A Sample Freelance Writer Contract | Example | How to Write |

Mike Renaldi

Whether you're a freelance writer or an employer, one of the first things you need to consider is how to write a contract for writing services.

Without a proper contract for freelance writing, you may spend more time arguing about your initial agreement than getting your new written materials published.

In this article, we’ll go through the different parts of a freelance writer contract and also give you a sample version. You’ll also learn about how the Wise Business account can help you make transactions across borders without all the excess fees.

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Table of contents

What is a Freelance Writer Contract?

Every project should begin with an agreement between you and the freelancer – no matter how short or long the project is. Not only does a contract protect both parties from potential legal issues, but it also sets clear expectations for the work to be done and the terms of payment.

Prepare a well-defined freelance writer contract

A contract should include the scope of work, timeline, deliverables, changes and revisions, payment schedule/amounts, any special requirements (such as NDAs), and other conditions. It’s a foundation that shouldn’t be underestimated and is what will ensure a smooth and productive working relationship.

Writing up a legally binding content writer contract can be an initial hurdle overcome, especially if you’re not familiar with the specific requirements of your local laws and regulations or your contractor’s. Luckily, there are options such as using work marketplaces like Upwork or Fiverr, which have built-in secure payment platforms.

Setting the Price

Before the project can begin, you should agree on a price. This could be an hourly rate or a flat fee for the entire project. Be sure to take into account how much time and effort you’re expecting from your freelancer, as well as any additional expenses they might incur.

While you want to make sure you’re paying the contractor fairly for their time and expertise, you also need to ensure the price is within your budget. It’s all about striking a balance between quality and affordability.

Consider Payment Terms

Payment terms aren't just about how much you’re paying but also when and how. You should include payment terms in your contract that outline when the freelancer will be paid (such as after each milestone or at the end of the project) and what methods of payment are accepted (which could include PayPal, e-transfers, etc.). Let’s go over some of the most common payment terms:

Paying Upfront

Paying a freelancer upfront can give you peace of mind that the project will be completed and help to establish trust. Whether the full amount or a deposit, it’s a good option for shorter projects with a more defined scope of work (i.e., designing a logo for your business with specific design elements). But keep in mind that if there are any problems with the project (such as missed deadlines or unexpected costs), it can be challenging to get your money back unless there’s a clear stipulation in the contract.

Paying After Completion

Paying after completion is more common for longer and more complex projects. With this option, the client pays the freelance content writer the total amount after the project is completed to their satisfaction. It can provide a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction for both parties, and a level of assurance for the client. It can also incentivize the freelancer to work to complete the project to the best of their abilities.

Milestone Payments

Milestone payments are like mini-deadlines throughout the project. They can help keep the freelance copywriter on track, especially for larger projects with more defined stages. The project is broken up into specific stages or milestones, and instead of paying the full amount upfront or after completion, payment is made after each stage is completed. There’s more control and oversight of the project this way, ensuring the freelance writer meets the agreed-upon deliverables at each stage.

Hourly Payment

If you’re hiring a freelance writer for an ongoing project with a less defined scope of work, paying them hourly could be the best option. This way, you’ll only have to pay them for the hours they worked for greater control over the project budget. Hourly payments can carry risks, such as a lack of predictability for the final project costs, but this can be dealt with by setting limits.

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Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is particularly important in projects that involve creating original work, such as graphic design or writer services. With intellectual property clauses baked into a contract, the client and freelance writer can establish who owns the rights to the work created during the project and how it can be used in the future. For example, if a freelancer creates a logo for a company, the client might want full ownership and control over the logo’s design and use afterward.

Things can get a little more complicated when a project involves proprietary or confidential information like patents. This calls for clear and specific language regarding the ownership and protection of intellectual property.

Non-Disclosure Agreement

The solution? A non-disclosure agreement (NDA). An NDA is a contract requiring the content writer not to disclose any confidential information about the project and its materials during or after completion. This helps protect sensitive data from being shared publicly, whether intentionally or accidentally.

Important forms/practices when hiring freelancer writers

From essential forms, such as the 1099-NEC and the W-9, to requesting invoices, these practices will help you stay on the right side of the law.

  • Have the independent contractor fill out a W-9 form: The W-9 form should always be filled out before starting work. This form will provide all contractor details, such as their name, type of business, and Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) for tax purposes. Without it, you might not be able to accurately report payments to the IRS and could be responsible for any uncollected taxes.
  • Get any backup withholdings to the IRS: Backup withholding refers to a tax withholding method in the case that a freelancer doesn’t provide a valid TIN or if the IRS notifies you of any backup withholding. The withheld amount needs to be sent to the IRS along with Form 1099-NEC, or else you’ll be stuck with penalties and fees.
  • Fill out Form 1099-NEC: Form 1099-NEC is made for non-employee compensation (i.e., paying a freelancer). It will include all the contractor’s information and the total amount paid to them during the tax year. If you’ve paid your contractor more than $600 in a tax year, this form has to be filled out and submitted to the IRS.
  • How to issue a 1099: To issue a 1099, a W-9 should be filled out by the freelancer. You’ll need to fill out two copies of the 1099, one for the contractor and the other for the IRS, and send them out respectively. If required in your state, you’ll also need to send a copy to the state tax department. Finally, you need to submit Form 1096 if you choose to mail your 1099-NEC to the IRS.
  • Ask for invoices: Invoices will provide both you and the contractor with a record of services done and the amount owed. Having these on file ensures accurate payment and will help make record-keeping a lot more seamless.

Download a Freelance Contract>>

Sample Freelance Writer Contract

Here’s an outline of how to write a freelance writer contract that you can adapt with specifics as necessary. It’s only a rough template, which may have to change a lot to match the particulars of your project.

For larger-scale projects, a full freelance writer contract template may be better. And for detailed advice, it could be worth contacting or joining a professional organization like the National Writers Union. But this template might be handy as a starting point.

Simple Freelance Writer Contract Example

[Project name]


I, [name] (“Writer”), agree to provide to you, [client] (“Publication”), the following services:

  • [Description of the work you’re going to write, as already agreed]
  • [Any extra details regarding the scope of the project and what it does and doesn’t include]
  • [Information on the style in which you’ll write – mention a style guide such as AP or Chicago if you’ve agreed one]
  • [Any other relevant information]

I will deliver the work in the following manner:

  • [Method of delivery – hard copy? Email? Which document format, if digital?]
  • It will be delivered no later than [Deadline].

My fee will be as follows:

  • [Exact fee or rate]
  • [Information on possible additional expenses: will you be charging them for any travel, supplies, shipping fees, etc? If none, specify]
  • Payment will be due [Terms of payment – e.g. within 30 days].

I grant the Publication [First English-Language Serial Rights, or whatever rights you’ve agreed]. [Spell out the copyright terms in more detail, if you think there’s any room for ambiguity]

If you agree to these terms, please sign and date below and return a copy to me, and I will sign as well.

[Signature and date lines]

Download a Freelance Contract>>

Conclusion: Why You Need a Freelance Writer Contract

Never forget that it’s usually cheaper for companies to get freelancers to do work, rather than hire employees. So you need to really make sure that they don’t rip you off.

The best way to do that is to get stuff in writing. That means being super clear about everything, even if you’re only providing them with a few paragraphs. And if the publication doesn’t offer you its own standard writing contract or set of terms, you should be ready to step in with your own.

That’s where a freelance contract template above will come in handy: nothing beats having stuff spelled out in clear, concise language. But hey: if you’re a writer, you’ll know that already.

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