The Best Freelance Contract Templates for 2022: Examples and Explanations
Table of contents
- What is SignTime?
- What is a freelancer?
- What is a freelance contract?
- What is a freelance contract template?
- Types of freelance contract templates
- When do I need a freelance contract?
- What are the potential consequences of not using a freelance contract?
- Where can I find freelance contract templates?
- Use SignTime to execute and store your freelance contracts
- What are the essential components of any freelance contract template?
- Freelance contract template FAQs
- Do I need a freelance contract for every project?
- Can I just use a freelance contract template as written?
- What is the value of always having a freelance contract?
- Are there other valuable templates for freelancers?
- How can you collect signatures from clients around the world?
- What are some other things I should consider before freelancing?
- Freelance contracts protect your working relationships
Written by Timothy Ware
Freelance work can be exciting. You are your own boss, you get paid based on your own productivity, and you can catch a glimpse at what it’s like to own a small business.
This might push you to leap in, full steam, without thinking about the details though. In general, I support this feeling—more than one great idea has been side-lined by trying to meet unnecessary conditions before actually starting the work. After all, isn’t that the very essence of procrastination?
This doesn’t mean that you should begin taking on clients without a certain amount of due diligence. For example, you should have a good idea of what the market is willing to pay for your services and this keeps you from being uncompetitive in your pricing and makes sure that you’re not leaving money on the table.
Another necessary piece of work that should always come before any freelance project arrangement is a solid freelance work contract. That’s because a good contract can protect both you as the freelancer and the company as your client. Furthermore, a good contract means a good working relationship, which is the single best driver of repeat business.
In this article, I am going to describe what it means to be a freelancer, why a freelance contract is beneficial, and where you can find some freelance contract templates online. I’ll also provide a summary of all the key components of a good freelance contract template so that you feel comfortable drafting one of your own.
But first, let me tell you about the single best tool to help you get your freelance contract templates signed.
What is SignTime?
It can be difficult to coordinate schedules when trying to get your clients to execute your freelance contract. This can leave you in limbo while you wait for your job to start.
That’s why you should use SignTime to collect signatures for your contracts. With convenient e-signature capabilities, you’ll get signed contracts back from your clients in record time.
Using convenient e-signatures even makes it easier to convert clients during sales calls. Simply send them the contract while still in the Zoom meeting!
Sign up for our free trial now, and never chase down signatures again.
What is a freelancer?
A freelancer is basically anyone who works in a self-employed capacity for someone else. The rules for freelancers vary widely from country to country, but the general structure of the job is that they can set their own schedules and are responsible for their own taxes and insurance.
A freelancer generally trades a higher hourly earning potential and more freedom for less job security and support. It is a great compromise for both sides when it comes to certain types of work.
For example, if a business has a high degree of seasonality in the amount of available work, they may prefer to hire freelancers for more money during busy periods to avoid carrying employee contracts during off seasons. A skilled and responsible freelancer might trade job security for the chance to do more skilled work that would usually take years of experience to be given in-house.
In summary, freelancers are independent contractors who work under flexible arrangements. The work might be a specific project or an ongoing arrangement, but in either case the freelancer and client should have a contract in place.
What is a freelance contract?
A freelance contract is a document drafted by either the client or freelancer that explains the terms of the working relationship. Companies that often use freelancers likely have a freelance contract template that they’d prefer to use. If the company has not used freelancers before, or this is a new type of project for them, then you may need to present a freelance contract.
A freelance contract can go by many names. Here are just a few of the name I have found over the years:
- Client/service freelancer agreement
- Company contractor agreement
- Contractor agreement
- Freelancer agreement
- Freelance contract sample
- Freelancer contractor agreement
- Independent consultant agreement
- Independent contractor agreement
It is important to stress again that there are risks to not having a freelance contract for both the freelancer and the client. It can put strain on the relationship if both parties have not agreed to the full nature of the arrangement. Therefore, even if the company does not present a freelance contract, the freelancer should propose their own.
I’ll go into the specifics below, but the following are just some of the components you should include in any freelance contract template:
- The names of all parties involved in the project
- Details about the services delivered and the expectations for both parties
- Specific dates for the work, for example the start date and end date
- Terms of payment
- Legal clarification of the contractor’s role
What is a freelance contract template?
A freelance contract template is the base contract that you can further customize to the specifics of any project. If you plan to do varied work, then you should write a much broader freelance contract template and then leave filling in the final details to when a client has indicated they’d like to hire you.
Before I move on to discussing where you can find some great freelance contract templates, as well as how to write your own, let’s pause to address something else. The freelance contract you sign for a project or ongoing work may only be one part of the paperwork that should be signed by both parties in a freelance work arrangement.
Types of freelance contract templates
Freelancers are often given access to private information. This is a huge liability to the company as they need to make sure that you won’t use or release that information during the project (and forever after).
Similarly, to protect the company after giving internal documents to a freelancer, they might ask you to sign a noncompete clause. This basically says you will not work with a competitor for a specified period of time after a project.
Here are some of the other freelance document templates that you should consider preparing to make closing deals easier.
A formal agreement is another way of saying a freelance contract. This is a full, comprehensive agreement between a freelancer and a client. The company is generally the party that will draft the contract, but that is not always the case.
If the client does not indicate the need for a formal contract, then the freelancer should still consider drafting one. A contract is a great way to ensure a positive working relationship.
That’s because a contract ensures both parties understand their rights and responsibilities. They can then work together without any worries about who should be doing what and when.
Letter of agreement
A letter of agreement (LOA) is an informal version of a freelance contract. It is usually written in the form of an informal letter and details most of the same information that you’d find in a full contract.
It still includes the party names, a brief project description, how, when, and how much the client should pay, and by what date the project should be completed. There are two situations where an LOA could be useful.
First, if you have an ongoing relationship with the other party, for example they are a friend or family member, or even if they have hired you many times before, then an LOA can sometimes work as a stand-in for a full formal freelance work contract.
Second, an LOA can be a first step in closing the deal. If the project is a rush job and it could take a few days to sign a full freelance contract, you could thus use the LOA to get started on the work in good faith while waiting for the contract to be finalized.
In many cases, an LOA could be considered as too weak to properly keep both parties safe. Since they do not have all of the needed sections of a true contract, if a problem arises, then an LOA may not offer much legal protection.
Statement of work
A statement of work lies somewhere between a full freelance contract and an LOA. It can often look similar to a full contract, but it does away with the “legalese” and is instead written in plain English.
The benefit of a statement of work over an LOA is that it has more details on the roles of both parties. This means that disagreements are less likely than when working under a simple LOA, but if trouble does happen you still might not have the same level of protection as with a full freelance work contract.
Freelancers often need to work inside of a business to complete their projects. You might be invited into private Slack channels, a company’s Notion board with all of their upcoming plans, or be able to see their financial statements before they are released to the public.
All of these situations pose a risk, and that risk could even be increased if you are working with multiple businesses in a related industry. One way to add trust to the relationship is to agree that any information shared during the project is kept private between the parties.
As a freelancer, you should always consider any private information as private forever, even without a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). In fact, offering to sign an NDA before it comes up by the client could be a great selling point.
A non-compete agreement (NCA) states that the freelancer will not take on work from competing organizations. An NCA might last for the duration of the project or for some years into the future. An NCA can be very specific, for example Google might ask you to sign an NCA with only Microsoft and Facebook listed as off limits. It might also be broad and include any company in the same industry or sector.
Before signing an NCA, you should be careful to make sure that it won’t harm your ability to earn income in the future. You should also confirm whether the NCA is enforceable, as jurisdictions are increasingly outlawing them.
When do I need a freelance contract?
You should have a freelance contract in place for every project. There are two main benefits to having a contract in place before starting work on any project.
The first is the obvious one. There are risks for the freelancer and client involved in their cooperation. These risks include private information, which can be reduced with well written NDAs and NCAs, as well as different expectations on when and how payments will be made, how long the project will take to complete, or what happens in the case of disagreements regarding the quality of the work.
The second is less talked about. If you have ever heard the phrase “good fences make good neighbors,” you can probably guess where I am going with this. The contract should detail everything about the project, from when it is due to how much follow-up work is included in the quoted price.
Here is how the co-founder and CEO of SignTime Jim Weisser puts it: “One thing that I found is that contracts are basically non-enforceable. Contracts are useful only for remembering the agreement that you and a counterparty came to. That’s because, if you end up at the point where you have to litigate with someone, you’ve lost, if you’re a small, fast-moving business.”
While having legal protection is important, you should still consider pursuing that protection a failure because it is a sign that you’ve given up on what could have been a valuable relationship. This is discussed in more detail in my post dedicated to freelance contracts, I encourage you to give it a read.
What are the potential consequences of not using a freelance contract?
There are some specific tax and governance risks to not having a freelance contract in place. For example, in the USA, a freelance contract can establish that the freelancer is not an employee and therefore should not be treated as one by the IRS. It can also open up both the freelancer and the client to shared liabilities that occur due to the project.
Again, in the USA, there are also social security and Medicare risks associated with the misclassification of freelancers as employees or employees as freelancers.
Here are some general potential consequences for the freelancer of not having a signed contract:
- Loss of payment
- Loss of time
- Potential tax fines for not disclosing accurate earnings information on their personal income tax return
- Stolen work
Here are some consequences that could be experienced by the client:
- In the USA, a 1099 form marks self-employment earnings for the IRS and any freelance worker earning more than $600 from a company must receive a 1099 form. The IRS provides instructions regarding this legal requirement on their website.
- In the USA, freelance workers cannot have employees, but they can delegate work to other independent contractors.
- There are specific legal guidelines that a company must follow to treat their workers fairly. The Department of Labor has a clear explanation of the major employment laws in the USA on their website.
- Loss of money, for example due to unanticipated expenses
- Breach of the company’s private information
- Legal expenses, including lawsuits
- Loss of time
Where can I find freelance contract templates?
There are many places online where you can find great freelance contract templates. For example, Wise offers one. There is also one from Legal Templates. TemplateLAB offers dozens of freelance contract templates, including LOAs, NDAs, and NCAs.
While not free, unlike the ones listed above, Obie Fernandez offers many contract templates geared towards specific freelance jobs. If you are looking to work in consulting or the software industry, these tested freelance contract templates are definitely worth the small fee.
Whatever freelance contract templates you decide to use, it is important to really understand what they are saying. Don’t forget that every freelancer is different, every client is different, and every job is different.
By understanding all of the specific elements of the freelance contract templates, you are in a better position to customize them to meet the needs of the parties and projects involved.
Use SignTime to execute and store your freelance contracts
With all of the paperwork required, from NDAs and NCAs to freelance contracts, it can be difficult to coordinate signatures. It can also be difficult to find and pull a specific agreement to confirm your rights and responsibilities with that client.
Thankfully, SignTime is here to help. With convenient e-signature capabilities, you’ll get signed contracts back from your clients in record time.
You can even set up your own freelance contract template repository as you write new contracts. That way you’ll never have to write another non-disclosure agreement again.
Sign up for our free trial now, and get your freelance contracts signed faster.
What are the essential components of any freelance contract template?
While I have linked to loads of great freelance contract templates above, the fact is that you still need to understand what’s in the contract and why as every project has different terms and every client has different needs.
You’ll need to customize your freelance contract template for each project and understanding the contents will make that easier. You’ll also come across clients that bring their own freelance contract, and if you don’t understand what you are signing then you risk the contract adding more problems than it removes.
1. Clear introductory statement to your freelance contract template
I like to add the client’s name in the top left corner and the freelancer’s name in the top right corner. Below them, I add their respective email addresses, mailing addresses, and phone numbers.
Thereafter, I add the phrase “Hereafter, the Client” below the company’s information and “Hereafter, the Freelancer” below the freelancer’s information. That way they can be referred to as Client and Freelancer, respectively, throughout the document. This saves loads of time when customizing the templates to new projects. It is also one less chance to introduce a mistake that could either be missed or lead to delays in getting the contract signed.
2. Terms and conditions
This is all the important stuff. It includes how much the freelancer will be paid, how they will be paid, and even when they will be paid. It also details the expectations of the client with regard to work completed.
You can also include all of your related services here and their rates, which protects you if the client keeps pushing for more work to be included beyond the initial quote.
The more detailed this section is, the easier it is for the client and freelancer to have a positive working experience. For example, defining the format of files, who owns the copyright, and whether any consulting on the final product is included will make finalizing the project much smoother.
3. Scope of the project
The scope of the product needs to be defined explicitly. Employees often experience their portfolio slowly increasing over time. That’s ok because they are paid hourly or a salary, so other work just gets replaced.
As a freelancer, you need to convert your piecework rate, whether it is per word for a blog post or per image for graphic design work, into an expected hourly rate. If the company continually asks for more and more, you need to be able to point to the contract and say either “I can’t do that” or “that’ll cost extra.”
4. Changes and revisions
This is another form of creep that can enter into the expectations of the work contract. As a writer, I am often asked to revise my work—and rightfully so. However, there are limits to how many times I can afford to revise my work before the project becomes unprofitable.
This issue could be exacerbated if a client were unsure of what they want, and then that indecision leads to you changing and then changing back your deliverables repeatedly.
Thankfully, I have never experienced this particular issue, but I know many people who have. A great way to limit these risks is to include two separate limits to your offer to change or revise your work.
The first one should be a maximum number of times you are willing to revise something. That way you aren’t left spending days doing unexpected and unpaid work. The second is a hard limit on the number of days after submitting work.
For example, if it takes a client six weeks to review your work, then by the time they ask for revisions you are probably deep into your next project. In that case, they should expect delays and to pay for revisions if they are needed.
While I am not a lawyer (and you probably aren’t either), there are real legal risks involved in freelance work. You should be very careful revising the legalese part of any freelance contract template and consider consulting a lawyer to confirm its appropriateness once you’ve settled on the wording of the parts of the contract designed to reduce or remove legal risks.
The rules regarding copyright are extremely complicated and I am in no way an expert. However, if a company hires a freelancer to produce “Works Made for Hire” and does not clearly establish that they wish to retain ownership, then the work actually belongs to the creator.
This is definitely a situation that should be discussed between the freelancer and client because the freelancer, legally, taking ownership of their creations when the client believes they own it will cause issues in the relationship.
It is important to explicitly state how much the freelancer should be paid, the timing of the payments, and how they will be paid, for example via bank transfer or using PayPal.
Ultimately, freelance work is about generating an income, so you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where it is difficult to get the client to pay. It’s best to explicitly establish a payment schedule. That could be monthly for ongoing contracts or based on the completion of milestones of a single large project.
This determines when and how a contract will end. Many freelance arrangements are for a specific project, so the completion of the project becomes the obvious end date. Other freelance contracts are ongoing, so this gives you the chance to define an end date and possibly even reduce the risk of a sudden loss of income.
When I am signing ongoing freelance contracts, I usually stipulate the end date as December 31st of that year and then add the phrase “after which the contract will persist until one party gives 30 days’ notice of their intention to terminate the contract.”
Termination stipulations can also be made regarding quality of work, delays in payment, and anything else that might upset either party. In these cases, the freelancer or client can terminate the contract without notice due to a violation of expectations.
All contracts need to be signed. That’s the first step in executing any contract. Unlike 20 years ago, it is unlikely that the freelancer and client will meet in person. That’s why e-signatures have become a key part of doing business.
To get your contracts signed and executed, you should use SignTime. With convenient e-signature capabilities, you and your clients can sign the contract on the spot without delays.
The online contract repository is organized using the modern tagging system, which means you’ll never have to search for important paperwork again.
Sign up for our free trial now, and improve your sales game.
Freelance contract template FAQs
Here are some questions that I hear asked frequently about freelance contract templates.
Do I need a freelance contract for every project?
Yes! You absolutely should always have a contract in place when doing freelance work.
Can I just use a freelance contract template as written?
While it is possible that two separate clients will agree to the same pay rate, deadlines, termination rules, and so on, it is unlikely. It is best to thoroughly understand the needed sections in a freelance contract so that you can customize it to the needs of each project and client.
What is the value of always having a freelance contract?
Simply put, a freelance contract protects both the freelancer and client from a number of different risks, including tax issues.
More importantly, the freelance contract reduces friction in the relationship between the two parties by defining their respective roles and responsibilities. This is the single biggest benefit as long-lasting relationships add value to the clients and generate income for the freelancer.
Are there other valuable templates for freelancers?
Yes, there are many different documents that you should consider making or purchasing templates for! I actually discuss freelancer invoice templates in another article.
How can you collect signatures from clients around the world?
The tried-and-true way is to print off two copies of the contract, sign and date them, put them in an envelope with a second envelope and return postage, and send them express to your clients. They then sign both copies, file one locally, put the other in the return envelope, and have it sent back.
This is expensive, time consuming, bad for the environment, and, maybe worst of all for your business, it’s poor customer service. That’s why e-signatures were invented, and for my money I recommend SignTime. If you want to see how e-signatures improve this process, read this case study about how HCCR drastically improved their customer service with the help of SignTime.
What are some other things I should consider before freelancing?
Freelancing is very much a lifestyle change from being a salaried employee! While you can definitely earn more money, you are also taking on a lot of economic risk. That’s because work can come and go.
Freelance contracts protect your working relationships
Whatever industry you freelance in, SignTime is there to help. With convenient e-signature capabilities, you’ll get signed contracts back from your clients in record time.
With an easy-to-access and organized online contract repository, never search for important paperwork again.
Sign up for our free trial now, and improve your sales game.