If you’re a creative and you work directly with people, then you need a contract. Even if you’re just covering yourself and making sure that you get paid for those all of those hours that you put into that project. If you’ve ever had a nightmare client or had to chase down a late payment, then you already know how important your contract is to your business.
Kory here! A few years ago I had a total nightmare experience with a client. Things went off track, and before I knew it there were PayPal disputes and threats to take me to court. Although I ultimately bent to wrap things up, I actually had several terms in my contract that protected me from the situation. To help others avoid a similar situation, today we’re cover the 4 most important terms to have in your contract to protect you and your clients.
Payments and Refunds
The first and probably most obvious thing you’ll want to cover is payments and refunds. Specifically, how you accept payments. Some people prefer checks, others are fine with being paid online. This needs to be in your contract because sometimes clients will expect one thing, but you work another way.
More importantly, though, is when the payments will be due. Most designers take half of the project cost up front and the other before the end of the project. You want to make sure you’re clear about this, especially if you take additional payments, so your clients know what to expect.
Going right along with payments would be refunds. You may not think you’d ever be in a situation to worry about refunds, but it’s still important to cover just in case. You want to include whether or not you include refunds, as well as at what point you won’t offer a refund anymore.
Term and Termination
With so many designers offering ongoing work for their clients, it’s definitely worth mentioning how long the contract will be in effect. If you’re just doing the one project, then mention that the contract terms will expire when the project is over. However, if you’re going to be doing monthly work for your client, you’ll want to include how many months the contract is in effect.
Another thing you’ll want to cover is what happens if the project is terminated. I’ve had to cancel with a few clients, and Krista has as well, so we know just how important it is to cover this. One part of this is obviously the refund, but what happens to any work that was created? Will you turn anything over to them? What will you do with their content? As much as we don’t want to think about a project ending badly, you still have to cover these things in your contract.
This one seems tricky for some small business owners, but rights are vital to cover when you’re a designer. Most people want to retain all of the rights when they’re just getting started, but I’ve found it’s a lot easier to turn over most of the rights to my clients. However, it’s still important to make sure they know if the rights are limited. For example, if you don’t want your clients to manipulate your designs or use them in certain ways, you have to mention this in your contract.
Another thing to think about is what rights, if any, you’ll retain. I always retain the right to show off my work and use it for promotional materials, but we have heard of clients requesting designers to not show the work in their portfolio. This is why it’s important to make sure it’s clear right in your contract whether or not you want to be able to retain those rights.
The Legal Stuff
At the end of your contract, you’ll want to include the big deal lawyer stuff. It’s okay to get this part from a template or a peer, but you want to make sure that it’s actually going to protect you if you ever did have to go to court.
One thing I have in this area in my contract is what happens if we need to go to court and where that would take place. If you’re a website designer, it’s also really important to mention if you’ll be held liable if something goes wrong on their site. I’ve had so many clients install random plugins on their site after our project is over, for example, and I definitely don’t want to be held liable if they get hacked because if a plugin they installed.
- Go through your contract and make sure these things are included
- Consider buying a contract template from a lawyer to really cover yourself or working with someone through Legal Zoom to get things in order