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Writer Contracts: Why You Should Use Them and What to Include

Oct 1, 2021
(updated: Dec 1, 2022)
Max 5 min read

The number of freelancers is skyrocketing. If you're one of the 58 million freelancers out there, you may have considered using a contract when working with clients.

It isn't rare for freelance writers to be let down by their clients, and vice versa. It may or may not have happened to you in the past, but by having a writer contract in place, you can decrease the likelihood of this happening to you.

In this article, we're going to explore why you need a writer contract and break down what exactly you need to include in your freelance writer contract.

Why You Need a Freelance Writer Contract

Having a freelance writing contract is essential. Since you're not an employee of your client's business, you're not covered by any laws to ensure that you're treated fairly or that you're paid for the work you do.

A freelance writer contract will cover you if a client hasn't paid you or is being unreasonable. If needed, you can seek legal action to resolve the issue.

Writer contacts manage clients' expectations and set out exactly what they can expect from you in this writing project.

In general, a freelance writer contract will:

  • Protect your intellectual property
  • Lay out relevant copyright law
  • Set out the services to be provided
  • Outline the expected timescale
  • Set out ownership rights for materials created by the freelancer
  • Include a confidentiality clause to protect client's sensitive information
  • Include a nondisclosure agreement to protect information dealt with during the contract period
freelance writing contract

What to Put in a Freelance Writer Contract

It's important that you cover all grounds in your freelance writing contract so that you have a written agreement in place which covers any situation.

Or at least, you should seek legal advice to double-check that you have included all the relevant information to keep you covered and that you have used correct language.

You don't need to have a new contract written up for every project. Once you have a full contract that your lawyer has reviewed, you can keep this as your agreement template as a word document and make the necessary changes for each project.

You should also check that the terms of your contract are legally binding in both your country and the client's country, as different countries will have differing rules for legal documents.

The key clauses that your freelance writer contract should include are:

1. The Scope of Your Work Clause

Your writing contract should include a clause that defines the scope of your work. It's extremely important to set out the project scope so that your client knows exactly what writing services you will provide.

This will stop your client from expecting you to produce work that both parties have not mutually agreed to.

2. Ownership Clause

An ownership clause is another important point for you to include in your freelance writer contract. It should state that until your client has made the payment, you are in full ownership of the material.

3. Payment Terms and Conditions Clause

It's vital that you set out the payment terms and conditions clause in your contract. Doing this will ensure that you get paid on time and in full.

You may also need to add in any conditions for additional expenses. For example, if you need to purchase something for your research for the project, and how you will be compensated for that.

Also, make sure that you set out how you would like to get paid to make sure that it isn't delayed. For example, state that you only accept direct deposit or Paypal payments. This will give them time to make sure that they have this in place before the payment is due.

Also, pay attention to the details on your contract like email addresses, payment details and dates. Mistakes with any of these could really cause some problems for you.

4. Revisions Clause

Another important feature of freelance contracts is that you set out a revisions clause that your client agrees to. This will limit the number of revisions that your client can request.

Don't feel the need to go over this limit just because your client isn't happy with the work.

If you've handed in three revisions and they're still not happy - the problem is most likely that they have not been clear enough about what they want.

5. Deadline Clause

A timeline and deadline clause is another key ingredient of your writer agreement. You should set out the exact delivery dates of your work so that your client isn't constantly chasing you for updates.

This will make your working life easier. Working remotely often means that customers feel the need to chase you and to check in on how it's going. But setting out a timeline will avoid this.

It also holds you accountable to stick to those deadlines and keep the client informed.

6. Early Termination Clause

An early termination clause will explain what will happen in the event of either the client or the freelancer terminating the project or contract before it is finished.

This should clarify that the client will still pay you for the work that you have done and the hours that you have put into working for their business.

You may also want to request a kill fee in the event that the client ends the contract early.

A kill fee is the percentage of the full payment that the writer will receive if the client ends the agreement or if the client decides they no longer want to use the finished piece. This fee is up for negotiation and will probably be an area of contention. So prepare yourself for some negotiation here.

7. Independent Contractor Clause

An independent contractor clause defines the relationship between the two parties. So the clause should read something like "the agreement is one of an independent contractor (freelance writer) and party commissioning particular work for hire (the client)".

freelance writer contract

How to Negotiate Your Freelance Writing Contract

Many writers may feel a little uncomfortable producing a writing contract. But remember that this covers your client as well and is in each party's best interest to have one there.

In fact, you may find that many businesses already have a contract that they use with freelancers. More and more companies are now choosing to work with freelancers. It's reported that Google's workforce is now 54% freelancers or contractors.

So it's likely that they will already have a process in place when working with freelance writers.

But make sure that the contract they ask you to sign is in your best interest as well. Remember to seek legal advice or legal services if there are any points in the contract that you're not sure about.

A contract will make the project run much more smoothly in the long run. For example, if you have a dispute resolution in place, you are prepared for any potential disagreements that your client has, and you have a logical system in place to deal with them.

Remember that you can use your contract as a starting point, and make it clear that you are open to negotiating until both parties are comfortable with the freelance writer agreement.

However, don't let the negotiations go on for too long. Make sure that this stage doesn't go over more than a couple of days.

If the client seems too difficult to work with at this stage, then it may be best to end the relationship before it starts.

Know Your Value to the Client

Make sure that you're aware of your value to the client. You have the knowledge and expertise to help them with their business. Would they be able to complete this project without you? Nope, that's why they're paying you.

They're not professional writers like you are. They need you to produce that great article or a great post for them and that's what they're paying you for.

So make sure that when you get a new client, you don't sell yourself short and that they pay fairly for your services.

freelance writing contract

Focus on Value Added, Not Words Written

People who are not knowledgeable about the writing profession assume that it's harder to write more words than a few, and many clients don't understand why they're paying more for fewer words.

The value you add is not in the number of words you write, but in the quality of the words that you pen for them.

Just because you only wrote 100 words for an email doesn't mean that it only took you 15 minutes to do. It's a skill to write valuable content concisely, and therefore your writing services are extremely valuable to your client's business.

So make sure that they are aware of that when you're negotiating the terms of your contract.

Be Ready to Walk Away

If a potential client doesn't agree with your contract, or if a client asks you to make changes you aren't comfortable with, then prepare to walk away.

This is a huge red flag and the project and client will probably be more hassle than it's worth.

This is your freelance writing business and you are in control of who you work with.

It's important that you never lower your standards. This is something that many freelance writers will find difficult when they are struggling to find work. But it will be worth it, in the long run, to not settle for clients who do not appreciate you as a freelance writer.

To sum up, a freelance contract is something you should use in every project you work on. While you hope everything will run smoothly and every customer will be perfect, this is unlikely. A standard contract will minimize the likelihood of clients letting you down and will set out the processes to be followed throughout your working relationship.

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