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  • Diana Schneidman

Have you ever taken legal action on a freelance or consulting contract?

I’d appreciate your help.

I am researching the use of contracts by freelancers and consultants, towards understanding how these documents can benefit us.

Certainly contracts are useful in clarifying the work to be done, the process by which it will be completed, deadlines and fees. Both parties benefit from a well-written contract.

By pinning down the work to be done, a good contract limits scope. It spells out how many drafts, how many corrections, how many meetings, and other parameters. It prevents project creep.

If a contract specifies that partial payment or complete payment will be made before work begins, it also helps assure payment.

One purpose of a contract is to enable legal action if the contract is not upheld by both parties, especially if payment is not made as scheduled.

However, it has been many years as a freelancer / consultant since I have heard of a freelancer or consultant who has been successful in using the legal process to effect payment. Legal proceedings face more roadblocks than ever. Here are some:

  • Our clients may be anywhere in the world and they are seldom within our community or county. This complicates taking people to court.

  • It is quite possible not to know the client’s address when the relationship is from a distance.

  • Even if we were able to get a judgment in our favor, it may be impossible to collect on it.

  • The cost of taking legal action may be disproportionately high relative to a modest fee.

Have you or anyone you have known been successful in taking legal action to enforce a contract? If so, please share the story as a comment below.

And also on the subject of contracts, how do you manage the contract process?

Here’s how I do it: Unless the client offers me the their contract form, I generally email my understanding of the agreement to the client as a one-way communication. Their email acceptance and/or initial payment signify their acceptance.

Unless the client requires a contract signed by both parties on their end, there’s no faxing, scanning or postal-mail transmission of signed contracts.

Originally posted 9-13-13

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