The relationship between freelancers and their clients is generally less secure than the traditional relationship between employee and employer. A contract is essential for reducing these risks, which primarily include nonpayment and legal action. A solid contract that’s firm but fair can also deal with additional problems that are common in freelancing such as scope creep and misunderstandings about deadlines.
Money Crashers advises that reviewing existing templates online is a good way to prepare for drafting a freelance contract. These templates can be highly effective at illustrating the language and essential points that you should include in your contract. You can even use a template as the basis for your contract provided it explicitly permits users to modify the contract at no charge. This technique allows you to edit the existing template as needed to suit your particular needs. Even if the template is well-suited for your purposes, you’ll at least need to change the names of the parties.
Organizations that regularly do business with freelancers typically provide standard contracts that can easily be customized for an individual freelancer. This approach is obviously more convenient than drafting a contract from scratch or even modifying an existing template. However, freelancers should avoid exchanging leverage for convenience. Contracts drafted by the client will obviously tend to favor that client, so it’s essential to review these contracts carefully. Take as much time as you need to understand all the terms in your contract, even when the client is eager for you to begin the project.
A client road map is a high-level overview of the direction the project will take, but it also highlights important aspects of the project. It’s therefore an extremely important document to the client, especially for those working with a freelancer for the first time. Freelancers should also use a road map to familiarize the client with the specific type of work you do in addition to managing their expectations of the project.
Your Freelance Career recommends a road map that focuses on content by using a simple layout and a format that’s easy to read. You can use your logo in primary colors and road map to promote your brand, although you’re trying to impress the client with your professionalism rather than your design skills at this point. A road map should also be relatively short and shouldn’t exceed two pages. A road map should include a timeline, although you need to avoid providing deadlines that you may not be able to meet. It should also specify deliverables such as wireframes and content. Additional specifications in a road map include cost information and how much you’ll be paid, which is usually expressed in terms of price-per-deliverable.
A study commissioned by Freelancers Union found that 53 million Americans made their living by freelancing in 2014, which was about one-third of the available workforce at that time. About one-third of the freelancers responding to the survey also reported that the demand for their services had increased in the last year, while only 15 percent of respondents stated that it had decreased. Thirty-eight percent of respondents expected to work more hours, while only 12 percent expected to work fewer hours.
Freelancing requires new ways of doing business, including the preparation of invoices for clients. The importance of professional invoicing cannot be overemphasized, regardless of the type of work that a freelancer does. It’s essential for keeping a business running, even when it takes you away from your paying work. A freelancer’s payment guidelines to the client should include the fee and how long it will take to complete the project. Some freelancers may also require a down payment to begin work, especially with larger projects. The length of time that the client has to provide payment and the penalty that will be imposed if the payment is not received by a certain date are also common terms in the guidelines. Contractors should also specify the payment method, which often involves a third-party service provider.
Client Relationship Management
Client relationship management (CRM) includes many specific activities such as setting standards for communicating with clients. This includes recording what attendees say in meetings, whether it’s an actual audio recording are simply taking notes. Software can also facilitate the process of communicating and collaborating with clients.
CRM is traditionally associated with freelancing agencies, although individual freelancers are using it with increasing frequency to maintain their client relationships. Freelance illustrator Steven Bonner provides an example of his use of CRM with the publisher Penguin Books in Creative Bloq. Bonner contacted a publisher at Penguin Books who did not return his call at first. However, he also says, “I kept him in the loop with my work now and again, until eventually a project came up that he felt suited me.”
Bonner adds that this relationship has led to further work, with Bonner creating at least a dozen designs for books published by Penguin. The constant factor throughout this relationship has been the creative understanding and strong communication between Bonner and Penguin Books. He also says, “We can usually reach the desired outcome with a minimum of fuss, and speak frankly with each other without fear of the other taking things the wrong way.” Furthermore, Bonner reports that this relationship allows Penguin publishers to know when to push him to provide a better end product.