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Contracts for people who hate contracts

Page history last edited by Martin Ertl 12 years, 9 months ago

Session time: 10:00am-10:45 am

Location: 1st Floor

Session leader: Martin Ertl from Contractually


Freelance Camp Vancouver 2010: Contracts for People Who Hate Contracts by www.jeremylim.ca.







  • Hi, I'm Martin. Here's some background about me and what I do:
  • IAMAL, BIAMNYL: I'm a lawyer, but I'm not YOUR lawyer, so if you need legal advice about your specific legal situation, please make sure you consult YOUR lawyer. 


Why have a contract with your client?



  • ensure alignment: agreement on the work to be done and the price to be paid
  • articulate the plan for the work (and payment for the work)
  • good client relationships: professional appearance 
  • avoid misunderstandings and disputes
  • protection in case of a dispute 


What's a contract - spectrum of informal to formal




  • a contract can be verbal, in an email or in a signed document
  • something in writing is better than something verbal
    • clarity about what is to be done, by when and for what price
  • something more detailed (in writing) is better than something cursory:
    • avoids people walking away with different understandings & (mis)conceptions
  • relationships are important, and may provide context and support for less detailed contracts, but...
    • relying on those alone may leave room for later misunderstandings 


Written contract - key points



  • KEY: at the very least, write out and get agreement on the main points:
    • work to be done
    • timeline
    • price
    • payments
  • getting those points down and agreed on is far more important than getting the legalese language down


Price and payment 



  • fixed fee, hourly, other
  • deposits (esp. for fixed fee work):
    • 50% for small contracts (say, less than $5-10k)
    • 33 1/3%, 33 1/3%, 33 1/3% for larger contracts
    • variations depending on type of work and size of contract
    • holdback of 10-15% in software dev contracts, especially large ones - until full acceptance


Intellectual property issues








"Martin clarified a few issues for me, including, when I, as a designer, ought to write a single project-spanning contract as opposed to a preliminary contract to determine project scope and one to cover the actual work as out lined in the result ing scope document. Which is as important as it sounds. I’ve used one of LexPublica’s contracts before, and I plan to continue to do so in future. One point he did emphasize: the most important part of such an agreement is a good explanation of the actual work to be undertaken. It turns out that, “I’ll have one website, please” can mean somewhat different things to different people. Who knew?"

- Catherine Winters, In which Catherine attends FreelanceCamp Vancouver

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