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How to Write a Freelance Design Contract

Beatriz Sbeghen
Beatriz Sbeghen

A successful design contract can establish a fruitful project. Ensuring that projects have contracts in place to protect both client and freelancer is an important step freelancers should be taking.

Prepared to assemble your freelance design contract? 

Great, we thought so. Let’s do this.

What You Should Include in Your Freelance Design Contract Template 

A killer contract is document that’s crystal clear about:

  • What both parties agree to do and what their respective responsibilities are; 
  • The specifics of the deal and what is or isn’t included in the scope; 
  • What happens when something changes or one party changes their mind (which is more common than what some might think);
  •  A simple overview of Copyrights and legal matters.

You can structure all these information in a couple of fundamental sections:

  • Overview of the project
  • Detailed Descriptions
  • Payment details (overall cost, down payment, method of payment, due dates for payments, including late fees)
  • Termination clause, i.e. whether either party can terminate the contract before X date, and what payment is required (if any) to end the contract with you
  • Revisions and additional work
  • Copyright ownership

Now let’s dive into each one of these.

Overview of Project or Scope of Work

First things first: start your contract with a short statement that explains what you will do for your client. There’s no need to make it long – more concise is better. Here, you’ll simply include the key details of your initial freelance proposal and a start date (if that’s applicable) to make sure it’s mutually agreed.

Example of a Project’s Overview: “Emily (known as “Contractor”) will work from (date) on providing BrandXYZ, (known as “Client”) with 2 new logos and 4 landing pages, as per the Terms and Conditions detailed below.” 

As you can see, a simple overview of who is hiring you, and what you are being hired to do, will do. Here, we suggest that you “underpromise and deliver”. In other words, set deliverables that you can strive to surpass at no extra charge. This is a great way to conquer the client, and far better than setting an ambitious overview that you will struggle to deliver.

Some contracts call this "scope of work" and will add it as an additional page on the addendum. For example: 

Detailed Description

One of the biggest mistakes freelancers make with design contracts is failing to get specific with the deliverables. If you don’t take time to write detailed descriptions, you may find that as clients continue to add extra aspects, tasks, and revisions, you’ll end up working countless hours for free.

That’s why a solid freelance contract will always draw a clear line to make sure the client understands what’s included, and what’s not. List in every single thing you need to deliver to them, as well as anything you’ll need from them in order to get everything done. For example:

  • Individual assets (e.g. logo, banner images, etc.)
  • Target delivery dates for each asset
  • Milestones for larger projects
  • Delivery method and file types (e.g. PNG or JPEG? PDF or Dropbox file?)

Payment Details

Here you’ll explain what you want from your client. It’s important to include not just what you’ll get paid for, but how, when, and what happens if your client doesn’t pay. For example:

  • Project fee
  • Allowed payment method(s)
  • Payment deadline
  • Any fees associated with late or non-payment

Without a mutually accepted payment agreement, you risk playing a waiting game with clients who prefer to pay when it suits them, not when you need it. This can be devastating to a freelancer’s cash flow. Make your rate, details about deposits, milestones, retainer payments, and final deadlines crystal clear from the outset.

Revisions and additional work

While most clients are often satisfied with a single round of revisions, others can be picky or indecisive and may press for more.

It’s important to insert a clause that will prevent clients from changing their mind and the project’s core details or direction halfway through. This will restrict additional requests and urge customers to be exceptionally clear about what they need. For instance, if the undertaking extension is to plan a logo, make certain to state it clearly:

"The Designer will build up a logo parcel (with jpegs, pngs, and vector variants) for the Client. The Designer permits one round of amendments. In the event that your Client requires more than one round of amendments or the improvement of different resources, it is considered past the "Extent of Work" and the Designer will charge an hourly pace of X/hr for any work past." 

This will secure the extent of your work and guarantee that you focus on what you and your client have consented to.

Termination clause

Although no one ever signs a contract planning to terminate it, you never know what life may throw at you.  A family emergency might arise, your computer might give up the ghost, or perhaps you - and/or the client) might just discover that you two simply don’t match. For these and many other reasons, it is essential to add a clear termination clause to your contract, which will serve to protect both sides.

In this section you will include whether either party can terminate the contract before a certain date, and what payment will be required (if any) to end the contract with you. It is wise to mention that either the designer or the client can terminate the project at any time. It’s up to you to determine what the parameters are for termination, but the most common freelance design contract clause is that the client needs to pay you for the work done up until the termination date. 

So you can include: “Either party may terminate the contract at any time through a written request. The Company shall upon termination pay Consultant all unpaid amounts due for Services completed prior to notice of termination.”


Copyright Ownership

As a designer, you need to showcase your work to grow your career, and it’s problematic when you aren’t able to claim everything you create. But here’s where your freelance design contract comes in handy!

Include a section that confirms the client gives you permission to use the project in your portfolio, or for other marketing strategies that will help you win more clients.


Conclusion

You should now be prepared to sign your next contract! We didn’t include some obvious details, such as Signature and Date at the end. To make sure you’ll never forget these, you can use Tispr contracts for free to make sure your contracts are legally vetted every time. that will really make your life easier. Make sure to take some time to edit so you’ll then have a solid starting point for your next agreements, making the necessary modifications from client to client.

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