Protect Your Ideas As a Freelancer

As a freelancer, you must share your ideas with others in order to make a living. Any time you pitch a feature concept to an editor, brainstorm at a board meeting or otherwise communicate your original thoughts to a third party, your ideas become vulnerable to theft. Be aware that you cannot legally protect freelance ideas; rather, you can only legally protect your unique, tangible expression of those ideas in the form of a finished product (articles, websites and program coding, etc.). For example, you can protect an article about dog walking with a copyright, but you cannot stop other people from acting on the idea to write about dog walking. Therefore, you must take careful measures if you are concerned with protecting freelance ideas. Here are steps you can take to protect your ideas as a freelancer without having to take trouble to read intellectual property law.


  1. Research the entities you plan on disclosing your ideas to. It is possible to get a lot of information by asking your industry contacts about and searching online accounts of the business practices used by any party or organization you hope to share your idea with. The best way to protect your ideas is to be choosy about with whom you share them.
  2. Avoid giving away any details when pitching your ideas to third parties. Otherwise, you may pitch your idea, only to find that it was developed by someone else, who was then given total credit for it.
    • Instead of expressing the complete who, what, where, when, why and how of your ideas, provide only a broad outline of your concept during your initial pitch in order to protect freelance ideas.
    • Present your idea in a way how trailers work for movies.They are catchy without giving away much of its scripts' content.
    • Don't ever give away the sources you plan on using to back your ideas. Instead, just assert that you have reliable, verifiable sources.
    • For example, when writing a query letter to an editor about your idea to investigate a black market ring operated by XYZ Enterprises, provide only vague details of the article you want to write: "I would like to uncover the alleged shady business practices of one of our county's largest retail manufacturers."
  3. Agree to provide complete details of a proposed work only once a commissioned deal has been arranged. This may be difficult to do unless you have a rapport with the entity you are submitting an idea to, but you should definitely attempt to procure an assurance of compensation for your finished product before you expound on the details of your idea. For example, you may present a concept outline, then offer to deliver an original work if, and only if, you are offered a contract with terms you agree to.
  4. Request confidentiality agreements before you reveal your ideas.
    • Confidentiality agreements, also called non-disclosure agreements or secrecy agreements, are contracts that 2 or more people enter into, in which they agree that certain disclosed information is kept confidential by all involved parties. These agreements can be used for protecting freelancing ideas, as well as for protecting any other type of intellectual property.
    • You can find confidentiality agreement templates online, on sites run by copyrighting agencies like the Intellectual Property Office, and use them to protect freelance ideas when you are pitching concepts to potential clients.


  • If you have shared your freelance idea with a third party and you are afraid that it may be stolen, you always have the option of taking your idea elsewhere in the attempt to develop it and get credit for it before the first party can use it. This is a way to protect freelance ideas in the event of a confidence breach.

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