As I mentioned in last week’s post, “The Tax Man Cometh,” I have been really mulling over all the legal aspects of freelancing. Up until recently, my freelance projects have been individually of a size not requiring large amounts of legal paperwork. I would do the work, invoice for the work at the agreed upon rate, and get paid for my work. I recorded the work done and financial information in a spreadsheet to supply to my tax preparer. He and I stay in communication to make sure I am properly documenting all my work and filing the information I need to keep.
That has worked well as I have slowly built up my skill set and my freelancing relations. As I have honed my craft and developed my reputation, more extensive projects have been offered and larger publishers have approached me. This has finally led to a recent project which has required the full business barrage of a contract, a non-disclosure agreement, and filed W-9s with the publisher. Having worked with contracts at my day job, I was comfortable reading the contract and the additional paperwork. With a few minor changes, the publisher and I finalized the contract. For security reasons, I utilized encryption and password protection of the digital signed files sent to the publisher. (Note: I highly recommend the scanning and security features built into Adobe Acrobat Pro for business paperwork.) This was not an overly complex contract nor was this very difficult. But, it really got me to mulling over a question: what is next?
For this project and publisher, this contract and NDA were very straightforward. Will they all be that way? As I continue to build my freelancing career, I expect this business paperwork to become more common. What do I do if the paperwork becomes more complicated than I can understand? What if my freelance work someday in the far future grows beyond a second job and becomes my primary employment? Well, to be honest I would be in awe and celebrating. I still feel so new at this freelancing work that each new step is a new and exhilarating challenge. I started out doing this for a friend and now it has become a second profession. What happens next? How do you make those next steps?
For those that have moved beyond freelancing as a hobby to a profession to a career, how did you make that transition? What legal advice do you recommend new freelancers like myself should pursue?