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Although I offer the Freelancer's FAQ information free of charge, I'm finding that the costs of operating a web site are steadily increasing. If you find this information useful, a donation would be gladly appreciated.
Anne W.

Anne Wallingford, WordSmith


Freelancer's FAQ


One of the questions most frequently asked questions by freelancers is "How do I put together a proposal or contract?" This question is usually asked after the freelancer has been burned the first time. The proposal and contract guidelines I've written about are those that have worked for me. There is no guarantee they will work for you, but - it can't hurt to try.

Standard Disclaimer: I am NOT a lawyer; nor were these samples reviewed by a lawyer before being posted. Although these are samples of actual contracts, they are based on situations I've encountered. What applies to these projects may or may not apply to your project. Details may need to be added, altered, or omitted. The purpose of posting these samples is to give you ideas.

Why Use Them?

Contracts and proposals safeguard both the freelancer AND the client. A proposal spells out the details of what is to be done, deadlines, fees, covered expenses, payment dates, etc. Landing a contract is the goal of a proposal - the contract is the legal agreement. Writers and editors will often sign contracts that include all the details; proposals aren't used as often in the publishing world as they are in other industries.

Remember - signed contracts are legally binding documents. By detailing all information, there is no argument later about who said what when. But be sure you understand what you are signing. If you aren't sure, get legal advice.

How Much Detail Should a Proposal Include?

This depends on the project. In the sample proposal posted here, the cover letter gives the details and the proposal itself summarizes the project, payment rate, payment schedule, and deadlines. Sometimes, there is a generic cover letter and the proposal itself contains all the information.

Who Should Use a Contract?

You should. Every time. Not only do contracts protect both you and the client, they are a professional way of doing business. Clients will say, "We've never used contracts before. Why should we use one with you, now?" Have your reasons prepared: contracts protect the client and you, contracts are professional, etc. Don't get defensive. Remain calm and factual.

Can Proposals and Contracts Be Amended?

Of course. It isn't unusual for a client to submit a counter-proposal. In fact, this frequently happens when the client is seriously interested in working with you - it's a very good sign. The client likes your proposal but certain details need to be ironed-out before a contract is signed and work begins. However, if you haven't done your homework, don't be surprised if your proposal isn't accepted.

If you absolutely cannot live with the terms of the counter-proposal, you can certainly try countering the counter-proposal. But this should be done with extreme caution. If you have worked out the details before submitting your original proposal, you know what is needed, how long it should take you, and what you expect to gross from the assignment.

How Much Time Should I Spend On Preparing a Proposal?

This is part of a freelancer's nonbillable administrative time. (Billable hours vs. nonbillable hours will be discussed in a separate posting.) Personally, I have spent as little as 4 hours working on a proposal, and as much as 2 weeks.

Can't I Just Use a Standard Proposal/Contract for Everything?

If all the work you do is identical from client to client, go ahead and use the same proposal each time. But - how often are assignments identical?

Freelancing is work. You may love to write/edit/illustrate/whatever. You may consider this type of administrative duty to be a waste of your time. In that case, why are you freelancing? In a corporation, there are different staff members whose jobs are to draw up proposals, do the marketing, prepare taxes, etc. If you are a freelancer, then you do it all.

Are There Standard Proposals Or Contracts that I Can Use As Guidelines?

Yes, there are. Talk to businesses you have worked with in the past, network with other freelancers, join the National Writers Union (they provide contract assistance), and build your own collection of sample contracts. A good reference book is Business & Legal Forms for Authors & Self-Publishers by Tad Crawford. (Allworth Press, 1990, ISBN 0-927629-03-8)

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© 1999 Anne Wallingford

Friday, August 10, 2007