Have you been running a web design business? If so, you should consider getting some legal contracts for projects just to be safe.
A legal contract protects your business partner from misuse of their time and money, you must protect yourself too. Web design contracts are no different.
This is just like with any other contract – these set a clear relationship between you and your client. They also touch upon specific aspects of your business practices, standards of communication, and what to expect from each other.
Below you’ll find a few tips to help you make the most of your web design contract. We’ve also provided some (non-curated) examples of web design contracts that you can use as inspiration. Please keep in mind that we are not lawyers and this is purely based on our real-life experiences.
Web Design Contract Tips
Do you know what a web design contract is? And do you want to know why it’s important? You should find out if your answer is “yes”.
A web design contract legally binds the designer to their client. Both the client and designer must sign for it to be valid.
These contracts include factors such as design agreements that cover –
- Scope of the design work
- Appropriate timeline of deliverables
- Payment schedule
- Intellectual property rights
- Other legal terms
Outlined below are some of the most important reasons why a contract is important.
The modern world is overly litigious, and drafting contracts is one way to protect yourself when you take on design jobs. Companies have disagreements from time to time, which can cause issues like delayed payment or worse.
In these contracts, your understanding is protected through a legal contract that lays out the terms and renewals. This guarantees there will be transparency about the contract details and renewal periods which are vital for IT management. In special cases, disagreements can arise that need to be solved. The contract will stipulate what happens in such a situation and it’s important to be aware of this detail when you sign.
It’s best to have contingencies in any contract, such as:
- If something were to go wrong with the design project, what would happen next?
- The client does not like the design you approved. What should we do?
- You missed a deadline. What happens now?
- The client did not pay up. What steps can you take to recover your money?
- How many changes are you providing for free? Is there a time limit for that?
- Intellectual property rights are important. Who owns the website design?
- Should you keep the website design after a project ends? How long should you keep it?
- The client wants to fire you. Now what?
- You want to fire your client ((sh)it happens), how do you do that?
We recommend that you ask these questions and note any other information that you or your client deems to be important. These should be included in the written contract.
When it comes to contracts, the question is… What does it need to consist of?
Here are the key aspects and tips to help you write your perfect web design contract!
Keep it clean and simple
Contracts that lawyers write can be quite complicated to read and understand.
Design a web design contract that’s professional, easy to read, and won’t cause any confusion.
It’s vital to create a straightforward contract that everyone can understand. Keep it concise and use language an average person can comprehend. A statement that is clear and simple will make sure you and your clients have no doubt about the contract’s terms.
Build a Working Agreement
Sometimes clients are always asking for more. It’s great when they’re satisfied but sometimes it can really get on your nerves.
It’s important to set the scope of your work in writing. Without it, you risk overworking yourself or taking on work outside your expertise. It’s not uncommon for clients to start expecting a lot more from you when your work relationship goes on. This might lead to unpaid extra work and eventually an unhappy client.
Choose a design agreement that clearly states what you will do and what will be left out. Generally, it is best to refuse any work out-of-scope that does not have an explicit agreement in place.
Or you could just say “yes”, but charge for your time and be paid extra.
Your contract should include –
Mention client responsibilities
As a client in any web design or web development project, you are just as much an integral part of it. Make sure your client’s responsibilities are outlined in the contract so that everything is crystal clear from the start.
Perfect design can only happen if you work together with the client. First, find a reliable point of contact who can bridge the communication gap. Besides them, figure out who the ultimate decision-makers are in your client’s company.
Ideally, both roles should be done by the same person. You can specify this in your contract to avoid any conflict with the client. Next, inform your clients about the ways you need their assistance for your work. For example, you might need them to provide information such as their data & identity assets.
Clients are also key players in the workflow; make sure you document what work they are responsible for, for example, reviewing your work.
Streamline the approval, review, and publishing process
Many designers have had the experience of starting work on a project, only to find out that the client is not available.
It might not be your client’s fault. They are often so busy with other aspects that it’s easy to forget about the more technical details of keeping a website up-to-date.
You can prevent this, by adding a review period in the contract. The client gets up to a certain amount of days to review designs and get back to you with feedback. This way, they don’t cause an undue delay in your work.
If a project is time-bound, there’s a risk of disagreement between you and your client. Make sure that the timing of the project is acceptable to both parties to avoid any surprises down the line.
To fully promote success, it’s crucial that you break down your project into milestones with a deadline for each one. You will also need feedback to ensure that your work is meeting the client’s standards. It’s important to set deadlines for feedback, so there is no chance you miss your deadline because the client isn’t available.
Ownership of Work
Intellectual property is a serious matter. Make sure that you have planned ahead of time for the ownership of your product if it’s delivered by the due date. Usually, clients take responsibility for this once all payments have been completed.
As a designer, you could request that the site’s code is owned by you or that a copyright notice is displayed.
When negotiating payment with a client, it’s important to first decide how you’re going to price your project. You can offer a per-project rate for larger tasks or an hourly rate for smaller ones where timing could be an issue.
Another possible payment method is a combo, where you charge by the project and expect revisions to be done at an hourly rate.
Clients who need to safeguard company secrets and stay on the down low will often want to include confidentiality clauses in their contracts.
Confidentiality clauses can be useful in a lot of different situations. For instance, if the client is working on a classified venture and needs you to keep it secret. The use of confidentiality clauses is often requested by your clients but can offer protection to you. You could set this up if you like, and ask clients not to share a lot of specific details about your work with their customers.
Unfortunately, sometimes a business relationship can go sour and impact working relations. So if you feel like the work environment has become toxic or for other important reasons, it can happen that you may need to end your contract. Contracts are usually legally binding, but cancellation clauses can be a lifesaver, defining what happens in the case of mutual or unavoidable abandonment by both parties.
A cancellation clause can cover the unfortunate scenario where you’ve done a lot of work on the project and your client wants to withdraw. To ensure you get paid, the cancellation clause states that if a client backs out, they are legally obliged to make payment for your work. They must also meet other requirements such as paying for the time spent on the project.
Get Your Clients Signature
If you want your contract to be taken seriously and valuable, make sure you include a section for both parties to sign it. Without this final step, the contract is worth as much as what is printed on it (which means nothing).
If you can’t meet with your clients in person for the contract signing, it’s advisable to have a representative stamped for who has the authority or power to sign the contracts on their behalf. Signing a contract with a company is very different than when dealing with an individual because there are more parties involved.
Ensure you include the company name & individual name who signs the design agreement. A bonus tip is to get your client to sign first. If you sign last, you will be able to choose whether or not a stipulation is included in the contract.
It’s best practice to send two copies of the contract for your client to sign. After they’ve signed them, sign both copies and keep one for yourself. Send one copy to the client.
Web Design Contract Templates
Writing your own contracts from scratch is a troubling, time-consuming task. Perhaps you should consider using one of the template contracts which are available.
While there is always a chance that you may forget to include special details on a custom contract, the alternative of hiring someone to create it for you usually ends up being expensive.
It’s a good idea to use pre-written well-tested web design contract templates, and find them on websites like GitHub and Docracy. They contain everything you need.
Here are some excellent free templates to help you create reliable and legal contracts for the web:
Contract Killer is a popular web design contract and it’s easy to understand. It has a comedic tone, so you won’t be bored going through any of the sections.
Web design contract template – it covers every major aspect including:
- What you’re being hired to do
- Payment schedule and details
- How changes will be handled
- Intellectual property rights
- The other facets agreed upon by both parties
Contract Killer is regularly updated. For instance, the latest revision includes SEO and mobile browser testing.
AIGA allows you to customize the terms and conditions for different types of design projects. The web design contract template can act as a starting point that can be easily customized for each project. You can also download it as a PDF, or make one on your own using their web form.
Another way to use the contract template is to find a suitable proposal document and cut and paste it into your own. AIGA provides some of the following information on how to use this template, with details:
- An idea of how to go about the project planning process
- How to put your contract together
- What information is to be sent to the client
- The terms and conditions
On top of the basics, there are additional aspects that need to be taken into account when writing a contract. These include things like fees, responsibilities, exclusivity, etc. For example payment terms or fee structures; duties & obligations; and what’s allowed or not.
Web Design Law has created a template for contract development and uses that’s comprehensive and highly accurate. The overview section gets you started by explaining contract development & outlining the benefits of good contracts, then it provides several different sample templates.
If you’re struggling to find a web design contract, here are templates you can use. They include letters of agreement, project proposals, terms and conditions, and more. There are also letter template collections for sending out past-due reminders or invoices.
BidSketch has a well-organized contract template package for small businesses and other organizations. It separates legal terms from the actual business terms of your project, so you only need to take what is important to you.
These sections cover everything a web designer may need and includes:
- Your project’s scope of work
- The responsibilities of the designer
- How the site will be developed and the terms of acceptance of completion
- What happens if the client rejects the work?
- Miscellaneous details like project management, content details, warranty, liability, intellectual property rights, and more are included.
Last thoughts on web design contracts
Working on a web design project takes a lot of time, so it’s only fair that you get paid when you’ve finished your job or have been working on it for an agreed period of time. You should also expect cooperation from your client to make the project go smoothly.
You have a responsibility to your clients who have paid you for your service. On top of that, you two share a good relationship they rely on and that is vital to avoid any disagreements during web design projects. This way, you stay on friendly terms with them and both parties are satisfied.
When you draft a contract ensure that it is clear and concise. It should clearly specify the scope of work, deliverables, financials, time frame, and process. It should also state your responsibility as the person drafting it and the other’s responsibilities as well.
Don’t forget to make your communication with potential clients inviting and trustworthy. This can be done by emphasizing the benefits they will receive and giving them as much information as possible without overwhelming them. It’s also good to use contract terms that make it easy for both you and them to understand what is going to happen next.
A good personal relationship with your client can go a long way toward solving problems as they occur. Cultivate your business relationship around mutual respect, and reinforce this with a well-worded contract that communicates clarity and trust.