One of the easiest ways to get yourself in a tricky situation with a client, is to skip the Terms and Conditions stage. Charging into a client relationship without setting boundaries means you don’t have anything to fall back on if they’re a late/non-payer, if they like to conduct meetings at ridic-o’clock or if they expect many, many revisions at no extra cost. T&Cs set the standards of your working relationship, and also highlight any issues that may crop up later on. Plus, it just looks more professional!
When you’re new to freelancing, Terms and Conditions can seem like an intimidating concept, but when you’re starting out, a basic email T&C (which they can reply to, to confirm), will suffice. Below is an example of a very basic one I use.
1. Notice Period. My notice period, for both myself and the client, is 30 days.2. Payment Terms. The below payment terms are based on my current 21 day payment period.
An early payment discount – Invoices paid within 7 days of receipt will benefit from a 4% discount on the total. This can either be applied as a credit to your account against future invoices, or I can apply it to the current invoice. Please note, this only applies to bank transfer and Paypal payments (my preferred payment methods).
A late payment fee – Invoices unpaid after 30 days will incur a fixed charge of £40, £70 or £100 depending on the size of the invoice (under £1,000, under £10,000, and higher). This is in accordance with the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2002, and will be applied automatically by my invoicing software. The software will automatically send a reminder 22 days after sending an invoice, if it is unpaid, with a reminder about the late fee.
I currently submit my invoices around the 24th of each month in order to fit in with the monthly payroll run of most businesses. However, if you’d like me to amend this date to a more suitable time, please do let me know and I’d be happy to discuss.
3. Availability. My general work hours are 8-5 Monday-Friday. If a task is requested to be done over the weekend, overtime pay may apply. Late payment fees and early payment discounts are processes I use to encourage prompt payment of invoices. The latter works better, especially with larger clients, but the late payment fees cover me if someone does pay late.
This is a very basic idea, and I tend to add to it and tweak it depending on the client and work. For example, for copywriting gigs I’ll add something about the number of revisions included. If it’s a client you’ve never worked with before, it may also be worth adding something in about the process if the original contract needs to be changed.
Other things you may want to include:
- Details of your charges
- Part payment if you’re taking a deposit
- Intellectual Property Ownership (including usage and resale)
My recommendation would be that you don’t start the work until they confirm they’re happy with your terms in writing.
As you progress, you may want to use a contract instead. Companies like Lawbite offer contracts, with a lawyer who can check it over for you, and Practical Law has a free one you can create by answering some questions.