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Freelancer's Legal Rights When Working For A Client

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The thought of becoming a freelancer can be a very enticing one. The idea of being your own boss, working the hours you wish and performing your duties from anywhere are certainly appealing. However, freelance work is not the same as being a traditional employee who works for a company. Freelancers need to know what their legal rights are when working with any client, and before they start a project.

Freelancers Do Not Have Employment Rights

Unlike working with a company, a freelancer does not have the same employment rights as an employee does. This means, you are not entitled to health insurance provided through the company, holiday or vacation pay, sick leave, maternity pay or company pension plans. You will also not qualify to use the company's internal means for solving conflicts with project managers or other employees.

An employee who is under contract might have protection against wrongful dismissal; however, as a freelancer, you would need to ensure your contract has provisions for any project cancellation fees to ensure you get paid if the project is cancelled before you are done.

What Rights Do Freelancers Have?

A freelancer is fully entitled to retain ownership over their work if no payment has been made for any part of the work. If they are a writer, it is possible they may retain ownership over their work if they have stipulated the work is only leased out for usage rights to the company. This means, the company may use the work provided in the manner agreed upon, but they don't own it.

If a freelancer should complete projects on a 'work for hire' basis, all rights for that work are transferred to the client after payment is made under copyright law. A freelancer may choose to place into their contracts whether they receive partial payment upfront or receive the entire payment once the work has been completed. 

A freelancer should always make sure they fully understand and agree with the contract before signing it. If the company and the freelancer agree the work is leased on a per use basis, the freelancer may still showcase the piece in their portfolio, provided the company agrees. If you have more information, speak with someone from an employment law firm.


A freelancer should know they are completely responsible for submitting their own taxes to the government. A company may provide a W9 form (provided the freelancer earned enough to warrant it) but it is up to the individual to file their own taxes. This also means making sure they have put enough away to pay for any money they owe.