Friday, April 3, 2009

Your Take On Contract Terms

Here's a question that I have been kicking around for a while and I would like to hear some opinions from the other writers here.

Do you peeps have a favorite contract template? I haven't found one I like yet. The versions on Elance are too wordy (4-11 pages) and are skewed toward the buyer's interests. For projects under $1,000 a contract of more than 1-2 pages is simply not a feasible option.

I have a lot of experience negotiating contracts in my Purchasing job so I figure I will put together my own eventually. Maybe we can put our heads together and brainstorm a simple freelance writer contract that everyone can customize to their own needs.

Let me know who wants in on this and we can start kicking around requirements and suggestions for a sample contract in the comments section.


(Disclaimer: No information or opinion appearing in the above post or any of the subsequent comments is intended to represent legal advice. Please contact an attorney and pay thousands of dollars in consulting fees in order to protect your next investment in a $50 project.)


  1. Awesome idea - I'm definitely in. Maybe it could become part of the website, eventually?

  2. This is of great interest to me because I haven't yet gotten into the negotiation stage. While I won't have much to add, I will have much to learn.

  3. OK, this week I will start posting some stuff here about what I think is important to have included. Everyone else feel free to chime in.

  4. Great idea, and I love your disclaimer. I'll read over some contracts, extract the nuts and bolts and post it.

  5. Yes, I would be very interested. So far my clients have submitted their own. However, I have worked for several others that an agreement was made in back and forth emails. I have been fortunate in always being paid.

  6. I think many of us agree to do ghostwriting jobs in addition to byline work. On ghostwriting jobs, I still try to get nailed down that I can show the work to prospective clients - I have had a few request I delete the info from my hard drive after delivery but I never do until I am paid and I usually charge a premium for that.

    I do so much ghostwriting that not being allowed to use samples is detrimental to me. Most understand, and know I am not out to steal work or show it to anyone I don't feel comfortable working with. Some agreed just to have one article, or an extract designated, so in case of plagiarism it would be easy to spot, and they simply copyscape it once in a while. So far, so good.

  7. Yes, I envision a check list on the contract that allows you to specify what (if any) attribution (by-line)will be given you for the work. That way you can make it clear to the buyer what the up-charge is for no attribution, what the charge is if you are transferring copyright in full or if you are merely giving license for them to use the work freely and retaining the right to display the piece yourself in your portfolio, etc.

    It won't be necessary on every job, but sure will help with clearing up expectations on some of them.

    A similar checklist can be used to specify the terms regarding revisions and rewrites. For example, you might give one free revision (where less than 20% of the piece is revised) but charge for any additional revisions (except on ebooks where 2-3 revisions are standard). You can also specify the price for a full rewrite (this might be 75% of the cost of an original piece).

    Putting this stuff in writing is a great way to show a buyer how much work is actually involved. When you put a price tag on it, they can see that it has value. Anyone who has been stuck doing endless revisions for a super picky client will appreciate this.

  8. Excellent points - I too had envisioned some sort of checklist divided into sections such as copyright rights (I never, NEVER acknowledge any copyright as having transferred until final installment is paid in full); sample rights (I often retain the right to show samples of work done, and often request a letter from the client attesting to that fact), etc. I love the revisions clause, very well thought out, Day.

    We could also have a section concerning feedback - there have been many instances of writers being slammed on social networks after the fact because they refused to be blackmailed into providing extra work for free. Not sure how we could work that one in...


  9. OK, sorry for being so late. Here is a sample of the work terms I created for my Guru profile. This is the short version since I ran way over the character limit with my original version. I guess shorter is better anyway. Here goes:

    We accept payment via ________. Buyers can pay upon completion for projects under $_____.

    Communication - We will communicate with you regularly and respond to your inquiries via email within 1 business day (CST).

    Delivery Schedule - For escrow projects, work begins when the appropriate milestone has been funded. Please fund promptly to avoid delays.

    Revision - We consider a revision to be alteration of up to 20% of content. 1 revision is offered free of charge for each of the first two articles we write for you. Ebooks often include additional revisions in the bid price.

    Rewrite - This is an extensive revision (such as 50% of content). In the unlikely event that you require us to rewrite the content we submit to you, this will incur a surcharge. You can avoid the need for rewrites by providing clear and accurate instructions at the outset of each project.

    Attribution/Byline - We offer discounted pricing to buyers who allow us to publish work under our own names. This builds our web presence and makes it easy to point future clients to online examples of our writing.

    Copyright - If you are purchasing all rights to the work we submit, we will not create a sample from the end product to post in our portfolio without your specific permission.

    Feedback - Your satisfaction is our highest priority. The final feedback you leave on ____ has a huge impact on our potential for growth. We also appreciate your endorsement since it helps us build our business.

  10. This comment will be bumped at teh first of the month to a post of its own, and revised as we go along. Thanks, Day, and everyone else who is coming up with input!