Ask FreelanceSwitch: A Case of Nerves and File Ownership
In this issue of Ask FreelanceSwitch, we look at a case of nerves and a question of file ownership. Ask FreelanceSwitch is a regular column here that allows us to help beginners get a grip on freelancing. If you have a question about freelancing that you want answered, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am newish to freelancing (have done small freelance gigs, but mostly work full time for corporations) and I have an opportunity that is coming through for a contract to hire job. I am a Front End Web Developer and confident in my abilities but not having worked contract before, I get nervous. I have a wife and young son that I need to provide for and having insurance is important, as is job security.
Should I be nervous? What can I do to calm my nerves? How can I leave the corporate rat race and push myself to the promised land of freelance/contract?
It’s normal to be nervous when you’re making major changes to how you earn your living. There is more risk associated with freelancing or working on a contractual basis, matched by an increase in opportunities. Nervousness is just a reminder that you need to take steps to address that risk.
You have specific responsibilities that you need to make sure that you meet. Sit down and write out what you need to be comfortable that you can take care of your family. Whenever I’m making a big change to how I operate, I write out the minimum of what I need in order to cover everything that I consider necessary. It’s more than just my bills — it’s health insurance, holiday presents and emergency funds.
From there, I write out how I can make sure ends meet even if my big client or a major contract disappears overnight. By having a plan in place, you’ll be a lot more relaxed — even if the plan is going back to a day job.
It’s also worthwhile to talk things over with a freelancer who’s been out of a day job longer. Just seeing that someone else can do the same thing without any problems can be very reassuring to your nerves.
I am a graphic designer and have a quick question for you.
Who owns the files to a design if I have designed it from scratch? Me or the client?
I’m going to drag out my ‘contracts’ soapbox for this question. Officially, unless you have transferred copyright for a project to your client (created it as a ‘work for hire’), you own the files as the designer.
But most clients aren’t well-versed in copyright law and they’re going to argue about who owns the files until they’re out of breath. If you have a contract from the get-go that lays out file ownership, life is a lot easier. That also offers you an opportunity to offer full rights to a client for an additional fee, if that makes sense for the project you’re working on.
You need a contract, or else your client may just assume that you’re working on a project they have full rights to without any additional payment.