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Contract lessons for creative freelancers: 3 steps you can use

When you freelance in the creative arts for a living, contracts can save your finances and your reputation -- but many freelancers don't know how to begin drafting a good contract or understand exactly why they need one.

Good contracts are actual designed to do one thing: Dispel misconceptions or errors that can later lead to conflicts. Without a clearly-written agreement, both parties can end up with unfulfilled expectations. Always keep that goal in mind when you're drafting a contract so that you stay focused on what really matters.

Here's how to make sure that your contracts actually work:

1. Look at your own history

Nobody works in a creative field for long without encountering a few issues with clients. Think about past issues you've had with clients who expected something more than you promised. How could you have prevented the issue? Make certain your contract addresses those issues. Your past experiences are a great opportunity when it comes to preventing future problems.

2. Use ordinary language

There's no rule that says contracts have to be written in incomprehensible or archaic language. Use precise language, but make it something that's clear to both you and your clients.

3. Concentrate on money issues

Most disputes between creative freelancers and their clients involve money, so think about all the ways that money could be an issue. Are you to be paid for revisions? Do you get paid by the piece or the hour? How much of a deposit on your work is necessary? What happens if a client cancels before work is begun? What happens if work is started but not delivered? What happens if the client just hates what you provide? All of these issues should be addressed in your contract.

Ultimately, you have to decide whether it's better to get some professional help with your contract or go it alone. However, the one thing you don't want to do is to go entirely without.

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