Contracts can seem like a tricky business, especially when you’re dealing with the creative process. And each situation is uniquely different. When it comes to editing, one thing I’ve learned is it’s better to be safe than sorry, and much better to have all parties on the same page when it come to what’s expected, a time frame, and of course, the fee for services.
I will admit with my oldest repeat clients, our contract is often spelled out in email, and this has worked well for us. There’s a paper trail, and it serves. Still, to keep issues at a minimum, it’s a good idea for both the writer and the editor to have a contract signed, sealed, and delivered before work begins. This really goes for any service you contract, be it cover art, formatting, editing…anything pertaining to BUSINESS. Yes, even if you’re close personal friends, or even BECAUSE you’re close personal friends. You want to protect that relationship, for sure. This is business, not personal, and you want to keep it that way.
My contract and Terms of Service are two pages long. I tweak out the contract to individualize it for each client, depending on the terms and time frame we work out in advance. This keeps us both on track and hopefully, avoids any problems in the future.
The standard form I use can be found at the Editor’s Association of Canada. Believe me, I searched high and low for something to work for me and my business, and I was able to make changes to accommodate what I offer, what’s expected by both parties, and to spell out what exactly the writer can expect from me. It also details what I expect from the writer, because it is a two-way street.
Like I said, each situation is unique. With this form, I’m able to incorporate exactly what my client needs and if there’s any question, we can both refer back to the contract. I made extensive changes to the Terms of Service, for example, because I don’t offer everything detailed on the example, but it gave me a good template and a place to start.
It’s your choice, of course, whether to use a formal contract or not, and every business transaction is different. However, it’s a good idea to always CYA. Because, you know, no one like to see a bare ass hanging out there.
So, whether you’re a writer or an editor, my advice is to put a contract into place and detail expectations. It makes for a much smoother process and keeps things on an even keel. Be flexible, but make sure you both understand the terms of what is offered, what you receive, the fee, and how it’s to be paid.
Any questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll answer the best I can.
Next week on Thursday Editing Tips, Tricks, and Observations we talk about where your editing begins. Stay tuned!