The Alchemist's Lair
Thoughts on writing, language, life as a freelancer,
and what comes to mind.
and what comes to mind.
Why having clear terms and conditions is so important in a freelance setting?
Back in May, a request from a new prospect landed in my inbox.
My contact person (let's call him Joe) was looking for a local translator to handle a few projects, and following a brief in-person meeting I submitted my quote.
Quote accepted, projects delivered on time, great feedback ... but when it was time for Joe to pay for the service, all communications stopped.
No answers to phone calls, emails, certified mail. Joe couldn't be reached, and in August his office shut.
This could well be the opening act of a typical non-payment situation.
Client on the run + no communication channels = money lost.
The power of a "piece of paper"
Luckily, Joe had signed a service agreement with crystal clear terms and conditions about our reciprocal obligations.
By doing that, he entered a formal contract and agreed to do his bits (i.e. pay for the service provided, within a specific period of time). When he didn't, he violated a legally binding agreement.
Building on that, I had a right to "go on a hunt" for Joe, and for my hardly earned money. Without that "piece of paper", I wouldn't have been entitled to do the research and take the legal steps I took to finally get my payment - later than expected indeed, but in full and with extras.
Truth is, your terms and conditions are more than "some paperwork".
A clear, well-drafted service agreement:
... and yet, many freelancers are somehow uncomfortable with the idea of submitting their terms of service to prospects. When in fact they should be more afraid of accepting jobs without a clear framework nor a "safety net".
Terms & conditions: what to include
Your service agreement doesn't need to be overly complicated, nor stuffed with legal jargon. Also, remember that the exact contents of your terms and conditions depend on the products and services you offer on a freelance basis.
In most cases you'll be allowed to draft the document yourself. However, you should always check with a lawyer or legal consultant to assess any limitations, requirements, and fine prints.
In general, an effective T&C document outlines the following:
Again: this summary is for information only, and based on my experience.
For advice based on your individual situation, consult a legal professional.
The bottom line
Setting up clear terms and conditions for your freelance business can help you overcome non-payment issues and other nasty situations more easily.
Also, effective T&C set the foundations for a healthy business relationship, and should be the cornerstone of all of your professional activities. Contents and layouts may vary on an individual basis but generally include the whys & hows of your trade, and the terms of your cooperation with the client.
Are you using this powerful tool to build trust and protect your business? Can you recall any situations where it was useful to you? Join the conversation in the comments, and share your insights!