Freelance Editing Job Contract: Dos and Don'ts

Freelance editing job contracts, can be complicated, because the work can be quite complex. The problem is that complexity can also be a great way of not getting paid for a lot of sometimes very picky, difficult, work.

Freelance Editing Job Contract Issues

To put the contract issues in perspective, there are two sides to the contract process that must be understood. Some freelance editing jobs involve full-strength editing work across a range of areas and roles.

The actual editing jobs may involve a range of very serious responsibilities:

  • Web content
  • Book content
  • Translations
  • Technical writing
  • News content
  • Blogs
  • Multimedia content
  • Editorial policy
  • Advertising policy and content

For the contractor, every one of these issues represents real money and real liabilities. Many of these jobs relate to professional publications, commercial websites, and other commercial interests. The commercial materials and business are based on content under the control of the editor.

The contracts for these jobs reflect a need for an experienced, extremely competent editor, and they’re naturally complex. The editor is the actual operational manager of these business functions, so the contract can look very much like a management contract.

That, of course, means that the editorial role is spelled out in detail, and that’s where the problems can occur. For freelancers, the contract is a basis for payment.

The Big Don’ts in Freelance Editing Job Contracts

The Don’ts are deceptively straightforward, in theory. The trouble with these contracts is that:

  • Some are under escrow (A third party holds the payment money under the terms of the contract)
  • Contract terms are by nature like litigation, if someone wants to get technical about details, they can do it easily.
  • Some people just don’t understand the terms of their contracts.
  • Contract terms can be vague. Bizarre as it may seem in theory, how you read a contract can be more a matter of interpretation than logic.
  • Payment terms must be spelled out, showing rates of payment and methods of payment.


The Don’ts

  • Don’t enter into an escrow contract unless you’re fully aware of the risks and ramifications. Disputes can take time, and cost money.
  • Don’t ignore details. Check out the ramifications, ask the contractor about the terms, and get something in writing explaining their expectations.
  • Don’t sign any contract you don’t understand. Get professional help if necessary, but make sure you understand the contract terms.
  • Don’t assume vague terms are harmless. They can require you to do a lot of work, meaning using up more time but not making more money.
  • Don’t enter into any contract where payment details are in any way vague or where payment methods aren’t specified.


The Do’s

The Do's are fewer than the Don'ts, but are reliable quality checks on contracts.

  • Do make sure that the contract is a standard contract. These are very straightforward, plain language documents, easy to understand.
  • Do check the contractor for any complaints about non-payment or business behavior.
  • Do check out any freelance site where escrow is a common payment format for  problems.