Contracts

Page owner: Standards director

Every day, freelances enter into contracts with clients, often with a minimum of formality. A contract, a legally binding agreement, can be as simple as an email or even a phone call. It is wise to keep a recording of such phone calls if you can, but in any case you should confirm it that day in writing, which can be by email. If you have your own terms & conditions (T&Cs), perhaps on your website, you should draw attention to them; however, even if you set out your terms before the client does, that does not necessarily mean that your terms will prevail in law.

Clients may insist that you sign a contract drafted by them. The SfEP examined a wide range of clients' contracts and T&Cs before drawing up the guidance on contracts and a model set of T&Cs. There is separate advice for freelances trading as limited companies.

The SfEP guidance on these pages does not apply to employees.

Contract guidance

Guidance for freelances who are sole traders (one-person businesses)

Model terms & conditions

T&Cs that sole traders can offer if clients require more formality in their business relationship

Freelances trading as limited companies

Guidance and a model contract if you trade through a limited company

Acknowledgements

The contract guidance and model terms & conditions were drawn up by former publications director Gillian Clarke and Anne Waddingham, an Advanced Professional Member with experience as both a client and a freelance, in consultation with FirstAssist (the LawCare Service to which the SfEP then subscribed), copyright and contract consultant Richard Balkwill and Mark Seaman of Sweet & Maxwell.

The limited companies guidance and contract were drawn up by Joanna Chisholm (Wordsense Ltd), Julian Roskams (Etica Press) and Jeremy Toynbee (Toynbee Editorial Services Ltd), the main contribution being made by Julian Roskams. The guidance was also looked at by FirstAssist (the LawCare service to which the SfEP then subscribed) and Richard Balkwill, who advises companies and runs training courses on copyright and contracts. We thank them for their helpful comments.