Contracts can be an essential part of freelancing as a graphic designer, but when you’re starting out, it’s not always clear what you should include.
Here’s how established freelancers are conducting their businesses, how I’m dealing with potential clients, and some useful graphic design contract resources.
How others deal with client contracts
I read a Q&A on LinkedIn where Michaela Shuett asked what to include in a graphic design contract.
Jen Giacalone responded with the following contract benefits:
“…it helps both you and the client to outline exactly what to expect of one another. Also important to consider is who has ownership of the work. I typically give the client ownership in my contracts but have a clause that says I am free to display any non-sensitive work (including unused ideas) in a portfolio.”
— JEN GIACALONE
Felonice Margasak recommends the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. You can buy it on Amazon. It contains sample contracts.
Designer Jeff Fisher chimed in.
“Always make use of a contract to protect yourself and define the project details for the client. If a potential client won’t sign my project agreement they won’t be a client. Mine is customizable to the specific project requirements and can be found at the link below…
Signing on the dotted line”
— JEFF FISHER
BoDo (Business of Design Online) allows you to download their information as a PDF: Free forms.
How I’m dealing with potential clients
When potential customers contact me, I make it clear that a 50% downpayment is required in advance, with the remainder to be paid upon completion, and just before final artwork is supplied. Disregarding use of a contract, this helps in two ways:
- It provides necessary reimbursement for the time allocated towards researching, brainstorming, sketching etc. before the client receives initial design options.
- It makes a statement to those potential customers who expect something for nothing i.e. spec work.
Although I’m in the process of drafting one, I don’t currently have a contract in place. Instead I clarify time frames, costs, and deliverables with clients through a number of emails before the project starts. It’s possible to further streamline my design process, and part of the reason behind this post is to learn from you.
How do you deal with freelance design contracts?
If you have your own contracts available for others to view, or if you’re willing to share stories of success/failure — with or without using contracts — please comment or send a message.
Do you use a contract? Have you been burned without one?
I’ll compile your contract tips in an upcoming resource, linking back to your website in the process.
Update: 07 April 2009
I’ve published your tips: graphic design contracts — your advice.
In the meantime, here are a few useful links.
Graphic design contract resources
- AIGA standard form of agreement for design services
- Contract basics: getting the client to sign on the dotted line, by Christopher Gee on Creative Latitude
- The collective legal guide for designers, on Smashing Magazine