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Do I need a contract?

Hi everyone, I've just started freelancing and was wondering if I should get clients to sign a contract? If so, where do I find one? I can't afford lawyers' fees...

Thanks so much.


To expand on Levi's generous contribution to this topic...

You should get into the practice of using service/project agreements at the very least. They outline the simple goals of the project, i.e. build a 10 page website with x, y and z functionality. Project milestones and their deadlines, payment terms etc. You don't need to hire a solicitor for one of these and it shouldn't contain any legal terminology. There are tons of articles on the subject and free templates available on the internet.

It's important to work with contracts for new clients because you have no idea whether they're going to try and screw you over or not. The only situations you could get away without using one is where you know the client is going to pay and isn't going to mess you around trying to get free work out of you because they thought you understood that when they asked you for a "cool looking site" that you would automatically understand that they wanted lots of javascript features on their site...

It also depends on the client, I believe. if it's just an independent trader/hobbyist or something like that then a bloated contract written up by a solicitor is most likely just going to scare them away because they don't want to be held legally accountable for something in the future, when all they want is a little website to show off their knitted teddy bears. That's not to say that you should never use a contract or agreement for small clients, but it's something to keep in mind.

The point of the contract is to cover your arse if they decide to try and screw you over for whatever reason. It also serves to ensure clarity of communication because both parties have to agree in advance what they want and sign to it, instead of just making quick, non-committal decisions which they can conveniently forget about later on.
Thanks so much Squiddy. That makes a lot of sense. My projects right now are only small and I don't want to slow down the process or scare off any clients, but I'll definitely put something in writing that says what I'm going to be doing for them.

Really appreciate your help.


No problem, why don't you stick around the forum a while longer and join in the community? You might get some even more useful advice ;)