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Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Sign a Freelance Writing Contract

Freelance writing is a great pathway for those thinking about entering the writing world. Freelance writers have the freedom of picking and choosing when and how often they work. It can take a moderate amount of time in the beginning marketing yourself as a freelance writer and meeting clients. Before you know it you’ve got a client who’s eager to work with you, so they send you a contract. 


Before you sign any freelance writing contract, there are pivotal questions that you should consider. Addressing these questions upfront may safeguard your interests and set the stage for a transparent and successful collaboration. Below are some essential questions I ask myself before entering into a written agreement with a client.


Do you agree with the ownership rights of the written material you submit to the client? 

This question addresses the critical aspect of who holds the copyright and ownership of the content once it is delivered and paid for. You have likely heard that writers often ghostwrite for others, in which case they are not able to claim their work. Writers who are able to get a byline for their work often retain some form of recognition but usually surrender the copyright to the client upon final payment. Understanding and agreeing with the ownership rights is important because it determines if and how you can use the work in your portfolio or claim authorship.


What is the process for receiving payments? 

Understanding the payment process is important to ensure financial stability and clarity in the freelancer-client relationship. This includes knowing the payment schedule (e.g., upon completion, milestones, retainer basis), acceptable payment methods, and invoicing requirements. A clear and agreed-upon payment process prevents misunderstandings, ensures timely compensation for your work, and reflects the client's reliability and professionalism.


What are your responsibilities as the writer? 

Clarifying your responsibilities helps set clear expectations for both you and the client regarding the scope of work, deadlines, revisions, and any specific requirements (e.g., SEO, adherence to style guides). Knowing your responsibilities prevents scope creep, where additional tasks are added without appropriate compensation, or adjustment in deadlines, which can ensure a smooth working relationship with clear deliverables.


What sources are you allowed or not allowed to use when writing? 

This question addresses the ethics and credibility of your work, especially in fields that require research and citation. Knowing the boundaries for sourcing information ensures that your work meets the client's standards for quality and integrity. It also helps avoid potential legal issues related to copyright infringement or the use of unreliable sources, which can harm both your reputation and the client's.


How does the client make you feel about the work? 

The emotional and professional support you receive from a client can significantly impact your job satisfaction and the quality of your work. A client who respects your expertise, provides constructive feedback, and communicates effectively can enhance your motivation and commitment to the project. Conversely, a client who is overly critical, communicates poorly, or undervalues your contributions may indicate a potentially challenging working relationship. Assessing your feelings about the client can help you determine if the partnership is a good fit for your professional goals and well-being.



pen applied to paper by a person while at a desk
Contract Signature


In Summary

Navigating the freelance writing landscape requires more than just a knack for crafting compelling content; it demands a strategic approach to client relations and contract specifics. By contemplating key questions on ownership, ghostwriting, payment, responsibilities, sourcing, and the client-writer dynamic, freelancers can forge relationships built on mutual respect, clarity, and professionalism. Understanding these facets before signing a freelance writing contract can ensure the protection of your rights and a fulfilling and productive partnership with your clients.


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