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Why consultants should use a contract

Are you one of the many people out there forging a new business path through freelance work? Creative consultants of all different sorts are taking their highly-valuable skills and trading on them for independence from the traditional nine-to-five job.

However, that means that it's on you to protect yourself and your career through the appropriate agreements. Working without a contract is a little like working on a high wire without a safety net. There's nothing to fall back on in a crisis.

What should a standard contract for your services include? Consider these items for the basics:

1. Your business relationship

Who is the company hiring, exactly? If you're strictly a freelancer, it may be you directly. If you operate as an LLC or some other business entity, the company is actually hiring your business. Make sure the arrangements are clear. This helps protect the company that hires you, as well, over issues like liability and workers' compensation -- which can be a point that you offer the company as you offer your contract.

2. Your payment agreement

This is absolutely critical. As a freelancer, you know the hardest thing about your job is sometimes getting paid. A contract that clearly states your payment agreement is useful especially when a company suddenly develops a case of buyer's regret and wants to renegotiate after the work is done.

3. A definition of services

Your agreement should have a clear description of your services. This is the best way to make sure that everyone understands what you will and will not provide. If there's a dispute later, you can rest comfortably knowing that you can point to the agreement and show that you were clear.

4. An explanation of property rights

If you're creating something for a company, who owns it -- you or the company? At what point does ownership transfer? Do you retain any rights at all over the things you create? Those are all important issues for the creative consultant to address in order to avoid legal problems later.

One final tip: Use plain language as much as possible and keep the contract short. You don't need a lot of fancy words or page after page of text. Too much of either can obscure the meaning of your contract and lead to complications down the line.

Source: HuffPost, "4 Reasons You Need a Consulting Agreement," Dorcia Carrillo, accessed June 15, 2018

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