Content Management Systems

How to Successfully Create and Manage Business Documents as a Freelancer

October 3, 2023

So, you’ve grown tired of your boss, have you? Well, you’re not alone. People from all industries and age ranges choose to pave their career paths. According to Zippia, today, there are over 70 million active freelancers in the US alone. And by 2029, there’ll be 90 million.

So, the future is freelance. And considering the flexible work hours, autonomy, and better pay, it’s easy to see why. But as with most good things, there’s a catch. Being your own boss means you have to deal with all the paperwork that comes with running a business.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about creating and managing freelance documents.

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What are 6 legal documents to start your freelance business?

As should always be the case, let’s start at the beginning. Setting up your freelance business is one of your career’s most important and paperwork-intensive stages. As such, you should approach it with due consideration.

To learn how to become a freelance writer, read the following article. Below, you’ll find the six legal documents necessary to start your freelance business off right.

1. Business Registration

The first business document you’ll work with is a business registration request. These differ between countries, but the information you’ll always need to submit includes:

  • Personal Information of All Involved Parties (You)
  • Physical Location of the Business Headquarters
  • The Company’s Organizational Structure

The last point is the only one you may have trouble with, so let’s discuss the available options. A freelancer can register their business as:

a) Self-Employment / Sole Proprietorship

Both terms describe the arrangement where you, a private person, act as a public entity (i.e., a business). In this case, the law doesn’t differentiate between personal and company income. So, you only have to pay taxes once.

This type of business is also very quick, easy, and affordable to register. But, it comes with a significant downside. You have to guarantee your company with your entire personal wealth. That means you may lose more than you made if you get into legal trouble.

b) LLC, S-Corp. and C-Corp

Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) and corporations are very different. But we don’t have all day to discuss their unique aspects, so here’s the TL;DR version instead.

As the name suggests, these types of companies offer limited liability. That means the courts can only touch the company’s assets, not yours. But, they’re much more costly to set up and take a while to register.

2. Business License

This legal document defines your ability and capacity to operate within a specific country, region, and industry. It’s different from place to place, so it’s always best to research your local regulations.

You only need a business license for specific industries (healthcare, finance, food services, etc.). Others are so-called “free industries” and allow anyone to start a business.

3. Company Bylaws/ Operating Agreement

Depending on your company’s structure, you may be legally required to write bylaws. These documents detail your business operations, terms of service, and other information.

Additionally, it’s crucial to create an LLC operating agreement, especially for limited liability companies, to establish the rights, responsibilities, and relationships among the members.

Example: As a copywriter, you can keep all rights to your intellectual property. This means that you can use them as much as you like in the future. Read the following article to learn how to succeed as a freelance writer.

Sole proprietorships don’t require bylaws or operating agreements. However, it’s still a good idea to write them. Doing so will allow you to communicate with your clients clearly and reach agreements faster.

4. Ownership / Partnership Agreeement

If you want to start a business with a friend or family member, you’ll have to write a partnership agreement. This document defines the terms of your partnership and how you’ll divide the company. Because of that, most people have lawyers write their contracts for them. They should include:

  • Share ownership for each party,
  • Roles, responsibilities, and decision-making abilities,
  • Division of profits and losses,
  • Strategies for handling internal disputes,
  • Buy-out process in case of one party’s departure.

Naturally, this may feel uncomfortable if you’re particularly close to your partner. But every relationship can turn sour, so having the business version of a prenup is never bad.

5. Vendor Agreement

Every business is a near-endless cycle of inputs and outputs. Therefore, you’ll likely be both a supplier and receiver at different times. In either situation, a vendor agreement is a great thing to have.

These are binding documents that define the terms of service for both parties. They include information like:

  • Types of goods/services,
  • Required quantity/quality,
  • Delivery times,
  • Payment times,
  • and more.

6. Non-Disclosure Agreement

NDAs are legal documents limiting parties’ ability to disclose confidential information. This can include deal specifics, business operations, and more. Breaking an NDA often comes with a significant fine.

These legal documents are helpful for companies of all sizes — even freelancers. You can use them to secure pricing, services, and more information.

What are 6 important document examples for freelancers?

So you’ve registered your business and legally defined all your important relationships. Great job. Now you can move onto — you guessed it — more paperwork!

Thankfully, with the right tools and templates, this will be more “paper” than “work.” And it’s absolutely essential since 78% of companies rely on freelancers these days. So, let’s look at the six important document examples every freelancer needs.

1. Project Proposal

Unfortunately, most freelancers don’t bother with project proposals. But they’re making a mistake. These business documents are great for presenting your professionalism and initiative.

Proposals define a project’s scope, objectives, timeline, and budget and are best suited to larger initiatives. And though they might sound time-intensive, they become a breeze once you prepare the outline.

example of a project proposal template

(Image Source: Smartsheet)

2. Price Quotation

A quote is one of the financial documents you’ll most often see as a freelancer. It serves as an offer and features the business details of both parties, a list of products/services, price, validity, and more.

One thing to note is that it’s not binding. Meaning the receiver can choose to accept or refuse it. On top of that, you can freely change the quote after its validity has elapsed. To create quotes quickly and simply, use the quote generator.


example of a written price quote

(Image Source: Billdu)

3. Contract

Contracts serve several purposes. First, they force you and your customers to uphold your ends of the deal. They also protect you from possible litigation and help boost customer satisfaction.

You can see these impacts through a Net Promoter Score survey sent out via a Retail Customer Experience Tool.

example of a lease agreement

(Image Source: Jotform)

4. Invoice

The next type of business document to consider is invoices. These financial documents serve both as proof of delivery and a payment request. On top of that, they’re also very important for taxes, customer disputes, and accounting.

You’ll be creating a lot of these in your freelancing career. But thankfully, you don’t have to spend too much time on them anymore. Solution like free online invoice generator streamline the creation process while maintaining a professional look and feel.

screenshot of Billdu free online invoice creator

(Image Source: Billdu)

But if you need a more robust solution, there are many other tools and software available for freelancers. For example, Refrens offers various customizable invoice templates as well as payment options and other services. It also has exceptional reviews and ratings with G2 and Capterra.

Refrens Capterra reviews

(Image Source: Capterra)

This and other invoicing software options come with advanced features, including:

example of an invoice

(Image Source: Billdu)

5. Feedback / Testimonial Form

Because humans are social creatures, the thoughts and opinions of others influence our own. So, reviews and testimonials very useful for freelancers seeking new clients.

Testimonials allow you to gather feedback, improve your products, and build trust. They also come in various forms, including:

  • Polls (ex., Google Forms)
  • LinkedIn Recommendations
  • Written Testimonials

Unfortunately, obtaining feedback can be rather difficult. So, don’t get discouraged if some clients refuse or ignore your request. Just be sure to craft a polite email inquiring about their satisfaction, ask permission to send them your form, and keep trying until you succeed.

example of a testimonial form

(Image Source: Jotform)

6. Retainer

An unfortunate reality of freelancing is that sometimes, work is hard to come by. Projects tend to be highly seasonal, so the best practice is to ensure you have regular income year-round with retainers.

Acting as contracts, these legal documents bind you and your customers to recurring work, weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Traditionally, they follow larger projects (e.g., website development and maintenance) but can also onboard you as an unofficial part of a company’s team (e.g., copywriting, graphic design, etc.).

example of a retainer agreement

(Image Source: Signaturely)

What are 4 more important document templates for freelancers?

Now that we’ve covered the most important freelance documents you’ll have to deal with, you might want to breathe a sigh of relief. However, you should add a few more business documents to your repertoire — just in case. These include:

1. Income Statements

​​These financial documents are also known as profit and loss and earning statements. They keep track of your freelance business’ revenue, expenses, and total net income/loss over time.

Larger companies use income statements for benchmarking, planning, and decision-making. But for freelancers, they’re most useful for tax compliance.

​​

example of an income statement

(Image Source: Zervant)

2. Balance Sheets

Balance sheets are like income statements in many ways. They provide a snapshot of your company’s financial status at a specific time. They’re also important for the same reasons as explained above.

However, their focus on your business assets, liabilities, and shareholder equities differs. This is particularly useful for starting an LLC or Corporation with a partner.

example of a balance sheet

(Image Source: Vertex42)

3. Intellectual Property Documentation

IP business documents are particularly important for freelancers in the creative industries. These business documents can protect your intellectual property rights and limit IP use by other parties.

Intellectual property primarily relates to articles, marketing copy, designs, and other intangible assets. IP documentation is important for several more reasons, including:

  • Theft protection,
  • Monetization,
  • Brand recognition,
  • and more.
intellectual property agreement

(Image Source: Signaturely)

4. CV / Resume / Portfolio

Last but certainly not least, let’s touch on marketing yourself. Although a resume or portfolio isn’t required to land a job, having one can help you get better, higher-profile gigs.

Depending on your industry, you can choose the document format and content that lends itself best to showcasing your value. These can include case studies, snippets, screenshots, results, testimonials, or even full work samples. Applicants who have updated resumes that were written with the help of an AI resume writer are more likely to be chosen because they will be able to showcase their talents and tenacity. Additionally, by creating and uploading a CV, freelancers with expertise in the sought-after industry will help the teams in charge of selection by better highlighting their qualifications.

example of resume

(Image Source: Kickresume)

What are 4 successful ways to manage important documents as a freelancer?

Finally, before we leave you off, we best address the elephant in the room — how are you supposed to keep track of all of these documents?!

It may seem daunting, but don’t worry. You no longer have to rely on folders and desk drawers for storage. So, here are the four best practices to help you manage your freelance documents.

1. Keep it digital

As stated above, paper isn’t how to keep your office tidy and mentally fit. We recommend you digitize all your old paperwork and stick to document makers in the future for maximum efficiency.

2. Centealize document storage

Freelancers don’t tend to be the most organized people — you work when and where you want/need and worry about the rest later. However, ensuring you always save the documents related to your freelance business in one place will save you a lot of stress in the long run.

Choose your favorite cloud-based storage service (Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, etc.). While cloud storage keeps your files safe, digital asset management software organizes and optimizes them, making it an essential tool for businesses to maintain streamlined access and maximize the value of their digital content.

3. Establish a clear naming and labeling policy

By now, you’ve seen that there are far too many types of documents to keep track of on your own, even without all your project-related files. Thankfully, you can make life easier for yourself with accurate naming and labeling.

Make sure to account for:

  • Document Type
  • Topic/Use-Case
  • Client Name

4. Implement backup/disaster recovery

After all that, you don’t want to lose all your progress, do you? So, creating a backup is in your best interest – just in case.

Download your work-related data to a hard drive. Keep physical copies of the most vital documents. Create a copy on another cloud-storage solution.

The choice is yours. Just make sure you do something.

Conclusion: Did you get an overview of important documents for freelancers?

See? We didn’t lie when we said there was more to freelancing than first met the eye. Despite that, you shouldn’t feel discouraged. Millions of people have made the freelance lifestyle work for them, so there’s no reason you should be different.

The important thing is you take setting up your business seriously. Be purposeful in your document management, and don’t leave anything to chance. Take the information featured in this article to heart, and you’ll be sure to thrive, not just survive.

We wish you the best of luck and hope to see you in another one of our articles. Happy freelancing!

David Facko
Dávid Fačko is an SEO and Content Specialist at Billdu, one of the world’s best-rated invoicing software for freelancers and SMBs.
David Facko
Dávid Fačko is an SEO and Content Specialist at Billdu, one of the world’s best-rated invoicing software for freelancers and SMBs.