Many questions at Bootcamp 2010 focused on defining content for a contract for freelance writing services. The goal of the contract is to reduce problems with work completion. In particular, writers needed to give special consideration to clauses and product deliveries that show how a contract is satisfied (e.g., when the job is officially done).
In Crafting a Contract: Part I, I gave you a contract’s required basic elements, and emphasized clearly defining the contract’s agreement. In Part II, let’s look at your work package inside the contract, particularly the specifications you should use to define the scope and price of your work.
The heart of your contract is your work package order — the creative work you will perform for your client. The following elements are important to include when outlining the parameters of the work you will complete and what you expect in return:
- A detailed description of the items that you will write, edit, research, critique, develop, reformat, audit, or otherwise modify during the project. You also need to list all services you will perform. If you are doing lots of preliminary research or conducting interviews, specify these hours separately with their own rates.
- The client’s payment obligation when the work is done. While this usually refers to the funds you will receive, you may agree to be compensated in other ways. Your client may provide payment with a testimonial, or the client may give a referral, for example. You can add other fulfillment clauses to cover expanding your business relationships or to provide for other compensation in lieu of money.
- If you permit payment in installments, specify the first amount due and the first date due (e.g., one week after receiving and accepting contract). Then, you need to add when each installment is due. There are several ways to do this — by percentage of work completed (for example, 15% due when work is half-done), or by a specific due date (such as “the next payment must be received by the first of December”).
- Add dates and times or events that you and the client agree will indicate project completion. You may also set other deadlines and milestone events within the project, when appropriate. You will find this approach is particularly effective for larger projects where you and the client define phases of completion.
- When you work as part of a team, or when you supply only some of the items in a bigger project, list the items that are not included. This approach allows you to define the scope of your work more clearly, AND you can indicate options for quotes for additional work. This is particularly true, for example, if you are doing a large e-commerce campaign or a set of sales materials having many parts. You need to list the parts you are NOT providing (e.g., landing page design, video scripts, or white papers) and indicate that you can provide a quote for those items. This prevents “scope creep,” which I will talk about in just a minute.
- Specify materials the client will supply for your use on the project and that you need in order to complete your work. These items could include data cards, photos, testimonials, product samples, etc. Specify dates and deadlines for delivery, so you can meet your completion dates and so that your work quality remains high.
- You should make sure your contract includes all of the contacts necessary for each part of your work effort. If several departments are involved in your project, request contacts in each department. You need to know, for example, whom you are to contact if the materials to be provided by the client do not arrive, or arrive damaged, or in the wrong format. Do you know what to send the graphic designer? Or the printer? Who pays out billing? Do you have these contacts? Does your client need contacts at your sub-contractors?
- You will avoid misunderstandings if you indicate contract items with costs in both hours and fees, if applicable. Break out major items (e.g., graphics charges) to aid your client’s understanding of how you will spend the contract money and with whom you will spend it.
- Include how many revisions you’ll include and how long the client has to request them. For example, you may permit the client to have two revisions within 30 days of receiving the first draft of the materials. This allows you to move on to other projects without waiting too long for a client’s response.
As you write your work order, remember to total the percentages of time and hours at the end of your work package. You need to check that the percentages add to 100% of what you estimated for completion and delivery. The client will use that total to work out final costs to close the contract.
Detailed descriptions in your work package help control “scope creep.” This condition occurs as a project progresses and the client sees and likes your work. The ongoing results you present may spark new ideas the client would like added to your current work package. Please do not just verbally agree and simply add the new work requirements to your current schedule! You are adding extra tasks and getting no additional payment for them!
Take the time to do a full addendum to the contract with a new cost quote, hours, materials, and new due dates. Otherwise, you may find yourself shortchanged for those additional hours. Remember that unless you adjust the work agreement, these requests stretch the client’s dollars, but do not give you additional time to complete your work or to meet your deadlines!
Here are a couple of contract examples.
Bob Bly has a program available through AWAI on Getting and Keeping Clients. The program materials include a one page Letter of Agreement as a contract sample. In this sample, Bob is contracting to do a sales letter campaign. He divides his contract clauses into Fee, Deadline, Revisions, Caveats, and Next Steps. Under the “Fee” paragraph1, it reads:
“[Bob]’s fee to write a sales letter (including an outer envelope, a 1-2 page letter, and a reply element) is [$2,000]. New clients are required to pay the entire critique fee and half the copy fee up front. We accept credit card or checks payable to [the Center for Technical Communication]. We will invoice you the balance upon completion of the project. Up to two revisions are included at no extra charge unless they are based on a change in the assignment made after the copy is submitted.”
Later, Bob notes the two revisions must be completed within 30 days of the receipt of the draft, limiting his commitment to the project to a reasonable length of time.
This one paragraph incorporates almost all the elements listed at the start of this article. Bob has listed all of the pieces he will provide. He specified the rate for the project and methods of payment. The clause to limit scope creep is in his final sentence. Since the specific parts of the sales letter package are listed, he will require another quote with separate fees and date of delivery for any additional items. Note that the language does not have to be extremely formal. Bob kept a conversational tone without losing any of the important specifics a contract needs.
For a second example, consider the table below. Many writers like to write out a work order in columns so that the associated costs and required payment are clearly paired.
|12 PPC ads||Client to provide keyword research||$600|
|2 landing pages for split testing: Length, 2 to 4 pages||Client to provide product information, existing brochures, target audience data, etc.||$2,000|
|Email sign-up incentive report: Length, 12 pages||$1,000|
|Email welcome and thank you messages||($75 each)||$150|
|Email autoresponder series, 5 messages||($100 each)||$500|
|Timeline||Client deliverables: Within one week
First drafts: Delivered within 4 weeks
Revisions: Free within 30 days, two rounds
This format works well whether using a letter of agreement or a formal contract document. The contract lists all of the pieces and labels all outputs and deliveries. The writer has chosen to indicate the total cost for the campaign, but he could list each line with a cost breakout — particularly if there is a need to employ subcontractors. You should include enough description so that your quote has a reasonable estimate of the total work involved, particularly if you have to honcho a project as coordinator.
Make sure you fax a signed copy of the contract to your client and your client returns a copy of the contract to you with a binding signature on it. A binding signature is that of the person able to and expected to commit funding for the company.
A final note: the key to having any contract function properly is the age-old saying GET IT IN WRITING. If you have a doubt, write it out! And, write it out clearly! If you make your contract clauses contain something covering most problems arising from dealing with clients, you will find your jobs run more smoothly and you will be prepared to take on a fuller Writer’s Life as well!
Nadine White is a systems engineer and B2B copywriter (independentbusinessanalytics.com), with interests in travel (bookwormproductionsinc.com) and dinosaurs (thedinosaurpapers.com) All of her websites are under construction, the result of her taking Nick’s Money-Making Websites program. Opening soon! In the meantime, reach Nadine by email.
1“The Boiler Plate Contract,” Bob Bly’s Getting and Keeping Great Clients, published by AWAI, Delray Beach, FL