42 Tips #1 – Contract Up

Note: This is an expanded version of the tips in 42 Tips To Better Freelancing.

42 tips better freelancing use a contract

Essentially every business has some type of binding obligation between clients and what’s being provided, bought, or sold.

When I moved I bought a new mattress, which I signed a contract / receipt of what was being purchased and it’s warranty details. Once delivered I signed an approval confirming receipt and that everything was as it should be.

My point is we’re used to signing contracts wether you realize it consciously or not. They are everywhere. Of course not when you buy something as trivial as a pair of shoes but probably more often than you realize we’re signing things.

So why potentially harm your business by not being prepared?

Not using a contract you could potentially:

  • Have loss of income
  • Unable to legally or appropriately cut ties with a difficult client
  • Difficulty backing up scope changes

On the flipside your client loses all these same standings. For all they know you could attempt to charge more for the same work or not deliver their product at all.

It’s a win for everyone if you have even the most basic of contracts that says “I’ll do X, by Y, and you’ll pay Z.”

Arm Yourself

You could write your own, but I wouldn’t suggest it.

You could pay a lawyer to write one for you, but that might be expensive if you’re just starting out.

If you do design or development you could modify Contract Killer to suit your needs. It’s a great all around contract for service providers but it truly is geared towards web designers and developers.

When To Not Use a Contract

Answer: Never.

But… Admittedly there are definitely times I don’t use a contract. Yeah, I know! I always say don’t do that.

Sometimes it’s just a quick job like 4 or 5 hours. I have a 2 hour minimum, so I at least get that paid before I do anything.

Without a contract I also run the risk of not getting the other few hours paid though. Because let’s be honest.. if I’m doing that little of work it’s also probably directly on their site.

But I’m also well prepared if I don’t get paid. It’s not life ending if I get beat for a hours worth. Sure, it sucks, but to spin up my contract template and do the back and forth? I’m probably done before we get all that sorted.

Use Common Sense

First off, if you DON’T use a contract and DO get screwed over. Well…Tough shit? Other than the client being a creep, that’s your bad. Yeah, you can have a lawyer make a few calls or nag the life out of them about it but it’s probably a loss.

If it’s a few hours of work and you get a bad vibe, you should just pass on it all together. Otherwise if its less than a few hours or not, bust out that contract just to make sure everyone is on the same page.

But like I said… if you have to do that for a quickie, maybe you just turn it down.

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  1. Tracey says

    Such an important tip! It’s saved me a number of times by being able to say “that wasn’t in the initial requirements or my quote so I can add it in for X cost”

    I did some “emergency work” for a woman a couple of years back – I knew her but hadn’t worked with her, but thought I’d be OK to do the work & invoice afterwards – but she jibbed at paying as she thought it should have taken 2 hours when in fact it was almost 4 hours of work – took me a month to get the payment, and then only after I’d threatened to block her site :(

    so now … contracts & upfront payment all the way!!

    • Drew says

      I’ve been there plenty of times. It ironically seems to be the people you know or have good feelings about that tend to take the longest to pay or balk at costs!


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