Having a contract in place is not an absolute guarantee that there will be no disputes down the line, but it is a useful way of setting out key terms so that both parties have a clear understanding of the job in hand and an incentive not to misbehave.
Contracts come in various shapes and sizes, from agile two-page contracts to 15-page tomes with all the legal bells and whistles attached.
If you are on a freelance job for a large client, the client may produce their standard contract for you to sign.
Smaller clients will often ask you to produce your own contract or simply rely on trust.
Either way, you should ensure that you enter into a contract each time that protects your rights, reduces risk and helps you keep your sanity.
Here are a few key clauses that you could include in a contract and some tips on how to get them right in negotiations:
Scope of work
It is really important for both freelancer and client to be as clear as possible about the job in question.
This can help prevent ‘scope creep’, which is that familiar experience of clients asking you to go beyond what was asked of you without extra payment.
Perhaps more importantly, it helps to build a positive working relationship.
The scope of work will be included either in the contract or in a separate scope of work appended to it.
Deadlines and deliverables
Be upfront about the timeline.
Is there a final deadline to work to?
Will you need any revisions – if so, how many?
What are the deliverables and when are they due?
One particularly effective way of structuring your work is through a milestone-based system.
Think about setting out what the key stages in the job are likely to be and list actionable goals and the dates by which you hope to achieve those goals.
Clients are often careful to ensure that the relationship they have with you is one of client and freelancer, rather than employer and employee.
This is for a very good reason.
The law around what constitutes a relationship of employment are complex but, if it turns out that you are actually in practice an employee, there can be adverse financial implications for the client (e.g. they need to pay national insurance contributions).
As a result, there will usually be some wording in a contract to try to cover the client.
Freelancers sometimes worry about this, but it is a fairly standard inclusion.
One question that your clients should be thinking about is ‘who owns what?’.
In most cases, the client will insist on owning all intellectual property in assets created under the contract.
That essentially means that they will be the legal owner of the logo, code, marketing plan or whatever you produce on the job.
This is understandable.
However, it is useful to ensure in the contract that you can at least show any assets/artwork created in your own portfolio for marketing purposes.
Sometimes, you may want to own the intellectual property jointly.
This can be complex and may require legal advice to get right.
Payments are fertile territory for disputes, with freelancers often being paid late or not at all.
Generally, payments are structured on a fixed fee or a day rate basis.
Fixed fees are typically structured as 50% up front and 50% on completion of the job, but can also be structured according to milestones as per the above.
Think about what you will charge if the client goes over and above the scope of work or the number of days they asked you to work.
Make sure also that you are clear in the contract about exactly when you will be billing, when you expect to be paid and what the penalties will be for late payment.
What happens if the client does not like what you have produced?
What happens if the client pays you late?
Many freelancer contracts are disputed in one way or another although very few get to court.
If you have the foresight to include an alternative dispute resolution procedure, you can save yourself a headache down the line.
You could, for example, contract that any disputes should go to an independent third party mediator, rather than having to go to Court and incurring the expense of legal representation.
Clients often make a big thing about confidentiality, sometimes understandably.
Often they will ask you to sign a confidentiality (or non-disclosure) agreement.
If they do not have an NDA for you to sign but ask for confidentiality provisions in the freelance contract, you need to be careful to ensure that what they are asking for is reasonable.
One thing in particular to avoid is ‘non-compete’ clauses.
These are paragraphs that will try to restrict you from working for the client’s competitors.
There is some doubt as to whether these clauses are enforceable under English law, but either way you should push back on anything like this that could lead to you not being able to work with other clients (and earn money!).
Travel to Cuba, Lisbon, Istanbul, Copenhagen, Geneva and Barcelona
Here are the main stats for this blog in 2015 compared to 2014:
Number of published posts:
The second half of the 2014 was the most time I’ve ever spent consistently blogging, racking up around 30 posts at over 1,000 words each in a 6 month period. The end goal in mind was to pull those blog posts together into an ebook, which turned out as Freelance in 30 Days. This meant that a lot of 2015’s traffic come from 2014’s work.
2015 itself was a slow year for me blogging wise. I published just 15 posts of varying quality, with only 2 of them making my top 10 most viewed posts for this year (see below for a summary). However, I tripled the traffic to my site in 2015 and now get over 13,000 views comfortable in any given month, with little input on my part.
I’ve also generated quite a few new business leads through this blog, so well worth picking up the blogging more in 2016 to drive even more.
I saw a big jump in views around June 2015, which may or may not have been down to a Google algorithm update, I don’t know.
My most read post of 2014 has also been well read in 2015. The post definitely reaches its target audience – people who want to know how to travel to Japan on a budget from someone who has already done the same trip. Adding “2 weeks” into the title also helped, as it seems that’s how long many people go for – perhaps 1 week is too short if you’re travelling all that way, but more than 2 weeks in Japan makes it too expensive to stay longer?
A shorter post, but with good content sourced from multiple sources. This post has become a go-to for anyone looking for up to date stats on the freelancer economy, so I may well update this post for 2016 as well. Not to mention the likes of Mashable have been linking through to this post as well.
Most of these were a mix of work and pleasure, where we were still on call for client work but just happened to be working from a different country. Thank you AirBnb, Skype, Google and other companies that helped make this happen!
I’m planning to write an extensive post on how I’m balancing travel with freelancing, taking into account all of these above trips to give real life examples of how we did it.
A good year for reading, with the below being my favourite books from the year, in no particular order:
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel
The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
Walden, Henry David Thoreau
A Tale For the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
The Guest Cat, Takashi Hiraide
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
The Good Terrorist, Doris Lessing
Freedom, Jonathan Franzen
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
City On Fire, Garth Risk Hallberg
Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
This has been a very productive year for work and looks set to continue for 2016.
Montfort also became a Recommended Agency on the Recommended Agencies Register. It’s particularly exciting for Montfort to be awarded this, as it means we’ve been highly rated by our clients for the great work we do for them – a good sign for anyone who might be looking at working with us.
We’ve expanded our service offering to include WordPress website design and digital transformation, with our first projects in these areas seeing great results and more clients lined up for early 2016 in both of these areas already.
The Montfort team has also grown, with a larger network of freelancers working under our name. If you like the look of Montfort and want to find out more about working with us, head over to the Mates With Montfort page for details of the kind of people we’re looking for.
People choose to take the leap into the world of freelancing for many reasons – choosing your own hours, being your own boss, operating in new locations, and having the opportunity to earn and keep all your profit being just a few.
When IPSE released their latest research to coincide with National Freelancers Day, the annual event celebrating the UK’s 1.9 million people who make the brave step to work as independent professionals, I thought it was worth pulling out the most important reasons from the research that freelancers choose to work in this way.
1. Being your own boss
79% of people work as a freelancer because they like to be in control of their own work. As a freelancer, you don’t have to answer to anyone but your customers and yourself. Working for this way frees you from the employee mind-set as you can choose the people that you work with. And making the tough decisions is your responsibility: Freelancing is effectively like being in charge of your own business, except you are the business, you are in control.
2. A better work/life balance
69% of freelancers choose to work this way because it provides them with a better work/life balance. As a freelancer, you choose how you want to work, whether this working from home or on the move. You’re no longer constrained to a nine to five office environment. Finding the way you work best can be a real boost to productivity.
3. Flexible Hours
61% of freelancers work this way to gain greater control of their work hours. When you’re a freelancer, you choose how, where and when you work. Greater flexibility means that if you want to work at home you can, or if you need time off for a holiday or to just take a break, you can do that. Freelancers can work during their most creative and dynamic hours, and that doesn’t have to mean regular business hours.
4. Keeping the profits
59% of freelancers are motivated by the opportunity to keep their profits, maximising their earning potential. As a freelancer, you get to work at your own skill level, where you can allocate or keep all the profits from the work you do. This provides freelancers with the freedom to then use that money to save for their future and secure their finances.
5. We choose to freelance
Freelancers are sometimes cast as a vulnerable group, but IPSE’s research found only two per cent are actively looking to make the switch to becoming an employee. And only one in ten responded that they turned to freelancing because they had no other option.
It’s clear the vast majority of freelancers prefer and enjoy this way of working. Not only that, but IPSE’s research has also shown the growth in the number of freelancers has come in professional and highly skilled sectors.
Overall, freelancers just love the way and would encourage anyone else to do it.
I’ve been shortlisted by the nice people at IPSE as a Freelancer of the Year finalist in their Freelancer Awards. This is mainly for my work at Montfort, but also for other initiatives like Freelance in 30 Days. It’s a lovely surprise.
I love learning about how other freelancers run their businesses, so it’s been interesting to look at the stories behind and how they’re setup. I’m looking forward to meeting the other finalists in real life, as ‘ useful when freelancers get together and share insight on what is and isn’t working for them.
There are also some fantastic examples of younger freelancers going it alone at a relatively early stage in their professional careers. I’ve had several conversations recently about the rise of freelancing as a choice among people leaving university in the UK, which I’ll expose in a later post, but for now it’s well worth checking out – and supporting! – the shortlisted young finalists:
The results of the award will be announced as part of the celebrations around National Freelancer Day on 12th November. I’ll be sure to let you know how I got on then.
As part of the award judging process, I was interviewed by the IPSE team about my journey as a freelancer so far, as well as what I love about freelancing and my thoughts on the future of freelancing and self employment.
I’ve copied the interview below so you can share in my thoughts. I’d love to know what you think in the comments.
IPSE Freelancer Awards 2015: Interview with Ben Matthews
Describe your business
Working along with my wife, we run a digital agency, Montfort, which runs digital, social and contenting marketing campaigns for some of the biggest and brands in the world. We offer senior strategic counsel and honest independent advice to the biggest brands around the world.
Together we work with the likes of the UN Refugee Agency, The Guardian and Harper Collins, bringing in a wide range of trusted freelancers (AKA Mates of Montfort) to work alongside us.
What is your greatest business achievement?
I was recently appointed as the youngest member to the panel of Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA), which represents the interests of PRCA members operating as independent consultants. I’ll be working alongside people ten years my senior, a daunting but rewarding prospect.
For Montfort, I’d have to say one of most recent campaigns, for the Twitter hashtag #WalkTogether. A wide group of organisations, co-ordinated by British Future, were looking to engage the people of London and across the UK on social media in a public commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 bombings. Montfort were asked to manage key social media channels on 6 and 7 July, engaging with supporters of the #WalkTogether campaign, encouraging people to take more photos, retweets, favourites and likes. The results were outstanding. For a small team, we were able to have #WalkTogether trend worldwide for the day.
What made you want to work for yourself?
I felt like I was stuck in a rut and wasn’t stretching myself enough as an employee. I initially hadn’t considered freelancing until I met with a former colleague who had taken the jump years previously, and told me how much more joy it brings to his work life balance.
Taking the leap into freelancing after having a steady job was probably one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done. But I survived (and thrived!) and haven’t looked back since.
Why is self-employment so important?
The freedom and opportunity to create new projects is particularly exciting, especially as it hasn’t been readily available in my industry until now. It’s made it an exciting time to be a freelancer.
Speaking about digital trends for 10 minutes is hard enough. Speaking about digital trends for 10 minutes to a group of around 50 independent consultants is harder. Speaking about digital trends for 10 minutes to a group of around 50, slightly soggy from the London rain, eager to get back to networking, independent consultants was the fine audience I spoke to tonight.
I was invited by the PRCA Independent Consultants Group to speak on 10 digital trends in 10 minutes, so here I am replicating that talk in digital form, which should take you – hopefully less soggy, less eager to get back to networking – digital person about 10 minutes to read / consume.
Here are my slides and notes. Enjoy.
10 Digital Trends in 10 Minutes for Independent Consultants
To get thing started, here is the Slideshare of my slides from the digital trends talk. Pretty to look at and will give you the gist of the talk, but you’ll probably need to read on to get the full impact of my talk.
And for those of you who want the short version, here’s a GIF made using the simply brilliant gifdeck.in, that has made my 10 minute long talk into a 3 second, 10 image gif.
For those of you with the thirst for the full digital trend experience, here’s my rundown of the 10 digital trends I picked out and my notes from the talk. Keep scrolling to the end for questions – and answers – from the question and answer part of the talk.
1. Your network is still key, but is increasingly dispersed
Slack has been a runaway success since opening for business just over a year ago: it now has 1.1 million daily active users, with 300,000 of them paying for premium tiers of the service bringing in annual recurring revenue of $25 million.
We’re working with a client whose team is based in London, New York, Geneva and Copenhagen. Slack holds that team together.
Airbnb is a website for people to rent out their homes. It has over 1,000,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Airbnb offers more rooms than many of the largest hotel groups in the world–Hilton, InterContinental and Marriott—which each maintain just under 700,000 rooms.
Next week, I’m going on a working holiday to Turkey, using Airbnb. Good wifi, cheap flights and my clients don’t care where I work as long as the work gets done.
2. You’ll face increased competition, but have more opportunities.
“Trust in the authenticity and reliability of our sources is essential. Digital communications and a fast-moving news environment present special challenges for verification, and scepticism should therefore be the starting point”
More experienced consultants should already have this trust and know how to keep it
The Edelman Trust Barometer states that “Trust is built through specific attributes, which can be organised into five performance clusters”
products and services
These attributes apply to brands, but in the digital age they apply to consultants as well – especially as reputation can be more easily share online
4. Digital by design, not digital by default.
Digital is growing, but is not always the right answer.
Offline interaction still works wonders for the right campaigns.
Take a look at the number of events, photocalls and conferences that happen.
If traditional means of getting a client’s message out is the right one, then have confidence in that.
But if digital is the right medium to get the message out, then make sure that your campaigns have the right assets for digital – video, photos, text content.
5. Content is still king. Distribution is queen.
Content marketing is the creation and sharing of digital content, such as articles and videos, that informs, educates, or entertains you.
Content marketing allows brands to attract customers through articles and videos.
Instead of interrupting your online browsing with an ad, content marketing gives you valuable information through articles and videos that you choose to view.
While digital advertising focuses on promoting a brand, content marketing focuses on giving you helpful information that you want to see online.
6. Think mobile first, then work back from there.
Including the way you work, the content you create and how people consume it.
Ensure that your content is optimised for smartphones.
Ensure all media materials are succinct and engaging.
Use images and video to maximise campaign reach.
7. Paid social is becoming the norm. Understand its value.
Understand its value, even if you don’t use it yourself.
Run a few Facebook ads. See what works. Begin to learn what can work for your clients.
8. Video is on the rise (again). Facebook is challenging YouTube.
Fuelled by Facebook, vloggers and fast mobile data.
Zoella: 25 years old, born in 1990, has 8.5 million subscribers.
Facebook and Twitter both have native video players where video content is hosted and viewed natively within Facebook and Twitter.
Before this move, users who wanted to watch videos were sent off to YouTube, Vimeo or wherever the video was hosted. Now users can just watch the video natively where they are.
The end result? Twitter users stay within Twitter longer and use Twitter more.
“Within 18 months of releasing their YouTube competitor, Twitter will at least double their monthly users, double their time per user, and triple their revenue.”