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Anatomy of a Contract
If you are like us, you are dreaming of the perfect freelance designer lifestyle. But one thing needs to be clear: Do not start any work without a contract.
It is there for a reason; to protect you and your client. It is mutually beneficial. The client will know what to expect, while you are protected from liability, from not getting paid, from doing extra work. It is your guidance, your confirmation, and your ticket out of there if things go unexpectedly wrong.
The basic elements of a contract are as follows:
1. The Brief
While not strictly part of the contract, you should never have one without the other. The brief will make all essential information about the project clear to both you and your client, and help in keeping expectations on the same page. It will act as a map that you can refer back to throughout the length of the project, to make sure you are still on track.
2. The Deliverable
Is everyone on the same page in terms of what the final product consists of? What will it look like, what format will it be in, and which timeline will be followed? You will want to cover every aspect of your work in detail.
3. The Money
How and when will you get paid? By whom? In what form? Will you get paid at all? Do not be naive; the dream of free design work is very much alive. So figure out whether you want to be paid upfront, at the end of your work, or a little bit of both. Nail it down. You will be glad you did.
4. The Ownership
Who owns what once the project is over? Copyright is an important subject, especially if you are using elements for your work that you have used before or will probably use again. Do you want to retain some rights after the job has been completed, or will you hand over all of the rights to the client? If your client is providing artwork, be sure they are not copyrighted materials. Just to be on the safe side, have a statement in your contract assuring you will not be held liable for using any copyrighted work that was handed to you by your client.
5. The Work after The Work
Imagine finishing a job only to have the client pester you for innumerable revisions, or to ask you to continue maintaining the content. Or what if a mistake is found post-design? How long can you be held responsible for this, and will you be called back to fix things? Your contract should cover these situations.
6. The Secret Stuff
In case you are working on a project that is still unannounced, make sure you know if your client does not want you to talk about it in public. A confidentiality clause will make expectations clear.
7. I Quit
If for any reason one or both parties want to pull out, it is good to have a cancellation clause drafted. This way, clients are bound to any requirements, such as payment.
Tips for Writing a Contract
For most of us, just the thought of writing a contract results in equal amounts of trepidation and boredom. Relax— we’ve got a few tips to help you get started:
1. Brutal Honesty
Have a pre-contract chat that will clarify the most basic things, for instance, what you are willing to do and what you are not so hot on.
2. Less is More
Nobody likes to feel stupid, and while contracts may sound great in lawyer-language, the truth is, if you use too much jargon, nobody will know what is going on. And complex contracts add to the confusion, leading to disagreements. Instead, try to make each section a bite-sized, easily digestible bit of content.
3. Keep it Crystal Clear
Do you have a million and one ideas for every project? Defining objectives ahead of time is crucial. This way, even if you don not fulfill your wishful thinking, you can still be sure you have met all of the requirements.
Try and write a new contract for each job. This way, you will avoid generic, irrelevant contracts. Tailor something specifically to the design task ahead.
5. Know your Stuff
Research and understand each section. Sleep on it before sending the contract to your lawyer for approval.
6. It’s OK to Find Comfort in a Template
Which is why we have made one contract available online for you to download, customize and use for your next job. Cheers! We got ya.
Sources: [These should follow the APA citation style.]
- Docracy - Free Legal Documents. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2015, from http://www.docracy.com/649dkpe7g9/contract-killer-3
- The Collective Legal Guide For Designers (Contract Samples) – Smashing Magazine. (2013, April 3). Retrieved May 16, 2015, from http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2013/04/03/legal-guide-contract-samples-for-designers/
- Tuts Free Web Design Tutorials. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2015, from http://webdesign.tutsplus.com/articles/writing-the-perfect-web-design-contract--webdesign-3025mples-for-designers/
- Useful Legal Documents For Designers (PDF/DOC) – Smashing Magazine. (2012, August 15). Retrieved May 16, 2015, from http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/08/15/free-download-useful-legal-documents-for-designers-pdf/