Freelance Writing Contracts: NEVER write without one.


Just don't do it.

If you have a client who doesn't want to sign a contract, they don't want to be held accountable if they don't pay you - so they might not pay you.

Why any writer would work without a contract is beyond me.

I spoke to a gentleman a few weeks ago who, when I said I won't work without a contract, told me, "Look - I know that contracts are written for the benefit of writers.  Have you ever heard of the concept of 'KiSS'?"

I said, "Yes - Keep it Simple, Stupid."

He said, "Yep, keep it simple - I don't want to get all tangled up in a contract."

I said, "Well, I'm sorry, then - I'm not able to write for you."

He was shocked.

Seriously?!  Of course contracts are for our benefit - I'm not taking a chance on working for free, dude.  If I'm not writing for you, I could be writing for a client who did sign a contract and who will pay me for sure. 

Writing contracts are for the buyer's benefit, too, though.  It guarantees that we'll re-write, fix or do whatever else we say we'll do within the allotted time frame and promises that we'll deliver a good product.

If they don't want to get "tangled up" in a contract, you don't want to get "tangled up" with them.  Do you think your wedding caterer will just bring a bunch of food, serve it to your guests and then say, "Ok, pay me when it's all over - I know we didn't put anything on paper, but I trust ya." ?!

It's a simple matter of a couple pages, two signatures and a couple of dates.  To make it easier, I'll give you guys the text of my contract, which you're welcome to use and modify however you'd like (everything unique to you is highlighted in yellow):


This Author Agreement (the "Agreement") is made as of 5 April 2010, by and between CLIENT A, CLIENT A's COMPANY, ("Publisher") and YOU (THE WRITER), an individual ("Contractor").

In consideration of the mutual covenants herein contained, the parties hereby agree as follows:

1. Services. Contractor agrees to write WHATEVER YOU'RE WRITING, for publication and/or distribution by Publisher, and to provide the services, if any, set forth below. Such services are hereinafter referred to as "Services." Other Services will include: up to two (2) re-writes and submission to two newspapers: the New York Times and the Bergen Record. Project will be completed no later than 5:00 HST, 12 April 2010 unless otherwise specified by Publisher and agreed to in writing.

2. Payment for Services.

a. Charges. As full compensation for the Services to be provided by Contractor, Publisher agrees to pay Contractor the sum of $175 per Press Release accepted by Publisher. Photographs, if necessary, will be furnished by Publisher.

b. Payment Schedule. Publisher will furnish half the total estimated fees ($87.50) as down payment at onset of the project, which will serve as a non-refundable “Kill Fee” for portions of the work completed by Contractor but not accepted by Publisher. Upon receipt of completed Services, Publisher will furnish remainder of payment ($87.50) to Contractor. Payment will be accepted via PayPal account YOUR PAYPAL or by AMEX, MasterCard, Visa or Discover at no later than three days after completion of project.

3. Independent Contractor. Contractor will perform the Services as an independent contractor. Contractor will not be deemed to be an employee of Publisher. Contractor will not be entitled to any employee benefits, and Publisher will make no deductions from any of the payments due to Contractor hereunder for state or federal tax purposes. Contractor will be personally responsible for any and all taxes and other payments due on payments received hereunder.

4. Original Development. Contractor warrants that all Press Releases and other Services will be original works of authorship of Contractor and will not infringe upon or violate any intellectual property right of any third party.

5. Confidentiality. This Agreement creates a confidential relationship between Publisher and Contractor. Information concerning Publisher’s and/or Contractor’s business affairs, vendors, finances, properties, methods of operation, computer programs, employees, documentation, and other such information whether written, oral, or otherwise, is confidential in nature. Publisher and Contractor, and employees of both will adhere fully to this confidentiality agreement.

6. Rights to Articles. The above fee licenses full rights to Press Releases to Publisher. Contractor assumes no rights to Press Releases once payment is received in full.

7. Other Agreements. Contractor may work on similar projects (including articles on the same topics as Articles submitted to Publisher) for other parties, provided that Contractor will not reprint, republish, or permit any third party to reprint or republish any Press Releases submitted to Publisher.

8. Termination. This Agreement will continue until terminated by either party by written notice or until completion of Services, whichever occurs first.

9. Governing Law; Jurisdiction. This contract will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Hawaii without regard to any principles of choice or conflicts of law.

10. Entire Agreement. This Agreement constitutes the complete and exclusive statement of the agreement between the parties with regard to the matters set forth herein, and it supersedes all other agreements, proposals, and representations, oral or written, express or implied, with regard thereto.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties have executed this Agreement as of the day and year set forth above.


Publisher Contractor

BY:                         BY:

(Signature)              (Signature)

(Print Name)           (Print Name)

Date:___________  Date:______________

It's that easy - just a little cut and paste and you have a legal, binding document that says they have to pay you.  If they don't, it'll be a huge pain - but you have a contract validating what you're saying if you go to court.

Freelance writing contract tips:

  • You should require 1/2 down (sometimes 1/3, but that's up to you) that serves as a non-refundable kill fee
  • Tell your potential client up front that you won't work without a contract
  • Don't deliver ANY product until they've signed and returned your contract
  • If you specify that they have to pay an up front fee, hold them to it - don't deliver work if they haven't paid it
  • Send the invoice for their deposit in the same e-mail as the contract
I hope this helps freelance writers out there - if I can save just one freelancer from getting shafted on payment, it'll make this whole blog worth it.

Do you use contracts in your freelance writing service?  Have you had a bad experience from not using one?  Please share your comments below - and feel free to leave a link to your own blog or website.


Aw man Angie I seriously think you are some kind of a godly creature! I was reading your other post on non paying clients and just thinking ' i should tell her to do a blog post on how to make a contract' :):):).
I am doing loads of homework, I bought a couple of books (including the writers market i found it for cheap!). One of them I adore, it is "Make a real living as a freelance writer" by Jenna Glatzer. I think you are way beyond the material in it, but it has got a LOT of basic and mandatory stuff (like how to write query letters). It is such a light read too, I am getting tons of info without my head wanting to explode!

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