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Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Month of Templates: A Letter of Agreement

When you freelance for many publications, your editor will send you a contract to sign setting out the terms of your agreement. But what about when you take an assignment for a market that doesn't have a standard contract--or when you're working for a client that asks you for one? Then you'll need to draft your own contract, so having a template for a letter of agreement is essential.

And it's not as complicated as you might think. To create an enforceable agreement, you'll want to include the following:
  • The date
  • Statement/description of the work you're performing
  • Deadline
  • Description of the rights being purchased
  • The amount of money you're being paid
  • The name/identity of your client
I like to keep it simple. Here's an example of a letter of agreement I recently used for an editing/ghosting gig:

Dear Dick:

It was a pleasure meeting you and Florence yesterday, and I'm excited about working together on your book. We agreed that I'll track my time and bill you at my standard consulting rate of $100/hour, and will invoice monthly. We've also agreed to keep my total fee at $10,000 or under, so I'll remind you if/when we approach that figure.

I'll provide you with a schedule that sets out our timeframe for the chapters, with a final deadline of January 15, 2010. It's an aggreessive schedule, but I know working together we can meet it.

Could you email me back when you receive this and let me know that you confirm the terms of our agreement? Thank you very much and I'll be in touch soon.

All my best,

Here's another letter for a regional publication that hired me to tweak a reprint for a fee. (My editor was looking for a piece on New Year's resolutions, and wanted me to rework my story for her market.)

Dear Kathleen:

Thanks for getting in touch; I'm looking forward to working with you! I'm writing to confirm our agreement where I'll rework my resolutions piece for you by October 31, 2009. I'll provide a 1,200-word article aimed at an audience of both men and women, and you'll pay me $200 for one-time reprint rights to the story.

Please confirm this agreement by replying to this email, and I'll get to work! Thank you very much and I'll talk to you soon.

Kelly James-Enger

See how simple these contracts are? If you want an actual signature, you can email your client and ask him to print, sign, and return the contract to you--or send this by mail and ask that it be signed and returned.

For straightforward projects like these, a simple letter of agreement will suffice. When I work with a client on a more substantial project like a book proposal, I do like to have a written contract that is countersigned by both parties. That will be my next template...stay tuned!