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Get It in Writing! Eight Crucial Components of Contracts


Image by jjpacres via Flickr

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. If you are uncertain about the terms of a contract you have been offered, please consult an attorney.

Established publications and businesses often have a standard contract they use when hiring writers to produce a project. Newer outlets for your work may not. Whether you write for magazines, websites, or small businesses, you should always get the terms of your work in writing. If no contract is forthcoming, at least draft the terms of the project in an email and request the client reply indicating he agrees to them.

Here are eight things that should be covered in the written agreement:

1. Title/Project – the name of the work.

2. Length – how many words/pages/sections you have agreed to write.

3. Rights – Who owns the copyright to the work when it is completed? Will you be allowed to reprint it after a certain amount of time or does it belong exclusively to the client?

4. Revisions: How will revisions be handled? Will you revise for style or only for factual errors? How many times can the client request revisions?

5. Deadline: When is the work due? If there are multiple deliverables, say a draft, then a revision, then a final copy, be sure to indicate the dates for each.

6. Extras: Are you writing a sidebar? Providing photographs or other illustrations? Be sure to include them in the documentation.

7. Payment: What will you be paid for your work, and when is the payment due? (You’re not going to forget this part, are you?)

8. Kill Fee: If for some reason, the client has you write the project, but decides not to use it, have they agreed to pay you a cancellation fee for the time you’ve spent on the project? (If a kill fee is not part of the agreement, it will not appear in the contract.)

Additional Contract Resources:

The American Society of Journalists and Authors

Writers Guild of America, West


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