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When a new freelancer works with a small client, neither party may have experience with contracts. This community wiki provides starting points they can use to think through the issues that should be covered in a good contract and begin with much of the text already written.

These starting points are intended to be especially helpful where the size of project or other concerns do not raise to the level of requiring professional legal assistance. In any event, both parties will want to carefully review the contracts and customize according to their needs; still, having a good starting template sets an initial direction and saves a lot of work.

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For Information Technology / Software Development

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If you're UK based and are a member of the Professional Contractors Group, they have contract templates that you can download from their website, both for working through an intermediary agency and direct with the client. The contract templates have the added incentive of being verified as outside of IR35.

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    Any UK based freelancer should give serious consideration to joining PCG (see profile for disclaimer). The cost is small beer for the benefits received. – Andrew May 23 '13 at 7:45
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For web and software development, I would recommend A Legal Guide to Web & Software Development from NOLO.

It includes contract templates, but more importantly, it explains them.

It gives thorough, plain english explanations of the terms included in each section of the contracts and does so from the perspective of both the contractor and the client. If offers multiple versions of various clauses and helps you decide which clauses to include.

It's a great source for educating yourself about the most important aspects of the contract and putting together a contract that is tailored to fit your situation.

Obviously, the best approach would be to have a lawyer review the personalized contract once you've finished, but at least you're making educated decisions when creating it which is better than grabbing a contract template from somewhere and using it without understanding the implications of the clauses it contains.

  • Just to update you on the article from NOLO. The new link is this Website Law. They've updated their site since this thread. – WhyVisitBirmingham Oct 12 '16 at 22:27
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Notwithstanding the other answers, be careful/cautious about using someone else's "standard" template contract.

It is important that the contract reflects the reality of the situation!

Also bear in mind that, in most cases, other than defining the financials (probably in a schedule) the contract is only there to define what happens when things go wrong. So get it right!

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If you're starting out, Bonsai is a helpful tool that instantly generates a simple contract based on the information you've entered.

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I do not practice contract law, but my advice is to be very careful about working off someone else's contracts. Different jurisdictions have different rules about what may and may not be enforceable in contracts. If you anticipate having a standard contract with some variation on a per client basis, I'd advise finding a good business lawyer in your area and working with him or her to draft a good contract. It may cost more now, but will save money down the road. The exception is if you have a professional association or similar group in your area that provides sample contracts. Those were most likely drafted by an attorney and an be trusted.

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    How safe is safe enough? By way of analogy, my bread maker manual said I should unplug it between baking loaves, even though that meant resetting the clock for each scheduled cycle. I ignored the (lawyer-inserted) warning and managed to live to tell about it. For home plumbing repairs, it's not too hard to size up whether its a DIY job or if you need a professional. It would be helpful to know where to draw the line for contracts. For example, does a clause that keeps the remainder in force if part of a contract is invalid provide enough protection against regional law differences? – Edward Brey May 23 '13 at 12:25
  • @EdwardBrey I've frequently seen such clauses in contracts, such as software EULAs, that acknowledge that certain portions of the contract may not be valid in certain jurisdictions. As far as knowing when it's a DIY contract, my biased DIYer opinion is that almost everything is a DIY project as long as you have the time to do it. Simple verbal contracts are enforceable in most jurisdictions. Written contracts are meant to protect you and your client, so keep that in mind and it should be sufficient and is most likely enforceable. Knowing specific jurisdictional requirements means homework. – Thomas Dec 11 '13 at 15:19
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I'm familiar with Docstoc.com and I just discovered Docracy.com the other day. Docracy has the advantages of real time customization and digital signing capability, allowing you to negotiate and sign contracts with remote clients without burning through stamps. I'm still doing my homework before signing up, but so far it looks good. Docstoc has been around longer, has more documents available, and is specifically geared towards small businesses; though, they are fond of sending you their newsletters (similar to linkedin).

Docracy.com
Docstoc.com

  • Docstoc will be closing down effective December 1, 2015. – Randy Levy Sep 15 '15 at 18:27
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I am doing freelancing since 2000 and have signed so many contracts in the past. Usually I found ready-made templates almost immediately on google but customizing them up to your specific and situation-oriented circumstances is the real thing. Anyway, here is a good source of free contract templates that anyone can grab for free to get started quickly.

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