Two folders on a bright yellow table with contract clauses

Strict freelance clauses can save you time, headaches, stress and money. These are the clauses I wish I had in place when I started working on a freelance or contract basis in 2016.

These are the contract clauses that will save your business and show your clients that when you’re hired, you mean business. I am including the exact purpose of my clauses so that you can take them and write your own. You can also hire a contract lawyer to help you put something in place. I encourage you to take these ideas to create specific freelance clauses and verbiage that apply directly to what you do.

Let’s begin. I know you’re itching to find out exactly what’s missing in your freelance clauses.

1. Specific description of services | Description of services contract clause

I think we’ve all made this mistake, but do not forget to include an exact description of your services in your contracts! This is especially important when it comes to creating a clear outline for the scope of work you’ll do for your client. If you have a clear description, there should be no miscommunications or frustrations when you perform the requested services for your client. When it’s all written down, no one can question it, and it gives you a solid reminder of the exact things you promised to do during that first intro call.

Include start dates, delivery dates, what you require from your client to perform the services, etc.

2. How you want to be paid | Payment for services clause

What do you expect to be paid for each of the services to be performed? How will you be paid? Will you send an invoice and when is that invoice due? When will the invoice be sent? Do you take payment through Paypal, check, e-transfer or elsewhere?

3. Nonrefundable service retainer | Also in the payment clause

One of the key things in my contract, especially for my specific services as a website copywriter, is a service retainer. I recommend that for large project work, such as designing a website or creating a social media strategy, you require a 25% service retainer. This is a 25% upfront payment for the services that will be provided. I tell my clients that this service retainer puts them on my calendar (which it does!). This upfront investment ensures that only serious clients will hire you and those looking for free services will head elsewhere. It also makes clear to your clients that their project will be a priority. It’s like putting a down payment on the house. The house is all theirs, you just need that commitment first.

4. Ghosting clause | Delays & reactivation clause

This is a serious, necessary clause, but I’m able to lighten it up by referencing the term, ghosting.

I set my calendar up to deliver projects on time, but I require a few things to be completed by my clients before I can make progress on a project (such as submitting brand information and ideal client information with two simple forms). Unfortunately, I simply cannot do my part of the project without this information. If you hire me, I get you on my calendar to complete the work within our discussed timeframe. This simple, but clear clause keeps us on time and if any delays do occur, it makes up for it. I schedule out my projects and project delays affect other clients and work. Don’t worry — I send out plenty of reminders so it’s not easy to forget any small tasks required. I don’t want to charge any extra fees if I don’t have to!

Even with an upfront service retainer, sometimes it’s challenging to keep clients on schedule. We lead busy lives and tend to procrastinate. My ghosting clause, or in seriousness, my delays & reactivation clause includes a specific timeliness responsibility for my clients. Specifically, I request that my clients submit needed information and approvals within 10 days of any request. This is clear before we even start the project. If they can’t get started right away, then we’ll start the project at a later time when they’ll have the ability to fulfill this responsibility.

If, however, a client takes more than 10 days to get back to me, I charge a reactivation fee to reschedule the project and get them back on my calendar. Keep in mind that this fee may not be charged if the delay is due to some awful, unforeseen circumstance that my client and I would then discuss. This allows the project to continue on, while also making up for any delays. If you hired me, but then forgot you had a vacation scheduled or some odd circumstance comes up, you simply have to pay a fee and reactivate the services within 60 days of our project start date. It’s like a late fee for delaying the project, but I promise, I rarely have to enforce this! Most of my clients hire me because they’re ready to make a change ASAP and that’s what I’m here for.

Are you seeing a trend? Most of these clauses are meant to ensure that the project starts and continues on time, without any delays. I’m invested and I want my clients to be invested too.

5. Late fees | Late payments clause

This one is simple, but I often find people from my industry in my DMs talking about this very issue — late payments. When you send out an invoice and it’s not paid by the due date, your contract should include a late payments clause. It should detail out a late payment fee and an interest accrual. I also include a client responsible for attorney and/or collection agency’s fees if it ever comes to that.

6. Copyright clause

Copyright clauses are crucial for a lot of creative contract work like website design, copywriting, etc. You have one person paying someone else to create a piece of work. Copyright definitely comes into play here. For my purposes (as a copywriter and content marketer), I hand over the copyright to my clients after full payments have been made. I also include in this clause that I have the right to use samples of my paid services for portfolio purposes.

Fun fact — sometimes people think I’m a copyrighter when I introduce myself as a copywriter.

7. Contract cancellation | Termination clause

Lastly, it’s important to include a termination clause. How can the contract be terminated? What is due or owed if the contract is cancelled? Is the service retainer refundable? What happens to the work or invoices if the contract is cancelled?

Benefits of clear contract clauses:

Straightforward and detailed contract clauses can protect both the client and the contractor or agency. As the client, a contract ensures that when you pay someone, you’ll get the work you’re paying for. A well-written contract can also assure you that the services will be delivered on time. When working with a business owner, their main goal is to help you. However, these clauses protect them in the case of any miscommunication or frustrations.

Don’t be afraid of strict contracts. It’s better to have all information signed and in writing in case anything comes up.

Ultimately, though, these contracts are typically built to protect the contractor or business providing the services. Strict contracts keep their business going in case of late payments or any other hiccups that happen during a project.

If you ever have any questions about a contract you’re about to sign, ask the individual you’re working with. In my case, every clause is there for a specific reason. It’s not mean to punish or scare — rather, it’s meant to protect my business and the project. I do what I do because I care about delivering high quality results on time and I’ve created contracts that in a sense, protect my services for my clients.

Questions? Leave a comment below. I’m an open book!


If you need some contracts to protect your business, I recommend The Legal Paige and The Legal Godfairy!

Lifesaving Freelance Contract Clauses I Wish I Knew About

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