As a freelancer, you may have grown accustomed to working alone.
But as the freelance gig market continues to expand, freelancers are sometimes asked to work together, similar to the way in-house teams work for organizations. Maybe your workload has grown to the point that you’re turning down work you’d like to do. Or perhaps you want to bid on a large project that requires different skill sets, so you’ll need to involve others to win the job.
In these and other examples, collaborating with other freelancers may be required on certain projects, bringing together different skills and abilities.
It’s important to approach a collaboration the right way, and that includes having the relationship, roles and responsibilities documented in some sort of contract. If you don’t know what that should include, a collaboration agreement template can help.
So whether you plan to use a service to help you or you’d like to formulate your own contract, let’s look at the 9 key considerations in creating a collaboration agreement template.
You can call your collaboration agreement anything you want, but treat it with the same diligence and formality as a contract with a client.
Just like other aspects of your business, a handshake agreement isn’t enough. It’s not good enough for you, your collaborators, or the clients who will be relying on you. So treat your collaboration like the rest of your business dealings.
In that regard, have a collaboration agreement template ready with all the essential sections. You can then make adjustments based on the actual project and the people with whom you’ll be collaborating.
You’ll want to decide among the group who is the primary contact with the client, and have that role specified in the collaboration agreement template.
If you’re the one bidding on the job, or the one who secured the work, then perhaps that’s you. Or maybe it makes sense for another freelancer to be the main contact, based on the work involved or the expertise needed.
The client should know the members of the team, but it’s important to figure out the main contact. You want to prevent the client from having multiple touchpoints as the project progresses. It’s easier for the client and for the collaborating team.
This likely means the client will have a contract with that main contact point, and the collaboration agreement will serve as a contract among the rest of the team.
This is another key component of a collaboration agreement. Using the work breakdown of the project as a guide, create a schedule that outlines who is responsible for each part of the work, right down to specifics if necessary. Being clear now eliminates confusion later.
This can be done with a table, a spreadsheet or a bulleted list. Each person needs to know exactly what work they need to complete. If there are dependencies, state that as well. For example, your work may depend on the completion of a section by someone else.
Part of the work breakdown has to be deadlines for each piece of work. There can’t be any confusion as to when each person’s work is due. This is especially true if there are dependencies.
Once again, having the deadlines clearly spelled out in the collaboration agreement template will eliminate any disagreements. And it’s worth having the work done well before the client’s deadline, so that any reviews can be done and corrections or additions made by the team members.
An adjunct to deadlines is the need for regular communication among the collaborating team members.
It’s worth adding specific dates to the collaboration agreement template, ensuring that the team is connecting regularly and updating each other on the status of the work. It’s also an opportunity for the client contact to communicate any of the wishes, questions or concerns of the client.
In the same way that one person should be the go-between for the client and the collaborating team, there has to be one person to make final decisions. The project will fall off the rails if there’s no clear indication who gets the final say in the event of a difference in opinion, or if changes need to be made mid-project.
Once again, this could be you if you’re the one who secured the contract and then found collaborators. Whoever holds this responsibility, it needs to be part of the agreement to eliminate any disagreement.
The collaboration agreement template also needs to spell out who gets how much money. This one is absolutely vital, as it would definitely cause problems if it’s not clearly spelled out.
Distribution may be based on workload, if some members of the team did more work than others. It could be an even split among all the members. Whichever method is used, it needs to be part of the agreement.
As well, any expenses should be outlined in the agreement, so one member of the team doesn’t spend money that the others don’t know about.
The team also needs to agree who will own the final product, and include that as a section of the agreement. If the client will own it, that should be stated.
But even in that instance, can the members of the team use the work as part of their freelance portfolio? Can everybody be credited equally if there is some type of public announcement following the work? Or does only the client contact person get credit?
These are important considerations that need to be included in the agreement.
You may need some legal advice to create this section. But it is worth outlining what happens if someone breaks the contract, or leaves before the work is done.
Do they forfeit their share of the revenue? Do they have to share their work done to date? What if one of the team members isn’t getting their work done and is missing clearly agreed-to deadlines?
It’s worth putting some thought into a termination plan in case things go south. In this way, you’ll have all the essential components of a collaboration agreement template.