Contract Templates + Tools for Freelancers

Contract Templates + Tools for Freelancers

Nothing makes me weep more than seeing those long posts in Facebook Groups about how someone is dealing with a sticky legal situation or a client who won’t pay up.

Most of the time these freelancers didn’t have a contract in place at all. 

If you’ll be working with clients you need a contract to protect yourself and the client as well as to make sure all the guidelines and boundaries are set from the go.

I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve never been in a situation like that but I always use a contract with my clients no matter how small the project or how many times we’ve worked together. It gives me peace of mind and makes my business look professional.

If you’re ready to start using contracts in your business then you’re in luck! You can easily find templates and get contracts signed electronically all for free.

Keep reading to learn what your contract needs, what tools you can use, and advice on using contracts in your business.

Legal Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and recommend you seek legal advice if you want a rock solid contract to protect you. 

What to include in your contract

Before you go hunting for a template to use you’ll want to have a few ideas of what exactly to include in your contract. It will probably vary depending on your niche and what service you provide but you’ll want to make sure you cover your bases.

A cancellation clause. You don’t want to end up with a client who sucks and no way to get out of your contract. Some type of cancellation or termination clause can outline your ability to terminate and under what cause, some sort of deadline or timeline for termination, and what happens to any money or work that has already been transferred. Don’t forget your client may want to terminate the contract at some point so cover that as well.

Who keeps what. If you do creative work like design then you’ll want to clearly outline what files your client will receive in the end and who has the rights to the designs, ideas, etc. If your client demands the source files you can then refer them back to the contract.

Client “delay” clause. In the event your client shall disappear off the face of the planet without so much as a ‘see ya later’ then you need to decide what’s going to happen with their project and any deposit or invoice they’ve already covered. Or if you have trouble getting content or files from a client within a deadline then create a clause that will deter that. 

Project specifications. Such as pricing and payment details, hourly rates, deadlines and check-in dates, revisions and “extras”, etc. You don’t want to not have all the details you’ve discussed not laid out on the contract. It may seem redundant but you’ll have peace of mind knowing everything is squared away.

Finding a contract template

The first step to utilizing contracts in your business is to find a template to use first.

There are plenty of free options out there and even premium templates created by lawyers for freelancers and entrepreneurs. Your best bet is to contact a lawyer to craft a contract tailored for you and your business.

But I know that’s probably not gonna happen for most of us so using a well crafted template is the next best thing.

Docracy

This is the first place I ever used to find contract templates and get them signed by clients. It’s completely free to use and has tons of different legal documents for all kinds of jobs and niches available for open use.

The two contracts that I started with and have adapted over the years are the Independent Contract Agreement (Designers) and Retainer Agreement (which can be turned into a flat rate contract easily). 

My tips for finding contract templates on Docracy is to look for highly rated documents, like this Independent Contractor Agreement. Also look for documents related to you industry or niche (designer, developer, VA) and don’t be afraid to mix and match to create your own.

After you found a template you like you can add it your documents dashboard and use it as is or start making changes. Docracy used to allow you to send and sign contracts for free but they had to remove that to cut on costs.

You can still use Docracy to find a great template but you’ll likely have to upgrade for signing.

The Contract Shop

While this option isn’t a free you can purchase all sorts of contracts, legal documents, privacy policies, terms and conditions, and other agreements for just about any niche or business under the sun.

And the best part is every document has been prepared and reviewed by an actually legal attorney!

You’ll be able to see what each document includes and outlines and how it protects you and your business. All you have to do is fill in your template and you’re good to go!

If you’re not sure which contract is right for you they will soon have a quiz that will point you in the right direction. For now, this independent contractor agreement is a good general contract for freelancers.

Getting your contracts signed

Once you have a great contract template in place it’s not going to do much good unless you can get it signed by your client.

Since Docracy no longer offers free contract signing, there aren’t a lot of free options available. If you only need a few basic contracts signed per month you’ll be ok, otherwise you’ll have to pay for a service.

HelloSign

Although I haven’t used HelloSign personally, I’ve seen many business colleagues who have recommended it.

The free version allows for you to send 3 documents per month but doesn’t give you the ability to have any templates saved. This is probably fine if you are only booking 1-2 clients a month or just getting started with freelancing.

If you just need a quick contract signed that’s secure and professional this will do the trick. But I can’t really recommend anything more than the free version because I just think there are more affordable (and better) options out there.

WP Online Contract

This is a plugin for WordPress so if you don’t have a WP site this won’t work for you. But if you do it’s a great solution for contracts right on your own website!

Prior to returning to Dubsado, I use WP Online Contract for sending and signing client contracts. You can have as many templates as you like, use shortcodes (basically like smart fields), set up your email notifications and more.

Some of my favorite features of this plugin is that it allows you to use templates and fields to easily fill out and send a new contract. It literally took me less than a minute to send out a contract to a new client.

It also makes getting paid super easy because after the client signs a button can appear to send them straight to Paypal (or another processor if you purchase an add-on). This eliminated the need for me to make separate invoices and ensured the client would pay right after signing.

There were some problems I ran into though.

Since it is a WordPress plugin running on your site you might run into plugin or theme conflicts that may cause the contract plugin to behave weird. This happened to me and I was able to get around it but those who aren’t so tech-savvy might not be so lucky.

Some other hiccups I had were small bugs like the email template not correctly showing my reply email or the client’s name. Luckily the developer of this plugin is very helpful and constantly improving and updating the plugin.

Dubsado

Dubsado is so much more than contracts. It’s a complete Customer Relationship Manager and covers contracts, invoicing, workflows, email templates, time tracking, to do’s, calendar, bookkeeping, templates, forms, and even more than that.

If all you need is a simple contract signed with no frills this isn’t going to be the solution for you. But if you’re ready to completely streamline your client process then I totally recommend diving into Dubsado! (You get 3 clients to use for free on your trial!)

All contracts (and other types of templates) in Dubsado can use smart fields which means it can pull in data about your client, their project, and the invoice. This saves me a ton of time when onboarding a new client; all I have to do is attach the right contract and click a button.

The great thing about Dubsado is that it is always improving. Recently the ability to use your own domain and title (custom url mapping) was released and now my clients experience my branding 100% from the domain and text to the colors and imagery.

They generously offer a free trial that gives you 3 clients to try out. You can also save 20% off your first month or year when you use my referral code: shayleesmith

Recommended Reading: Why Dubsado is the Only Tool You Need to Manage Your Business

Templates and signing all in one

These tools include their own “ready to use” contracts and the ability to send and sign them all in one. The downside to this is that you can’t really customize every part of the contract usually. Sure you can update fields and tweak sections but you won’t be able to use your own contract.

If you need something quick and easy to use plus reviewed by fellow freelancers then these options are going to be perfect.

And.co

When And.co by Fiverr came into existence I was pretty surprised because it looks like a great tool for new business owners. It’s free to use for 1 client and has a lot of similar features as Dubsado although not quite as robust.

For the contract features of And.co you get their “freelance vetted” contract template that can be customized along with e-signing, alerts, “self-destruction” options, and automatic invoice creation. 

I’ve briefly tried And.co myself and it was a breeze to get started with. There appears to be an option to upload your own documents or contracts but I’m not sure that can you digitally sign uploaded files.

Like Dubsado, And.co offers a lot more than just contract templates and signing. They also cover your invoices and payments, time tracking, reports, recurring payments, proposals, and basic workflows.

While 1 client on the free version might give you an idea of how the system will work for you, I don’t think that will cut it for a business. Luckily you can get unlimited clients on the paid plan.

Hello Bonsai

Another great “all in one” business tool for contracts, invoices, and proposals that has a beautiful and clean interface. This used to be a free service for freelancers but now they only offer a 14-day free trial.

I won’t go into all the features but it does pretty much everything And.co does though some of the features are more extensive, support is probably better, and I think the UI is really snazzy.

Like And.co, you get to use their pre-made contract template and fill in the blanks or tweak clauses. Although it’s nice they’ve taken care of contracts for their users it would be even better if you could use your own contracts on a paid service.

In my opinion, if you’re going to be paying the monthly fee for one of these services, I would pick Dubsado.

Hopefully this post has helped you get a grasp on contracts for your own business! It’s so important that you have a contract that protects both you and the client in place even before you book your first client.

What tool do you use for your own contracts? Let me know in the comments!

Roundup of GDPR Resources to Get Compliant

Roundup of GDPR Resources to Get Compliant

Although the GDPR is already upon us, there are probably lots of you who are still struggling to wrap your heads around it or get compliant. If you don’t know what the General Data Protection Regulation is then you may be living under a rock (or it’s just not the trendy topic anymore).

GDPR is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union. But even if you don’t reside in the EU or target those visitors, you’re still obligated to abide by those laws for EU-based visitors, commentors, clients, and subscribers.

Basically, if you collect any type of data (such as IP address, name, email) then you are required to protect that data and respect the rights of those visitors.

The biggest things you’ll likely need to do is:

  • Update your Privacy Policy and other legal jargon
  • Adjust your opt-in forms and email marketing tactics
  • Install a cookie consent notification on your website

Below is a roundup of freebies, checklists, templates, and resources to help get your website, blog, business, and email list compliant with the GDPR laws.

Information + Checklists

GDPR For Entrepreneurs: What You Need to Know – A podcast / blog post by Amy Porterfield featuring Bobby Klinck (an intellectual property attorney) that is amazing! It outlines the major changes business owners need to make for the GDPR as well as action items to follow.

Free GDPR Compliance Checklist – This is a great free download that tells you what is required of you as a business owner, what to include in your privacy policy, and tweaks you can do to your email marketing.

GDPR Compliant Blog Course – A very extensive course that will teach you in-depth all the legal caveats of the GDPR along with your obligations to comply. Included are action steps and tons of bonus templates to make this the only resource you’ll need!

GDPR for Online Entrepreneurs – A free Facebook group for online entrepreneurs who need advice or help with the GDPR ran by a UK-based lawyer. Inside you’ll find a ton of video content and lessons to answer your questions.

Email Marketing

Mailerlite’s GDPR Features: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 – A 3 part blog series on new updates and changes within Mailerlite for the GDPR. There’s an updated form builder with new compliance features, reengagement campaigns, and even a snippet to include in your privacy policy.

Creating Opt-in Forms under the GDPR – Examples of good and bad forms and how they comply (or don’t) with the GDPR. Mentioned are the use of check boxes, freebie incentives, and confusing language.

Convertkit’s GDPR FAQ – Frequently asked questions on the GDPR and how Convertkit is handling them plus features they are offering. CK has been excellent about these new GDPR updates and I’m really impressed. While I love Mailerlite, CK has a more robust system to allow for handling EU opt-ins.

Privacy Policy Templates

GDPR Compliant Terms + Conditions and Privacy Policy – Written by a real lawyer, these legal documents are GDPR ready and easy to fill out with your own information.

Shopify’s free Privacy Policy generator and Terms of Service generator

GetTerms.io – A free generator or a GDPR compliant bundle for only $15

Free GDPR compliant Privacy Policy template – This is a really in-depth template written up by (again) a real lawyer! Although you have to leave a credit back to their site, it is highly customizable and includes a ton of suggestions and template areas for you to adapt it to your needs. It even has an extra page that explains how each part relates to the GDPR.

GDPR Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy swipe files – A blogger shares her very own policies! Her husband is a lawyer and has helped her craft her own documents that she’s kindly sharing with her visitors.

Cookie Notifications

I’ve heard mixed things about having to have a cookie consent notification on your website. According to WPMU Dev, you only need a cookie notification if you’re 1) based in the EU, 2) target EU-based consumers, or 3) your website server is located in the EU.

But on the flip side, others claim that just having EU visitors on your website is enough to warrant the cookie notification.

I’m not a lawyer so I have no clue. If you decide to add one to your website there are several tools and plugins to easily take care of it.

GDPR Cookie Consent – A free cookie consent plugin with a wide array of features to make your site compliant. Lots of options and ways to customize it so it works with your website.

Cookie Notice – A free and fully GDPR compliant cookie plugin for WordPress. There are a variety of settings and customizations and it’s even SEO friendly!

Cookiebot – Free or paid cookie service that works with any website with just a few lines of code. This tool has the most features and can even detect what cookies your website is using so you can display them in your privacy policy.

How a Statement of Work Protects Your Business

How a Statement of Work Protects Your Business

If you have never used one before, a Statement of Work is a document that thoroughly explains the graphic design or web development work that you will be performing for you client. Or, if you are the client, the Statement of Work is also an excellent place to state what will be done and your expectations of each step of the project.

This document is attached to the Graphic Design or Development Contract and is often in high contention because it determines the milestones, cost and timeline of the project. Having a thorough Statement of Work helps protect your business because it clearly lays out the project and reduces disputes because it defines the responsibilities and expectations at the very beginning.

So how do you write a good Statement of Work that protects you and your company?

Make sure to include the following sections:

  1. Objectives: why are you performing this work? In this section, you may state business objectives such as “having a new website will generate more leads for us thereby increasing our sales.” You can also, for example, state “the new logo will better represent us as a company.” This section should be a reflection of how well you understand your client’s business and what problems you will be solving.
  2. Scope: defines exactly what work will be done. It is important to be as detailed as you can here. Never just say “WordPress website” as this leaves far too much for interpretation. Instead, list all of the pages and the features on each page. You should also describe the process for development and list everything as tasks or milestones. In addition, it is advised that you list any and all assumptions that you have made, such as the ability to find an API or easy integration. Lastly, you should explain that the assumptions are just that and that the schedule may change if the assumptions were incorrect.
  3. Schedule: defines when certain tasks, milestones, and the whole project will be completed. In this part, I also recommend scheduling dates for when you will speak to the client as regular communication with the client is the key to a good client relationship.
  4. Price: defines the Total Project Cost. If you are working with milestones, you should specify the price of each milestone. You should also include payment terms (e.g. Net 7) and a payment schedule.
  5. Acceptance: this is where the client and the developer or the designer sign off on the Statement of Work. Do not proceed with the work if the document and contract are not signed.

In my experience in software development, I have learned that projects go best when the Statement of Work is very detailed and fully thought out. Well-planned projects reduce the stress and the hours that it takes to complete the project and foster good client relationships. Knowing the goals and expectations from the very start helps reduce disputes as well.

Donata KalnenaiteDonata Kalnenaite is an attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois and is the owner of Agency Attorneys. Agency Attorneys works with software developers, graphic designers, startups and small businesses to help protect their hard work. Donata believes in taking a collaborative approach and makes sure that their clients understand everything that they sign.