The Legal Side of Freelancing: Understanding Contracts and Taxes

Last Updated on May 10, 2023

The Legal Side of Freelancing

Freelancing refers to working independently on a project-by-project basis, rather than being employed by a single company. This work arrangement has become increasingly popular, with many individuals finding that freelancing allows them to pursue their passions, work on interesting projects, and enjoy a flexible schedule.

The growing popularity of freelancing is a testament to its many benefits. However, as a freelancer, it is important to understand the legal side of your business, including the contracts you enter into and the taxes you need to pay. By educating yourself on these aspects of freelancing, you can protect yourself, your clients, and your business.

We’ll give you a thorough overview of the legal aspects of freelancing in this blog article, including all the information you need to know about contracts and taxes.

Read: Navigating the World of Business Taxes & Accounting

The Importance of Contracts for Freelancers

As a freelancer, contracts are a key part of your business. Contracts set the terms and conditions for your work, establishing expectations for both you and your client. They protect your rights, ensure payment, and establish a clear understanding of the work you will perform.

Types of Contracts in Freelancing

There are several different types of contracts that freelancers may encounter, including fixed-price contracts, hourly contracts, and retainer contracts.

A. Fixed-price contracts are the most straightforward type of contract. In these agreements, the freelancer agrees to complete a specific project for a set fee. The client pays the freelancer the agreed-upon amount once the project is complete.

B. Hourly contracts are similar to fixed-price contracts, but instead of paying a set fee, the client pays the freelancer for the number of hours worked on a project. This type of contract is useful for projects that are difficult to estimate in terms of time and effort.

C. Retainer contracts are ongoing agreements between a freelancer and a client. In these contracts, the client pays the freelancer a set fee each month, regardless of the number of hours worked. The freelancer then uses this retainer to perform work as needed.

Key Elements of a Freelancing Contract

Regardless of the type of contract, there are several key elements that should be included in every contract for a freelancing project. These include:

1. Price, Rates, and Method of Payment

First and foremost, you shouldn’t have any questions about how your income is established by a private work contract. Will you demand a set fee for each project or hour that you submit?

Depending on the kind of job you do on a personal level, it could be preferable to get paid for the project as a whole rather than for each hour worked. However, estimating how long a job will take can be challenging at times. Paying by the hour might be more desirable under those circumstances.

Of course, not every client will appreciate a prepayment, but the decision is up to you. Just make sure the contract is as explicit as you can make it so that both sides understand and appreciate working with that payment schedule.

Read: The Importance of Setting and Negotiating Rates as a Freelancer

2. Timeline & Deadline

While it is not always desirable to include exact dates in contracts, you should at the very least state the start date of the working relationship and the anticipated completion date. Showing any potential repercussions in the event that an independent contractor misses a deadline is also a smart idea.

You may plan a project that works for your timetable on the one hand, and it can also inspire you on the other. Of course, the presence of a deadline condition is advantageous to the customer as well. Find a convenient place that works for both of you and try to negotiate with a customer with the deadline clause.

3. Kill Fee & Cancellation Terms

The kill charge, also known as a cancellation fee, is a contract provision that will protect you from losing all of the money you have made in the unlikely event that your clients are unfortunate.

The kill fee is equivalent to the reasonable one; in the event that the project is discontinued for whatever reason (client declares bankruptcy, cancels the project, etc.), the client is obligated to reimburse you for the time already expended on the project. 

You can stipulate that prepayment deposits are non-refundable and will act as a death sentence in the event of termination, in addition to covering any additional fees for work you have already completed.

4. Copyright & Ownership

This makes it clear who the actual owner of the work is once it is finished. A self-employed worker often keeps a job until you pay them. A self-employed worker is not permitted to utilize or sell the work to anybody else after receiving payment. Almost anything can be prioritized quickly, which makes doing business simpler. So, a spouse needs to function well. A successful business may result from this effectiveness.

For many, it is wise to include a provision holding all copyrights to your work until the project is finished and paid for. Your client will obtain rights after the job is finished, and you will be required not to share or sell your work to anybody else. Once more, this provision should be drafted to be advantageous to all parties.

5. Signatures

Finally, separate rules and agreements become legally binding only when both parties’ signatures are included. In other words, a contract is only enforceable if it is signed by both parties.

Read: The Pros and Cons of Freelancing: Is it Right for You?

The Importance of a Well-Drafted Contract

A well-drafted contract is an essential part of any freelancing project, as it protects the freelancer’s rights and interests, establishes clear expectations for the work, and provides a basis for resolving any disputes that may arise. A well-drafted contract should:

  • Protect the freelancer’s rights and interests, ensuring that they will be fairly compensated for their work and have clear guidelines for the project.

  • Clearly outline the terms and conditions of the project, so there are no misunderstandings or disagreements between the freelancer and the client.

  • Provide a basis for resolving any disputes that may arise, by setting out clear protocols for resolving conflicts and determining what actions may be taken if the terms of the contract are not met.

  • Establish a clear understanding of the project’s timeline, including any deadlines and milestones, so that the freelancer can plan their work accordingly.

Understanding Taxes in Freelancing

As a freelancer, it is important to understand the tax implications of your business. Taxes can be a complex and confusing aspect of freelancing, but by understanding your obligations and taking the necessary steps to comply with the law, you can protect yourself and your business.

Read: Common Problems Freelancers Face and How To Deal With Them

Types of Taxes for Freelancers

There are several types of taxes that freelancers may be subject to, including:

  • Self-Employment Tax: This tax covers Social Security and Medicare taxes for self-employed individuals, and is calculated as a percentage of your income.

  • Income Tax: This tax is levied on the money you earn as a freelancer. The amount you owe will depend on your income level and the tax laws in your jurisdiction.

  • Sales Tax: If you sell goods or services, you may be subject to sales tax, a tax on the sales of goods and services. The rate and requirements for sales tax will vary depending on the state and jurisdiction in which you operate.

  • Use Tax: If you purchase goods or services for use in your business, you may be subject to use tax, a tax on the use of goods and services. The rate and requirements for use tax will vary depending on the state and jurisdiction in which you operate.

  • Estimated Taxes: If you are self-employed, you may be required to make estimated tax payments throughout the year, rather than paying all of your taxes at once at the end of the year.

Keeping Records and Staying Compliant

In order to stay compliant with tax laws and regulations, it is important for freelancers to keep accurate records of their income and expenses. This includes:

  • Keeping track of all income received, including invoices and receipts.

  • Keeping track of all expenses related to your business, including equipment and supplies, advertising, and any other business-related expenses.

  • Filing your tax returns and making estimated tax payments on time, in accordance with the laws and regulations of your jurisdiction.

In addition to keeping accurate records, it is also important for freelancers to stay informed about changes to tax laws and regulations. This can be done by:

  • Reading up on the latest tax laws and regulations for freelancers in your jurisdiction.

  • Working with a tax professional, who can help you understand your tax obligations and ensure that you are in compliance with the law.

Read: What are the Legal Requirements for Starting a Startup?


Having a solid understanding of contracts, including the importance of having a well-drafted agreement in place and the key provisions that should be included, will help ensure that your work is done to the agreed-upon standards and that you are fairly compensated for your services.

Understanding the tax implications of your freelancing business is also crucial, as it can help you avoid any penalties or fines for non-compliance. This includes knowing the types of taxes that may apply to your business, keeping accurate records of your income and expenses, and staying informed of any changes to tax laws and regulations.

By taking the time to understand the legal side of freelancing, you can build a successful and sustainable business, while minimizing the risk of disputes or legal issues. So, whether you are just starting out as a freelancer or have been working as one for a while, it is never too late to educate yourself on the legal side of freelancing and take the necessary steps to protect your business.

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