A few weeks ago, in another be free, lance post, I was asked about contracts and how I handle them. The short story is that everyone should have one, no matter WHO you work with. You never know what’s going to happen – so why not cover yourself? There is nothing wrong with having a contract, in fact, it makes you look quite professional. I will outline a few key components to contracts and then leave you with quality resources.
First off, Smashing Magazine uses my favorite Michael Scott ( from The Office ) theory : KISS. Keep it simple, stupid ( sorry for my language ). I don’t know about you guys, but most legal documents drive me crazy. Especially the ones where I read a paragraph and have absolutely no idea what I just read. In one ear and out the other. My point is, your contract does not have to read like it was written by a Harvard Law student. My contracts are written in an extremely clear way so that my client can sign with confidence knowing exactly what they have just digested.
What to include in your invoice is up to you. The main thing to keep in mind is to cover all bases. A web developer may have different terms than a graphic designer or photographer, but in general, most creative contracts have a similar format. Here are a few important things to include :
PROJECT OVERVIEW I like to have a space on my contracts dedicated to short bullet point details. So, before my client even reads a contract in fine detail – they get a quick taste for the project outline. I go over contact information, project costs, due dates, and any payment plans. Think of this as a brief summary.
AGREEMENT It is very important to establish a set of rules not only for your client, but yourself as well. Let them know that you have the experience and ability to perform your services in a professional and timely manner. Likewise, it should be noted that clients are also expected to follow deadlines in order to stick to a project timeline. It’s a two way street!
PROJECT DETAILS This is the part where you dive into a detailed project description. In addition, it’s also helpful to define what happens if there are any reimbursements ( fonts or materials purchased, etc. ) or if the project is cancelled.
RIGHTS This one is a biggie!! You must define who owns what when a project is done. Whether it is photographs, code, graphics, or anything else, your clients should know their rights of usage. Personally, I usually maintain ownership of all design work, which means clients cannot alter work without my consent. If they agree to purchase full rights at an additional cost, however, they are allowed to do as they please. Other creatives like to issue time based rights, where work is released and charged for a set amount of time ( 6 months, 1 year, etc. ).
So there you have it … the main things that I cover in all contracts along with a signature of acceptance. When developing this structure, I used a lot of ideas from this article entitled Contract Killer – which is extremely helpful + beneficial. PLUS, it’s free to use. You could literally copy and adapt it to be your own, there are no restrictions. Go ahead now, protect yo’self!