We all know by now that it’s important to have a contract, and to use it. Everybody should have one to make sure they don’t get taken advantage of. That doesn’t just apply to freelancers. Guess who else should, and often does use contracts?
That’s right. Some clients, especially bigger ones, may have terms they want added to your contract as a freelancer.
They may even have a contract of their very own that they want you to sign.
They are, after all, forking over their money in exchange for your services. They should have some assurance they are going to get what they want out of the deal.
When a client hands you a contract to sign it might seem easier to just sign it, rather than get bogged down in the legal jargon and try and work out the details for yourself. Reading them can be painful and understanding them even more so.
The best thing to do is without question to have a legal professional look over the contract and explain the ins and outs for you. However, if you are able to recognize some of the red flags in client contracts, it will help you deal with a lot of the issues yourself before you even have to get a lawyer involved.
Let’s have a look at a few of the most common terms and legal mechanisms that are usually bad news. (You can also download our full Right-brainer’s legal glossary as part of the Contracts for Creatives ebook bundle.)
1. Work for hire
Work for hire sounds harmless enough, doesn’t it? Just another way to say you will be working for them, right? You might be surprised to find out what this seemingly innocuous little term actually means. With this in the contract the employer or client automatically becomes the legal author of anything you make. That can mean trouble.
2. Integrity and Paternity
A lot of people might skim over this one without really knowing what it involves. Waiving rights to Integrity (no one can make changes to your work without your permission) or Paternity ( the right to receive credit for your work ) aren’t necessarily deal breakers, but you should know when you are doing it and how you are being compensated for waiving those rights.
3. Payment upon publishing of work
This doesn’t seem so bad does it? You design a website for your client and they pay you once it goes live. The problem is, what if you do the work and the client, for whatever reason, doesn’t publish the work. You still did the work and have the right to be paid for it. Unless of course you signed that right away in the clients contract!
4. Spec work
This is when a client asks you to complete work, either in part or in full, before they will agree to hire and pay you. Working for free should be saved for charities and friends. If your new client is asking for spec work, I would think twice about signing an agreement with them.
Remember, contracts are meant to be negotiated, not just signed or walked away from. If you don’t like something in a contract, let the client know and suggest another option, or make a counter offer.
Have any of you guys run into other contract red flags before? Let me know in the comments what you look out for in client agreements.