It’s a common misconception that contracts aren’t really necessary, especially if you’re working for someone you know. However, no matter who your client is, it’s always beneficial to both parties to set clear terms that you both agree on before you start a project. This prevents any problems from occurring later down the line.
Whether you’re a freelance designer, business coach, photographer, artist or any other kind of service based business owner, if you want to be professional, you need to be writing up contracts for your clients.
But don’t worry! It’s not as hard as it sounds. Once you have a contract written it can be quickly and easily amended for each client you get, so you don’t have to start from scratch every time. In today’s blog post I’ll be giving you some guidelines of what you should include in your contract.
P.s. I’ve also created a FREE contract template at the end of this post, so don’t miss it!
What should I include in my contract?
Contact terms will vary depending on what kind of creative business you own and the services you offer, but you can use these steps as a guide for what to include in yours.
Project Overview & Timeline
Start the contract by giving an overview of the project. In this section you want to address the client’s business name, personal name and email address, along with your own business name. This establishes who the agreement involves.
Next you want to give your project a name and define and the start and end date. It’s always a good idea to determine a set timeline for the project, as it helps ensure both parties stick to deadlines so the project doesn’t drag on.
Then highlight the purpose of the contact, which is to define the working terms between both parties.
Next you want to inform your client of their responsibilities throughout the project.
You can only stick to the project timeline if you have all the files and information you need for the project so it’s important your client understands they need to ensure all documents, information and feedback is carried out on time in order for you to stay on schedule.
Also make sure they understand it’s their responsibility to proofread and check they are happy with any final designs/products/copy before payment is made.
Copyright & Credit
In this section, you should establish the rights of ownership for any work produced within the project timeline. Most of the time designer holds ownership and copyright until client makes the final payment and the files are handed over. Then the client holds the copyright.
Other things to consider mentioning:
- Do you want to be able to share samples of your work on your website or for promotional purposes?
- Do you want credit to be given on any promotions where your work is featured?
- Are they allowed to alter your work?
As you will be working for the client, you may have access to important information about their business, that they wouldn’t want leaked. This could consist of future projects, business information, marketing strategies etc. You should agree to protect confidentiality of this information.
Revisions and Alterations
This is where you should state the amount of the revisions or alterations that included at each stage the project. Then explain the additional cost if any further revisions are required. Eg. You bill the client at an hourly rate. Then ensure the client understands that further revisions could extend the project deadline.
It’s easy to get caught up trying to please the client and end up doing unpaid work. This makes sure that you have boundaries when it comes to making amendments and prevents your time from being wasted.
Payment & Expenses
This section should act as an overview for the payment expectations of the project. If you require a non-refundable deposit before you start the work, then make sure to mention that.
Inform the client that full payment must be made before you will hand over any files to the client. It’s also a good idea to note that if the client doesn’t pay on time, you will suspend the work and withhold any documents until payment is made. This protects you from clients walking away without paying.
Think about what you want to happen if the client requests additional resources outside the agreed service price. Eg. Your web design client is requesting a specific font or stock photo. Are you going to bill them for additional expenses?
What will happen if the client cancels the project before its complete? What if they cancel after all the work has been produced? Do you request the full amount to be paid anyway as you’ve put in the time? Or would you rather charge them based on the percentage of work you’ve completed? Make sure to state your terms to protect yourself and your time.
Limitation of liability
The last step is to cover yourself legally incase for whatever reason you can’t fulfil the project timeline or needs. Ask the client to agree to not to hold you liable if this happens.
How do I send the contract to the client?
Emailing your client the document, expecting them to print it out, sign it, scan it back in and email it back to you is a very long winded process, not to mention your clients may not have a printer or scanner.
I discovered a free website called hellosign.com that takes care of this for you. The website allows you to sign the contract electronically and then send it to your client to do the same. It allows you to upload your signature and save the contract document online so it’s quick and easy to send to your next client.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and this blog post shouldn’t be taken as legal advice.
If you are unsure of any legal issues, you should consult with a lawyer.