Stay on Track with a Project Agreement

A successful project starts with a plan. Before you build a house, you should draw a blueprint; before you bake a cake, you should read the recipe; and before you start working with a Freelancer on your project, you should agree on a solid Project Agreement.

What is a Project Agreement and why is it important?
After you award your project to a Freelancer, it's wise to ask the pro to draft and upload an online Project Agreement. The binding freeform contract (which is required if you choose to pay through our SafePay Escrow service) is your chance to agree on the project in both broad terms of scope, and more specifically in terms of deliverables, deadlines and payment schedules. It clearly defines, for both you and the Freelancer, the exact responsibilities of each party.

A Project Agreement will not only satisfy the Freelancer by ensuring his or her proper compensation and safeguarding against project "scope creep," but it will ensure that your specific objectives will be met on a predefined timeline and provide a back-up plan and protection (especially when you pay through's SafePay Escrow service) in case problems arise.

What should be included in the Project Agreement?
The Project Agreement contains a Project Plan section and a Project Milestones section but otherwise adheres to no strict outline. You should consider the following elements when reviewing your agreement.
Scope includes a start and end date for the project as a whole, with a comprehensive description of the services to be performed without dictating how they are performed. Concrete deliverables with due dates should be defined. For example, if the Freelancer is writing an article, the agreement should cover the subject matter of the article, how many pages or words are needed, how and when drafts are reviewed, how many revisions may be required, and in what format the article will be completed.

Payment terms will determine whether you will pay your Freelancer via SafePay Escrow or SafePay SafePay Invoicing. (SafePay Escrow is recommended, particularly when working with a new Freelancer, as it protects your investment.) Payment terms should also include a payment schedule, the payment amount and a provision for payment of expenses or if additional work is required.

Ownership of the Final Work should specify who will own all rights relative to the project work. Without a designation of the work as "made-for-hire" or a signed transfer of ownership, the rights belong to the Freelancer by legal default.

A Non-Disclosure / Confidentiality Agreement can be included if the project pertains to proprietary or confidential information. You should stipulate that the Freelancer will sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure clause or agreement. Find many template NDAs on the Internet to get you started.

Contract Termination language addresses how the contract will end in the event that the work does not go well. It should stipulate the delivery of written notice, and include what reasons will lead to termination (for example, failure to meet deliverable dates, lack of communication, and poor workmanship).

Dispute Resolution, if necessary, is a benefit of using SafePay Escrow. Through Mediation and Arbitration Services, a Mediator will try to mediate the dispute. If the mediation process is unsuccessful, a Arbitrator will arbitrate the case, with the burden of proof falling on the Freelancer. A solid Project Agreement is key to this process.

Even if you do not use our SafePay Escrow service, you should insist on a Project Agreement that outlines how you and the Freelancer plan to resolve issues in a quick and easy fashion. The plan may involve direct communication to attempt to resolve the problem, alternate mediation or dispute resolution services, or legal counsel.

Project Milestones break the larger scope of the project into smaller, concrete, measurable components, with a due date and payment amount for each.
What do you do if the project slides off track?
A Project Agreement should be designed using a "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst" mentality, but it becomes even more important and useful should things not work out ideally.

If you and your Freelancer find that the initial timeline and Project Milestones are too restricting, and you mutually agree that the Project Plan should be modified, the pro can upload a Change Order. In the Change Order, the Freelancer can define any modifications in the project's scope, Milestones, payment terms, etc., and then submit it for your approval. This is a helpful tool in realigning priorities as a project progresses, best setting it up for success.

The Project Agreement also acts as your safeguard if, for some reason, a project becomes irreversibly derailed. If a dispute arises, and if you've used SafePay Escrow (making you eligible for our Mediation or Arbitration services), the burden of proof falls on the Freelancer. The Freelancer must prove, based on the Project Agreement, that project terms have been met before Escrowed funds will be released.

Final Thoughts
It is in both your and the Freelancer's best interest to form a solid Project Agreement. It starts you off on an auspicious note; it guides the sure and steady progress of the project; and it acts as your safety net in case of trouble.