When I started my own design business, one of the first things I put in place was a well-written contract. Before I spoke to an attorney about drafting an official document for me, I made sure I had my design process established.
I also did a lot of research as to what other design firms and freelancers were including in their agreements. With something as subjective as design, there are lots of gray areas that need to be clarified as much as possible on paper.
If you’re in the process of drafting a client contract, or if you are considering revising one that already exists, I would recommend including the following list of items:
1. Estimate Terms
When starting a new project with a current or prospective client, I’m always sure to estimate the project time first. In my experience, giving yourself a bit of extra time on the estimate is a good thing. It will cover you in the event any unexpected snags come up.
My clients are only billed for the time I spend on their projects, so if I don’t use up all the time allotted on my estimate, I look like a hero who came in under budget. On the flip side, if I find the project needs more time for completion (for whatever reason), I’m sure to notify my clients before continuing work and racking up additional hours. Continue Reading
How do you feel when someone steals your ideas?
At some point in your freelance career, you may find yourself successful at what you do. Chances are, if you’re reading this, that you have or that you’re on your way. Unfortunately, one common indicator of success is the proportion of individuals who attempt to copy, borrow or steal original content from you. Realistically, this has likely already happened to you at some point in the past without your knowledge.
I’ve been frustrated by this numerous times. I’ve had carefully crafted text that I’ve sculpted over the years lifted from my website and used without my consent on a competitor’s site. Occasionally, I’ve stumbled across an entire duplication of one of my original website designs, something that I consider less than flattering.
You’d think that this would get easier with time. It doesn’t. It’s nothing short of a violation of your hard work. Knowing that someone else is benefiting on your behalf and at your expense is a royal pain and, from a business perspective, a serious threat. Knowing how to prepare, identify, deal with and respond to this type of copyright infringement is quickly becoming one of the necessary skills for any serious business owner.
If you’ve been a solo freelancer for any significant stretch of time, you’ve probably learned the hard way that a work project can go horribly wrong. They turn out to be life lessons in the long run, but there are ways to protect yourself.
Working with bad projects or bad clients generally boils down to mismatched expectations and inadequate communication. Your best safeguard is to make sure you and your client are on the same page before any work has even begun using a Terms of Service Agreement, which essentially puts into clear, written language what you expect from your client and what they should expect from you.
By submitting a comprehensive Terms of Service Agreement to your client beforehand and having them return confirmation to agree to abide by your terms, you will be saving yourself (and your client) a lot of headaches down the road and avoiding the kind of surprises that can cause a project to get derailed. Continue Reading
Editor’s Note: Yesterday, we learned about the most common legal issues you can encounter when running a blog. As part of their trade, many freelancers maintain their own industry blog or contribute to other publications. Read 8 Legal Issues for Bloggers: Part 1 for a discussion on basic blogging concerns. For part two, James Adams returns today to discuss issues specific to student bloggers, adult material, and other concerns. Take it away, James! Continue Reading
Editor’s Note: In addition to their client work, many freelancers keep a blog related to their work, industry, and passion. In a two part series, James Adams helps us explore the legal pitfalls and concerns of publishing a blog. Today we’ll focus on common issues such as defamation and privacy. Watch tomorrow when we go into specific issues and details in Part 2!
Blogging, like traditional forms of journalism, is a legal minefield. If anything, however, it’s even more confusing for bloggers than for journalists, as laws have not yet been adapted to fit with this thoroughly modern method of public interaction. While journalists might have the relevant experience, training and resources to be able to deal with legal problems, chances are, most bloggers won’t. Large companies often take advantage of this fact, bullying bloggers into submission.
If you want to cover your back and stick up for yourself, if and when legal proceedings come your way, you need to do a bit of background reading. The article below acts as an introduction to the kinds of issues you might encounter as a blogger, but you should seek out more comprehensive information and legal advice if necessary. You have the right to free speech, the right to blog anonymously, the right to make fair use of intellectual property and much more. Read on to find out how to safely exercise these rights. Continue Reading
Confidentiality sounds like it really ought to be more of an issues for doctors or lawyers, rather than freelancers. But sooner or later, most freelancers wind up with a client who wants them to sign a non-disclosure agreement or otherwise guarantee confidentiality for a project.
For certain companies, the number of projects they require NDAs on are growing: when every web designer, copywriter and other freelancer has the ability to broadcast current projects and clients on personal blogs and social networks, a little concern is understandable.
Most freelancers automatically set up business as sole proprietors. In most countries, running a sole proprietorship is as simple as hanging out your shingle — the government only cares whether you pay your taxes on time. Just because operating as a sole proprietor — also known as a sole trader in some parts of the world — is the easiest option, however, doesn’t mean that it’s the best. For some freelancers, making the switch to a corporation or another business structure can offer some benefits.
If you just automatically moved into running your freelance business as a sole proprietor, there are a couple of questions worth asking yourself. Depending on the answers you may find that incorporation makes sense for your business.
Imagine all of your hard work being ripped off by someone half way around the world. My first thought was always, “Ah, that’ll never happen to me. What are the chances?” Imagine my surprise when I found out my freelance website (HTML, CSS, graphics, design-down-to-the-last-detail) was hijacked by an Indonesian company.
I found out about this hijack through my Google Analytics results. I saw that I’d been getting about 28 hits a day from an Indonesian website as well as Google Search hits from keyword phrases such as “Terminal” and “Terminal Pulsa.” Thankfully, I’m curious by nature and investigated this odd behavior.
My first thought was, “How dare them! I worked hard on this site! Why would someone think this is okay to do?!” Quickly followed by, “Oh great, this place is overseas and surely they do not hold to the same legal standards as the United States. What do I do now?”
Please note that I am NOT a lawyer (thank God), but the following information should really help you out if you ever have this happen to you! Continue Reading
Photo by F.S.M..
Intellectual property (IP) law is a big, nasty, confusing world–one long-time blogger on copyright law and issues recently shut down his blog, partly because “the current state of copyright law is too depressing.” But if you’re a creative, innovative freelancer, and you’d like to protect the materials you create–your original writing, music, software, artwork or designs–this stuff is really important. How do you navigate the murky waters of copyright and intellectual property law? Where do you go for information? Do you need a lawyer? What do you have to do to protect your original creations?
Photo by laihiu.
Handling the legal aspects of doing business has got to be the most dreaded part of freelancing. Most of us have very little knowledge in this field without taking the time to do some research, and even then it can be confusing and frustrating.
Of course, this isn’t one of the core functions of your freelance business, and it’s easy to see any time spent on legal issues as a loss in terms of available working hours. For this reason it’s good to take advantage of the legal resources that are available to freelancers.
In this post we’ll take a look at a number of resources, both online and off, that may be able to make your life easier and help you to achieve more productivity while protecting the legality of your business. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments.