A legal contract is of essence for creative professionals. Getting a gig as a freelancer is always exciting — especially if the project is expected to pay well. While many freelancers agree upon work and complete projects with just a verbal agreement, a legal contract is often overlooked as a necessity when taking on any freelance project.

Why contracts are important
Ruth Carter, an attorney in Arizona, explained that “a verbal agreement and a handshake is enough, if there’s never a disagreement.” That said, “The contract ensures that the freelancer and the hiring party are on the same page regarding what work they’re supposed to do, when it’s supposed to get done, any guidelines on how it should be done, who owns the work product once it is complete, and how the parties will resolve any disputes if they occur.”

Essentially, a contract protects a freelancer in the event their client disagrees with the work the freelancer produces — or the rate they charge.

What every freelance contract should include
Carter explained that while every contract will differ based on terms of the project, most freelance contracts should include a few basics. “The contract should clearly state what work the freelancer will do, what deliverables they will create, all deadlines, how much the freelancer will get paid and when,”she said.

Additionally, she added the contract should include who owns the copyright for the work. This is incredibly important in the case that the hiring party gets the copyright in the work. In this case “the freelancer should insist on getting a license to at least put a copy of the work in their portfolio so they can use it to obtain other work.” She also advised to include a provision about the circumstances under which either side can terminate the contract.

Read your contracts
In the case that a client provides a freelancer with a contract, Carter advised that “freelancers read their contracts carefully because they will generally be bound by the contracts they sign unless they are illegal.”

Carter said to ensure the contract includes clear instructions regarding deadlines and deliverables, and if the freelancer needs materials and content from the hiring party to perform the work they’ve been hired to do, the contract should clearly state what the hiring party will provide and when. Carter also suggested having a lawyer review contracts that are provided to freelancers. The freelancer should never feel pressured to sign a contract that they are unsure about or that contains provisions they don’t understand,”she said.

Author: Kelly Clay


Basics of Contract Law for Creative Professionals


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