According to Wiki, a contract is “a voluntary arrangement between two or more parties that is enforceable at law as a binding legal agreement.” It is also something you absolutely, positively, without a doubt get before doing any work for a client without any exceptions.
A good contract covers both parties and is mutually agreed upon
A contract is like a car airbag. You hope to never have to use it, but you’ll be glad to have it if you do (and that it’s there). Why? Well, a few reasons:
Top 3 reasons to always get a contract with a client:
- A contract serves to mutually protect both parties – You protect your business and your client protects theirs. A contract is really just organized common sense that you both agree to.
- It’s best to specify a point of contact within the contract with your client. This way, you can avoid any internal power struggles or anything like that.
- It’s always suggested that you request access to the website, analytics, and client asset folders that would help you complete your project in a timely and efficient manner. For example, if you are creating a landing page, the client should give you their logos in high resolution and within various formats so you don’t have to grab screen shots.
- Everything is clear cut and laid out (and agreed upon) – this means you have your rate, scope of work, and time-frame agreed upon. Additionally, if you are in the creative field, limit the number of comps/revisions with the client as well.
- Additionally, there may be instances where you have a master agreement followed by a scope of work. You can reference the scope of work from within the agreement and send to the client at a later time once you’ve worked out the particulars.
- Often times you’ll see payment worked out to be 50% down and 50% upon completion. How you break out the payment is up to you, however never, ever, leave 100% of the balance to be paid upon completion.
- Be crystal clear in what you are delivering and when you will be delivering it. A website comp is vastly different than a functioning website. Make sure that your client understands the differences and when in doubt, ask.
- Consider adding a line item for overages; if you estimate the project to be 20 hours, and later discussions transpire, and you both agree to doing additional work, or more deliverables, then make sure you get paid for your work.
- Draft your own contract and then get it reviewed by an accredited professional – A great 20-page PDF resource is found on http://rosskimbarovsky.com/contracts-for-designers.pdf. Leveraging a digital platform such as Hello Bonsai can help you get paid faster without wasting your time chasing money.
- It may cost a little more up front to have a Lawyer review your contact, however it will save you big over the long-term. There are many resources online that you can use to download and modify a simple independent contractor agreement form for your liking, using the list of services (as in, what you’ll be doing for the client) as Exhibit A or B, etc.
- When in doubt, be direct and use common language. Bullet points work best.
In closing, contracts are complicated but, with a little research, not overwhelming. Following a guide or downloading some examples will get you pretty far along, and then you can modify the scope of work with simple language, outlining exactly what you’ll be doing, when you’ll be doing it, and what the payment and rate looks like.