Copywriting Contracts

Your freelance writing business is exactly that: a business. You need to treat it as such.

Without a legal contract, you're leaving yourself open to a variety of risks and liabilities.

What Is A Freelance Copywriting Contract?

A freelance writing contract is a legally binding agreement between a client and freelance writer. It outlines the scope of work, payment terms, intellectual property rights, and whether you can use their work in your portfolio.

Freelance writers use contracts to set boundaries, protect themselves, and ensure that they get paid for their work.

Why You Need A Freelance Copywriting Contract

If you start freelance writing, you’ll need to learn how to create one (which we talk about later).

Clients want to know you have a standardized process for working with them. It's professional. It's reassuring. And it shows them this isn't your first rodeo.

For you, a freelance writer contract serves a few key purposes:

Protects You and The Client

We've all heard the horror stories from both sides.

  • The freelance writer who doesn't deliver on time or at all
  • The writer who takes the money and runs
  • The client who takes forever to pay
  • The one who refuses payment altogether
  • The project that never gets done due to countless revisions

Professional services like freelance writing rely heavily on the honesty of both parties.

Most of the time, there's no issue. But the reality is neither party truly knows what they're getting themselves into until the engagement begins.

Locking a client in contractually isn't telling them, "I don't trust you to pay up."

It's a two-way exchange. "I'll deliver on these terms. And when I do, so will you."

Sets Clear Expectations

Whether it’s a copywriting side hustle or your full time gig, clear expectations need to be set.

Project scope, revisions, turnaround time, deliverables — you need to set all these expectations before starting a project. Client satisfaction (and your sanity) depends on it.

A freelance contract sets out in plain English what the client can expect from your writing services and vice versa.

And if scope creep and revisions become a source of contention (e.g., for a flat-fee project), you can always point back to the contract.

That way, you're not just compensated. You're fairly compensated.

If you have no idea what’s fair compensation, check out copywriting rates.

Establishes Rights To The Content

Some clients need their freelance writers to keep their work under wraps. It'd be a bad look for a CEO if someone found their ghostwritten thought leadership content in a freelancer's public portfolio.

Freelance writing contracts explicitly state whether clients have full ownership or if you can use the content to get more clients.

Weeds Out Bad Clients

In the beginning when you have little experience, you might think you should take on a client at all costs.

But if they aren't willing to work on your terms, you probably don't want to work with them, anyway.

The same applies to clients with unrealistic expectations or budgets.

If a potential client decides against your terms, that's fine. Your ability to deliver for current clients hinges on the boundaries you set with new ones.

And if they try to talk you out of the written agreement, it's a red flag.

Should You Make Your Own Freelance Writing Contract?

There are plenty of templated freelance contracts out there. It's probably easier (and more professional) to use one of them than it is to draft in a Word document.

Besides that, two factors determine whether you could or absolutely shouldn't make your own contract:

  • The complexity of your writing services
  • How sensitive the industry you work in is

A writing project in an industry like legal, healthcare, or finance requires more specialized contracts. You'll sometimes have to seek legal advice.

If your projects are generally long and intricate, it could be in your best interest to heavily customize your freelance contract.

But if you're a generalist freelance writer (working with a creative agency, for example), you can probably use a standard contract.

What You Need To Include In A Freelance Writing Contract

Depending on your industry, project type, pricing model, and personal preferences, you might have additional clauses.

At the most basic level, every freelance writing contract needs the following elements.

Project Details

The details of your writing project should include what you will be doing and won't be doing.

This includes:

  • The type of writing services you will provide (e.g., blog post, case study, copywriting)
  • The number of words, pages, or assignments you'll be writing
  • The deliverable format (PDF, Word document, etc.)
  • Number of revisions included
  • Language and tone requirement

The project details section doesn't need to be a novel. All it needs to do is set clear expectations for the scope of your services.

Scope Of Work

Scope of work specifically refers to the timeline(s) for each project phase.

  • When you will start and deliver the content
  • How long it'll take to complete revisions
  • Timelines for feedback stages
  • Whether rush fees apply (hint: they should!)

Especially for complex projects (e.g., a full website copy overhaul), it helps to break your scope into smaller milestones with individual deadlines.

Invoicing and Payments

You need to include how and when you are getting paid.

  • Upfront, upon completion, or in installments?
  • How much extra will revisions and additional work cost?
  • Will the client's business cover processing fees for certain payment methods?
  • What's the payment method (bank transfer, invoice, PayPal)?
  • How long does the client have to pay before late fees kick in?
  • What happens if the client doesn't pay?

You won't be able to force a client to pay (you'll have to take that up with a collections agency). But clearly outlined expectations for what happens in the case of non-payment reduce the likelihood of it happening in the first place.


Expectations cover what you expect from the client and vice versa.

The most important elements all freelance writing contracts need are:

  • Communication terms (response times, hours of availability)
  • A specific number of revisions included in the project fee (revisions clause)
  • Terms for additional project scope
  • Access to research materials (e.g., interview transcripts)
  • Approval of the concept before commencing work
  • How you'll handle confidential information
  • Ownership clause
  • Mutual indemnification
  • Outlined dispute resolution processes

Before finalizing the sale and onboarding a new client, you need to make sure your client agrees to the contract's expectations.

If you gloss over even a small section, it could result in immediate dissatisfaction on their end.

Early Termination

Life happens — and so do cancellations. That's why you need a section detailing the process for ending a contract early.

  • Who can cancel the project
  • Grounds for termination
  • Terms for aftersales services
  • Ownership rights to already-written content
  • How to handle a cancellation mid-contract and refund the client
  • Payment for any remaining work in progress

Usually, freelance writers also add a non-disparagement clause. This means neither party is allowed to badmouth the other after terminating the contract.

Freelance Writing Contract Template

In my Ghostwriting coaching program, I give you all the contracts you need for you clients.

However, there are plenty of other freelance writing contract templates out there. Here are five to choose from:

Who is Dakota?

I show you how to build a high-paying creative business without doing work you hate.

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