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Chapter
11

Finalize your contract

You did it! You created your own freelancer contract. Now let’s address how you put that document to good use: we’ll discuss a typical deal flow between client and freelancer, starting from the initial conversation. 

Usually, the execution of freelancer contracts proceeds as follows:‍

  1. The client and freelancer discuss the scope and agree on the terms of the project; in some industries, it is common to sign a letter of intent (LOI).

  2. The freelancer provides a scope of work and cost estimate for the project.

  3. The client accepts the proposal and signs a contract.

  4. The freelancer begins work on the project.

  5. The client pays milestones as they're completed.

  6. Upon completion of the project, both parties sign a final invoice and receipt.

‍If there are any disagreements or edits to the contract because of client demands, freelancers should try to negotiate these changes before signing the document. In most cases, it's best to avoid taking legal action against clients. However, if negotiations fail, then hiring an attorney may be necessary.

When it comes to signing contracts online, there are a number of services that can be used. Services like DocuSign and HelloSign allow users to electronically sign documents using their computer or mobile device. This is a great option for freelancers who want to avoid printing and scanning contracts or dealing with postal mail. Additionally, these services offer robust tracking features that allow both parties to keep track of when contracts have been signed and by whom.‍

When to talk to an attorney

As a reminder, Pollen is an education platform for freelance businesses. We are not a law firm or an accounting firm. We do not give legal or accounting advice. Have your contract reviewed by a lawyer or an accountant if you would like professional advice. ‍

There are many such times when you don't need to consult with an attorney. For example, if you're just signing a simple contract for a short-term project, there's probably no need to bring in a lawyer.

However, if you ever have a complex contract, consider getting legal advice. If you find yourself confused or in a situation like one of those we’ll describe below, it might be time to “lawyer up.” 

We’ve highlighted several thorny areas of freelancing contracts throughout the playbook. Next, we’ll share our research into best practices and attorney-made resources. Our goal in this step is to give you a sense of what comes up in litigation or disputes around these kinds of contracts. ‍

If the contract is for a large amount of money

If the contract is for a large amount of money, an attorney can help you negotiate a better deal than what you may customarily charge. They can help ensure that you are getting a fair deal and that they aren't agreeing to any unfair or unfavorable terms. An example of a potentially unfair term would be a stipulation of Liquidated Damages amounting to a percentage of the total project budget, that far exceeds the freelancer’s compensation.

If the contract is for a long-term project

If the contract is for a long-term project, an attorney can help make sure that both parties are aware of their obligations and that there are no surprises down the road. They can also help protect you if the other party decides to back out of the agreement. An attorney can help make sure that the freelancer understands all of the terms of the contract and that they are not agreeing to anything they don't want to.‍

If the contract includes complicated legal terms

If the contract includes complicated legal terms, an attorney can help you understand what they mean and what your obligations are. They can also help you spot any potential problems with the contract. This could especially be the case if you get a contract from a client that doesn’t look like what this playbook has taught you to expect. It’s not your job to know the details — just trust the instinct when it arises.

If the contract requires you to sign away your intellectual property rights

If the contract requires you to sign away your intellectual property rights, an attorney can help make sure that you're getting a fair deal. Intellectual property rights are very important, and it's essential to make sure that you are not giving them away without knowing what you're getting in return. An attorney can help you negotiate better terms in this type of situation and can protect your rights if there are any problems with the contract later on. They can also make sure that you're still able to use your intellectual property after the contract expires.‍

There, of course, might be other situations where you want to hire a lawyer. But because you completed this playbook, you now have a baseline understanding of standard freelancing contracts. You should be able to identify what pieces are required to make a contract valid and understand and read a contract when it comes across your desk. If you are interested in learning more about Intellectual Property, Confidentiality, and other additions that can be included in a contract. Check out our second playbook on contracts here.

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