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Freelance Software Projects: The Importance of Contracts


Freelancers in many different industries have their own ways of tackling project negotiations, but for freelance software projects, many work-at-home and independent programmers have learned that there's just no substitute for a good contract. For any kind of 1099 or independent contracting work, a contract is a good idea to protect the interests of both parties. However, in some kinds of jobs where the services provided are fairly straightforward and easy to value, a contract can be something that's put off until later, where in software project work, the lack of a working contract can be a disaster.

Programming and Coding: How Contracts Solve Problems

One of the main aspects of freelance software programming is the challenging way that projects can experience "bloat" over time. Freelancers may have their own experiences with this, and vocabulary to describe it. The problem is that code modules and software design elements are not often items that a project manager can assign a specific work value to, simply because it's hard to predict how much work a project will take. Unless the job is extremely micro-managed, there will be elements of a program that will take much more time and energy than others, and so they will "cost" more in terms of the freelancer's time, which is her most valuable contribution.

It would be great if freelance software programmers can simply submit an invoice according to hourly work, but that's not always what project managers want to see. That's why it's extremely important for both parties to come to the table before the project has begun, to discuss what will be fair compensation for the freelancer depending on how a project develops. Clauses in a contract can provide for coding and programming elements that require more individual attention, problems with adding onto an existing program, or any other contingencies that cause headaches for freelancers later on during their involvement in a project.

Other Benefits of a Contract

In addition to this main point, contracts also do all of the great stuff for freelance programmers that they do for everybody else. Having a solid contract helps a lot with figuring annual tax returns, providing proof of work and even broadening a client base. Non-compete clauses may be a main part of a contract that will benefit both parties if they can agree on rules for how a freelancer can add clients while working for an existing one. Without a contract, lots of freelancers will naturally want to pursue work opportunities where the original client may feel like that person is stepping on their toes. Getting all of these items out in the open will help to avoid a wide range of issues later on, and that's part of the value of a solid written contract.

It may be in the interests of the freelancer to point these things out if a corporate client initially wants to work without a contract. Generally, the talent of software designers and programmers is enough to persuade clients that a contract is appropriate for a freelance sourced job.

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