How to negotiate contracts as a freelancer – 8 Do’s and 6 Don’ts you must know.

How to negotiate contracts as a freelancer - 8 Do's and 6 Don'ts you must know.

To be successful as a freelancer, you must understand the Do’s and Don’ts of how to negotiate contracts. As a freelancer myself, my understanding of how to negotiate contracts has saved me from lots of troubles and that’s why I have decided to put my experience and thoughts into this article. So let’s begin.

A lot of disputes have been attributed to wrong negotiation of contracts. Party’s have been tied in costly and unnecessary legal battles, financial losses and even relationships have gone awful or sour as a result of poor negotiation of contracts. A well negotiated contract can prevent issues from rising in the near future, it could save time and stress and most importantly money.

As discussed earlier, we will be considering the 8 Dos and 6 Don’ts when it comes to how to negotiate contracts as a freelancer. But before then, you might be interested in checking out our article on How to manage multiple projects as a freelancer – 8 Ideas.

8 Do’s on How to negotiate contracts as a freelancer

These are the things to do when negotiating contracts as a freelancer. They are the strategies that will save you from law suits.

1. Understand and define the contract and it’s responsibilities:

When negotiating contracts as a freelancer, the first and most important thing to do is to let every party involved understand what the contract entails and what it demands from each party. It should be noted that everyone has a different understanding and definition of things, So it is important to make sure that each party explains what they think the job which the contract is to bind means. It must be clearly stated from the start. That way, every party involved will be able to get each other’s perspective and amend it if necessary.

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2. Payment terms and schedules should be carefully outlined:

As earlier stated; one of the downsides of poorly negotiating contracts is financial loss, which makes this an important aspect when negotiating contracts. As a Freelancer, always outline the payment terms; how much will be paid, how often will you be paid, what are the methods of payment, what happens when the payment terms is breached? (This must be added in the contract, as it helps each parties not to breach the contract). All this should be stated clearly in other to avoid disputes that might arise overtime.

3. Time of delivery or completion should be stated:

Timing is important in every negotiation. During negotiation you should ask when the work is expected to start, be delivered or completed, and the clauses surrounding late delivery. If possible agree to a late delivery fee, as it will help keep you on your toes while doing your part of the contract. Also, having a clear idea about project timelines will help you in your personal time management. And this as you would agree with me would help your productivity.

4. Ownership of intellectual property:

Make sure to define the; ownership of the intellectual property, how it should be used, how long can it be used and what it should not be used for. Note that the intellectual property use can only be negotiated if the property belongs to you or there is a legal right to it. Also, the transfer of ownership rights can also be negotiated. In any case the ownership right should be clearly stated. This would help in reducing the stress you could face later in the future.

5. How changes will be made in contract:

Always assume there will be changes in the contract, so it is important to specify the notice period for changes in the contract. For instance, If a contract clause is to be changed or more clauses are to be added to the contract you should be notified prior to the change. Changes in contracts must be done based on conditions. So it is important those conditions are perfectly listed out before executing projects. It wouldn’t make sense if your clients start changing clauses in the contracts without following guidelines already stated. This might not favor you as it might slow down your productivity.

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6. Termination of contract:

Good contract negotiation is not the only factor necessary during contract issues. Sometimes contracts eventually go awry half way into the work and that is why when negotiating a contract it is important to specify how best to terminate the contract when things go wrong. A notice period for termination should also be specified and if possible a termination fee. Illegit or unlawful termination of contracts can lead to law suits. So as a freelancer, it is important the conditions for termination of contracts are explicitly stated.

7. Return of property upon termination:

It is important to specify what becomes of your work if your contract is terminated. To avoid your intellectual property being given to a third party, it is important to specify what becomes of it.

8. Agreements should end in your favor:

When negotiating a contract you have to understand that the other parties wants what’s in their best interest. You should also do same unapologetically; give the terms that is to your best interest and only agree to terms that favors you.

When you negotiate contract as a freelancer, there are certain things you are not supposed to do as they may attract dire consequences like financial loss and possibly legal battles. While reading through this article you will understand that all of them are things that can be avoided.

8 Don’ts on How to negotiate contracts as a freelancer

Listed below are things you are not supposed to do when negotiating contracts

1. Don’t be too hasty to sign a contract:

If you are too hasty to sign contracts as a freelancer, you will most likely end in prison or run into massive losses. Most contracts usually comes with complex clauses. It is important and advisable to take your time and go through them. If you don’t understand the contract, get a lawyer to interprete or explain the contract to you before signing; Ignorance is never an excuse.

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2. Agreements should be in Writing:

Every agreement made verbally should be put into writing to avoid confusing what was said with what was agreed. Another important aspect of putting contract agreements into writing is for easy access when issues arises. Agreements written can also be used as evidence overtime. So ensure your negotiated contracts are written down and stored properly.

3. Avoid unclear terms:

Don’t sign a contract when the terms are not clear enough. Like i stated in the Dos; Always make sure all parties have a unanimous understanding of what the contract entails. If the terms are ambiguous, it is advisable not to sign the contract.

4. Don’t over look minor details:

When negotiating a contract, it is wrong to overlook minor details as they may come back to haunt you. Every piece of detail is important, as the one’s you choose to overlook might eventually cost you. So be wise, don’t be fooled by things that look minor. Check out everything to be sure they favor you and will always be enough for the contract in the future.

5. Don’t negotiate with parties you don’t trust:

Trust is important especially when you negotiate contract as a freelancer. When negotiating a contract make sure you’ve established some level of trust first before proceeding. In most contract negotiations, parties do demand samples before proceeding with the contact. For instance, a publishing firm may demand for a sample of your job for them to evaluate.

It is after these that they can then decide to give you a contract or not. There has to be some level of trust before you can decide to give out your work. So when negotiating a contract make sure every party involved is credible. Ways to know if a contract party is credible include; checking out their website and domain ranking, check out their credibility and their reviews.

6. Don’t underrate your worth:

When negotiating a contract try as much as possible to explain to the other party what you can do and the experience you’ve had doing it. This will boost your value and competence and eventually increase your earning capacity as a freelancer. Don’t underrate your worth and capacity. Always believe in yourself and always charge what you deserve.


In conclusion, when negotiating a contract you have to be confident and not be at the mercy of the other party. By following the Do’s and Don’ts listed in this article carefully, you are sure to negotiate a contract that will protect your interests without encountering disputes in future. And even if disputes show up, you would have a contract that can save you from troubles.

Israel Otoijamun

Israel Otoijamun is the founder and CEO of With years of experience in the digital space, I have earned a lot from freelancing, both on Upwork and fiver, thanks to my digital skills. My goal for creating this platform is to help digitally skilled people earn a living through their skills online, irrespective of their location and background. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have enquiries. E-mail: ✌️

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