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Freelance contracts explained

September 4, 2023

This post is based on a brilliant 2019 Linda Thompson’s article Dutch website helps journalists better understand freelancer agreements:

The media are said to be in crisis, which is often reflected in one-sided standard contracts offered to freelance writers. They are somehow expected to accept the unfavourable terms and not discuss them because competition is high. Or is it?

As a beginning freelancer, Dutch journalist Nick Kivits accepted this common practice, giving the contracts only a quick read before sending them back signed: “The first few years I did it all wrong. I signed everything,” he remarks.

Nick decided to improve the negotiating position of freelance writers. He began explaining and commenting on standard Dutch media contracts through his website, Freelancevoorwaarden.nl. He focuses on what's wrong, where the common issues lie, and what writers should be cautious of. These are three things in particular: exclusivity terms, payment terms, and copyright clauses. The comments are often informal and humorous, like “Will I be paid extra for re-use? Haha. No.”

Our take: Nick's idea presents an extremely effective and original way to help colleagues in an industry that is rife with one-sided contracting practices. It makes it easy even for beginners to know what to look for in contracts, and it’s clear that freelancers in many other industries would benefit from a similar analysis. The only catch remains the copyright of the contracts themselves — after all, every contract is someone’s copyrighted work, and so publication of the quoted parts must clearly be in the public interest.

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