In this article, we look at how to create a simple freelance contract including payment terms, deliverables and copyright.
As a filmmaker, you will most likely be working as a freelancer. And this means working temporary jobs for as little as one day at a time. Because of this, you might not get a contract.
Having a freelance contract is very helpful when it comes to getting paid both correctly and on time.
Below we have broken down a freelance contract and how to use one as a filmmaker. This article also includes a free contract template download at the bottom.
Why You Need a Freelance Contract
Film work is on a job by job basis, meaning that the work is not continuous. You can work on a feature film for several months or a commercial for one day. Therefore it’s typical for filmmakers to work on a handful or more projects with multiple clients within a year.
This type of work is freelancing, and as fun, as it sounds, there are unfortunately some downsides. The main disadvantage of freelance work is that you do not get a contract, nor the benefits that come with everyday work.
You will likely hear about freelancers having to chase up payments throughout your career. By having a contract, both you and your client know what the payment terms are before you do the work. Furthermore, if there are any issues with being paid, you can use a contract in a small claims court.
It’s not common to have to take clients to court, but chasing up payments is a real problem for freelancers. This next section will look at what constitutes a freelance contract and how to use one as a filmmaker.
How To Use One
You have possibly already worked on some low-budget films without a contract. For short-term independent work, it is OK not to have a signed contract. However, if you are working for payment, or for long-term projects you should highly consider using one.
Even if you trust your employer, a contract gets you both on the same page and saves future disagreements. As mentioned chasing up payment is a widespread problem in the freelance work world.
For some short term work, you don’t necessarily need a contract. A written up agreement via email will suffice. This written up agreement should contain a breakdown of the type of work you will be doing and your rates. If you have made this agreement on the telephone, you should also get an email confirmation.
Although if you are doing professional work, a signed letter of agreement is the best approach. To do this send your employee/client the contract online and ask them to read then digitally sign it. For the most part, your employer will abide by what they have agreed to.
In this next section, we will break down what a freelance contract looks like. Don’t forget you can also download a free contract template below.
Freelance Contract Breakdown
Your contract might change on a job by job basis. For one thing, your client might send you over a pre-made contract to read and sign. Alternatively, if you are doing significant film or TV work, you might want to create a formal agreement. The difference here is that a lawyer has checked over the contract.
This breakdown below looks at what you can expect to find on a typical filmmaker freelance contract.
- The Basics – Every contract must include your full name and your client’s name or company. You should also give a short description of what type of work you are doing. For example – Editor for the short film’ project title’.
- Terms and Conditions – What are the rates and terms for you completing this work. Specifically, you should mention how you will get paid and when you will get paid. You can also mention any further work term details. For example – I will edit the project to the best of my ability, sending updates of my work out weekly via a private Vimeo link.
- Revisions and Overtime – For film crew work you might want to include extra payment for overtime hours worked. For reviewed work, such as writing, editing or composing music, you will need to state revision payment. For example – I will also be paid the same day rate for any additional revisions/re-edits that are required.
- Copyright – If you are producing original work, you will need to give detail on intellectual copyright. Such as if you are a musician, you will want to keep the rights to your music. The same applies to photographers, copywriters, graphic designers, and videographers. By doing this, if your work gets used, you ensure that you are paid and informed.
- Payment Terms – Not being paid on time is the biggest problem for freelancers. It’s a good idea to state what your payment terms are both on your contract and invoice. For example – payment will be sent no later than 30 days after receiving the invoice.
- Signatures – Lastly, you and your client will need to sign the document. Such as with a digital signature on PDF.
Free Freelance Contract Template
Also, check out our library of other free production templates
Freelance Contract – Wrapping Up
In short, it won’t take you long to write up and send a contract as a freelance filmmaker. Also, by doing so, it can ensure that you get paid correctly and on time. 👍
Do you use contracts for your freelance film work? Let us know in the comments section below.