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 Sami Hartsfield, ACP

By: Sami Hartsfield, ACP (Guest Blogger)

Reprinted with permission from LegallyBlog®: www.samihartsfield.wordpress.com.

Welcome back, TPS readers! Since we’re frequently approached by fantastic paralegals from all across the country who are interested in freelancing, we decided to share this terrific article, written by Sami, which offers up some great, basic pointers regarding freelancer contracts. Heck, this topic is actually applicable to all of us! Have you ever hired an independent contractor for a home improvement? If not, you might one day…just think of all the fabulous improvements you could make to the ole’ paralegal launch pad…I mean home. 

Onward and upward, TPS paralegals! Continue on with that much needed “feels like Monday morning, even in spite of the holiday” oral, caffeination fix and read this article! You never know when it might come in handy.

Ready to freelance or offer your services as an independent contractor? Before you do, you should know you must get proper tax registrations, business and occupational licenses, and permits from federal, state and local governments to legally operate

While a standard contract agreement for your services isn’t required by law, it should nonetheless be employed to protect both yourself and your client(s). It also adds credibility and continuity to your services and compensation.

Benefits

Probably the biggest benefit of a written contract is that is provides explicit proof of your agreement with your client(s). If trouble arises down the road, the contract can be relied upon to legally resolve disputes.

A freelance contract can also assist you at tax time. If the IRS or your state tax agency questions your employment as a freelancer or independent contractor, you could spend extra time and money trying to prove you’re not an “employee” for tax purposes. A contract can serve as documented proof of your independent contractor status, particularly where this is a history of such contracts.

Creating a contract is not as difficult as you might think, but if you are uncertain about your specific type of business or service, it might be prudent to contact an attorney specializing in such matters. For tips on locating and dealing with attorneys, please see How to Find Legal Representation for Your Business from www.Business.gov.

Terms

Common ingredients of a basic freelancer contract are those that you usually discuss up front verbally with your client. Following is a list of suggestions of information to include in your contract template:

  • Contact Information – This seems obvious, but for legal reasons, correct contact information—including correct names and spellings—must be included. Also include business name, address, phone, and an email address for both you and your client.
  • Job Description – Specifically detail the job, project, or service description, including precise information regarding what the client is getting and not getting. It’s important to document the mutual agreements to ensure both you and your client are on the same page.
  • Contact Information – This seems obvious, but for legal reasons, correct contact information—including correct names and spellings—must be included. Also include business name, address, phone, and an email address for both you and your client.
  • Job Description – Specifically detail the job, project, or service description, including precise information regarding what the client is getting and not getting. It’s important to document the mutual agreements to ensure both you and your client are on the same page.
  • Chronology – Document the contract dates of service: when it becomes effective, and when it ends. Additionally, you’ll want to note all other benchmark dates, such as draft and completion dates. You might also include a “buffer date” to leave extra time at the end of a project in the event you are running late on completion.
  • Compensation – Record pay rates for the project, which are most often reflected in an hourly or flat rat. If you are charging by the hour, include an estimate of the total cost broken down by hours or other time interval. Also, document who’s paying for materials and other expenses.
  • Invoicing – State when an invoice will be produced and what its terms are (for e.g.: “net 30,” which means “pay the invoice within 30 days.”) Additionally, state whether or not penalties will be assessed for late payment, and what those penalties will be.
  • Ownership – Who owns the final rights to the product or service? A statement of ownership and any rights arising should be included.
  • Cancellation / Dissatisfaction – Explicitly state what will occur in either of these events, or in any other type of event that might interrupt contract fulfillment (such as natural disasters).

When both or all parties are in mutual agreement over the contract’s terms, all parties must execute (sign) and date the document to ensure it is legally binding on all involved.

Note: I am not an attorney. This foregoing is not to be considered legal advice. If you need legal advice, consider hiring an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.

Source: www.Business.gov

For more info:
Becoming a Freelancer – Assessing your Readiness to Be your Own Boss and Tips for Getting Started

How to Become (And Stay) Self-Employed, According to the Law

Getting your Customers to Pay-Up: Part 1 – Tips for Protecting Yourself from Non-Paying Clients

Getting your Customers to Pay-Up: Part 2 – Tips for Protecting Yourself from Non-Paying Clients

LegallyBlog® on Facebook

Sami K. Hartsfield, ACP is a paralegal and freelance writer based in Houston, Texas. She is a NALA Advanced Certified Paralegal, and has earned six specialty certifications since 2007: Discovery; Trial Practice; Contracts Management; Social Security Disability Law; and Entity & Individual Medical Liability. She is also WestlawNext certified. Sami has worked as a law firm Webmaster, law firm social media marketer, and a ghostwriter for personal injury law firms. She holds a degree in paralegal studies with a 4.0 GPA and a bachelor of science degree in political science, graduating summa cum laude. Sami interned with Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals under Chief Justice Adele Hedges, and completed the University of Houston Law Center’s Summer 2008 Prelaw Institute with a 4.0. You can find her on Facebook and e-mail her with questions, comments, or ideas at LegallyBlog@yahoo.com. 

 Copyright 2011 Sami K. Hartsfield – All Rights Reserved – Reprinted with permission

If you have an additional freelancing or contract tip you’d like to share with our super, cool readers, just hit that comment button, and tell us all about it! We’re all ears…