Freelance Web Developer

How to be Well Protected?



By Lucas Louf

SKEMA Business School

Lille, France



Nowadays, lots of developers decide to work as a freelancer and it will certainly increase in the next years. Those developers are technically good, but they often have no legal backgrounds and, so they have no ideas on how to write a contract and what should be included in it. The aims of this paper are to identify the most important clauses in a freelance developer contract and compare those ones in the most popular templates. This analysis will help us to conclude that the template written by the AIGA, an American organization, is the best one to protect the freelance developers.

Key words: Contract, Web Developer, Intellectual Property, Freelance, Templates, Payment


The first references to “Freelance” date back to the 18th century. It was made up of two words at that time as written in the book Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott and it made a reference to mercenaries: « I offered Richard the service of my free lances […] ». Though the term still refers to the provision of services by independent people, it’s not limited anymore to the military field. With the advent of the Internet, new professions have significantly developed around freelance such as web developer or web designer. They represent today a large part of the 60 million freelancers in the United States. For companies wishing for more competencies and flexibility, and workers for more liberty, this trend is rising.

Even if freelancers are skillful in their respective areas, they are rarely armed to deal with negotiations and even less with contracts drafting while all their work relies primarily on these few sheets of papers. Although the contacts with the clients are often cordial, it is not unusual to face unscrupulous people and so to go to court for copyright case or disagreements on the post-project responsibilities. So, it is very important to have a tailored contract as detailed as possible about the service that will be proposed. We could consider being assisted by a lawyer, but this is rarely profitable for a freelancer or at least for a “new” one. Fortunately, nowadays lots of websites offer templates for different kind of contracts. This is the most suitable solution. However, they should be carefully chosen and eventually modified because they are not always exhaustive.


To summarize, we will identify the most important clauses and compare them in 5 of the most popular templates for freelance developers.



There are not as many contract templates as in the building field. However, some professional associations and some freelancers have written and shared contract templates. Here is the list of templates (for each of them, a link is provided in the bibliography), we will compare:

  1. AIGA
  2. Andy Clarke’s contract
  3. Jeremy Smith’s contract
  4. Ross Kimbarovsky’s contract
  5. Eric Adler’s contract


The attributes selected are the most important clauses regarding this kind of contract.

  1. Expectations and Responsibilities
  2. Independent contractor clause
  3. Work report
  4. Payment terms
  5. IP Rights
  6. Termination
  7. Legal Protection


To read entire paper, click here


Editor’s note: Student papers are authored by graduate or undergraduate students based on coursework at accredited universities or training programs.  This paper was prepared as a deliverable for the course “International Contract Management” facilitated by Dr Paul D. Giammalvo of PT Mitratata Citragraha, Jakarta, Indonesia as an Adjunct Professor under contract to SKEMA Business School for the program Master of Science in Project and Programme Management and Business Development.  http://www.skema.edu/programmes/masters-of-science. For more information on this global program (Lille and Paris in France; Belo Horizonte in Brazil), contact Dr Paul Gardiner, Global Programme Director [email protected]

About the Author

Lucas Louf

SKEMA Business School

Lille, France



Lucas LOUF is a French student passionate about web development and new technologies. He first trains as a general engineer at Iteem (Centrale Lille). During these studies, he does several internships as a web developer in e-business companies in both France and Netherlands helping him to obtain experience and technical skills in this field. He also discovers there the management of a web project with an Agile approach. In his final year of studies, this encourages him to follow a Master of Science in project management (PPMBD) at SKEMA Business School in parallel to an E-Business master at Centrale Lille.