Working this clients can be a difficult task. With lots of training and practice designing logos or web sites and very little practice or official training on working with people, it’s easy for us to make serious mistakes when working with clients.
Today, I’d like to start a new series where we discuss a number of common mistakes designers make when working with clients.
Mistake #1 will be (because it’s one of the most common ones I see) not signing a contract with your clients before starting a project with them.
Why is this such a terrible mistake?
Due to the nature of this blog, you can imagine the kinds of emails I get from designers. I love getting emails from all of you and I love helping you with your concerns as you build your design business. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t blog about it all the time and I wouldn’t have taken time to write a book about it.
But as I help other designers solve problems on a regular basis, I’ve noticed that a good majority of the problems they face could have been avoided altogether if there was a solid contract in place.
Signing a contract is a preemptive attack
Everyone knows it’s better to avoid a problem than to try to solve it later. That’s why not signing a contract is the most important mistake to avoid-because it will help you avoid so many problems in the future.
What should I include in my contract?
But signing a contract before starting a project together is only helpful if your contract actually helps you avoid trouble in the future.
So what should you include in your contract so that you can avoid as many future problems as possible?
Here’s a few ideas and tips I have accumulated over the years (Please note that I am not an official legal consultant. Please consult with a legal professional when drafting official contracts and similar documents.):
- Definition of scope. What will the project include? What happens if the client decides he wants more than the defined in the contract. This is perhaps the most common problem I see when I help designers with client problems: scope creep.
- Deadlines and timing. When does the project need to be done? How often does the client expect to be updated? What happens when these deadlines are not met or change. Also, be sure to include what deadlines the client has. If they don’t get you assets by a certain day, you shouldn’t be held responsible to still hit your deadlines.
- Means of communication. Most designers don’t know they can include this in a contract, but it’s very important. How will you communicate with your client? What’s their official email address and telephone number? This comes in handy in a court hearing. If you tried to communicate via the official, agreed-upon means and they didn’t respond, you’re less liable.
- Payment. How soon after (or before) delivery of the final product will your client pay you? Will there be a down-payment? Will there be a penalty for not paying on time? At what point will the payment be turned over to a collection agency?
- What else should designers include in their contracts? There’s a lot of information I have left out. Help me fill it in by leaving a comment on this post and telling us what important aspects you include in your contracts.