Freelance work in the tech industry is becoming a norm for many companies, who look to take independent contractors on board for a number of support and coding roles. However, freshly minted freelancers can find themselves in trouble when a client refuses to pay, or if a client decides to cancel a project when work has already been done. Since freelancers are not traditional employees, they are not subject to the same rights as full-time or part-time employees. Here are four ways to protect yourself against unpredictable client actions.
Use a Contract Every Time
Verbal agreements regarding work terms and payment won’t hold up in small claims court when a client refuses to pay. You’ll need a contract that is legally binding. This document should actually protect the interests of both the freelancer and the client. It entitles the client to a certain scope and quality of work. And it entitles the freelancer to a set amount of pay for a project or hourly wage. Whenever you negotiate freelance work, one of the parties should provide a contract that both the freelancer and the client will sign.
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Who owns the rights to your work? Is your client paying to use the work with a credit to you, or do they own the full rights to the work? Where are they allowed to use the work? Is the client allowed to make money off work that is a derivative of your project? Will you be allowed to use code elsewhere? These are all important questions that you will need to hash out in advance, because it can significantly impact the parameters and future use of your work.
Portfolio Use Clause
Many of us take on new responsibilities in the hopes that we’ll get to mention it on our resumes and portfolios. However, some companies will contract workers to complete sensitive or confidential projects. If you have signed a non-disclosure report, a client might be able to take legal action against you, if you accidentally reveal confidential information on documents like an online portfolio. If you’d like to display work in your portfolio, make sure this is included within your contract.
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Your payment clause should explicitly define the payment schedule that clients must adhere to. If they do not pay, do not work. Some freelancers request half of the project compensation at the beginning of the project, then half upon completion. Define payment expectations if the client decides to cancel: for example, they should owe you 80% of the cost if you have finished 80% of the project.
Contracts can help you recover funds if you must take a client to small claims court and collect on debts. These documents can help ensure that clients are on their best behavior. Freelancers can protect themselves by using contracts for every project they work on.