CREATIVE FREELANCERS GET A GRIP
And I mean that in the kindest possible way. Here's the scoop. I hate hearing from talented creative freelancers that they haven't been paid for work they've done! First of all, I can't believe people are so comfortable not paying, and knowing how long it takes to do great work makes it even more shameful.
Your Guarantee—The Dreaded Scope Of Work
Now I know it's difficult—if you're really creative the thought of doing a scope is horrifying but it needs to be done. You need it and it will become your best friend. It's a really important document for freelance creatives being paid on a 1099. One of the main reasons you need a scope is to set expectations. If you don't have the project spelt out on paper you don't know what your client is thinking, it's one of those documents you can't afford to brush under the carpet.
First of all, don't create the SOW until you have agreed upon the project, deliverables and price. This can be done in a deck or an email. It's not worth preparing a SOW just to find out the client doesn't have the budget.
Assuming you've agreed upon the project, price, and final deadline, you now need to spell out what's included, overall timeline, when the project will be invoiced, an overall timeline, and the flow of work—for example the number of reviews and edits.
Here are the paragraphs you need:
- Statement of objectives and list of deliverables
- Each milestone task for the complete project or each deliverable - here you list out the date and what you're going to show the client. For example show three concepts on XXXXX date, with the next entry being - client selects one concept on XXXXX date. (If the schedule starts to slip you need to update the table.)
- Total cost of your fees.
- Out of Pocket costs - such as stock photography if you don't know the exact amount you could specify a range. Here the important issue is pointing out to the client that stock photography or illustrations are not included in your fee. Don't assume your client knows this upfront.
- Total Project Cost - this is your fee plus Out of Pocket costs.
- Payment Schedule - the date and amount of each invoice. You shouldn't do any work without being paid. This means payment 1 should be 30-50% of the cost of the project and you need to ensure the check has cleared before you start work.
- All subsequent payments should be structured so that you're not doing the work without being paid. This means if a check doesn't arrive on time you can stop work - pencils down- until the check arrives.
- Payment terms - the first payment/deposit needs to be received and deposited before you start work and this needs to be said in the agreement. All other payments - 10 days, 14 days - 45 days? If you're doing business with a larger company they will most likely tell you their norm but you can still work with them to get the number of days reduced.
- Assumptions - such as a specific person on the client's team [put in their name] is available for questions, and that all corrections/edits will be supplied in one document and are the responsibility of one person. Always specify how you'd like to receive the edits. Google doc for example or annotated PDF. Let's face it no one likes 10 emails from different people with conflicting edits.
- Another key assumption is your expectations for the amount of time you will give your client to review the work. Are you giving them 24 hours or 3 days? How long do they have to get comments back to you? Again this is factored into the schedule. If the client is slow and gets behind the schedule should shift, OR you have a conversation that the schedule should shift but you can keep it on track as along as there's no more slippage. By having everything in one document it makes doing the work easy as everything is clear.
- Rounds of Edits—how many rounds of edits are included? This is key and can drag the best creatives into a quagmire of messiness. Just having it noted means when you go over one round you can have a discussion and point to the scope. Maybe you'll decide it's ok this one time and you can say this, but it gives you the clarity to speak up if a client turns into a nightmare.
These are the interchangeable basics every project needs but there's other legal verbiage you need in the same document. Please note I am not a lawyer and I am not giving any legal advice. There are standard marketing agreements available online and Freelancersunion.org have a document. If your projects are worth considerable $$ I'd suggest using a lawyer to put together the legal points and you could reuse the document.
Here are a few examples of the legal points. As I am not a lawyer these are purely examples.
Intellectual Property protection—for you and your client, a paragraph detailing the client's ownership of the work is transferred upon FULL payment of the project. This means if they don't pay you in full, they don't have any rights to the work you're doing or have done for them under this specific scope of work.
If you're doing social content you need a paragraph to protect yourself against any of the platforms changing functionality and causing an issue. Which of course wouldn't be your fault.
Others points your need are; Forced Majeure, Indemnity, Liability, Confidentiality, Privacy and Data Protection and there are several others.
If you're serious about being a creative freelancer and want to make sure you get paid you need to either do a scope of work or find someone to do it for you. You will find clients will have a different level of respect for your work when they see you're a pro and can guide them through the process.