In the last few months I’ve been seeing a common occurrence. It’s either a freelancer complaining about a client or a client complaining about a freelancer. I suppose a little friction isn’t all that uncommon, especially if the people involved don’t have a good understanding with each other. Most of the time, the problem can be traced to a simple fact: The client and the freelancer do not have a contract, or have an incomplete one. It’s hard for me to believe that anyone can ignore all the great articles regarding the necessity of well-defined contracts.
There are quite a few very relevant and important reasons to have a signed legal contract before doing any work, but I’ll concentrate on the three things I find most important:
What’s the most important tool when you work with or for someone else? Communication. You need to understand what the client wants and the client needs to understand what you want. It’s a two-way street. Aside from the obvious, like what kind of site the client wants and how many cute animated images he wants on the front page, there are other important things that can be communicated such as:
This is important as well, since most projects require effort from both parties. The client needs the freelancer to design and program, while the freelancer needs the client to provide content and direction. If either party fails to act in a timely manner, the project will take longer to complete, which sucks for everyone involved. When you define the required turnaround time, it’s much easier to realize that things are taking longer than they should, and easier to get back to the other person to ask what the hold up is.
I’m constantly seeing freelancers who complain about being trapped in a never-ending cycle of revisions, edits, and changes that the client wants after the website is launched. As far as some clients are concerned, you owe it to him to get everything looking perfect before you’re done. That means as long as the client thinks the project isn’t finished, you’re his very-own personal website developer. You don’t want that. You want to clearly define what the client asked you to do, and what you need to do to satisfy those needs. Revisions after the fact are unavoidable, and you can include a set-amount of revisions. Doing this usually ends with the client condensing the amount of things he wants changed, which makes everyone happy!
In the end, this contract protects both the client and the freelancer equally. It ensures that the work is done to the client’s standards, both parties adhere to a timeline, and the project has a defined completion. A contract helps establish the most important tool of any project – communication.