The Way We Work
October 19, 2011 by Stephanie Gonzaga

Work contracts are essential in a sound and transparent working relationship. They set the "ground rules" for both parties (managers and freelancers) to prevent common remote work issues. Can you name a few? Unpaid work, demanding too much, delayed payments -- the list goes on.

In short, work contracts can save your life and your freelance business.

So how can negotiating and creating work contracts be done effectively? Here are tips to help you draw up a secure and effective work contract for every freelance project:

1. Consider the complexities of the project before drawing up the contract.

Ideally, you'd discuss these complexities during the first interview or meeting. List all of the nitty-gritty about the freelance project. Some of these details may include:

  • The work process or methodology
  • The technology used to build the project
  • How long the project will take
  • How much the cost (expenses) of the project will be
  • The number of skilled individuals necessary

As you discuss these details together, see how you can adjust and work around to fit within your ideal schedule, estimated time of delivery, budget, etc.

2. Clarify and commit 100% to the agreed terms and conditions.

contractor's contractAs soon as all of the important details are laid out, it's time to establish the ground rules.

Communicate clearly your work schedules, payment schedules, working terms, payment terms, deadlines, the final project cost, and everything else significant to the project. Make sure that these schedules and terms work for both parties (since you are already aware of what is involved), how long it is going to take, how much it will cost, etc.

The most important factor here is the conscious act of committing to these terms and conditions from start till end. The minute every important detail is clarified, discussed, agreed upon, the contract signed, and the work commences, it is expected that you wholly commit to these rules.

3. Discuss plans of action in case of violations or disputes.

Yes, the main goal of drawing up contracts is to avoid project disputes and violations, but it's always good practice to have a plan of action in case a dispute or violation arises.  This will not only save you weeks of renegotiation and clarification, but time and money as well.

Here's an example: If you [freelancer] receive notice that the company [manager] is folding up and the contract will soon come to an end, a plan of action will not only help you complete unfinished work, but also secure you the money due for your services. If communication isn't a problem, you can arrange a formal meeting to discuss about important details, particularly payments and the deadline of the latest revision of the work. You'll also find that going back to your agreed terms and conditions can help solve these problems too.

4. Ask all possible questions before signing.

Signing a contract blindly would just lead you to a dead end with absolutely no way out. You don't want to be in that situation, so it is important to ask all possible questions before lifting your pen to sign.

Even if the questions sound trivial, don't hesitate to ask and point out whatever it is that seems unclear to you.  Who knows, these questions (and their answers) might just save you from a crucial issue or a stressful problem after all.

5. Provide availability times and contact details.

Knowing when and how to contact your manager or freelancer helps whenever you have questions, if you need to formally discuss work issues, or if you need to follow up on important matters, such as delayed payments or submissions. It will save you a lot of time and effort from hunting them down all over the internet.

Provide your work-only contact details (an email address and phone number will do) and your best available time, while making sure that you are given the same information as well. Let the other party know that communication and reliability is valuable to you, and that you hope that both will always be intact throughout the entire project.

Have you ever encountered problems or issues when negotiating contracts? If yes, what were they? Let's hear them in the comments below!


Stephanie Gonzaga

Freelancer, Blogger, and Creative Writer

Stephanie Gonzaga is a freelancer on oDesk and blogger of The Freelance Pinoy, a freelancing blog for the Pinoy solo professional.

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