Freelance writers may be asked to sign a non-compete or non-solicitation agreement. This agreement generally asks that you refrain from pursuing your clients’ clients, customers or so on, deeming your signature as an agreement to that. It may also ask that you refrain from stealing your client's ideas or proprietary products.
When Will I Be Asked to Sign a Non-Compete or Non-Solicitation Agreement?
Freelance writers may run into this often when subcontracting. That is, if a writing agency or marketing company hires you to perform writing or editorial work on something for their client, the agreement will ask that you not directly approach their client to compete for that work. This situation is somewhat common in the freelance writing field.
Another function of this particular agreement is barring you from stealing your client's idea (i.e. you cannot compete with your client! Get it?) So, if a client needs to tell you about their super-awesome-never-before-seen-app before they can explain their editorial needs to you, they may ask you to sign a non-compete saying you won't steal their super cool app idea.
What to Look For in a Non-Compete Agreement
Some points to look for specifically in non-compete agreements are limits of time and limits of geography. For example, your client may ask you not to compete for their clients for a space of two years, or not to compete for any similar clients who are in their immediate geographic area. After that time, or outside of that area, the agreement is null, and you could potentially approach their clients or neighboring interests.
Freelancers should retain a lawyer for the most important documents related to their business. As an alternative, your professional union (such as the National Writers Union) may offer you advice or a contract template. They may even provide such things for free or low-cost for their union members. This is especially important in this case, as non-compete agreements are notoriously contested.
However, the following contract template is provided so that you may become familiar with the common document, or begin to draft a copy yourself with later support from a professional.
Contract Template: Typical Language of a Non-compete Agreement
- I. Freelancer agrees via signature below that they will not approach nor compete for client’s accounts without prior formal consent of Company Name at any time during the contracted course of your retention, and/or for a time of (Enter Time Period Here) after freelancer and Company terminate project contract.
- II. This non-competition agreement is deemed effective whether freelancer leaves voluntarily, or is involuntarily terminated. It also stands effective in spite of any other breach of associated contract.
- III. This non-competition agreement fairly covers actions interpreted as either direct or indirect at the discretion of Company.
- IV. This non-competition agreement applies to the freelancer as an individual and also to any other company, partnership, employee relationship, contracted relationship or similar that the freelancer enters into.
- V. This non-competition agreement is null outside of the area of (insert geographic area here).
Your signature below notes that you agree with the restrictions I-V above, and that the above agreement is reasonable and valid. You furthermore note that these provisions are a reasonable and valid action taken by Company in its course of protection of its own interests.
Conclusion: Your Non-Compete Agreement
That's it! It's a fairly straightforward agreement, and one that freelancers will often be asked to sign prior to beginning larger projects, or when contracting with bigger companies who have such clauses in their regular formal contracts.
Tips for the Non-Compete Agreement Contract Template
- Instead of a separate agreement altogether, non-compete agreements are often part of, or a clause within, a more formal contract.
- Non-compete agreements are sometimes called non-solicitation agreements or non-solicitation clauses. However, there are some specific legal differences that are beyond our need and my expertise. Again, this highlights the writer's need for professional legal counsel.
- Most aspects of contracts are somewhat negotiable. If you're not comfortable with what your client wants you to sign, make sure you check in with them.
- The writer's number one responsibility in this matter is double-checking the time limits. You don't want to be restricted forever from working for the most lucrative companies, publishers or clients. And, let's face it: if you've done their work as a subcontractor, you should be able to cut out the middleman and do it directly for them, right?