Freelance 101: A Damn Good Contract

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Now that we’ve discussed the overall basics of freelance, how to get started, saving up to get started, the business plan and how to build your hourly rate, we’re getting into real serious stuff- contracts!

I cannot emphasise it enough. Get a damn good contract before you start any sort of work, even if it’s for a family friend!

A Damn Good Contract

For some reason people view the graphic design industry in this really skewed way, perhaps not intentionally, but there have been one too many times freelancer’s have gotten screwed over with spec work etc. (I’ll be talking more about spec work later)

I remember at the beginning when I first had a contract I was so nervous to give them out. I was so weird about it! I just felt as though I was doing my clients injustice and would apologize for getting all professional and technical on them. Crazy, I was. I guess in my head I thought I would scare them off or something.

But say for example if you were to buy a house, would you just shake on a deal, and feel that you’ve solidified your purchase? No. You’d want a written contract stating when it was sold, when you can move in, etc. Even if you handed over your money without a contract, you’d partially be like but don’t I get a written statement of some sort stating what’s mine, and what’s yours? Exactly. Just think of your design work as the house that you’re about to hand over, you wouldn’t just give it over so easily without a written statement, would you? 

Today, I never start a project until 1. I’ve gotten a deposit and 2. I’ve gotten the signed contract back. Because so much of my business is online, and I deal with people via email, though they might sound friendly and all, when it comes down to ownership rights and money, things can get complicated. What better than to sort it all out even before you begin any design work.

Here’s a quick video (hilarious, but true) of what a feels like to do design work without a contract, and sadly sometimes even with a contract: The Vendor Client Relationship- In Real Life

The aim of a contract is to:

- Give an outline and help keep both you and the client on the same page with clear explanations and clear definitions; what they’re getting, prices, schedules, deadlines etc.
- Prevent miscommunications from happening, avoiding conversations like, “but I thought that price included x,y,z “ 
- Protect your rights and their rights, therefore your relationship with each other
- Make you look all the more professional

Internet Less, Contract More

Below are a couple of resources and contract templates to help you build your own contract. Read over it and tailor it to each of your client’s needs. Also make sure to understand what’s written, there’s nothing more embarrassing then them asking you what section 2 means when you don’t even understand it yourself.

1. Smashing Magazine

2 AIGA

Legal contracts don’t sound like a lot of fun and may take time to write up with every client, but it’s an important part of running a successful business.

I personally feel so much more confident as a designer with a good contract behind me. I’ve grown with more confidence to also send a contract over without feeling nervous. If a client isn’t willing to sign or read it, don’t work with them. Period. Their lack of willingness is only a foreshadow of the trouble to come. A contract has saved me numerous times from clients not willing to pay up! Now it’s become so part of my routine, I get more hassle free clients. 

What are you experiences with contracts? Send me your thoughts and questions with regards to freelancing and other questions would you like me to answer!

Hope this was insightful.

x. Bee