A reader writes:

I started my own freelancing business and I just lost one of my clients.  I hired a freelancer to do the code work and then he and my client started meeting secretly, and now they've dropped me completely and are working with each other.  Is there anything I can do about that?  How do I make sure that doesn't happen again?

So your developer and your client ran off together?? That sucks!  Really, that's a tough thing to wrap your mind around.  Freelancers know - cultivating a lead and converting them to a client is a very long and arduous road. Having someone you brought in to help you then steal that relationship you spent time on like that is killer.  I don't think there's anything you can do about this particular incident unless you had contracts in place, which I don't think you did.

Project management freelancing can be rough.  So many clients, developers, and designers think that they can lead project work themselves and "why do we need a PM?" Our value isn't always as tangible as a developer or a designer, but you can feel it when things start going off the rails.  So, it's possible that this client and developer may someday realize that they needed a PM after all.  You can tell them to pound sand and find someone else, since you're going to start having some agreements and safeguards in place.

Since I'm not a lawyer, I can't really give you specific advice on how to create your agreement.  But head on over to Freelancer's Union and try out their contract builder.  You can also use a legal consultant or website like LegalZoom to find agreements that fit the kind of work you do.  And if a client or another contractor wants you to sign *their* agreement, make sure you look it over to find the things that protect YOU, not just them.

I'm sorry this happened to you and I hope it's the last time it does.  Good luck!