I’ve been a fulltime freelancer for over five years now and the business of freelancing still surprises me. I think one of the biggest surprises is how many publishers—RPG or fiction—have asked me to supply them with a contract for a writing gig. The conversation usually goes something like…
“We have this work we want you to do.”
“What’s the details?”
“Due date, word count, pay rate.”
“All of that is doable. I’m in.”
“Alrighty, send over your standard freelancer contract.” (Or) “Do you have a standard contract you’d like us to use?” (Or) “We don’t have a standard contract. What details would you like in yours?”
All of these have happened to me. It was shocking the first time a publisher asked me to provide them with the contract. I had no idea what to do. I ended up telling them, in my most professional-please-don’t-think-of-me-as-a-hack email voice, that I “preferred to start with the contract the publisher usually used and we would modify it from there.”
I chickened out in other words. And we did work with their contract and modified it and everyone lived happily ever after.
However, I suddenly realized that I needed to create my own boilerplate contracts. Ones that would be legally binding. Ones that wouldn’t screw me or the publisher. I ended up going to back to the contracts I already had and modified them. It’s surprising the number of contracts I now have to keep track of.
As an Author:
• RPG – set number of fiction words for a project
• RPG – RPG book as author
• Fiction – short story in an anthology
• Fiction – short story for the web
As an Editor:
• Anthology – buying a short story for an anthology
• Anthology – buying a reprint story for an anthology
• Anthology – selling an anthology to a publisher
• Anthology – commissioning art for the book cover
• Anthology – licensing art for the book cover
• Webzine – buying a short story for web
• Editing – Novel consulting
• Editing – Short story editing
That’s a lot contracts right there that I’ve had to create specific to me and make sure were fair, legal, and appropriate.
But wait, there’s more. Invoices are a type of contract between the freelancer and the person who hired them. It used to be that my employer would tell me how to log my hours and get paid. As a freelancer, you frequently provide your own invoices. This means they need to be clear, concise, and specific to the project so you don’t lose track of who has paid you and who hasn’t.
If you plan to freelance at all, you need to be prepared to provide your own contracts. You need to make certain they are legal and appropriate. Documentation is part of a freelancer’s world. I knew this from the start. I just didn’t know that I would be the one providing the contracts as well.