What is a Technical Writer Contract?
A technical writer contract is a legally binding document created for clients hiring a contract writer for technical documentation. Amongst other key sections, it includes:
- Project scope
- Details of technical writing services
- Payment rate
- Service delivery schedule
- Amendment clauses
It’s a legal document that protects rights of both a technical writer and a client, in case of disputes between two parties.
Why do you need a Technical Writer Contract?
Any contract stems from the need to protect the rights of both parties. It also acts as a guideline for resolving problems that they anticipate. Here’s why technical contract writers and businesses prefer to create and sign a contract before starting a project:
Record of commitments
A technical writer contract holds a writer accountable for services and responsibilities, and a client for payments. It shields and limits both of their rights and liabilities with terms agreed upon at the beginning of a project.
Terms for conflict resolution
A contract outlines terms and conditions for resolving conflicts that both parties anticipate to arise. That’s why it’s crucial for resolving disputes and mitigating risks—or even dissolving the client-contractor relationship without punitive measures.
Foundation of professional relationship
Besides being legally-binding, a contract helps technical writers build a professional relationship with clients. These contracts show the contractor’s diligence towards the work, and lay solid foundations for the work to come.
What to Include in the Technical Writer Contract
A good old-fashioned handshake isn’t good enough anymore—you need to get it in writing. While there’s no set rule about what to include, here are a few pointers on where to start.
Scope of work
This is the first section of your technical writer contract. It outlines agreed deliverables and work breakdown structure. Here are the key items to include in this section:
- Project objectives: to outline the mutually agreed upon objectives to achieve by the end of a project
- Project milestones: to list important items that denote completion of a phase of the project
- Individual tasks: to break down milestones in smaller chunks of manageable tasks with a deadline
- Deliverables: for mentioning items that you will be delivering upon the completion of a project
- Timeline: to set clear expectations about the date by when you’ll be completing these individual tasks and project milestones
- Reports: for tracking progress and informing the client about it
This section shows the agreed upon payment details along with frequency and mode of payment. Here’s what you should include in this section:
- Billing type: to mention whether you are charging a flat or hourly rate
- Payment mode: that the client will use to send payments
- Payment frequency: to state whether you will be receiving payment weekly or monthly
- Payment dispute: to outline ways to resolve payment disputes
Ownership and licenses
This section of a technical writer contract goes into the details of ownership rights, work credit, and intellectual property rights. It’s best to customize this section based on your discussion with a potential client.
Try to address the following points in this section:
- Ownership: to clearly mention who owns the finished work product and whether the client can only obtain it after full payment
- Use of work product: to specify if you intend to use the finished work product for your writing portfolio or similar purposes
- Help for securing ownership: to mention your availability for helping clients prove that they own the finished product. You can also appoint respective clients to act on your behalf on these occasions
- Usage of writer’s intellectual property: to outline whether you are willing to allow clients to use your intellectual property for technical documentation or other purposes. If made available, such non-transferable IPs can be used during the project and beyond
A competitive engagement clause is another name for a non-compete clause. This section prevents a technical writer from working with companies offering services similar to the client.
Check beforehand to be sure whether a client needs a non-compete or not. It’s wise to mention that you may work with the client’s competitor with prior permission in writing.
Non-solicitation in a technical writer contract prohibits the writer from offering jobs to former employees of the company, or soliciting business from existing clients and customers.
The representations section sums up the promises between a writer and client. Such promises include signing authority declaration, compliance to the law, and infringement regulations. These promises are:
- Perform obligations: mentioned in the contract. This applies to both the contractor and the client
- Work right: to ensure that the work product is an original work by the writer and can’t be claimed by other parties
- Compliance: so that the writer is obliged to perform duties by the law of the land
- Infringement: so that neither the client nor the writer infringe anyone else’s intellectual property rights
- Work review: to be done by the client periodically
Term and termination
This section offers an overview of termination clauses. Don’t forget to include the process each party should follow while ending a contract. Discuss with your client to agree on how many days advance notice is required for contract termination.
Every client-contractor relationship is unique. This section states the foundational laws of this relationship, and how both you and the client expect to work together throughout the project.
For example: Technical writers must have relevant experience or skill, be subject matter experts, and use their tools for completing tasks. In addition, clients shouldn’t control how writers work on projects on a day-to-day basis.
This outlines requirements from the contractor and requirements from the client, that both parties agree must be met for the duration of the project.
This section dictates how both a technical writer and a client should reasonably protect confidential information. It means you shouldn’t be using any information shared by the client for personal benefit. Such information may include details on:
- Business strategy
- Customer lists
- Research notes
- Website specifications
Similarly, a client shouldn’t be using any third-party information for personal gain.
Limitation of liability and indemnity
Next is the limited liability clause that outlines consequences of breach-of-contract damages.
It’s also important to include an indemnity clause. It protects both you and the client from liabilities, losses, expenses, and damages caused by one another. If one party is sued for something done by the other party, the latter will be responsible for reimbursing such losses.
This is typically the last section of a contract. These general guidelines can include details related to:
- Assignment: so that a contract technical writer and a client have a clear understanding of what they can assign or delegate
- Arbitration: for easy resolution of disputes arising under a contract
- Modification and waiver: that requires both parties to provide consent in writing for making changes in a contract or waiving duties
- Notices: so that both parties are aware of how to send notices, where, and when
- Severability: to mention what happens in case a portion of a technical writer contract becomes enforceable
- Signatures: to make it clear that signatures from both parties are required for a contract to be valid—you can also specify the validity of electronic signatures
- Governing law: of the legislation that governs rights and obligations of both parties
- Entire contract: supersedes any oral contract between a contract writer and a client
How to write a Technical Writer Contract
A contract is the first stepping stone of building a mutually respectful working relationship. The sooner you understand what a client wants, the sooner you can gather information and create a contract.
It’s also important to consider what you want from the project, and how you’re happy to work. Although you want to ensure your clients’ needs are met, you also want to make sure you’re also comfortable with the contract.
Start by understanding the job description, project details, and the scope of work. Here are some questions you might want to ask beforehand:
- Does the job require you to create technical documents like instruction manuals, use guides, or user manuals?
- Do you have to work on modifying existing documentation?
- What’s the writing style to follow?
- How often will you receive feedback?
- Will you receive support from other team members?
Speak with your client to find out more about your project and any special requirements they may have.
Every detail should be included in the contract so as to avoid any confusion or miscommunication. It’s also key for ensuring you end up doing the work you’re being paid for—not extra.
Communication is key in any working relationship, and ensuring all parties are on the same page is essential. Openly communicating your expectations for the project and understanding the clients’ requirements lays a strong foundation for the project ahead.
Creating a technical writer contract is simple with Bonsai
Creating your own contract isn’t the only option, however.
Creating a freelance contract with Bonsai is quick and easy, and provides added security and complete peace of mind. Not only can you customize contract templates for free but you can also manage the entire contract lifecycle. Other benefits include:
- Vetted templates: for easy customization along with standard NDAs
- Electronic signature: for sending, signing, and storing legally binding documents
- Auto-reminders: for reminding clients to sign a contract
- Multi-currency support: so that you can work with clients across 180+ countries
Here’s how to start editing your contracts and more with Bonsai:
- Sign up for Bonsai free
- Find your ideal contract template
- Edit your contract to meet your needs
Then, send it off for the client to take a look and sign without ever leaving the platform.