Everything You Need To Know About Freelance Contracts
When I first started my design business, I knew freelance contracts were important. I read about them online and constantly heard other freelancers talk about using them. Yet, despite all warning, I still took on clients with nothing more than a verbal agreement. These clients were nice, friendly people and I was a good, honest designer. What could possibly go wrong…right? Wrong. It wasn’t that my clients were intentionally difficult. It was just clear that a lot of miscommunication can be avoided with a written contract in place.
There are some things the client won’t know and it’s our responsibility as designers to explain it to them. Many clients have never worked with a designer (or freelancer) before, and from their perspective, it’s hard to know what to expect. Freelance contracts exist for this precise reason. They explain your process to the client and clarify expectations for all parties involved.
If you’re intimidated by freelance contracts, don’t be. Think of them as an agreement between you and your client to ensure you both understand one another. Below are the key points you should cover in your agreement, as well as a free template you can use to get started!
Many freelance contracts begin with a simple introduction, outlining the parties involved and their role in the project. It can also be helpful to include an address for both parties in this section.
Project Description and Timeline
In the project description, you want to outline the project with all the details the client needs to know about your process. What are the steps involved in the project? How many revisions is the client allowed before there is an additional charge? Will you need any materials from the client? If so, will you need these materials by a certain deadline? It’s also beneficial for freelance contracts to include a timeline that highlights important dates for the project. This gives the client a better idea of the project flow and lets them know when you expect to receive materials and payment.
To avoid confusion and disappointment, be sure the client is aware of when and how you plan to deliver the final project. You wouldn’t want to deliver print files to a client expecting actual printed files.
Use the FREELANCE DESIGNER AGREEMENT as a template
to create a contract for your design business
Payment, Revisions and Fees
All freelance contracts need a section addressing payment for the project. Be sure to clarify the total project price and percentage amounts for each payment. It’s common for designers to request a specific amount upfront, then collect the remaining payment once the project is complete. Freelance contracts should also include how you want to receive payments (Paypal, Square, cash, money order, etc) and if any other fees are included.
It’s always a great idea to discuss the client’s needs beforehand, but you may still come across things you need once the project has started, like stock photos or fonts. Account for these unforeseen expenses by including a fee in your price, or outlining in the agreement who is responsible for paying.
Freelance contracts also usually include a late fee to protect designers from late payers. On average, this fee is usually around 1% interest per month (or 12% annually) on the overdue amount. So if a client is a month late on an invoice for $400 dollars, they would owe you an additional $4. The purpose of the late fee isn’t necessarily to “punish” the client, but rather encourage them to make their payments as soon as possible (if not on time).
Rights of Ownership
Once the project is over, the client will own the final product. Be sure to clarify who owns what and what can be reproduced (so no one’s getting sued later). If you post your work to a blog or elsewhere for promotional use, make sure your clients understand you plan to do the same with their project.
Unfortunately, with any client there’s always a chance things could go wrong and you need to part ways. Freelance contracts outline what to do if this ever happens and helps protect you as the designer. If the client isn’t paying on time, you have the option to stop working with them. If a client suddenly wants to quit the project, this section ensures you are still paid for the work you’ve completed thus far. No designer wants to disagree with a client. But in the case that you do, having these terms in your agreement can make resolving the disagreement that much easier.
This may seem like a given, but both you and the client need to sign the agreement in order for it to hold substance. When working with long distance clients, it can be challenging getting a handwritten signature . Try using DocuSign to get their electronic signature instead – it’s quick, easy and hassle-free.
Have other points you think designers should include in their freelance contracts? Share below!