You’ve been dreaming of finding a way to stay at home with your little ones and now you’re ready to start making your dreams a reality. Yay!
If you’ve been researching how to become a freelance writer, you’ve probably already Googled things like this article on how to make money as a copywriter and this one on how to get your first writing gig with no experience. That’s a great place to start, but once you’ve finished your research and you’re ready to land your first client, there’s another important detail that you don’t want to overlook: freelance writer contracts.
Before you start pitching potential clients, you’ll want to get a solid writers agreement template in place so you’re ready to go when you get that first “yes!”
Having a clear and straightforward freelance writer contract helps to set proper expectations with clients, keeps your business protected, and lets you focus on the fun part (writing!).
In my 7 years as a copywriter, I’ve worked and reworked my freelance contract until it fits my needs. There are several important sections that I include, which I’ll outline below.
Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer. This is only my opinion based on my personal experience. These are items that I include in my writing contract and this template has worked for me over the years… But I highly recommend that you consult a legal professional to review any writer contracts you plan to use for your business.
Clearly Define Your Scope of Work
Before you start any work, you’ll likely spend some time talking with your soon-to-be client. This is when you’ll figure out what exactly they are looking for with their project.
Some of the questions I like to ask are:
- Could you explain the project in detail?
- What is the ideal outcome of this specific project?
- Who is the target audience?
- What problem are you trying to solve or help them with?
- What is the tone that it should be written in?
- What’s your budget for this project?
- How soon will you be ready to move forward?
- When does it need to be completed?
The answers to these questions will help you figure out if you are a good fit to work with this particular client. And you’ll have a clear understanding of the work you’ll be doing.
Your freelance writer contract should outline your scope of work in detail, to make sure you and the client are on the same page.
Restate The Cost
After I’ve had an in-depth conversation about the project, I put together a proposal with a pricing structure based on their needs and budget.
Once they’ve agreed on the pricing and scope, then I send out my contract to be signed! It’s important to restate the price from the proposal in the contract to confirm that everyone agrees in writing.
Cover Payment Expectations
There are many ways to handle payments as a freelancer. Depending on the project, you might use a different method. Some options to consider:
- Do you expect your client to pay 50% of the full cost before you begin working?
- Will they pay 100% after you complete the work?
- Do you have a preferred method of payment?
One of the great things about being a freelance writer is that you get to decide what route you want to go. When you freelance, you’re not an employee. So your client can’t tell you how, when or where to work.
So when it comes to payments, you set the rules. If they don’t agree, you can choose to negotiate or walk away from the project.
Whether you decide to offer a payment plan or require payment in full….
Whether you want ACH payments or a snail-mail check…
You get to decide for your business. Just make sure you spell it out in your writers agreement template so your client knows when and how to pay you.
Set Some Ground Rules for Cancellations
Of course, you’ll want to see every assignment through till the end, but that won’t always be possible… Cancellations happen occasionally. And even though we hope to avoid them, you want to make sure that your client knows how you’ll handle it before they pull the plug.
You can include a cancellation section in your freelance writer contract to let them know how much you’ll charge if they decide to cancel for any reason.
Be sure to include a summary of how much they will be charged (typically a percentage) based on how much of the work has been completed.
For me, it’s a 50% kill-fee that covers the loss of my time, research and effort up to that point. Heck, I may have written the whole thing by the time they cancel, so at least I get to recoup some of those costs.
(I should mention that I’ve never had to enforce this part of my contract, but I keep it in because you just never know…)
Include Any Caveats
Most writer contracts include a section to list any caveats that you want to mention to your client.
I use this section to let my clients know that while I try to make sure all content complies with the law, it is ultimately their responsibility to make sure that it does. And that if there is any questionable content, they are responsible for having it legally reviewed for validity and usage.
I also include a statement about plagiarism and copyrighted works and confirm that all of my writing is my original work.
Results NOT Guaranteed
As a new copywriter, it might be tempting to offer to guarantee results with your writing to win the business, but that’s not a good idea. In fact, I do the opposite in my writing contract.
Copywriting is just one part of marketing. And I think there’s a quote along the lines of “No amount of great copy can fix a bad offer.”
If your client doesn’t have the rest of their marketing strategy dialed in, if they just don’t have a good product or service, or if there just isn’t demand…then it won’t matter how awesome your copy is. They likely won’t get the results they are looking for, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paid for the work you completed. That’s why I include this information in my contract.
Write, Revise, Repeat?
Freelance writer contracts usually include a set number of revisions that are included in the cost of the project. Any additional revisions above that would come at an additional cost.
Let your clients know how many rounds of revisions you’ll complete with no extra charge up front. That way you don’t end up in an uncomfortable situation later if they request more revisions than you’re willing to do for the price you agreed on.
Although my contract says I include only one round of revisions, the truth is, I want my clients to be happy campers. So in a few situations, I have included an additional round to make sure they get their money’s worth.
Review the Project Timeline and Due Date
It’s important to show that you are a professional and have a system in place for completing the projects you work on. Your clients will appreciate having a timeline for the project so they can know what to expect along the way.
You’ll also want to confirm the final due date for the project. You should have already discussed this, but you’ll want to reiterate so you and your client know they’ll have their content when they need it.
Bonus tip: I ALWAYS deliver early. Even just a day or two sets a great tone for the working relationship. It shows I’m punctual, reliable and efficient – and has led to lots of repeat work over the years.
If you want to avoid all the mistakes that most other freelance writers make — check out this blog on 7 Ways to Guarantee Failure as a Freelance Writer.
Have you been dreaming of doing something different? Do you want to:
- Quit your 9-to-5?
- Spend more time with your kiddos?
- Make your own work schedule?
- Have more time for the things you love?
- Bring in extra income for your family?
Then freelance writing could be a fantastic option for you! You could even make 6 figures writing for other blogs!
But to do that you’ll need to think of it as a real business. And like any other business, it’s important to protect yourself and your income with a freelance writer contract.
Want to learn more about starting your own freelance writing business? Get your free copy of my 30 day guide + success planner here.