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Details to Remember When Making/Signing a Contract

Details to Remember When Making/Signing a Contract

Mike Lenhart

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

Contracts are an important part of doing the business of graphic design. A good contract that details all of the aspects of the project, and the client and designer’s rights and responsibilities, are of vital importance. There are certain terms and conditions that should be included in most, if not all, contracts that provide the “fine print” that is standard in all business relations. Let’s cover some of those terms.

When Is The Payment Due?

Of course this may be most important, but it’s paramount to let the client know the terms of payment. If there is a deposit before the job begins and a final payment due at the end of the job, that needs to be stated. Is final payment due before final deliverables are provided? Is there a payment system of one third throughout the entire project? When will billing occur and when is it due? What if the due date expires? Is there an additional fee for late payment? Of course, this is all up to the designer and can be negotiated and changed on a per project basis, if need be. The important thing is to be clear and provide invoices when it’s time. Most likely, if no invoice is sent, no payment will be made.

Who Gets The Art?

What a tricky question. As artists, many feel that the final work is ours and that it’s part of our hard labor. That may be true, but in the world of graphic design and digital art, the final work usually is the property of the client. Of course, there are terms on this as well. The designer has the right to use the art for their own portfolio or promotional uses, but the work is done for, and paid for, by the client. That doesn’t mean that the entire shop is given away, just the work that is done for them. When it comes to photographers and illustrators however, that can pose other issues. The art has been created by the professional and payment for such is usually set up in a slightly different way. Most times, there are fees, such as rights managed or commercial free, that are instituted. These cover the actual usage of the art by the client and has more control of how the art is used and how much money can be made by the end user. It can be a difficult thing to explain to a client, but it needs to be done.

Extra Work and Purchases

Through the course of a project, certain, extraneous items may be purchased that are not the responsibility of the artist. If stock images, digital proofs, or messenger services are procured, then the cost should be passed along to the client. The artist is not responsible to pay for these things. Design fees are for the design, not the extra items that may be needed. Of course, this all needs to be spelled out in the terms.

Other Items

Fees for changes that are above and beyond the contract are to be charged to the client. Additionally, cancellation fees need to be repeated in the terms section of the contract. The client needs to be made clear that a designer’s time is valuable, and must be paid for. A warranty of originality should be included as well to ensure to the client that the designer’s work is original and not taken from somewhere else. If there is a call for dispute resolution, a clause stating the terms of that occurrence needs to be included. Usually, a small claims lawsuit would be filed by the designer, or the client, and would be no more than $5,000. Of course, an intellectual property lawyer may be hired, but the time and costs are much higher. The bottom line is that ALL things must be included in the terms and conditions page of the contract.

A Final Word

Of course, some projects that a designer completes will not call for all the possibilities that may come up in the course of the project. However, the terms are always good to relay to the client. A signature is required on all contracts and terms that client receives – both the client’s and the designer’s. Professionalism is key. Designers are professionals and need to act that way. If the presentation of such items are made in a professional way, then the integrity of the designer and contract will come through. A design project for payment is a job and needs to be treated as such. Of course, all of the items mentioned in this series of articles are up to the designer and can be used or not. Just remember, if it’s not in writing, it’s not going to be known.

Next: Determining Rates For Design Services in Contracts →

← Last: What If The Client Cancels The Contract?


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