3 Ways To Protect Yourself—and Your Project—With A Contract

Written by Daniel Brigham — Posted in Community

Freelancing is a thrilling jungle. And after a project or two, most freelancers realize they need protection from the slings and arrows of unwarranted assumptions, misremembering, scope creep, and other project hazards. Thus, a well-designed contract is the freelancer’s armor. So here’s advice from the Freelance Heroes thread on how to create a contract for your e-learning projects.

Draft Your Contract

A written contract, such as a statement of work or design document, describes what you’re building for the client, how you will deliver it, and when it is expected. Of course, you’ll write your contract to suit your particular needs, but at a minimum a contract should include:

  • High-level description of project, including the instructional design approach
  • Specific problems/issues the training addresses
  • Personnel involved with roles and responsibilities
  • Assets required (content, images, and videos you need to acquire or create)
  • Deliverables (and what form they will take)
  • Timeline
  • Fees and expenses
  • Out-of-scope items

Define Project Boundaries

Defining out-of-scope items is particularly important, as many clients tend to think that you are at least somewhat responsible for All Things E-Learning. Do you want to bear the burden of troubleshooting LMS issues that may arise? If not, you’ll want to put that in the out-of-scope items. What about playability issues on mobile devices? Thread contributor Kevin Thorn suggests that you create a separate contract for courses that deploy to mobile devices, as they are a different beast altogether. To help sort out your desired scope, consider the worst-case scenario for your project, and what you want to be responsible for in the unlikely event that it occurs.

Negotiate Pricing And Terms

When it comes to pricing out your project, some clients will want you to be a magician and give them a hard price on a project that’s as well-defined as a bridge made of Jell-o®. In cases like these, thread contributors Holly McDonald and Sheila Cole-Bulthuis suggest you have a two-part contract: one devoted to figuring out what type of course may be appropriate, and another devoted to building the actual course. Another option might be to offer a price range.

All this is not to say contracts have to be long and complicated. The examples below show that’s not the case. Most likely, you and the client will go back and forth on the contract document, making changes to the contract that you both can accept. Take your time as you negotiate terms. As Peter Block mentions in Flawless Consulting, freelancers have the most influence on a client during the contracting stage. So push back where you need to do so.

Keep The Contract In Perspective

As important as contracts are, your relationship with the client trumps all. I’ll be discussing some best practices for maintaining the client relationship in the last installment of the Freelance Heroes series next week.

Here are some samples of e-learning contracts to get you started:

For more help, check out these resources:

Like what you read here? Get more e-learning tips by following Articulate on Twitter and joining the E-Learning Heroes community.


1 response to “3 Ways To Protect Yourself—and Your Project—With A Contract”


As a developer, the most difficult part of our contract is when a client cancels it at the time when project is about to complete.

Balwinder // Posted at 7:54 am on December 23rd, 2013

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