The Best Freelance Contract Templates for 2022: Examples and Explanations

Written by Timothy Ware

Freelance work can be exciting. You are your own boss, you get paid based on your own productivity, and you can catch a glimpse at what it’s like to own a small business. 

This might push you to leap in, full steam, without thinking about the details though. In general, I support this feeling—more than one great idea has been side-lined by trying to meet unnecessary conditions before actually starting the work. After all, isn’t that the very essence of procrastination? 

This doesn’t mean that you should begin taking on clients without a certain amount of due diligence. For example, you should have a good idea of what the market is willing to pay for your services and this keeps you from being uncompetitive in your pricing and makes sure that you’re not leaving money on the table. 

Another necessary piece of work that should always come before any freelance project arrangement is a solid freelance work contract. That’s because a good contract can protect both you as the freelancer and the company as your client. Furthermore, a good contract means a good working relationship, which is the single best driver of repeat business. 

In this article, I am going to describe what it means to be a freelancer, why a freelance contract is beneficial, and where you can find some freelance contract templates online. I’ll also provide a summary of all the key components of a good freelance contract template so that you feel comfortable drafting one of your own. 

But first, let me tell you about the single best tool to help you get your freelance contract templates signed. 


What is SignTime? 

It can be difficult to coordinate schedules when trying to get your clients to execute your freelance contract. This can leave you in limbo while you wait for your job to start. 

That’s why you should use SignTime to collect signatures for your contracts. With convenient e-signature capabilities, you’ll get signed contracts back from your clients in record time. 

Using convenient e-signatures even makes it easier to convert clients during sales calls. Simply send them the contract while still in the Zoom meeting! 

Sign up for our free trial now, and never chase down signatures again. 


What is a freelancer? 

A freelancer is basically anyone who works in a self-employed capacity for someone else. The rules for freelancers vary widely from country to country, but the general structure of the job is that they can set their own schedules and are responsible for their own taxes and insurance. 

A freelancer generally trades a higher hourly earning potential and more freedom for less job security and support. It is a great compromise for both sides when it comes to certain types of work. 

For example, if a business has a high degree of seasonality in the amount of available work, they may prefer to hire freelancers for more money during busy periods to avoid carrying employee contracts during off seasons. A skilled and responsible freelancer might trade job security for the chance to do more skilled work that would usually take years of experience to be given in-house. 

In summary, freelancers are independent contractors who work under flexible arrangements. The work might be a specific project or an ongoing arrangement, but in either case the freelancer and client should have a contract in place. 


What is a freelance contract? 

A freelance contract is a document drafted by either the client or freelancer that explains the terms of the working relationship. Companies that often use freelancers likely have a freelance contract template that they’d prefer to use. If the company has not used freelancers before, or this is a new type of project for them, then you may need to present a freelance contract. 

A freelance contract can go by many names. Here are just a few of the name I have found over the years: 

· Client/service freelancer agreement

· Company contractor agreement

· Contractor agreement

· Freelancer agreement

· Freelance contract sample

· Freelancer contractor agreement

· Independent consultant agreement

· Independent contractor agreement 

It is important to stress again that there are risks to not having a freelance contract for both the freelancer and the client. It can put strain on the relationship if both parties have not agreed to the full nature of the arrangement. Therefore, even if the company does not present a freelance contract, the freelancer should propose their own. 

I’ll go into the specifics below, but the following are just some of the components you should include in any freelance contract template: 

· The names of all parties involved in the project

· Details about the services delivered and the expectations for both parties

· Specific dates for the work, for example the start date and end date

· Terms of payment

· Legal clarification of the contractor’s role 


What is a freelance contract template? 

A freelance contract template is the base contract that you can further customize to the specifics of any project. If you plan to do varied work, then you should write a much broader freelance contract template and then leave filling in the final details to when a client has indicated they’d like to hire you. 

Before I move on to discussing where you can find some great freelance contract templates, as well as how to write your own, let’s pause to address something else. The freelance contract you sign for a project or ongoing work may only be one part of the paperwork that should be signed by both parties in a freelance work arrangement. 


Types of freelance contract templates 

Freelancers are often given access to private information. This is a huge liability to the company as they need to make sure that you won’t use or release that information during the project (and forever after). 

Similarly, to protect the company after giving internal documents to a freelancer, they might ask you to sign a noncompete clause. This basically says you will not work with a competitor for a specified period of time after a project. 

Here are some of the other freelance document templates that you should consider preparing to make closing deals easier. 


Formal agreement 

A formal agreement is another way of saying a freelance contract. This is a full, comprehensive agreement between a freelancer and a client. The company is generally the party that will draft the contract, but that is not always the case. 

If the client does not indicate the need for a formal contract, then the freelancer should still consider drafting one. A contract is a great way to ensure a positive working relationship. 

That’s because a contract ensures both parties understand their rights and responsibilities. They can then work together without any worries about who should be doing what and when. 


Letter of agreement 

A letter of agreement (LOA) is an informal version of a freelance contract. It is usually written in the form of an informal letter and details most of the same information that you’d find in a full contract. 

It still includes the party names, a brief project description, how, when, and how much the client should pay, and by what date the project should be completed. There are two situations where an LOA could be useful. 

First, if you have an ongoing relationship with the other party, for example they are a friend or family member, or even if they have hired you many times before, then an LOA can sometimes work as a stand-in for a full formal freelance work contract. 

Second, an LOA can be a first step in closing the deal. If the project is a rush job and it could take a few days to sign a full freelance contract, you could thus use the LOA to get started on the work in good faith while waiting for the contract to be finalized. 

In many cases, an LOA could be considered as too weak to properly keep both parties safe. Since they do not have all of the needed sections of a true contract, if a problem arises, then an LOA may not offer much legal protection. 


Statement of work 

A statement of work lies somewhere between a full freelance contract and an LOA. It can often look similar to a full contract, but it does away with the “legalese” and is instead written in plain English. 

The benefit of a statement of work over an LOA is that it has more details on the roles of both parties. This means that disagreements are less likely than when working under a simple LOA, but if trouble does happen you still might not have the same level of protection as with a full freelance work contract. 


Non-disclosure agreement 

Freelancers often need to work inside of a business to complete their projects. You might be invited into private Slack channels, a company’s Notion board with all of their upcoming plans, or be able to see their financial statements before they are released to the public. 

All of these situations pose a risk, and that risk could even be increased if you are working with multiple businesses in a related industry. One way to add trust to the relationship is to agree that any information shared during the project is kept private between the parties. 

As a freelancer, you should always consider any private information as private forever, even without a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). In fact, offering to sign an NDA before it comes up by the client could be a great selling point. 


Non-compete agreement 

A non-compete agreement (NCA) states that the freelancer will not take on work from competing organizations. An NCA might last for the duration of the project or for some years into the future. An NCA can be very specific, for example Google might ask you to sign an NCA with only Microsoft and Facebook listed as off limits. It might also be broad and include any company in the same industry or sector. 

Before signing an NCA, you should be careful to make sure that it won’t harm your ability to earn income in the future. You should also confirm whether the NCA is enforceable, as jurisdictions are increasingly outlawing them. 


When do I need a freelance contract? 

You should have a freelance contract in place for every project. There are two main benefits to having a contract in place before starting work on any project. 

The first is the obvious one. There are risks for the freelancer and client involved in their cooperation. These risks include private information, which can be reduced with well written NDAs and NCAs, as well as different expectations on when and how payments will be made, how long the project will take to complete, or what happens in the case of disagreements regarding the quality of the work. 

The second is less talked about. If you have ever heard the phrase “good fences make good neighbors,” you can probably guess where I am going with this. The contract should detail everything about the project, from when it is due to how much follow-up work is included in the quoted price. 

Here is how the co-founder and CEO of SignTime Jim Weisser puts it: “One thing that I found is that contracts are basically non-enforceable. Contracts are useful only for remembering the agreement that you and a counterparty came to. That’s because, if you end up at the point where you have to litigate with someone, you’ve lost, if you’re a small, fast-moving business.” 

While having legal protection is important, you should still consider pursuing that protection a failure because it is a sign that you’ve given up on what could have been a valuable relationship. This is discussed in more detail in my post dedicated to freelance contracts, I encourage you to give it a read. 


What are the potential consequences of not using a freelance contract? 

There are some specific tax and governance risks to not having a freelance contract in place. For example, in the USA, a freelance contract can establish that the freelancer is not an employee and therefore should not be treated as one by the IRS. It can also open up both the freelancer and the client to shared liabilities that occur due to the project. 

Again, in the USA, there are also social security and Medicare risks associated with the misclassification of freelancers as employees or employees as freelancers. 

Here are some general potential consequences for the freelancer of not having a signed contract: 

· Loss of payment

· Loss of time

· Potential tax fines for not disclosing accurate earnings information on their personal income tax return

· Stolen work 

Here are some consequences that could be experienced by the client: 

  • In the USA, a 1099 form marks self-employment earnings for the IRS and any freelance worker earning more than $600 from a company must receive a 1099 form. The IRS provides