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As a freelance software developer, you may need a team to help you with a client’s project. Some projects need not more than one person. Others require the input of a huge team. That said, you cannot appoint a team to help you with the project if the client has not provided a budget for them. Discuss these issues with the client and have them all down on the software development agreement. It is worth mentioning that it is easier to ask the client for a budget. The challenge lies in managing your team although the agreement can help.

By the time you’re drafting a software development contract, a lot has already taken place. Email communications, meetings, phone calls, and video calls could just be a few of the channels you’ve used to discuss the upcoming project. At this point, you’re basically crossing your fingers that everything runs smoothly until a valid agreement is sealed. It comes with a lot of excitement, especially if it’s your first big project. You can’t wait to sign the deal, for sure.

This is, however, the point where you must be very composed. If this is going to be the first contract you’re developing, you might be unsure of the next step.

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Fortunately, you can download a free or paid software development contract template PDF and modify it to suit your needs. Some of these templates can be too complex for an average person, more so for a freelancer who’s not interested in diving so much into paperwork. Therefore, when selecting a template, weigh it against two requirements - simplicity and detail.

Below are a few of the things you shouldn’t miss in your final draft.

1. The development specifications

Because it’s a bit too much inserting all the development schedule, payment terms, and details of the software development process, a good software development contract template PDF should have a clause that highlights the tasks to be performed and point the client to an attached document that contains comprehensive information about the entire project. The rule of thumb is to specify that any requests for alterations to the project specifications be done in writing for accountability purposes.

2. Development milestones, reporting, and testing

Watch out for the inclusion of the development milestones clause in your selected software development contract template PDF. Because software can be delivered in stages, all the milestones and their deliverables must be properly documented, including their respective deadlines, as well as testing. Milestones provide a systematic approach to work. They help the developer to focus on one thing at a time. They also regulate the flow of questions from the client, so that all attention is given to the current milestone. If there are any payments related to these milestones, these too should be written in the contract. Are there reports required? How often are they to be provided? The contract must answer any such questions where necessary.  

3. Confidentiality and Copyrights

Even though most software development contract template PDF variations posted online don’t have a Non-Disclosure Agreement, you should attach one and reference it accordingly. Not only is this clause and agreement important to you as a freelancer, but also to your potential client. In such contracts, it’s actually the client who’s likely to share a lot of information with you as part of the software development process. Because the confidentiality and copyrights matters live beyond the life of the project, every important detail must be addressed therein.

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4. Warranty, support, and maintenance

If the software development contract template PDF you choose doesn’t have a clause that deals with a warranty, support, and maintenance, ensure that your draft includes it. As soon as the whole project is completed, accepted and approved by the client, every other work should be handled independently of the current agreement. If it’s something to be done under warranty, spell it out in the current contract. Make sure that the warranty isn’t open-ended.

5. Final approval and submission

As a freelancer, as soon as you’re through with the development of the software, what usually comes to mind is closing the chapter and moving on to the next project. Ideally, that’s how it’s supposed to happen. However, in some cases, you may have to offer training to the client’s staff. If this is already contained in the software development contract template PDF you’re using as your guide, just edit it so that it speaks directly to your current project. Also indicate the scope of the testing, the duration of the training, and the modifications you can handle for the client without extra charges and the ones that would call for separate payment.

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6. A team needed for a technical project

How technical is the software development project you are handling? The more technical it is, the higher the likelihood that you need a team around you to take it all the way to completion. However, you would require a diverse set of skills to manage such a team. Each member of the team comes with a unique set of skills and temperament. In some cases, you may end up with a multicultural team, which is quite challenging to manage. Nevertheless, get the team members to go through the software development agreement to see what you expect of them.

7. Defines what to do about resource management

It is also worth stating that the software development agreement should mention 1-2 things about resource management. In software development, you will mostly find yourself dealing with an agile or waterfall project. The short sprints and multiple delays that define agile projects may affect the milestones. Waterfall projects are full of surprises that tend to consume additional time too. Because of these, the agreement must specify each member’s role within the freelance team. Otherwise, moving from one project to the next would cause confusion.

8. How to tackle quick turnover

Anyone who has been in software development for long will have noticed the high turnover in this industry. There is nothing much you can do to prevent this problem. The high turnover is just the nature of the beast. Nevertheless, you can do something about it where your software development team is concerned. Typically, the members of your team would remain in place for two years. For this reason, the software development agreement should indicate how long the project will last. This way, you get enough time to plan for any likely departure.

9. Identify your technical background

Normally, the head of the software development team requires a technical background to appreciate the nuances of the industry. However, many have still excelled despite their non-technical background. Nevertheless, you need such background to manage your team better. Without such background, what would you do about the feedback or complaints from your team members? Alternatively, identify those within the team with the requisite technical background and let them help you to lead the rest to victory.

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10. Avoid ambiguous requirements

In this industry, you will come across many clients who expect you to work with ambiguous requirements or instructions. Unless you possess extra-psychic skills, you would be better off turning such clients away if they fail to offer you more information. Otherwise, you would only succeed in leading a team that is not only highly frustrated but also feeling bored at your leadership skills, or lack thereof! Without specific and clear instructions, your software development team would not create practical applications from vague business requirements.

Therefore, take great care of the software development agreement. Without it, you would have a torrid time trying to manage a team of highly intelligent and motivated individuals. The agreement is your most potent tool for managing such a team. It provides all the mechanisms for solving disputes within the group. Moreover, it also provides the solutions needed for getting all the members of the team to focus on one goal. Lastly, the agreement ensures that the entire team delivers what the client ordered accurately, effectively and on time!

Your freelancing life should be smooth and things should work seamlessly. This is only possible if you do your job well and draft your contracts right.