Did you know that as an independent worker, you have certain rights that protect you from behavioral and financial control from your clients?
If any of your clients try to control you in the ways listed below, tell them that they hired an independent worker, not an employee, and this difference is protected by the Department of Labor and the IRS. This holds true even if you signed a contract agreeing to be an independent contractor. How you and your client work together determines whether you are an employee or an independent contractor, not your contract.
If you’re unsure about your status or want to make a claim that you are an employee and not an independent contractor, please contact an attorney. For a full list of these common law rules, visit the IRS website.
1. You have the right to work where you want
Independent contractors should not be required to work from the client’s office for a certain number of defined hours a day. That should be your decision, based on the requirements of the end product or project. This does not include meetings/presentations/events stipulated in the contract.
2. You have the right to work when you want
A client should not stipulate that you work a certain number of hours a day, or that you work only a certain number of hours on one part of the project per day, or give you any sort of time control guidelines.
3. You have the right to complete your work in your own way
Independent contractors are hired for their existing skills, not as short-term trainees. You determine how you will work, the order you will complete steps in, the equipment you’ll use, and the use of your own skills -- which means you should not be trained for the task by the client. Of course, the client can provide guidelines and expectations for the final product. But they should not control the process by which you complete that work.
4. You have the right to take on whatever additional clients you choose
Independent contractors should be able to market themselves to any client, and any existing client should not be able to specify that you work only for them or refuse to allow you to work for their competitors. (They can however limit your discussion of projects you’re working on, as covered in non-disclosure agreements.)
5. You have the right to subcontract work to others, even without your clients’ knowledge
If work ever gets too busy or you think an aspect of the project could be better completed by another independent contractor, you can subcontract. Again, the client has a right to a successful end product, but not to your process.
Other rights independent workers should maintain through contract
1. Intellectual property rights
Independent contractors should always grant the minimum rights possible. You never know when your IP could be profitable in the future. Be especially wary of contracts that give up “all rights” for an unlimited time or even “future” rights not yet invented.
2. Getting paid on time
Your contract should always include how much you’re getting paid (either by hour or by project) and when the due date for payment is or a payment schedule (for example, 15% upfront, 40% on first draft, etc.). It’s often a good idea to have a late fee, typically 1.5% interest.
3. Kill fee (the right not to be left in the lurch)
Also called “early termination” fee, this is a pre-determined amount of money you’ll receive if the client terminates the contract early. A great way to protect yourself from clients who change their minds or cancel projects.
4. Reasonable revisions
You have the right to protect your own time and not give 20% of your clients 80% of your effort. Stipulate a reasonable number of revisions and the cost per revision for additional revisions.
Read more contract provisions every freelancer should know here. Again, for any legal advice about contracts and independent contractor status, contact an attorney.
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