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Last Wednesday, I showed you how to start working at home as a freelancer. If you haven’t already, click here to read that post. Get some coffee or tea, because it’s a long one!
This week, I’ve got more even tips to help you out once you land that first client.
How to Write Up a Freelance Contract
Don’t worry, I’ll include a sample contract below.
- Create a Document. I prefer to use Google Docs because it allows me to save my documents as ‘Word’ or PDFs, and because my information is saved online, rather than on one of my devices (which means I can reach it from my tablet, laptop, or desktop).
- Create a Title. This needs to briefly describe the general work that you’ll be doing as a freelancer. Something like “Ghostwriting Agreement” or “Website Design and Branding Agreement” works well.
- Use this as your opening paragraph: “This [contract name you just created] is made and entered between [Your Full Name] (Freelance Contractor) and [Client’s Full Name] (Client).
- Below that, list each of your names again, as well as your mailing addresses, phone numbers, domain names, and/or email addresses. This makes your contract very specific to each of you, plus it’s great to have that information handy once you get started working on the project.
- Make a list of services you’ll be doing as a freelancer, as well as a basic description of each of these services. I prefer to do this in bullet points because it’s easier to read (contracts should not be hard to understand or overwhelming). This is so that everything is crystal clear between yourself, and your client. Try to use numbers as much as possible. If for example, you’re writing an article, tell about how many words the client can expect to receive, such as ‘between 2,500 and 5,000 words. If you’re building a website, tell how many posts or pages you’ll be creating such as “I will create one home page, one about page, one contact page, and one other page, per client’s requests. I will also write up to three (3) blog posts, each containing between 500 and 2,500 words”. If you have a highly detailed, technical, or tedious plan, it’s best to list all that work on a separate page, and then attach it to the main contract. On the main contract, make sure you mention this separate page.
- Create a general schedule. This will list the steps you’ll be taking / projects you’ll be completing, and their time frames. You may use dates, such as “project one will be completed May 5th, project two will be completed June 21st”, or, you may use days instead “project one will be completed 20 days after the signing of this contract, and project two will be completed 33 days after the completion of project one”.
- Make prices and payment due dates very plain. You can either request payment on certain days or dates based on words written or hours worked, OR you can individually list each service you’ll be doing (as described in #5) and each individual service’s price. Another option is to have a certain percentage paid up front before you complete work (usually 10-20%) and the rest due upon project completion. Make sure you state any late fees you may charge for late payments.
- Next, add in a section that is meant to protect your client from you. Typically, this is where you state that you are not an employee of the client, only a contractor, and thus, will not receive fringe benefits such as health insurance, paid vacation, paid sick days, or any other company benefits. In this section, you may want to also in that because of this, you will work on your hours as you desire, not on company time. This prevents your client from keeping you at your home desk like you work a 9-5 job. If you’d like, you may add in certain days and hours that you will be available for phone calls, video chats, and/or conferences. I prefer to have at least one day and time a week that I’ll be available, that are during the typical business hours of the client, for example “I will be available for virtual contact or collaboration each Monday, from 10am to 11pm”. During this section, if I will be a content / social media / email manager, I like to add that I will not include any curse words, or material that is of PG13+ nature, without consent of the client. It may seem silly, but clients are always thankful that I add this in, and feel as though I’m protecting their brand’s image.
- Specify what qualifies as grounds for termination of contract (aka, what makes it okay to end the contract). I like to state that one missed payment, that is more than 7 days late, is grounds for termination. For the client’s safety, I also like to add that one missed work deadline, more than 7 days late, is grounds for termination as well.
- Now, you need to specify who the work will belong to once you’ve completed it. Typically, the work belongs to the client. However, if you’d like to link to this project, or advertise that you did this work in your portfolio, make sure you list that here. My first two websites I created, I was not allowed to share the domain name of the websites, nor the owner/company name, ever, and that made it slightly more difficult for me to get my next few websites, because I couldn’t take credit for what I had created.
- Next, specify which state will govern this contract. You may only choose one state. If your client is international, always pick your own state for the governing law. This paragraph should look similar to this: “This Agreement shall be governed in all respects by the laws of the United States of America and by the laws of the State of [the state]. Each of the parties irrevocably consents to the exclusive personal jurisdiction of the federal and state courts located in [the state], as applicable, for any matter arising out of or relating to this Agreement, except that in actions seeking to enforce any order or any judgment of such federal or state courts located in [the state], such personal jurisdiction shall be nonexclusive.“
- After that, include a severability clause. A severability clause basically means that, if any of the terms in the agreement are unenforceable, everything else in the contract is still valid and operative. Here’s a good example of that: “If any provision of this Agreement is held by a court of law to be illegal, invalid or unenforceable, (a) that provision shall be deemed amended to achieve as nearly as possible the same economic effect as the original provision, and (b) the legality, validity and enforceability of the remaining provisions of this Agreement shall not be affected or impaired thereby.“.
- Next, add in the date that the contract is signed by both parties. A simple “Agreed to on this day of [date, month, year]” works well.
- Lastly, add in a signature block for both parties. Below each of the names and signature blocks, I like to include the mailing addresses, phone numbers, domain names, and/or email addresses for both yourself (freelance contractor) as well as the client.
My first one or two years of freelancing, I used an invoice template that I created myself. It worked well, and I even gave a copy of my invoice template to some of my clients to use on their own (I’m big on giving out gifts to clients, that’s an easy way to build your connection and get referrals later on). But, about a month ago, I had a client request that I send her an invoice via Wave. I thought ‘whatever, I’ll send her a Wave invoice, and then I’ll make one of my own for my own record keeping.
HOLY. MOLY. I love Wave! As soon as I signed up, I immediately started questioning if I wanted to change my invoice system. Before I dig into this, know that I am NOT using a referral or affiliate program / getting compensated for my review here. I simply love Wave, and I believe it’s a great (free) program for business owners and freelancers to use.
- Has 3 Beautiful, FREE templates to choose from
- Allows you to tastefully place your logo on the invoice
- Invoice is super easy to fill out, simply answer a few questions and Wave will generate the invoice for you
- You have the option to include discounts on your invoice as well, which can be handy
- Automatically sends your client the invoice, as well as payment due reminders
- Automatically allows your client to pay via Wave, rather than through an outside source such as PayPal
- Of every $100 sent through, it only takes $1 as a fee
- Wave is an online program with a mobile app, so you can access it anywhere that you have WiFi
- Automatically generates useful reports such as:
- Profit and Loss (Income Statements)
- Balance Sheets
- Cash Flow
- Sales Tax
- Payroll Wage + Tax Report
- Income by Client
- Aged Receivables (Unpaid + Overdue Invoices)
- Aged Payables (Unpaid + Overdue Bills)
- Purchases by Vendors
- Account Balances
- Trial Balance (see your balance of all accounts specific, even future, date)
- Account Transactions (General Ledger)
- Clients may pay using their credit or debit cards, or even by securely connecting their bank account
- Also allows you to send refunds if necessary
Canva is a great alternative, as it is also free. This is how I generated my invoices for almost two years! If you want an ultra-custom invoice, this is the solution for you.
- Create a design with a size of 2550 pixels wide x 3300 pixels tall, this is optimal for an 8.5×11 piece of computer paper.
- Next, outline your document, by dragging and dropping boxes and lines from the sidebar to make it look more polished and professional.
- Use headings and text boxes to create all your text. You may select all your colors, fonts, and sizes yourself.
- There’s no limits as to what you can do with your invoice, it’s completely custom to how you build it. I’ll attach a photo of what my invoice template looks like.
- You can also use one of Canva’s invoice templates if you don’t want to totally custom create it yourself. Here are the templates.
How to Get Returning Clients + Referrals
If you don’t feel like reading this next section, it can be easily summed up as this- be the best freelancer they’ve ever worked with. If you’re curious as how to do that, read on:
- Bring Gifts. For small contracts that only last a few weeks or months at most, I prefer to give away free digital gifts. Sometimes if they mention they like my invoice, I’ll give them a template. If I’m working on their website and I know there’s another little project (something easy that takes less than an hour to do) that they’d like done (but isn’t part of our contact), I offer to do it for them. Sometimes I welcome them into my twitter lists, give their business a shoutout on social media, or give them some free photography (photos I took, and I’m granting them permission to use) for their project. For larger projects, I get more generous with free work, or I even ship over a gift basket for my US clients. I know it may seem counter-intuitive to give away time and money, but the rewards are ten-fold. My clients refer me to other high quality clients, and the clients are also quick to return should they have another project come up. A few hours or a few dollars here and there is so worth it to me to not have to scout out new clients.
- Keep a list. When I talk to clients, they will inevitably share little pieces of their lives with me. I keep a running list that has his or her name and project at the top of the list, and below that, bullet points of things he or she has said. There will be times when you’re collaborating on a project together and a screen will freeze or work will have to cease for a moment. Instead of sitting there in awkward silence, this is when I like to ask questions about the project or talk to him or her about a hobby. I know it may seem strange for many to write down this information about a client, but really, you compartmentalize this information in your head anyways. Writing it down just means that you won’t be making conversation with him or her about a dog that (s)he doesn’t have.
- Be organized, do your work on time, and always be polite. If you’re having a bad week and something is going to be late, tell your client the instant you find out so that she can determine if she wants you to keep working on that, or hire another freelancer to help. I’ve been very lucky, anytime I tell a client that something came up, they’ve always been understanding, and I’ve yet to be dropped.
- Do some research on/for your client’s project, before and during your projects. If you’ve been hired to improve a website’s SEO, never stop learning and reading about search engine algorithms. It’s your job to know this stuff, and your client will be pleased to know that you’re staying on top of the game and doing your absolute best.
- Follow Up. After you complete your project, give the clients about a month to breathe, and then reach out again. Ask them how they’re doing, how your work is holding up/serving their business, and if there’s anything you can do to improve it. Make sure this email or text is about what you can do for him or her, and never about you wanting work. Desperate is ugly and off-putting. I’d say there’s a 60-85% chance that he or she will want to work with you again if you’ve done everything you can to be your best. Being a business owner is stressful, and hiring someone to take off some of that work load is an immense relief. Not only this, but business owners who have traditional office employees automatically appreciate you because you aren’t asking for days off work, or scrolling through Instagram when you should be working (I mean you still take sick days and scroll through Instagram, but because they don’t see you doing that, and because you always get your work done on time, they think you’re the perfect person for the job).
Fast Tips to Successfully Start Working at Home as a Freelancer
- You must pay taxes on whatever you earn as a freelancer, even if you aren’t officially registered as a business. Set back at least 30% of all your income in savings, you’ll need that when it comes time to pay your taxes.
- Everything you write and post must be your own. Plagiarism was a big deal in school, and it’s an even bigger issue as an adult. Do not copy/paste someone else’s work. Do not take other’s photographs and post or modify them without explicit permission from the photo’s owner (unless you use images that are explicitly free to use for modification and commercial purposes, click here to see how I get free images). Failing to legally source your images can result in a $7,500 fine.
- If you write for an affiliate website or blog, NEVER list the actual prices of the items you’re discussing directly on your website. That can get you kicked off of many affiliate programs, such as Amazon Affiliates. If your reader wants to know the price, he or she must click the link to the website, OR you can add in a widget that automatically updates the price as the website’s price changes.
- Algorithms are always changing. Make sure you stay on top of this, especially if you’re a social media manager or SEO writer.
- What are your tips for working at home?
- Have you ever written up your own contract or invoice?
- What’s your secret to getting returning clients?
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