This post is from a member of Freelancers Guild, a network of lawyers committed to helping freelancers. Need help dealing with a legal issue? Download the Freelancers Union app!

Freelancers tend to be independent types, but there are instances where two or more of us will get together to handle a project bigger than any one of us can handle. Whether it’s a passion project you’re working on with your associates or a dual proposal for a client, freelancers working together need to define their relationship.

Without a written contract, an otherwise successful partnership can lead to misunderstandings, conflict and disputes down the road that can be just as costly as any disagreement with a client or vendor.

Keeping the band together

Just like a rock band or a movie crew, each member of the freelance team should know what he or she is getting out of any deal that involves the work they are doing or the intellectual property they are creating. It helps to have all the issues squared away before you meet with the client or Hollywood starts calling. If you wait too long, anger, resentment and litigation could tear the team apart just when things start to take off.

That is where the collaboration agreement comes in.

Putting the ducks in a row

A well drafted collaboration contract contains several elements, including:

  1. Who is responsible for creating each element of the work?
  2. Who is the primary contact for the client?
  3. What is the timeline for the work to be done?
  4. How and when will the revenue be distributed?
  5. Who has decision making authority for what elements of the work?
  6. What happens if someone leaves the team before the work is done?
  7. How is the intellectual property going to be distributed between each freelancer (if the client isn’t going to own it)?

While the contract can be overly complex with just these elements, the best agreements address these issues without a large amount of legal gymnastics.

At the same time, the elements of a collaboration agreement should not conflict with the terms of any contract with the client. Your legal advisor can review both contracts to ensure there is harmony between them.

Other options

In other cases, one freelancer will engage the client and subcontract elements of the job to other freelancers in their network (which will be the subject of another post). In some instances, teams of freelancers can join together and form a separate company to manage their growing business.

In all those cases, as with the collaboration agreement described here, a contract should be in place before any work is done to protect the rights of each freelancer in relation to each other as well as to the client.

Gamal is one of the founding members of the Freelancers Guild. His twenty year career has focused on artists and freelancers. His areas of expertise include contract drafting and analysis, copyright and trademark registration, corporate formation, and employment contracts. He’s done work for individual freelancers and companies as large as Marvel Entertainment.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS POST DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE AND DOES NOT ESTABLISH AN ATTORNEY CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WITHOUT THE EXISTENCE OF AN INDIVIDUAL ENGAGEMENT LETTER BETWEEN YOU AND C3. IF YOU HAVE A LICENSING OR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ISSUE, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT gamalhennessy@gmail.com FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.