Freelancers Standard Terms and Policies

Don’t get freaked out, you don’t have to have a fine printed document full of legal jargon to set company policies! Just think simple here, I’m talking about setting some standard practice rules for your business that make it clear to both you and your client what you can expect from each other and how things will run.

Things like, all invoices are due within 30 days of receipt. There. That’s a policy, simple, right?

How about all projects require an initial 50% deposit to begin work. There, see! There is another one!

These can even be rules you set for yourself. instead of your client. You can have a policy for how you name and organize your project files, how you hand things off to a printer or how you organize your code.

Policies aren’t hard to come up with, many of us probably have similar rules in place for our businesses. The part where I see most freelancers trip up is, sticking to the policies they set in place. Sure, it is fine to bend the rules from time to time.. you can do that, it’s your business. But, there is no point in setting a policy if you aren’t going to stick to it. Your client s will appreciate these guidelines because they show that you are serious about running things properly and if you can manage your business in a professional way, it’s a good indicator that you’ll manage their project in a professional way.

Client: “This contract looks OK, can you just take this email as an approval?”

Freelancer: “It’s policy that projects cannot begin until a signed agreement is received. You can send it in by mail or fax, let me know which is most convenient for you!”

Do you have any special policies that have helped your business run smoother? Have you ever got into hot water by not having a policy in place when a situation arose?

12 Comments

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by rafael armstrong and Phillipe Calmet, Lyle Hawkins. Lyle Hawkins said: RT @bkmacdaddy: Freelancers Standard Terms and Policies (by @cmdshiftdesign) http://bit.ly/86tO0p […]

  2. i give each of them invoices stating what payments need to be paid when. i make my clients pay 50% up front if it’s $100 or more, and 50% upon project completion.

    i don’t do this full time, so that’s the only one i’ve had to implement so far. a few clients come up with their own documents just to make sure they have something signed, which i happily sign for them.

    but the 50% up front lets me know they’re serious about the work.

    very good point. :)

  3. kyle says:

    No spec work.

    I usually do 50% up front, but sometimes I’ll do 30% and split it into 3 payments if it’s a bigger project.

    I have an expense tracker on my iphone, and whenever I pay for something it automatically gets thrown in there. I do personal tracking too, but it’s super efficient in comparison to the spreadsheet I used pre-iphone. I also back up the expense files at the end of every month.

  4. This is certainly a subject I need to think about more, I’ll have to create some rules in the future when I do get started “officially.”

    I suppose 50% up front is the first one, it’s generally how I work to avoid getting burned. Hopefully it also ensures the client that they’re paying for a product and it will be delivered.

    I suppose my rates would be something else, as for hours vs. per project and I like per project because of the flexibility it offers.

    Although I’ll eventually create an outline thinking of what is needed and what isn’t, maybe I’ll let you take a look at the outline before I make it official. ;)

  5. Kyle,
    Having a backup schedule is a good one! I backup my HD about 2 or 3 times a week and then once a month I make a full copy of my external onto another external. One of my “to do”‘s for 2010 is to get set up on a remote backup service. I am looking at Crashplan since they allow you to backup from an external whereas Carbonite and Mozy only allow you to backup from your internal HD.

  6. kyle says:

    Ya, I really should implement offsite backup for my work files. I have a couple of redundancies, but if my house were to burn to the ground, they wouldn’t help me so much.

    I do keep a ton of information in the cloud, but PSD files and things like that should probably be offsite. Whether that means a remote backup service, backing up to an external and leaving it offsite, or backing up to an external and keeping in a fire and waterproof safe, I’m not sure yet.

  7. Before implementing a standard project agreement with my clients, I was beginning to really hate freelancing. I was bending over backwards just to make my clients happy. Long gone are those days!

    I have a sample of my standard project agreement over on my blog if anyone thinks it might help them get ideas on how to write your own feel free to grab it.

  8. I know this post isn’t about backups but the comments have sparked my interest. I’ve been looking for a backup solution as well. I hadn’t heard of Crashplan but I’ll have to check into it. Let us know what you end up using (maybe in another post).

    Oh, and policies are a must in client work. It’s so freeing to know that you have a hard and fast line to stand on. No need to sacrifice or bend just because the client gets on pleads or complains.

  9. Thanks for the resources Marty!

    Kyle – a firesafe sounds fun! :) …but i’m thinking the offsite back up makes more sense. Although… i recall that when I was last setting up a CD at my bank, my personal banker was telling me that the business qualifies to get a free safety deposit box — maybe i’ll cash in on that and just start taking my weekly redundancies down there! …it’s an idea…

    i will let all of you know what I do finally decide!

    Great comments everyone!! :Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  10. If the project is more than $700 I take 1/3 up front. Less than $700 – 50% up front.

    If you dont mind me asking, how do you advertise your website? Do you have any good suggestions?

  11. I do 30/30/40 though with my next client i’m going to change to a 40/30/30 approach.

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