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Best practices

Using an editorial agreement

The process of identifying and writing out the requirements of a project is valuable both for freelance editors and for in-house editors. Working out expectations before you start a project will contribute both to its success and to your job satisfaction.

No matter what the document is called – a statement of work, a job description, a project plan – a written agreement clarifies expectations between you and the person overseeing the job and provides an opportunity to discuss potential problems. It should be as comprehensive as possible. If, later in the project, you realize that something was overlooked or that the conditions have changed, the plan can easily be amended.

The following guidelines apply specifically to Editors Canada’s Agreement Template for Editing Services, but the principles are equally applicable to other kinds of editorial agreements.

Preparing and signing the contract

Early in your relationship with the client, mention that you use an Agreement Template for Editing Services and that you will present a draft contract for discussion. Some clients may prefer to use their own standard contract or a letter of intent. When discussing the job with the client, gather the basic information using the blank Agreement Template for Editing Services as a checklist. Several conversations might be needed before all of the issues are covered.

After you and your client reach a satisfactory oral agreement, fill out the form. Pay particular attention to what is included under “editorial tasks” and under “special clauses” (for example, whether all or part of the work may be subcontracted, who may authorize significant changes to the project or provide final sign-off, whether late fees will apply, whether you will receive a complimentary copy of the work).

Once you have filled out the agreement – but before you sign it – give it to your client for review. If your client is satisfied that it fairly represents the oral agreement that you reached, ask him or her to make a copy of it and to sign both copies, indicating the company’s full name as well.

If your client requests changes before signing and you agree with those changes, have the client incorporate them in both copies of the agreement, initial each change, sign the agreements, and return the copies to you.Reread the agreement, initialing the changes if you agree with them, and sign the contract. If you do not agree with a change, advise your client and renegotiate. Sign the copies only when the document is satisfactory to both of you; return one copy to the client and keep the other for your records.

During the discussions on the financial and other aspects of the contract, it is important to be open and honest with the client. Good communication at this point will serve you well throughout the project, especially if you need to amend the agreement.

Changing the signed contract

New issues may arise as the project evolves; in a long-term project, changes to the scope or the nature of the project can be expected. If, for example, you are called upon to do additional work or take on different responsibilities, be sure to negotiate appropriate additional charges. If material is late coming in, discuss the repercussions with the client and renegotiate the schedule or fee, if necessary.

Any change to the Agreement Template for Editing Services must be agreed upon by the editor and the client and, as stated right on it, made in writing. Make sure that the written amendment is signed and dated.

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