Real Estate Client Question: What is "Work Product" and If I Outsource, Who Owns the Work?

Work product is the result of work. It’s that simple. When hiring work done by a Remote Professional, “work product” is the end product of that contracted labor. That may be a website, an article, a database, a marketing plan, a business plan, a logo, or anything else you pay to have produced. Once you have paid for the work done, the work belongs to you, not the person doing the work.

Exceptions to this general rule may apply if you sign a contract assigning rights to the work product to the contractor. You may be working with an individual who requires this, but this is not the “norm.” Most professionals understand that work or hire means that the end result belongs to the person (or business) hiring the work done and paying for that work. Some contractors will offer a reduced rate if they can link their business to your work product through display in an online or offline portfolio. To do so, they must have a contract which states that they have that right, or you must give them the right to do so.

When reviewing a work for hire agreement or any similar contract, you should make sure you are not limited in the way you can use or alter the work product you hired. Once you pay for a product, the way you choose to use or alter it may change. Keep your options open whenever possible. If you have a question about the way a portion of you contract or agreement reads, ask that the outsourcing provider clarify the language before you sign off. Now is NOT the time to be shy.

Some clients are proud to have their own work product displayed on a professional’s site as an example. It is an honor if an outsourcing professional considers your project an example of their best work. And, it’s always nice for a client to offer credit in the form of a web link or a small mention, but it’s not required and it’s not “standard procedure” without a contract that specifies those particulars. Be sure any permission to do so is offered by you, in writing — an email is fine.

Why should you permit someone else to display your stuff? You should do so if they give you a link back, or if your contact information remains intact in order to help boost your own marketing. I had one client for website content who had not yet submitted to the search engines. As soon as the site was up, I added his link to my site (in the form of a glowing testimonial, which I really appreciated). Within days, his site had been spidered and he had broken the “Google” barrier. The link from my established site helped to give his site a leg up. This client was kind enough to offer me a link with credit as the content and marketing guru for his site. It was a mutually beneficial exchange.

Why should you offer links to a contractor on your site? Because it makes them adore you. It’s a nice thing to do and it breeds goodwill. If their site is a well-done, quality site offering reciprocal links helps you both. If you are working with the “cream-of-the-crop” outsourcing companies and remote professionals, declaring that relationship boosts you both. It advertises that you use the best, and it helps remote professionals advertise that they have the best clients.

Whatever you decide, be sure you and your potential contractor both understand and agree to a mutually beneficial work product agreement. If you are working with a contractor for the first time, you may want to secure a contract before work begins. Taking a few extra moments now to discuss and agree on the particulars may create a more enjoyable work experience long-term.

Note: The above is for informational purposes only. If you have a contractual question, a dispute, or other concerns, you should contact your attorney for advice.