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Freelancing Contracts: Are They Necessary?

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When money is involved, contracts are necessary. Come to think of it, even when work is being done for free, some type of formal agreement needs to be in place. If you are working for an employer, you expect to have a lot of things in writing outlining your rights and responsibilities. Your income, hours, duties, and other expectations need to be clearly spelled out.

If anything, as a freelancer, this contractual accountability is even more necessary. Whether you are a freelancer or have freelancers working for you, here are some of the tools for freelance accountability, and why you need them:

Electronic Signatures

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A contract is a tool of accountability. However, without a signature, it is incomplete. We live in a world where many professionals don’t even carry pens for signatures. Fax machines are wholly anachronistic. Printers, scanners, and copiers are not far behind. When these are the primary tools of document transfer and signature capture, turnaround time suffers.

CudaSign is a class of product intended to ease the transition between the old way of doing things and the current realities. It can decrease turnaround time by as much as 90%. Because freelancers tend to be very mobile, there is no more convenient way to work than from connected devices such as smartphones and tablets. If you work with a lot of mobile contractors, you need document authorization solutions that work for everyone involved.

Productivity Tracking Software

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If you’re driving as a part of your work, you need to have a way of tracking your mileage. If you bill by the hour, you need software that helps you keep track of that. If you manage remote workers, there is software that can help increase remote worker accountability.

One of the ways to track accountability is frequent communication. That could be on a popular chat client for workgroups like Slack. Or you could have remote meetings using remote meeting software. Either way, keeping an open line of communication is one of the keys to a successful working relationship as a freelancer or with a freelancer.

Liability

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Contracts should not be viewed as weapons of mutually assured destruction. They should be viewed as a form of protection for all parties involved. By spelling things out clearly, each party knows exactly what they are liable for. It both spells out and limits the liability.

Expectation Management

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Contracts are a great way to spell out what service is being provided and what is not. A plumber needs to set an expectation that they will fix the leak, not increase water pressure by 200% or make the water 50% hotter and last 300% longer.

Contracts also manage financial expectations. As a freelancer, you need to charge what your services are worth, like the professional you are. A contract sets the tone for the work to be done and your relationship with the client going forward. Your fee is a signal of the confidence you have in the work you do. Give the right signal by setting a firm price in the contract.

Problem Solving

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A good contract anticipates problems and offers solutions before they can become bigger problems. We are all human. And the nature of unpredictable events is that they are unpredictable. Things go wrong. What happens if the project goes overtime and over budget? What happens if the customer is unsatisfied with the work? What happens in the event of storm, injury, or a sudden increase in the price of supplies, or the decrease in the availability of agreed upon materials?

It is not about being litigious. It is about anticipating would could go wrong, and having an agreement in place for those contingencies.

In corporate environments, everyone is protected with some kind of contract. But freelancers do not have the protection of a corporate legal team and HR department. As a freelancer, you absolutely need a contract for the work you do. People expect to enter contractual agreements with professionals. Don’t disappoint them.

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