Erm…Should I really be signing an NDA from the outset? Is this normal?
When freelancing or contracting for larger businesses, it’s completely normal that you’re asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). As an SEO freelancer, I often find it odd if I’m not asked to sign an NDA when doing white label work for an agency or another freelancer!
So, every now and then, a client may ask you to sign a non-disclosure agreement or NDA.
Although, the first time you’re asked to sign one, it may seem slightly sinister – why are you being asked to sign something so stringent and formal?
The reasons will vary slightly, but generally, they exist to protect potentially sensitive information, a way of legally binding the signee to confidentiality.
In this article, we take a closer look at what NDAs are for and whether or not you should sign them as a freelancer.
Why do NDAs exist?
When hiring freelancers, businesses essentially share sensitive information with someone they may never meet in person.
When you think about it from the client’s perspective, it makes complete sense that they try to legally protect themselves in this sort of situation.
You may have an excellent reputation in whatever field you work in, but you’re still an unknown entity.
Non-disclosure agreements aren’t only for freelancers; many professions that handle sensitive information require their employees to sign NDAs, such as the legal profession!
While they’re common, that’s not to say that it’s always a good idea to sign one. Below, we look at some of the positives and negatives of signing an NDA as a freelancer.
One of the positives of signing an NDA is that it clearly specifies what you can and can’t share about the project in the future. This is especially useful when using a project as an example for future potential clients.
A client who wants you to sign an NDA will also be more likely to sign any contracts you require, offering you further protections – it works both ways!
One of the main downsides to signing NDAs is that it will probably mean you can’t use the work as an example to show future clients. This won’t be an issue if only a low percentage of the work you do requires one, but if it’s a high percentage, you may end up with a worryingly small shareable portfolio.
If you’re established in your field, this may not be an issue, but it’s worth thinking about.
NDAs may also stipulate that you don’t work with any of the client’s competitors for a certain period of time. If they’re operating in a niche you specialise in, that may be neither possible nor practical.
You can always take the matter up with the client and see if they’re willing to make exceptions, but you don’t want to limit the clients you can take on in the future.
Remember to read the NDA
Many people tend to ignore legal documents, skip to the bottom, and click/sign without a second thought.
This really should go without saying, but don’t do that with work contracts, and especially not NDAs.
At the end of the day, only you can decide if you should sign the NDA, and you’ll need to carefully read it to decide whether or not it makes reasonable requests.
If you’re unsure, speak to a lawyer who deals specifically with these sorts of things. Regardless of the contract size, you’re always better off speaking to a dedicated professional if you’re unsure about signing something you don’t fully understand.