Web Design Contract Considerations
The thing most agency and freelance web designers despise is the administrative work involved and the time away from actual development. But a contract readily prepared for your client protects you and your business in order to maintain a clear and defined set of expectations of your service and what will be delivered upon completion. In addition, when a client sees that you have a polished contract, they’ll have more confidence in your abilities. Paired with a examples of previous work, your web design contract lets people know that you’re both competent and professional. There are a few key things that every freelance web design contract template should include:
- Detailed descriptions of the work you’ll be doing. The scope of your work for your client should be well detailed, defined and as specific as possible. Your work product and content production for your client is your intellectual property and your manner of producing income. You are providing a service and scope of work that should be protected and outlined in your contract. Every service and element used in the coding and development of a website, inclusive of any future technical support should clearly defined.
- Timeline for deliverables (including dates to aim for so you can create a work-back schedule). Communication and understanding of what you are doing and when you are doing it is essential to any work relationship. The timeline upon which you complete the work for your client provides you with a schedule and your client with an understanding of when they will receive drafts and the final work.
- Payment details & invoicing (overall cost, down payment, method of payment, due dates for payments, including late fees). It’s up to you to determine what to charge a client for your work. Some designers choose to quote by project scope, while others charge hourly. The latter is better when doing something basic, a one page website. Charging by project is better if it’s something that’ll take you more than a day or two to complete. It might be a bit disheartening to think that your client’s only incentive to pay you is to get their website live but—it works. In this section, you’ll also deal with scope creep, which is one of the most daunting aspects of website design work. If you haven’t come across it yet, this is when the client comes back with a bazillion changes and “minor tweaks” and time-consuming technical support that you did not account for in your invoice. In some cases, regarding payment, you can implement a payment schedule with weekly, monthly, or half-up-front type payment options. For an in-depth view on this, you can read a guide to invoicing management from Delegated.
- Revisions & edits. Be sure to provide your client options and drafts of the website. It’s fairly standard to have 1-2 rounds of revision, agreed upon upfront, to avoid scope-creep, constant back and forth, and never ending projects.
- Copyright ownership. Copyright (Intellectual Property Rights) Ownership is really important. After all, if you create a logo for someone for a few hundred dollars, and then they use it on products that earn them millions, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot by not retaining some IP ownership. One option is to transfer some copyright to your clients, but not all. As an example, you can grant the client full ownership of your design as-is, but that they don’t have permission to modify it in any way. Your contract should specify where and how the client can use your work, that you receive credit for the work and limit the full use of the work.
More on ownership of intellectual property rights:
- According to Pinsent Masons, a global lawfirm, “[i]f your employees are creating your website then, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, copyright automatically vests in you as the employer. This is not the case if you are commissioning contractors (e.g. external web developers) to create your website. This is a common misunderstanding. In the absence of agreement, the contractor will own the copyright in whatever he creates.” Essentially, unless you sign it over to the client in your legal terms and conditions, you would own the copyright for what you had created.
- To read even more on the subject if this is a concern to you, 99designs.com has an in-depth piece on copyright, infringement, and intellectual property specifically geared towards designers.
Great web design project add-on options to consider (if you can deliver): Designing and building a web site is one thing. But it comes with a finite cost. A great way to add on top of that and generate recurring revenue is to provide one, or several of the following complementary services in addition. However, to ensure your reputation stays in tact and you don’t get in over your head — you should research and learn about them beforehand or bring someone with more expertise into the equation.
- Paid Search & Display Advertising
- Social Media Advertising
- Maintenance Contracts & Agreements
- Referral Bonuses
Resources that may be valuable for those working on web design contracts:
- WP E-Signature App for WordPress
- Tips for Quoting Web Design Work BEFORE the Project via Shopify
- More Tips for What to Include in a Web Design Contract
- AIGA: Design Competitions You Can Enter
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