Freelance Writing Contracts: What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself and Your Work

Do you start wincing with stress and anxiety when it concerns agreements for your freelance writing tasks? Or are you uncertain about all that legalese from big-time lawyers at ginormous companies that seems like youll be roasted over cinders if you put a comma in the incorrect location?
Getting sweaty palms over freelance writing agreements is one of the biggest struggles I see authors have; from newbies all the method up to skilled material marketers. But drilling down and comprehending what these intricate clauses mean, why theyre becoming more regular in our agreements and what actions to take if your possible client pushes back on your modifications can give you a lot of confidence when it pertains to signing on the bottom line..
Over the last years approximately, Ive seen basic, one-page agreements morph into pages-long, detailed files with brand-new clauses, descriptions, loopholes and complicated terminology. It doesnt have to be that way and theres plenty that freelance writers and contractors can do to attain writer-friendly contracts.
7 crucial freelance composing agreement provisions you must understand.
Here are a couple of important freelance writing agreement clauses to know today, and actions on how to get arrangements that work best for your company and your customer.
1. Scope of work.
What it is: This describes what the task information are consisting of the type of content youre composing, the word count, agreed upon deadlines and your modification policy.
Why you require to know this now: It appears simple enough, however in some cases clients alter your scope of work before they sign the agreement without telling you; making the task bigger than what you initially concurred or quoted to. Check for changes to your scope of work, and if it grew, note the change with your potential customer and charge appropriately.
What to do if the client presses back: If your prospective client doesnt like the increased charge, go over whether or not it makes good sense to return to the original scope of work, explain why the cost increased, or see if theres a detour of a second job to separate the cost. Make sure to include this sentence in all your future agreements: “Changes to this scope of work will lead to extra fees.”.
2. Rights (Businesses, publications and work for hire).
What it is: This area explains who owns the content copyright, whether thats a company, publication, larger entity or you.
Why you need to know this now: Recently, Ive seen contracts from prospective clients get a lot more rights-grabby, with a large uptick in Work For Hire arrangements. Especially with the modifications in innovation, lots of companies are trying to hold onto not just current rights to all platforms and tech, but future rights in case a brand-new form of media occurs that they wish to make the most of and promote the material you created there. Rights vary in between composing for publications and services..
For me, that means this is the stipulation I use with business clients:.
” Until conclusion of the scope of work, Freelancer maintains all copyrights of works developed in whole or in part by Freelancer in connection with the scope of work described in this arrangement. Upon payment, the copyright will be moved to Client and will be the unique residential or commercial property of Client. Client grants Freelancer the right to show the completed item in her portfolio and on her site.”.
And this is my provision for magazines:.
” Until completion of the scope of work, Freelancer retains all copyrights of works developed in entire or in part by Freelancer in connection with the scope of work explained in this contract. Upon payment, Client receives First North American Serial Rights plus a 30-day exclusivity publishing duration. Customer grants Freelancer the right to show completed articles in her portfolio and on her website.”.
With businesses, youll move all rights to them since re-printing their material is a nonexistent profits stream for freelance authors. The key here is that they do not own the rights up until theyve spent for the work. They do not pay, you own the rights and can use that if you need to take action.
With publications, were strolling a various rights rope. Generally, youll get emailed an all-rights contract (AKA Work For Hire) where youll submit your finished piece and move all future and existing copyright to that publication. When you sign a Work For Hire Agreement, youre concurring to produce the content, give up claim to it when you turn it in, and have the copyright owned wholly by your customer who paid you for the work..
This isnt your only alternative, however, since with magazine articles theres still a chance you can re-sell the article to another publication and get paid again … if you maintain the rights.
Ask if they have another contract with more writer-friendly terms, if its possible to get First North American Serial Rights (FNASR), or if you can alter the rights clause to an exclusivity duration of 30, 60, or 90 days. That way, you can still keep the rights, however theyre able to run the first print of the story and be very first to market.
What to do if the customer pushes back: Dont worry! Pushback on rights is completely normal, particularly for publications (P.S. big magazines often have a number of various agreement templates so dont be stressed over requesting their other contract). And its not completion of the world to sign a Work For Hire agreement; its pretty typical nowadays.
With a lot content being created, Ive noticed the re-sell publication market is low so it can make good sense to sign the rights away. What you wish to pay attention to is if your short article has the prospective to re-sell well. If so, attempt your finest to protect FNASR, an exclusivity period, or more writer-friendly terms than your customer getting all rights now and forever for everything currently and possibly developed.
For services, much of the issue is making the work openly offered on your site or portfolio. Ask if you can send the sample out to reveal your work to prospective clients as long as you dont release it on your site; most of the time, they state yes..
3. Indemnification and disagreement resolution.
What it is: The indemnification provision outlines whos responsible for legal charges and expenditures on the occasion that somebody sues business or publication over your material, interviewee quotes or media job. And conflict resolution describes how you and your customer will resolve any concerns (conflicts).
The extremely complex language included ways you require to know how to safeguard your possessions from legal harm, and ensure you understand what it indicates when you sign a contract with this type of stipulation. If you indemnify your customer, youre on the hook for anything legal that pops up about your work.
For me, I use mutual indemnification in this stipulation:.
” Any legal action or proceeding relating to this arrangement shall be brought exclusively to pertinent courts and each party permissions to the jurisdiction thereof. The dominating party in any lawsuits associated to this arrangement will be entitled to an award of its attorneys charges and costs. In the event any problem or claim relating to the copy is made by any 3rd party at any time, Client will fully indemnify Freelancer and hold Freelancer harmless with regard to all costs, expenditures, damage and losses (including sensible attorneys costs) arising from that problem or claim, and will completely work together with Freelancer in responding to and resisting such problem or claim. Additionally, Freelancer shall fully indemnify Client and hold Client harmless with regard to all expenses, expenditures, damage and losses (including sensible lawyers costs) developing from that problem or claim, and will fully work together with Client in reacting to and preventing such problem or claim.”.
For disagreement resolution, I like this one:.
” The celebrations will attempt to deal with any dispute out of or relating to this Agreement through friendly settlements among the Parties. If the matter is not fixed by negotiation, the celebrations will deal with the dispute utilizing the below Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) treatment. Any debates or disputes occurring out of or relating to this Agreement will be sent to mediation in accordance with any statutory rules of mediation. If mediation is not effective in solving the entire disagreement or is not available, any exceptional issues will be sent to last and binding arbitration under the guidelines of the American Arbitration Association. The arbitrators award will be final, and judgment may be gone into upon it by any court having proper jurisdiction. This Agreement shall be governed by, and interpreted in accordance with, the laws of the State of THE STATE YOU LIVE IN.”.
What to do if the client pushes back: Your very first step is to ask your potential client to get rid of the indemnification clause, however if you get a no, send the mutual indemnification stipulation above (legal departments are usually onboard with this choice). If the client wishes to keep the initial indemnification or dispute resolution provisions, youll have to decide whether you desire to work with them. Normally, if its a dream customer you actually wish to deal with, and you have company insurance coverage or created an LLC, you have some legal protection and it might be ok to sign..
4. Payment terms.
What it is: This maps out how and when you make money, your freelance writing rates, if you give refunds, if you get a kill charge, circumstances for late or rush fees, arrangement termination and how that works with payment and length of agreement.
Why you require to understand this now: Over my years of freelancing, Ive had payment terms from pay on publication (months and months after sending the work) to a 48-hour turn-around. It varies a lot, and especially with COVID, Ive seen clients presenting longer payment terms..
I like NET 14 (making money 14 days after submitting my billing). Lots of companies line up self-employed author terms with how they pay other contractors (anywhere from NET 30 to NET 90 or longer), and publications can have wonderful NET terms, or pay on publication terms, which indicates you do not get paid until the piece goes live or is printed. You also wish to make sure that additional costs, refunds or termination are covered too..
For organization clients, I utilize this provision:.
” Changes to this scope of work will lead to extra fees, and changes to due dates with less than a 7-day turn-around may incur up to a 50 percent rush cost. Customer agrees to pay Freelancer the quantity of USD $XXX for writing services offered. In the case of early termination of this client, agreement and freelancer agree to provide 15 days notification of termination, and Client agrees to pay Freelancer in complete for work finished.”.
For publications, I typically take their payment terms unless the publication isnt intending on running the piece whenever within the next six or two months. Pay on publication can be quite prolonged, but if you get NET 30 or NET 45, youre in good shape.
What to do if the client presses back: If your organization customer has incredibly long contractor payment terms, you can always ask if theyll make a modification to your contract, but if they say no, youll need to weigh whether or not you can wait that long for payment..
Publications are more cut-and-dry. You can inquire about pay on submission terms, or changing the NET terms, or payment date, but normally their information are set. You can always ask if theres any wiggle room in their budget to up the rate (which may make it easier to manage longer payment terms), or see if you can get paid quicker through ACH (direct deposit) rather than a mailed check..
5. Non-competes.
What it is: Non-compete provisions describe that youre unable to work for your customers competitors. Any organization or publication they consider competitors is now, essentially, disallowed from your customer list..
Why you need to understand this now: Due to the fact that these clauses (just like rights) have actually been sneaking into more agreements, its crucial to know how to handle them; see this practical discussion from the FTC about restraint of trade and antitrust laws.
Since they limit the freelance authors capability to grow their company, and for that reason make more cash, theyre technically prohibited in this context as restraint of trade. And generally, these stipulations wind up in those one-size-fits-all buckets that bigger companies send to all professionals of all professions. But, you dont have to keep these in your contract no matter how often you see them; you can ask the business or magazine to remove it..
It may look like this:.
” Contributor will not, up until 30 days after publication of the concern in which the work first appears, write or release, or comply in the publication of in any form, a post or other interaction or submit to an interview on the similar or same topic as the work unless Contributor has received writer authorization by Client.”.
Or this:.
” Contributor will not, until the appropriate exclusivity duration herein ends, publish or write in any form, a short article or other communication on the very same or comparable topic as the work unless Contributor has actually gotten composed approval by Client.”.
Potentially this:.
” Author promises and concurs to not author or assist with the authoring of any deal with the same subject as the Assignment for publication in print, online or any kind of media for one year from the Publishers first publication of the Assignment without written consent of the Publisher.”.
Or even this:.
” Contractor acknowledges that they are anticipated to read, comprehend and adhere to the Contractor Code of Conduct. Below consists of a list of possible disputes or possible violations of the Code that Contractor understands at this time. I comprehend that at any time, when I end up being mindful of a dispute or potential infraction of this Code, I will notify Client instantly for a resolution.”.
What to do if the customer presses back: If your customer wont get rid of the non-compete entirely, and you truly desire to deal with them, ask to list their top 3 competitors and you can concur not to deal with those companies. If that doesnt work for them, or you dont wish to have any non-competes in your agreement, stroll away. You likewise have the option of keeping in mind FTC policies that restraint of trade is prohibited and see if theyll eliminate the clause then.
6. NDAs and privacy.
What it is: NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) or Confidentiality stipulations are consisted of to form a legally-binding confidential relationship in between you and your client. When you sign a contract with this clause, youre concurring that any sensitive details, trade tricks or intellectual property (IP) will not be shown anyone else..
Why you require to know this now: Are you a freelance author who typically deals with tech companies, start-ups with creative options or giant companies with particular, in house-only processes? These companies may want you to sign an NDA to guarantee their exclusive solutions arent sent out over to their competitors. With more emerging tech and cutting-edge developments, you may see these provisions grow, and its essential to know your choices.
No, you dont have to sign an NDA that lasts permanently, or perhaps five or 10 years. Try for one year, or possibly two, and see if your customer will deal with that; its always worth it to opt for the least quantity of time possible.
What to do if the customer pushes back: Most times, as long as the NDA is within a reasonable amount of time, say one year, I sign it. If the client has a longer period of a number of years, and even permanently, I ask if we can shorten the timespan to a year or two. If they will not budge, it may not deserve it to deal with that customer or sign a long-lasting NDA and fret about legal concerns down the roadway..
7. Insurance.
What it is: When we discuss insurance in contracts, were talking about E&O (Omissions and errors, or Professional Liability) Insurance and General Liability Insurance. Basically, these policies help secure you if your content faces legal problem and gets you or your client took legal action against.
E&O safeguard you against legal claims of neglect, mistakes, omissions, misstatement, unreliable suggestions, libel and slander in addition to undelivered services, allegations of negligence and missed due dates. General Liability secures you or your company from copyright violation, reputational harm, and injury and residential or commercial property damage claims.
Why you need to understand this now: A few years back, a prospective client I completely wished to work with asked if I had E&O and General Liability Insurance. Nope, I do not … however I could get it. Ever since, Ive had other agreements of mine, and freelance author good friends, include provisions pointing out these 2 types of policies.
With plagiarism checkers and the wealth of Internet content, safeguarding yourself against copyright infringement, reputational harm, libel, slander or defamation, is constantly a good concept. Plus, if you have insurance and a brand-new client asks, youre currently set to go rather of scrambling like I was attempting to get policies secured ASAP.
What to do if the customer pushes back: If you d rather not pay around $1,000 to $2,000 per year for these insurance plan, ask that this provision is removed from your agreement. To me, its much better for your company total to have defense ahead of time so youre not caught in a bind.
Stating no, warnings and agreement settlements.
At any time you run up against a clause that does not work for your freelance composing organization, you can always request the client to eliminate it. And, a surprising quantity of the time, theyll work with you on negotiating a reasonable compromise.
If it ends up the potential client is throwing up red flags, like they treat you like a staff member and not a freelancer, the contract has terms that certainly do not use to you, or they get upset when you ask for practical, reasonable changes, you do not have to work with that client. No agreement is worth losing your organization or track record over..
And if you see too much legalese, offer to send your agreement thats clearer and more succinct. I constantly attempt to make the terms as simple to understand as possible due to the fact that this is a collaboration where we work with our clients, not for them. Our contracts, then, ought to be equally helpful and as easy as possible, with no fluff.
Do not lose sleep or tension over contracts. Discover the clients who pay you well, treat you like a partner, give you reasonable terms, and understand why youre working out for writer-friendly terms that work for you..
Picture through fizkes/ Shutterstock.

About the Author: Mandy Ellis.
Mandy Ellis is a self-employed writer and marketing strategist helping food, real estate, travel, insurance coverage, and health companies craft appealing, growth-minded material and campaigns. She also coaches freelance writers on how to grow their service and increase their income while building a strong state of mind and never ever compromising on psychological health. You can grab her complimentary pricing guide tailor-made for freelance authors here, and her agreement and marketing template pack here.
Website.

Upon payment, the copyright will be moved to Client and will be the special home of Client. Furthermore, Freelancer will fully indemnify Client and hold Client safe with regard to all expenses, expenditures, damage and losses (including sensible lawyers charges) developing from that complaint or claim, and will completely work together with Client in reacting to and defending versus such grievance or claim.”.
What to do if the customer presses back: Your first step is to ask your potential client to eliminate the indemnification provision, but if you get a no, send the shared indemnification stipulation above (legal departments are generally onboard with this choice). In the case of early termination of this freelancer, agreement and customer concur to provide 15 days notice of termination, and Client agrees to pay Freelancer in full for work completed.”.
What to do if the customer presses back: If your customer wont eliminate the non-compete completely, and you actually want to work with them, ask them to note their top 3 competitors and you can concur not to work with those business.

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