One of the frustrations of a freelance writer is not being paid for the work he/she had done. The freelance writer would charge it to experience. However, it keeps on happening, especially if the client sounds too good to be true.
So to avoid this kind of scenario, it is better to set up a written Statement of Work (SOW) which, for me, also serves as my proposal. And once the client signed it, it becomes a contract.
I have on my file a template which I can freely edit depending on the client’s job request. So each of my clients receives a different scope, thus, a different rate.
Let me show you how I write my own SOW.
STATEMENT OF WORK
Others call this a Contract. Others call this an Independent Contractor Agreement.
The reason why I chose to call this Statement of Work (SOW) rather than anything else is its purpose. This serves as my free quote or job proposal first. And if the client signs it, this becomes our contract.
THE PARTIES INVOLVED
At the beginning of the contract, I always state who I am dealing with.
This [type of contract] is by and between me, [your name] of [your website] and the client, [client’s full name] of [client’s company].
I prefer to deal with one person, even if the clients are in pairs. This way, I avoid any miscommunication or misunderstanding during the course of the project. However, if they are a pair, like a husband and wife team, I state both full names in the contract.
If the person has two companies, I prefer to set up a separate contract for each company. Why? Let me tell you a story:
I had this client who reached out to me to write for his website. The topic is within my expertise, thus I wrote blogs on his behalf comfortably well. However, when he announced that he would set up another website and asked me to write for him again, I thought twice. The topic is not within my expertise but I could write about it if I’ll research it well. That would mean more time for research and writing. Thus, I gave the client another set of rates, different from the first assignment. At least, I would not feel I’m at a disadvantage if I write for both websites at the same time.
Most clients would take advantage of this situation. Since they already know how much I charge, they would find a way to use my talent to do something much bigger than the first assignment.
Clients would think that the same rate applies across the board. It may apply to other freelancers like illustrators who could charge per piece, but not for freelance writers.
SCOPE OF WORK
This part of the contract defines the type of project, its scope and limitations. It is better for me to define everything, even the slightest detail.
SCOPE OF WORK: This is a [type of] project for the client which includes: • [describe the nature, • scope of the project, and • limitations of the project]
An example of what I presented to a client recently looks like this:
SCOPE OF WORK: This is a SEO and Social Media Management project for the client, which includes: -- administering the WordPress site, -- article/blog writing -- social media posts on 1 Facebook page and 1 Twitter account only (additional social media platforms will have additional charges) -- responding to comments for audience engagement (but not including critical or sensitive customer service or technical support issues which I may not be able to handle due to my limited knowledge of and exposure to the company/organization) -- content curation and -- other activities related to Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Management.
Although the above example does not show much details, the important thing is I laid out the general scope and limitations of the work first. Particular details may be discussed and laid out later during the negotiation phase and/or final drafting of the contract.
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DELIVERY DATE AND DELIVERABLE
This part defines the desired outcomes based on the previous scope of work. I usually state what I would produce (e.g. 2 articles in .docx format), when or how frequent are they delivered to the client (e.g. weekly), and how should they be delivered (e.g. via Google Drive).
Here is what I have on my template:
DELIVERY DATES: I shall complete the Services and/or Work by or in accordance with the delivery schedule below:
Deliverable/s: [number of] hours per week (a total of [number of] hours per month) of writing in [type of] format.
or [number of] words of [type of] writing in [type of] format within [period of time] upon my acknowledgement receipt of written instructions via email.
Submission: Submission of deliverable will be via email or Google Drive or whichever the client prefers.
Some freelance writers miss this part because they might not have given a thought about it. There are clients who keep on returning the work for revisions many times that the writer’s pay itself is no longer worth it.
As much as possible, I make sure that the work is perfect that it needs no revisions at all. However, there are times that clients point out an issue or two for the writer to revise. Once is acceptable. But more than twice require additional charge.
Here is how I stated it on my Statement of Work template:
REVISION: Edits will be avoided at all costs and are not anticipated except in extreme circumstances. An article may be returned to me only once for revision at the sole discretion of the client. Revision will be done within 24 to 48 hours upon return. Succeeding revisions, if any, will be charged as per the writing rates stated below.
I guess this is the part why freelancers need to set up contracts with their client in the first place. Getting paid for writing may be fun, but getting paid right is another issue.
This part of the contract should define how much you will charge for what type of project. Specify also how you should be paid (e.g. via PayPal or bank deposit), how much is the deposit, and when and how the balance should be paid.
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SAMPLE WRITING AND KILL FEE
Here’s the sad and frustrating part. Many clients require sample writing from writer applicants. A few of them would pay for the sample writing, but most of them don’t. If they belong to the latter, I refer them to my website, blog, or portfolio so they could check it out. If they insist, I won’t bother. Most likely they will pay me lower than my worth.
To avoid this problem, I offer a paid writing sample or paid trial. I charge this the way I charge per article. The Statement of Work specifies that if the client likes the sample, the project will push through. If not, the payment for the writing sample serves as the kill fee.
But the kill fee also serves as a good protection for freelancers who are in the middle of a project. If the client suddenly decides to terminate the project, and the freelance writer is not yet paid for the current task, it would make sense that the payment for the current task would serve as the kill fee. However, this should be stated in the Statement of Work, too. Better specify in the contract how would you like the sample writing and kill fee be paid for your protection.
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RIGHTS, DISCLOSURES, AND NON-COMPETE
We are now reaching the end of the contract. However, there are other issues that need to be discussed.
I usually ghost-write for clients. Thus the issue of copyright should be laid out in the contract. More often than not, I would declare that the copyright belongs to the client on a ghostwritten project. Otherwise, I would declare the full copyright of the article and have my by-line attached to it.
Another issue is the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) between the client and me. This is especially applicable in ghostwriting projects where we both agree not to publicly (or even privately) tell anyone that I write for the client’s behalf. This is stated in the contract as well.
Since freelance writers get many jobs from different clients, it is common that a writer gets two clients having the same industry or niche. To prevent conflict arising from this situation, I declare and include a non-compete clause in the Statement of Work.
This is how I wrote mine:
RIGHTS, DISCLOSURES, NON-COMPETE: I hold no copyright to the materials created. I agree to non-disclosure of rates, processes, and client lists. I agree to refrain from competing with [client or company name] for the same client during the course of this contract.
EXECUTION AND EFFECTIVITY
This is the last part of the contract. It specifies how will I deliver the Statement of Work to the client, and in what format. It also specifies what will happen if there are changes in the terms and conditions during the course of the project.
Also, I specify the date of effectivity of the contract and when should the project start. If the client can define the date of when the project will end, the contract contains that detail as well. However, most of my freelance writing contracts are open-ended.
At the bottom of the contract are two signatures: one for me, and one for the client.
I usually write the terms and conditions on MS Word or Google Docs. Then save it as PDF before sending it to the client. I don’t need to have this notarized because most of the clients don’t want to be hassled, too.
Let me know if you think that I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing and productivity, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.