Posts Tagged ‘deadlines’

Freelancer Q&A: Do I Need A Contract?

YES! When writing for publication or producing for broadcast, the media outlet that hires you is likely to have its own contract. When the client does not provide one, however, I recommend that you provide your own. Sure, it seems like an extra step, maybe even a hassle, but a contract protects you and your client. It spells out what you will do (e.g., write, edit), what the client will do (e.g., pay you) and the terms of the agreement.

If you can afford it, it is ideal to have a contract drafted by an attorney familiar with the work of independent contractors. If you can’t afford it, look at samples of similar contracts online and draft a one or two-page business agreement that meets your needs. You can also revise it as circumstances dictate.

So what should a business agreement include? This depends on your business and unique circumstances, but it should at least contain these basic elements:

•    Names of the parties involved in the agreement
•    Date of the agreement
•    Services you will provide along with applicable deadlines
•    Agreed upon rate or price for the project
•    Payment terms, including how late payments will be handled
•    Indemnification clause
•    Confidentiality clause
•    Termination clause
•    Client signature block (to include name of authorized party, room for his or her signature, date of the signature, mailing address, and preferred email address and phone number)
•    Your signature, date of the signature and your tax identification number

When a client and I have agreed to work together, I explain that I will email them a simple business agreement that outlines the terms we have agreed upon. I ask them to sign and return the signature page, and let them know that I’ll begin work upon my receipt of the document. This last step is precautionary, and I don’t always follow it. It primarily provides an incentive for a brand new client to review and sign the business agreement promptly, so I can start work on the project.

Though I have a signed agreement from each of my clients, I’ve only needed to use them twice to enforce contract terms. In one case, I needed the agreement to provide the project price when I turned an unpaid bill over to a collection agency. In the other, I used the agreement to fire a client who wouldn’t provide me with the information I needed to produce the work.

Hopefully, you’ll never need to enforce the terms of your agreement, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have the signed contract, and you’ll find that most clients appreciate the professionalism of having such an agreement.


Dana Neuts is a full-time freelance writer based in the Seattle area. In addition to writing for publications like South Sound magazine and The Seattle Times, she is the owner and publisher of several hyperlocal community sites including and She is the regional director for SPJ’s Region 10 and the chairman of the SPJ freelance committee.

Tips to Manage Your Workload

One of the biggest challenges freelancers face is managing their workloads. Sometimes they take on too many projects or underestimate the amount of time a project will take, and other times deadlines are accelerated or a particular client requires more attention than expected. Whatever the case, managing your workload successfully will help you to reduce stress, meet deadlines and keep your clients happy.

For some great tips on how to manage your work – and your clients – read this article by Katy Cowan on Creative Boom. She offers some helpful ideas including how to assess the situation, set deadlines and a work schedule, and how to communicate project progress with your clients.


Kick Yourself in the Pants: Staying on Target as a Remote Freelance Journalist

The radiator is hissing, the cats continue to circle the room and periodically scratch the back of our new sofa, the mailman stomps up the steps and the HDTV dares me to bathe in its plasma glow.

While these stimuli offer any artist vibrant hooks on which to hang their work, these noises, actions and perceived invitations can also serve to derail your responsibilities. As a 21-year veteran of the freelancing world, I know this feeling all too well.

Without a truly developed sense of discipline and lacking a formal corporate environment within which to operate, it’s difficult to maintain focus and drive sometimes. The distractions around the home office don’t help, and our situation isn’t one that most professionals can empathize with when we share at cocktail parties.

So, when faced with trying to get work done in a remote location, and dealing with myriad distractions, how do you stay on task and complete your assigned work on time?

Three things work for me. Deadlines. Deal-making. Dilly-dallying.

The first, and best, solution is having an immovable deadline. That concept itself is redundant. A deadline should be a deadline should be a deadline. But who among us hasn’t nudged a deadline a bit due to circumstances beyond our control?

Unfortunately, the knowledge that a deadline isn’t absolute is dangerous. Soon, just like the teenager who sets her alarm clock ahead by 15 minutes to get an extra 15 minutes of sleep, you’re just fooling yourself and creating more stress.

So, obey the deadline and treat your assignments as if the product you have when the bell goes off is the final product. While you won’t immediately whip yourself into shape, you’ll find that you use your allotted time more efficiently.

I’m now at the stage – having had deadlines taunt me for two decades – where my internal clock and some recesses of my brain collaborate to spark me into motion when there’s just enough time left for me to write an article or craft a post.

The second solution is to bargain with yourself. Make yourself a deal that you can’t ignore so that you can manage your tasks. Either promise yourself a reward or deny yourself something expected until you reach a milestone with an assignment.

This sounds like game-playing behavior, but sometimes all you need is an initial push to get you working toward your finished goal. My favorite punishment and reward is food. Second is the aforementioned plasma HDTV. What makes the TV even more effective these days is the advent of the DVR, so I can’t convince myself that I’ll just watch my show and come back to the keyboard. That show will wait until I type the ### at the end of my piece.

The third way to keep yourself on track when you’re working remotely is to take yourself completely off the track. Seriously. If you can’t get your writing done because of a mental block, the situation at your remote office or other distractions, then get away.

Go for a go-kart ride, play the banjo, walk along the beach, hop in the hot-tub. Whatever you can do to kindle your creative fire, go do it. Don’t use this method as your first option as it might become a habit. Then you’ll find yourself likely living in a house with hundreds of cats in Key West drinking rum and…..oh, wait, that seemed to work pretty well for some semi-famous freelancer, I guess.

The freelance life – and especially the one that keeps you remote most of the time – is a challenge. But if you can find a few solutions for remaining motivated and creative, you’ll learn to treasure the pace, freedom and other benefits that go along with the solo journey.


Jeff Cutler
Content Creator and Social Media Strategist

READ CUTLER (732-328-8537)


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