by Rachel Smith
25 July 2018
I’ve just started freelancing and offering packages to clients. It’s going well – but I notice other freelancers in my space have T&Cs, which I don’t. Should this be part of my contract or a separate thing on my website? Help. B
I think anything you can do to protect yourself and your business is important – and that includes a clear contract between you and the client, either including your T&Cs as part of that, or having T&Cs on your website that you refer clients to, with a heading saying something like, ‘Hired me to work on your project? Signed the contract? It’s understood you accept and agree to the following T&Cs below’. These don’t have to be written in legalese (although it can be, and if you want to invest in a lawyer writing you a contract or T&Cs specific to your business, Jess Kerr at Sinclair + May offer packages for RL members). If you’re writing it, though, it has to be concise and clearly state your terms of business.
You want to include the following in your T&Cs:
Most clients will want to either meet you or discuss the project so they can brief you properly. If you’re not a fan of endless meetings and phone calls, you might like to state your terms about what’s involved in a briefing meeting or call while you agree on the parameters and scope of the project, and whether it requires extra meetings / phone calls for updates. Capping meetings and phone calls is a good idea in your T&Cs, though, stating that after initial briefings etc, meetings and phone calls thereafter may be charged at $X rate. It stops clients with zero boundaries bombarding and micro-managing you.
Even though some companies will pay you on THEIR terms, it’s important to state yours up front and on your T&Cs as sometimes it can shuffle you into an earlier pay cycle. I always put 7 days on my invoices. This section should also detail project deposits (do you want an initial deposit of 50 percent of the project fee? Less? The entire project fee before you commence?). State that clearly along with when you will invoice for other parts of the project. Is the final invoice on acceptance of first draft, or at the completion of the project? I highly recommend the former, as some companies can dick you around for weeks or months and send your copy through multiple departments before you get any feedback.
Many freelancers offer a discount for retainer clients because they’re locking in ongoing work (which saves you having to hustle constantly). But it’s a good idea to state your terms about establishing a retainer agreement. Do you offer a number of hours per month? Do the hours rollover if the client doesn’t use them? Or do you prefer to agree to a scope of work per month? What’s the discount rate you offer for retainer clients? Does this depend on the client booking you for a set amount of months? And what’s your policy if the client cancels mid-month?
Your T&Cs should include a section stating something like, ‘The project scope and deliverables will be discussed and agreed on in the briefing meetings and extra tasks will be charged at $X rate’. You obviously need to include the scope of the project on your contract because it’s easy for clients to push the boundaries and ask if you wouldn’t mind doing this or that on top (the implication being it will be part of the original project fee). So something like, ‘This agreement outlines the scope as 8 blog posts/month with keywords supplied and inserted by the writer, at 600 words per post’. If they come back and say, ‘Can you write the social teasers or find images for the posts’ that’s scope creep – and you need to refer them back to your T&Cs.
Some clients are happy with the first draft and you can move on with your life. Others want numerous revisions and changes. It’s a good idea to state in your T&Cs how many revisions the project fee allows for and after that, you’ll be charging extra revisions at $X hourly rate. That motivates the client to keep their changes to a minimum (well, you hope!)
If the project has certain milestones and deadlines to meet, include those on the contract. It covers you if the client drags their feet on giving feedback (meaning you miss a deadline). On your website T&Cs, you need to state that you are available for the agreed-upon timeframe of a project, but if the client is delayed in sending you material or pushes out the deadline, it will incur extra fees or be considered a new job. This is especially important because freelancers often book themselves back to back and if one project drags on it can impact new work you have booked in. Stating this upfront in both your contract and T&Cs mean you can refer a flaky client back to the documentation and say, ‘as per our agreement the project completion date was X. More revisions and re-writes now, two months after the completion date, means it is now a new job’.
Hope that helps get you started. Writing T&Cs is so specific to the individual and the type of work you do – so it’s really a case of ‘how long is a piece of string’. But it’s a good idea to have something up, and add to it as you go.
Do you have T&Cs on your website or include them as part of a contract?