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What to Include (and Not) in Client Contracts

What to Include (and Not) in Client Contracts

Mike Lenhart

This article is part of a larger series. Click here to read the entire “The Nitty Gritty on Contracts” series.

Last time we talked about the ever-important contact/Client information and other, overall information that needs to be included in your contract to set the record straight from the start. Always remember to put the date on all your documents – that may have been forgotten last time.

Just What Are We Offering?

After we’ve captured the name of the project, the past activities of this type by the client, and the objectives of this new project, we need to put down just what we’re going to offer. Are we going to provide three concepts of the proposed solution? Four? Five?

(A big recommendation here – try not to offer more than three, believe me, it will save you trouble down the road. More options mean more changes and no decisions made by the Client.)

How many rounds of changes are we going to offer? What do these changes consist of? The point here is to be as specific as possible so there is no room for doubt or project creep. What if there are more changes needed than the original contract states? Are there charges in place for changes that may need to occur beyond that of the contract? Get it all in writing.

What Are We Going To Provide?

Once the project is done, what kind of output are we going to provide the Client? Are we going to give high-resolution printouts? Digital files? Remember to state in the contract just what the Client is going to get at the end. Clients need something tangible so there is a feeling that some work has actually been done and they have something in hand. Now, this doesn’t mean that we provide printing. If the Client needs printing quotes in the contract, fine, we can get them, but we don’t pay for the output. We can put these fees in the contract and decide if we want to mark them up or not. That can result in a whole new can of worms, so be careful and mindful when marking up vendor fees.

In Web design, what are we going to provide the Client? Of course, we’ll upload their files to the Web host that they will pay for. But, are we going to maintain their site? What kinds of fees are involved in that? Remember, put it all down in writing. If the Client requires or inquires on site maintenance, a separate contract would be the best idea. Another thing – are we going to pay for images or other assets for the site? Will the Client provide the images? What about the copy? Who is going to write that? All extra things like these should be in the contract and should be addressed.

When Is This Project Going To End?

A time-line is extremely important to include in contracts. Actual dates should be included and strictly adhered to. Many, many times, a project creeps to lengths that we’ve never wanted or never seems to end. The longer the project creeps, the more time it will take and the longer it will take for us to get paid. We need to abide by our time-line and so does the Client. Communication on this needs to happen all the way through the project. If the time-line changes, fine, but we need to communicate the possible ramifications to the Client and explain the importance of sticking to deliverable dates.

How Long Is This Offer Valid?

One thing to remember to place in contracts, especially if it’s a bid or the Client has to decide if they’re going to contract with you. An open-ended offer can be a real problem and the Client may not get back to you or confirm the offer until we’ve moved on to other things and may have actually forgotten about the original offer. If the offer date passes, we have the right to renegotiate the contract and basically provide a revised version.

Next Time:

There are a lot of other items that come up in design projects for Clients. What about rejection by the Client of our concepts? What if the Client cancels the project in the middle of it? What if the Client is a royal pain in the ass and we need to end the relationship? We’ll cover these things and more in the next installment of the series. Just always remember to get it ALL in writing.

Next: What If The Client Cancels The Contract? →

← Last: Client Design and Freelance Contract Basics


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