Contracts are an infinitely important part of the transaction. You should never work without one. Why? Well, for one, and it should go without saying, you, as a freelancer, is technically selling a service. And every sale of service should be protected by some sort of legality or, in this case, a contract.
I always work with a contract. I don’t work without my client’s signature next to mine. I used not to, and have been screwed over a number of times, and now we’re here.
But why is it so important?
Contracts protect you and—more importantly—your clients
Your work will be defined, in detail, in a contract. This includes all the deliverables your client expects to receive throughout the duration of the project. Once your client signs, it means that all terms written in the contract is agreeable to them. Similarly, when you sign, it means that everything is agreeable to you. This protects your clients and you because you are legally bound to work together and finish the project. Any party who breaches the contract, of course, may be held responsible by law.
The project will, most likely, be finished
The way things work, projects protected with contracts usually get done. Unless one party doesn’t hold his/her end of the bargain, all tasks are usually finished from end-to-end.
It ascertains delivery of output, and delivery of, you know, ahem, payment
Contracts require you and the client to hold your respective ends of the bargain. In translation: if you’re a freelancer, the contract will require you to do the work, submit it on time, and satisfy the client altogether. If you’re the client, the contract will then require you to brief you about the project and pay you on the agreed upon time.
Contracts are huge for freelancers, and the reason is less self-directed as you might think. It is, in essence, a means through which you protect your client. Personally, I think it’s also the freelancer’s responsibility to produce it, and legally bind the client into the work.
So, as you take another project off the ground, keep in mind that contracts will make the work more secure, giving both your client and yourself some much-needed peace of mind.