Alright as promised here is the post where I talk about my design contract: what’s in it and why. First I guess you’ll want to actually see the contract, which you can here. This contract was actually originally from Satori Graphics on YouTube which you can see with my old branding here. After working with his contract for a few projects and learning some different things that I needed to add I edited it and added some stuff which you can see on the contract from the first link. There are basically two parts to this contract which I will break down for y’all now:
Photo Credits: Cameron Fowler via Cam Fowler Designs
Ok so first on my contract I have a few sections that pertain to the type and scope of the project as well as some stuff about cost, deposits and timing. Since starting CFD and working with the first contract I learned (the hard way) that having these fine details outlined in the contract is a must. Otherwise it can end very poorly for myself. I have been lucky and only had about two people that were nightmare clients that are the reason why I have these sections in the contract but trust me it helps. It’s kind of like insurance.
Having the package and what services are included in the package has helped keep me from clients who try to pack in a bunch of stuff that costs more without paying more. I had one client who was a custom consulting client who I mistakenly did not have sign a contract over the summer and they made out like a bandit. So now those details are actually in the contract for both design and my consulting services.
I also have the overall price of design and deposit in the contract to make sure clients don’t skip out on payment or if the project gets cancelled after I’ve already done work I still get paid at least a percentage of the work I’ve done. Thankfully that part I haven’t really had to enforce with clients. Overall I’ve been lucky to work with people who have a good work ethic and conduct themselves with integrity.
I also included the timelines and set number of revisions in there because I did have one project that took way too long because the client kept making small revisions and nitpicking a design. It ended up taking what was supposed to be a 2 week project 5 months to finish. So now I just have that in the contract to avoid any potential time/money wasting issues. As a brand strategist and designer it is really important to make sure that my time is protected because a lot of the time it equals money for me.
Lastly in this section I have a little blurb about ownership and what I can and cannot do with what I create for clients. I have had projects in the past where they wanted me to sign and NDA which I have no problem doing but I have this as my standard so I can still build my portfolio and make money. I also might put in there that I will not be posting about the project until after the client launches the finished product but I’m not sure yet if it is even necessary as I tell clients that during the onboarding process anyways.
Photo Credits: Cameron Fowler via Cam Fowler Designs
,So personally I feel like part two of the contract is the most important because this is the part that gives me legal protection in case I have a crappy client who thinks suing a small business for any arbitrary reason is ok. I haven’t had to enforce this part with my clients but it does give me peace of mind especially when I hear about other designer’s nightmare client horror stories. And I also have always been one to try to stay prepared so as not to come across easily avoidable problems.
Section 5 is really important because it gives an out for me and my client just in case it’s needed, but this out is more if like they don’t like what I’m making or if I decide it is no longer worth the headache to work with them. The other section that goes along with this, but is for reasons outside of either the client or I’s control, is section 9. I ended up adding section 9 because of covid and the uncertainty that comes with trying to survive in a pandemic. And I am really glad I put it in because I did have a client that needed to use this clause in the contract because they had gotten covid pretty bad and were out for about a month before we could resume with the project. I am still looking into what to put in the contract in the event that either I or the client dies during the project but am still debating about how/what to do for that. But other than that I’d say having these two sections is really important especially in today’s world.
Section 6 will typically have different timing for when the project times out, it just really depends on the scope of the project. I find this to be important because I really don’t want to have to spend extra time on stuff that is technically done. But sometimes a client will need extra time to think about the designs or the strategy and so this just makes sure that it is within reason.
Section 7 is the other side of the coin. Like say for example if I am doing a website for a client and something major changes in the business and they need the copywriting to be changed after the design is finished. But if it is after the 60 days they will have to open up a new project with new fees and such. Thankfully I haven’t really had to tell clients about this part in detail for what it means because they will usually come to me after a time (longer than 60 days) for new stuff that they want to work together on.
Section 8 ties into the project scope in the beginning of the contract and is really about how if they start trying to add in a bunch of stuff but don’t understand that the price will also change with each new service/thing. If I had to re-order my contract I’d probably put this section closer to the beginning like maybe put it as section 5 and move everything down. But I really am liking this current contract so I most likely won’t make edits to it until after graduation next year.
Section 10 is necessary because some clients have grandiose ideas or expectations about what my work actually produces for them in terms of money, and so this is just like a little bit of extra protection for myself and my business just in case. I also make sure to not over promise in my own advertising or when talking to clients about the project, and I never put in what I think will result from working with me in project proposals just in case. Usually, if the client utilizes what I’ve created for them properly, the results are beyond what even sometimes I expect them to be. But every now and then a client will not necessarily do things the right way and the results are minimal in terms of roi (return of investment). I stand by my work, but I also know that for the clients who do one off projects there can be stuff that goes wrong on their end and I don’t want my work to end up being blamed for it.
The second to last, section 11, is to just be an overall protection for both myself and the client just in case. And just to clarify I have wonderful clients and the contracts have never had to be referred to after signing, but it is just an insurance type of thing just in case. I find that having a contract is super important especially for when I choose to start trying to grow my business and start looking for clients outside of word of mouth/repeat clients. I’ll will probably be using it more after graduation when I have the time to focus all my energy on CFD.
Section 12 is to make sure that the client and I agree that we are signing the contract of our own volition and ability, and have the legal right to do so as representatives of our own companies. And lastly we have the signing of the contract. So, there is a reason why I am writing about my own contract in this post and that is because I firmly believe that ALL service based businesses need to have contracts set up to protect themselves and their businesses. Just like how driving a car without auto insurance is risky as hell and can cause some serious issues, operating a business without contracts can leave you in some serious legal trouble. It’s not a guarantee that they will be needed, but it is better to have and not need than to need and not have.