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What I Didn’t Expect

(Crossposted from Jennifer Brozek)

I’ve been a fulltime freelancer for over five years now and the business of freelancing still surprises me. I think one of the biggest surprises is how many publishers—RPG or fiction—have asked me to supply them with a contract for a writing gig.  The conversation usually goes something like…

“We have this work we want you to do.”

“What’s the details?”

“Due date, word count, pay rate.”

“All of that is doable. I’m in.”

“Alrighty, send over your standard freelancer contract.”  (Or)  “Do you have a standard contract you’d like us to use?” (Or) “We don’t have a standard contract. What details would you like in yours?”

All of these have happened to me. It was shocking the first time a publisher asked me to provide them with the contract. I had no idea what to do. I ended up telling them, in my most professional-please-don’t-think-of-me-as-a-hack email voice, that I “preferred to start with the contract the publisher usually used and we would modify it from there.”

I chickened out in other words.  And we did work with their contract and modified it and everyone lived happily ever after.

However, I suddenly realized that I needed to create my own boilerplate contracts. Ones that would be legally binding. Ones that wouldn’t screw me or the publisher.  I ended up going to back to the contracts I already had and modified them. It’s surprising the number of contracts I now have to keep track of.

As an Author:
•    RPG – set number of fiction words for a project
•    RPG – RPG book as author
•    Fiction – short story in an anthology
•    Fiction – short story for the web

As an Editor:
•    Anthology – buying a short story for an anthology
•    Anthology – buying a reprint story for an anthology
•    Anthology – selling an anthology to a publisher
•    Anthology – commissioning art for the book cover
•    Anthology – licensing art for the book cover
•    Webzine – buying a short story for web
•    Editing – Novel consulting
•    Editing – Short story editing

That’s a lot contracts right there that I’ve had to create specific to me and make sure were fair, legal, and appropriate.

But wait, there’s more.  Invoices are a type of contract between the freelancer and the person who hired them. It used to be that my employer would tell me how to log my hours and get paid. As a freelancer, you frequently provide your own invoices. This means they need to be clear, concise, and specific to the project so you don’t lose track of who has paid you and who hasn’t.

If you plan to freelance at all, you need to be prepared to provide your own contracts. You need to make certain they are legal and appropriate. Documentation is part of a freelancer’s world. I knew this from the start. I just didn’t know that I would be the one providing the contracts as well.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 15th, 2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
Yeah. I have all sorts of boilerplate contracts as a writer....and as a photographer.

Luckily, there's a photographer who wrote a book on the business of photography, and kindly provided boilerplates of his contracts, and some antecdotes of what went wrong and how he changed things around.

I borrowed his invoices to use with writing. One thing I liked is his "discount" (aka "late") fee built into the contract. If they are 30 days late, then this is the balance. If they are within 30 days of submitting an invoice, they get to deduct the 10% "discount" for prompt payment :-)

I was surprised by how often my contracts got paid on time, because they wanted to get that "discount". :-)
May. 16th, 2012 03:05 am (UTC)
Are you willing to share the name of the book and the author?

I love the "discount" idea!
May. 16th, 2012 04:16 am (UTC)
When I started freelancing, I found that when people asked what my rate was, I often got more if I let them set the rate. Now that I'm doing more writing for hire, I've taken that tactic up again.
May. 16th, 2012 04:54 am (UTC)
I always start with pro rates.
May. 16th, 2012 01:55 pm (UTC)
Ah, but pro rates for fiction are different from pro rates for textbook exercises, which are much different from pro rates for things that are meant to be read by physicians--which also change depending on how much science is involved. I can ask two clients for the same rate, and one says I'm asking too much, while the other confides after I've agreed to it that I was asking way too little.
May. 18th, 2012 03:22 am (UTC)
It sounds like you write in interesting variety of things!
May. 18th, 2012 03:33 am (UTC)
Um, can I claim that as evidence of my skill?

When I write for myself it's usually fiction, poetry, or satire, though there are some efforts to get into comics or picture books. The corporate stuff is mostly medical communications or pharmaceutical advertising because (a) after I stumbled into it by chance, it took only a year for my resume to be seen as highly specialized by anybody who hires people, and (b) there are very few fields that pay as well. But the last few months there's been very little work in that industry, and I branched out so that there would be something coming in.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )