By Lori Widmer
You and your client have a contract for that project, so you’re in good shape, right? Maybe. Just because you’ve signed a contract doesn’t mean you’re protected. When putting together a contract, or when reviewing one supplied by your client, make sure you include the following:
You’d be surprised how many people overlook this one. It’s not simply putting a figure down. You need to spell out how you expect that client to pay you – weekly, monthly, in installments, etc. If you’re ghostwriting a book, this is especially important, for you don’t want that last payment to be “upon delivery of final product.” It’s a lesson I learned the hard way when one project dragged on for years. Put an end date to that last payment. Trust me. Been there, suffered that.
Ever sat for months waiting for clients to get back to you on revisions? That’s why your contract needs a clause that explains that the client has 14 days from delivery (or 30 days if it’s a huge document) to get back to you with changes. On day 15 (or day 31), you’re working under a new to-be-negotiated agreement.
This may sound odd, but you do have to get them to understand that you can’t deliver on time if they don’t review on time. I’m a big stickler for deadlines. If I have to meet them, so do the clients. I will deliver that project within two weeks, but they have to review it and get their revisions to me within an equally tight deadline or that project will never get completed. Clients have to be as committed to their project as they expect you to be. Our job is to help them deliver. If that means putting deadlines on them (and making it clear that the contract is void and payable upon breach), do it.
Additional work will be negotiated under a separate agreement
This does a few things – it guarantees the work you’re about to sign on for isn’t going to snowball into massive amounts of work that you’ve bid only a pittance for. If your agreement is to write two articles, write two. Don’t take on a third under the same agreement, for that turns into six and now you’re unable to pull the plug. Also, it forces the client to consider exactly how much work is needed.
Define your word counts or per-piece counts
While writing the company’s corporate profiles or two ghostwritten articles may seem like fairly specific jobs, how many “executives” are they expecting to pile on to your profile heap, and are those articles in your mind 1,500 words and in their minds 30-page white papers?
No third parties
By this I mean no one new enters into the project at any stage expecting you to follow their advice or handle their edits. This keeps projects from spinning out of control. State that any introduction of a third party into the project who isn’t listed in the contract will void the contract. That allows your client to consider who might be involved at some later date. And it safeguards your client/writer relationship, which can be altered or destroyed by a pushy third party with big ideas and no vested interest in the project.
What else do you put in your contracts?
Lori Widmer has spent the last 10 years of her career perfecting her contracts and covering her assets. She blogs about all things writerly every weekday at Words on the Page. She and Devon Ellington are co-hosting a one-day writing Webinar, The Confident Freelancer, Saturday, March 26. For more information, visit The Confident Freelancer.