What is a Copywriter contract?
A copywriter contract is a legal document between a freelance copywriter and a client. An excellent copywriting agreement outlines the scope of work, offers legal protection to the writer, and defines how the writer gets paid.
Copywriter contracts provide freelance writers with protection for each writing job. This is why freelance copywriters should create unique agreements for every new client they work with.
Note: Need a written agreement for your freelance business? Use a high-quality, legally vetted copywriting contract template from Bonsai so you can focus on your freelance work. Sign up today.
What to include in the Copywriter contract
A copywriting contract is an offer and acceptance between a freelance writer and a client. Typically, the writer offers to provide services to the client in exchange for monetary compensation.
Since an agreement is simply what both parties agree to do, it’s essential to understand the basic components of every deal. After all, it’s worth knowing exactly what you agree to before entering into a legal arrangement.
Every copywriting agreement begins with a few essential components:
- Your name, if you’re a sole proprietor or the name of your freelance business.
- The name of your client’s business and the name of the person representing that business.
- A description of the copywriting services you will create for the client, also called the scope of work.
- When and how much the client pays when the job is completed.
- The legal responsibilities of both parties as a result of the agreement.
- A place for you and the client to sign the agreement.
Once signed, a copywriting agreement is legally binding for the two parties. Ensuring all freelance writers protect their business with written agreements is essential.
Some clients may have their own contracts or use a copywriter contract template. While there isn’t anything wrong with that, you should know about the essential elements of every agreement to ensure your interests are protected. Ask for their copywriter contract sample and determine if you want to change or discuss specific clauses.
Plus, a written copywriting contract ensures you operate a professional business protected by the law. Without that protection, you risk missing payments or facing lawsuits for content delivered to clients. That’s not a situation any freelancer wants to be in.
Some clients may have their own contracts or use a copywriter contract template. While there isn’t anything wrong with that, you should know about the essential elements of every agreement to ensure your interests are protected.
A good freelance writing agreement addresses the most common potential issues with a client before they occur. While most clients are great to work with, a contract ensures you are protected if one decides to cause problems.
While the basic components of a contract are pretty simple, agreements can quickly become complex and often contain confusing legal wording. However, freelance writing agreements don’t need to be intimidating, and ambiguous language should not deter any copywriter from protecting their business.
Whether you decide to draft your agreement or use a copywriting contract template, there are multiple elements to consider and understand. Let’s explore some of the essential components.
Basic information for freelance writing contracts
Remember, an agreement is simply an offer and acceptance. As such, the beginning of every copywriting contract defines the parties involved. While it may seem redundant, it’s essential to include the client name requesting services from you and everyone’s relevant contact information. This way, it is explicitly clear who is involved in the offer and acceptance.
Scope of work
It’s not uncommon for businesses to want more than they originally asked for — more words, more revisions, less time. This never-ending expansion of work is called scope creep and can lead to a lot more work without any additional compensation.
Thankfully scope creep is avoidable by clearly defining the contract’s scope of work.
For example, say you agree to write a 500-word blog post for a client with one revision. They may ask to “add a few extra words” or “take an additional round of revisions.” These are common questions that affect your time.
Most clients won’t consider the specific process or steps necessary to create their requested content; that’s why they’re hiring you. As such, the scope should clearly define precisely what the copywriter agrees to provide and what happens if the client requests additional work.
Consider this example that clearly explains the various steps required by the agreement:
Here are a few questions to ask when outlining the services provided to the client company:
- Does the project require a set number or words? If so, how many? Is there a page-length requirement? SEO keywords? What are the project requirements?
- Are there revisions included? If so, how many? If not, are they available for an additional fee?
- What are the copywriter’s obligations? What about the client? Who sources ideas? Are outlines provided?
- What is the job’s turnaround time? Is it a set date and time or a rolling deadline?
- How will the writer provide the final project to the client? A PDF, document link, or submitted via a content management system?
- What happens if the client tries to change the agreed scope?
Copywriting contract payment terms
Unfortunately, businesses can be slow to pay freelance writers for completed work. It’s so bad that some states now require written contracts to prevent freelancers from losing income. For example, the New York Freelance Isn’t Free Act requires a written contract for any project larger than $800.
In addition to defining how much a freelance copywriter earns for what they create, the agreement should also include clear expectations for everyone involved.
Sometimes the person you interact with is not the same person who issues payments. For example, your contact may need to pass invoices to a billing department or accountant who issues payments.
The contract must define the payment process used by potential customers. This alleviates any surprise or confusion when it comes time to request payment from clients.
Using a copywriter contract template is easy to define how and when a copywriter gets paid. A contract template asks essential questions that writers often miss or don’t think to ask.
When determining payment terms in your own copywriting contract, consider these questions:
- Does payment come directly from the client or some other party?
- Is a deposit required? If so, when and how much is required before writing?
- When the project is complete, how much money will the copywriter receive?
- If the client is overseas, what currency will the freelancer get paid in?
- Is the client responsible for expenses incurred by the freelancer?
- Does the copywriter offer a refund policy if something goes awry?
- Does the client provide image credits for finding appropriate stock photos?
Legal responsibility of everyone involved
Businesses spend an average of $1.2 billion fighting litigation every year. Freelancers are not exempt from lawsuits, but a good copywriting contract outlines the legal responsibility of both parties and can offer you legal security.
Thankfully, a copywriter contract template provides the language necessary for legal protections without consulting an attorney. However, it’s still important to understand what protections are in your contract.
Here are some questions to consider what legal responsibilities exist in a copywriting contract:
- Does the client indemnify and hold harmless the freelance copywriter in the event of a lawsuit? Does the writer do the same for the company receiving services?
- In the event of a lawsuit, is the prevailing party responsible for reasonable attorney’s fees?
- Who retains the intellectual property rights of the content once the project is complete?
- Does ownership transfer and become the sole property of the client, or is it shared with the writer?
- Is a byline included, or will the freelance copywriter not receive public credit for the work they create?
- Will disputes be tried in court or by the American Arbitration Association?
Competitive arrangements in a copywriting agreement
Freelance copywriters often specialize in specific niche markets. However, some clients do not want to work with freelance writers who also write for their competitors. Some require exclusivity from their competition, while others are fine with it as long as you let them know and outline how private information is compartmentalized.
A contract explains when these arrangements are acceptable and under what terms they occur.
Likewise, clients often want to ensure a freelancer won’t disparage the company or attempt to persuade employees to leave. These situations are highly unprofessional and a great way to prevent future business with that client or their affiliates.
Consider the following questions to maintain professional relationships with each company receiving services:
- Will the freelance writer’s existing business relationships conflict with the client’s business?
- Is the freelancer an independent contractor (most common) or a W2 employee?
- Does working with potential competitors require verbal disclosure or written approval from existing clients?
- Are there other legal documents required to enter into a working relationship?
Length of the contract
While some contract components can last indefinitely, most agreements don’t continue forever — they begin when the contract is signed and end when the final document is complete.
A good copywriter contract also outlines what happens if the writer or the client decides to terminate the agreement early.
When considering a contract length, here are some questions to consider:
- What amount of time is reasonable to complete the project?
- How long after the final version is delivered does the contract remain intact?
- Are payments referenced earlier in the contract still required if one party decided to end the contract early?
Signatures of both parties
Contracts only become binding legal documents when signed by both parties. Without signatures, there is no agreement, and the terms are not enforceable.
It may seem simple, but even the best contract template requires both parties to physically or digitally sign the document.
Bonsai’s copywriter contract template provides clients with a document ready for digital signature. This sets the project in motion with a legally-binding contract.
How to write a Copywriter contract
Copywriters are often versed in many types of writing, but many are clueless when writing a contract. There is no shame in this, as contracts require unique language and specific components. Thankfully, creating a copywriter contract starts the same way other writing projects do — with a conversation between two people.
While Hollywood portrays business negotiations as intimidating and cut-throat spectacles, they are simply conversations between two people. Sometimes they happen in person or over the phone. Other times they take place entirely through email or text message. The method of the conversation isn’t important. Instead, discussing outcomes and expectations is essential in all good contract conversations.
During this conversation, freelance copywriters should have two objectives: determine what the client is looking for and how to meet that need. Most freelance writers have some form of this conversation with potential clients already and are well-equipped to discuss contract terms.
It’s worth reiterating that clear communication ensures a good relationship between the client and you, the freelance writer. When both sides are happy, they tend to find ways to work together in the future.
Let’s explore a few ways freelance writers can have healthy contract conversations with potential clients:
Find out exactly what the client wants
Potential clients look for freelance writers when they have a specific need — maybe they want blog posts, newsletters, sales copy, or technical guides. Regardless of what the client is looking for, all writing projects mean different things to different people.
How long is a blog post?
Is a newsletter a one-time email or a coordinated campaign spanning multiple messages?
Is sales copy for a website, a print campaign, or a commercial?
Instead of leaving these points up to interpretation and ultimately leading to disappointment for either you or the client, discussing contract terms clearly defines what the client expects you to create.
It’s worth reiterating that a contract is simply an offer and acceptance. Knowing precisely what to offer the potential customer is essential for a successful freelance business.
In addition to the questions shared in the previous section, finding out precisely what the client wants requires receiving clear information.
Ask for clear deadlines and get as many details about the client’s expectations as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions when the client is vague. If something is unclear or doesn’t make sense, ask for more information.
The more specific information received when drafting the contract, the more likely the agreement will result in a healthy and ongoing relationship with the client.
Highlight what sets you apart
Discussing contract points with a potential client isn’t only about their desires; you’re a vital part of the conversation. Remember, a contract is an offer and acceptance. Once you determine what the client wants, it’s time to create an offer to give them exactly what they want.
Freelance writers can typically talk all day about the benefits their clients offer to customers but often struggle when talking about the benefits they offer clients.
However, when discussing contract terms, it’s essential to highlight the skills and experience that you bring to the table.
Consider these questions to highlight what sets you apart from other potential writers:
- Do you have experience with the subject matter hereof?
- Have you completed similar projects or created comparable deliverables?
- Why should the client choose to work with you over another freelance writer?
- What have you charged other clients for similar projects?
Remember, a written agreement ensures both the offer and acceptance benefit all parties involved.
Use the conversation to highlight the benefit working with you provides, and then be sure to charge according to your skill and experience.
Once signed by the client, the contract guarantees you receive precisely what you ask for.
Creating a Copywriter contract is simple with Bonsai
While knowing what a contract should include is beneficial to all freelance writers, writing an iron-clad, legally binding agreement is often quite tricky. A misplaced word or improper comma can change the legal meaning of a clause, resulting in expensive disputes for freelance writers.
Instead of spending hundreds of dollars hiring a legal professional to write contracts, freelance copywriters can use Bonsai’s legally vetted copywriter contract template. With Bonsai, freelancers can create a copywriting contract in less time than it takes to brew the morning coffee.
Bonsai knows what questions to ask and explains each option to you. Don’t worry; the client sees the entire agreement only when you’re happy with all the language involved.
When ready, Bonsai sends the agreement to the client to digitally sign. Bonsai digital signatures are legally enforceable and just as valid as wet-ink ones; no postage prepaid, certified mail envelopes are required! Creating contracts has never been easier!
Bonsai lets freelance writers spend more time generating revenue and less worrying about agreements.
Copywriter contract FAQs
Do you still have a few questions about copywriting contracts? Here are a few frequently asked questions and common answers.
How do I know how much to charge as a freelance writer?
Jobs that charge by the hour can generate upwards of $100 per hour, while projects that charge by the word can range as high as $1 to $2 per word. Your price rate depends on the client’s budget, the project, and your experience.
Why should I use a copywriting contract template instead of a lawyer?
The average attorney charges hundreds of dollars to draft new agreements. Thankfully, Bonsai already hired the lawyer, so you don’t have to. Plus, Each contract template Bonsai offers is affirmed by thousands of freelancers who create new agreements every day.
What happens if a client refuses to pay what we agreed on?
While it doesn’t happen often, it’s possible a client may try to avoid paying for services provided. This is precisely why a written agreement is essential. With one, you have legal recourse to ensure payment is received. A judge will have to determine your word against the client’s word without a contract. That’s not a situation you want to be in.