyone involved. It builds confidence in your client and makes sure the freelance services you provide are properly compensated.

Why You Can’t Just Wait for a Client to Send You Their Contract

Clients don’t often have contracts of their own. In my time as a freelance writer, I would estimate around 80% of my clients haven’t had a contract they want me to sign. That could be because it’s their first time hiring a freelancer, or, more likely, they haven’t taken the time to set one up.

Going to a client with a contract makes you look more professional and prepared and saves you time so you can get on with your work. Having a contract also means you’ll never work without one, something all freelancers should avoid. We’ve all heard stories of disputes and freelancers that haven’t been paid. Having your own contract will help you avoid some of those issues.

Good Practices for Writing a Contract

In my time researching what makes a good contract and what should be included, I discovered some useful approaches:

  • Language needs to be specific — Avoid ambiguity in a contract at all costs. Any language you use should be as specific as possible.
  • Clearly define everything you’re going to do — Make sure you clearly set out all of the work you’re going to complete, together with timescales, quality expectations, deadlines, and prices.
  • Include roles and responsibilities — It’s vital that both your client and you as a freelancer know what to expect from each other.
  • Use plain English — Although some legal terms are inevitable, use plain, simple English as much as possible. Make your contract easy to read and understand.
  • Format your contract well — Use appropriate headings and subheadings. Make sure your contract flows logically from point to point. Use lists and bullet points to break up complex areas.

A Freelance Contract, Broken Down and Explained

Below, I’ve included each part of the freelance contract I use and explained each section. The text from the contract itself is shown in italics, and I’ve commented where relevant. Please feel free to take what you want from this and adapt it to your needs. Replace anything in curly brackets with information that’s relevant to your business.


Freelance {services} contract for {client name}

This is the title at the top of your contract explaining the type of contract and who it’s with.


This contract, terms and conditions are designed to be easy to read and to create a reliable, straightforward, and understandable business relationship between the writer and the client. This document sets out the contract, terms and conditions for providing professional {service type} services between:

  • {your name}, a {your title} working via {your company name, if applicable} (the freelancer)
  • and {client name} at {business name} (the client).
  • This contract is entered into on: {date}

This is all self-explanatory — just put your own details in here for each particular client.

About this piece of work, project or ongoing agreement

The freelancer agrees to provide freelance services to the client to the scope, quality, deadline and prices as outlined between them in writing via email and via this contract (see appendix A).

Work scope, services, turnaround times, services, and pricing

Please see appendix A at the end of this document for details of the scope, turnaround time, services provided and the schedule of fees. If the scope or other aspects of the work change beyond what was originally agreed between the writer and the client, services and rates may be renegotiated to take into account changes to the work.

In my contract I separate out the specific terms, scope, pricing and so on into a separate part of the document (appendix A) as that limits the amount of the contract I need to change. If you don’t have extensive services, or they’re easily explained, you can incorporate them into the body of the contract.

Invoicing, deposits, and payments

All invoices will be raised and sent to the client from {freelancer or freelancer’s business name}.

At the freelancer’s discretion, he may require a deposit prior to starting any work. In most cases, this deposit will be around {X%} of the expected final amount. Payment of the deposit is required by the client before starting on any work.

Payment can be made by bank account transfer (preferred), debit card, credit card or PayPal.

Payment of any remaining fees by the client is due upon completion of the work.

Amend this according to how you take payments. I do generally recommend asking for a deposit.

Out of scope — what is not included in the price

Anything not listed under “Scope” in Appendix A is not included. Any reasonable requests for additional work will be considered. Any requests for changes must be made by the client in writing. Any change to the scope of the work after acceptance by the freelancer may be subject to additional charges. Should such changes negate any part of the work already completed at the time of the changes, the client accepts responsibility for payment for any work completed to date.

The freelancer agrees to:

  • Carry out work to the scope, quality, deadlines and prices listed in Appendix A and as agreed via other written communications.
  • Provide original, high-quality work as requested by the client.
  • Follow any special instructions provided by the client and agreed by the freelancer.
  • Treat the client with professionalism, courtesy, honesty, and integrity at all times.
  • Respond to any communications within a reasonable timescale, normally the same day.

The client agrees to:

  • Provide supporting information, topics, guidance, ideas, and other material as requested by the freelancer to allow for creation of the work.
  • Provide deadlines and other relevant information about the requested work.
  • Answer any questions asked by the freelancer.
  • Provide prompt feedback on outlines, work, and other questions as requested by the freelancer.
  • Promptly pay the deposit and fees as stated and invoiced by the freelancer.

You should review the roles and responsibilities here very carefully. Make sure you include everything you need to so that you can ensure a productive working relationship with your client.

Point of contact

The freelancer can be reached by email at: {your email address} or by phone between {hours available} on {phone number}.

List any other communication mediums here as well.

Cancellation of the work

If the work is cancelled, the client will be liable to pay any fees in full for the creation and production of the work to date. Any cancellations must be made in writing, and provide as much notice as possible.

The copyright and ownership of any work created by the freelancer writer remain with the freelancer until any outstanding balance for the work is made in full. When the work is paid for, full ownership, copyright and any related rights pass to the client. At that point, the client takes full ownership of the work.


Any documents and supporting information that the client provides to the freelancer that are not intended to be included in the final work will be kept confidential. Any work created by the freelancer that is not intended to be published or distributed publicly via a website, social media, or some other means will be kept confidential, and not shared with anyone outside {freelancer’s business}. Any NDA agreement provided by the client and signed by {freelancer} supersedes this clause.

The freelancer may link to publicly distributed or published work from his website, portfolio, social media accounts or other areas, unless requested not to by the client. Any such requests will be honored.

I find that confidentiality is an important concern for clients, so I always include this clause as a matter of course.

Final acceptance of the work

Upon completion of the work to the client’s satisfaction, and payment of any remaining fees, this contract will be considered fulfilled. After completion of the work, the freelancer bears no more responsibility to the work and the client is free to do with it as they wish.


The client agrees to hold the freelancer and {freelancer’s business} harmless for any such damages that may arise from the freelancer’s work. In no event shall the freelancer be liable for any direct, indirect, punitive, incidental, special consequential damages whatsoever arising out of or connected with the use or misuse of their work product. The freelancer assumes no responsibility for any special, incidental, indirect, or consequential damages of any kind, or any damages whatsoever (including without limitation, those resulting from her work product or from: (1) user or client reliance on the materials or documents produced (2) costs of replacement writings, training, or documents (3) loss of use, data, or profits (4) delays or business interruptions, (5) and any theory of liability, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of freelancer’s work whether or not the freelancer has been advised of the possibility of such damages.

This is a fairly standard indemnification clause.

Termination of this contract

This contract can be terminated by written notice from either party. The contract will remain in effect for thirty days after any work has been completed and paid for. After that time, the contract will terminate.

Review and renegotiation of this contract

The rates and terms of this contract are reviewed after an initial 90 days and then on a six monthly basis. At that time we’ll reassess workload, rates, services and any other areas. The freelancer will approach you at the relevant time with any changes.

I, the client {client representative name} state that I can legally sign on behalf of {business name} and that I have the authority to promise payment for services rendered by the freelancer for the work. I state that I have read, understood, and agreed to the terms of this contract.

{Signature} {Print name} {Date}

I, {freelancer name}, state that I can legally sign on behalf of {freelancer’s business}, and that I will carry out the services as agreed with the client. I state that I have read, understood, and agreed to the terms of this contract.

{Signature} {Print name} {Date}

I then include all of the details of the work, rates, fees, quality, scope etc. in appendix A. This works in the same way as a statement of work, and ideally you should just be able to put your statement of work directly into appendix A.

Make Further Amendments to Your Contract

The text I’ve included above should serve as a minimum for the contract you’re going to create. You should add in any other relevant information so that you and the client know exactly what to expect from each other. What you include will depend on the type of work you do and how you do it. You can probably find other examples of contracts in your freelance field of work and adapt parts of them into this contract.

Getting Your Contract Signed

Once you’ve put your contract together, you need to get it signed by the client. There are plenty of document signing services out there, so pick one that works for you.

And that’s it — spending some time creating and refining a good contract is worth doing. You’ll look more professional, you’ll have a legal agreement and document that protects you, and it will manage everyone’s expectations.

Now you’ll never have an excuse for working without a contract!

Disclaimer: Paul Maplesden is not a lawyer and no part of this article constitutes legal advice. Everyone’s circumstances are different and you should consult with a lawyer as needed.

Paul MaplesdenPaul Maplesden
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Paul Maplesden is a freelance writer specializing in business, finance, and technology. He loves Earl Grey tea, pivot tables, hats, and other fine geekery.

client managementcontractsfreelance managementfreelancingjoelflegallegal agreements
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