I haven’t done anything terribly interesting business-wise in the past two weeks but I have been thinking about an incredibly boring and incredibly important freelancing issue: paperwork/contracts.
Two interesting things happened to me in the past week.
For the first, I turned up to a new client with my signed contract in hand and apologised for not faxing it over earlier (I live out of town and getting a witness for my signature can be tricky). The client commented that most people turn up and say that the paperwork is on the way. I was horrified – who would start doing paid work without a contract.
Another client asked me today to sign an ‘extension’ contract, which wouldn’t include an important variation that had not yet been approved (yes, a rate increase). I was horrified – who would work without having a signed agreement about rate.
Contracts are important and should be considered important by both parties. Legally they represent the agreement between the two of you. Professionally, they represent that you know what you are doing and that you think enough of your skills to ask for what you need.
If you are a freelancer or contractor, you should never start work without a contract. Sometimes it may mean you go without a few days work, but it is more important to respect your skills than risk giving away free work or looking like you don’t know business.
If you are a freelancer, it is worth getting a short services contract drawn up by your lawyer (you do have one?). Mine cost only a small amount, and it is great to set the ground by saying ‘I have a services contract. Here it is. Shall we use this?’. It gets you started quickly and shows you know what you are doing (it should be a fair contract – this isn’t about screwing your clients).
So guess what I’m doing this week? Catching up on my backlog while waiting for paperwork!