Imagine you’re a web designer (maybe you are one) and a client comes to you and says something like:
“After looking through your portfolio, we’ve decided we’d really like to hire you for our next web design project.”
The client then proceeds to give you all the details of the job and you’re stoked.
You can’t wait to get going on the new project so you jump online, review your portfolio, pick a previous project you’ve worked on, and copy the design exactly, changing out the logos and other small details for your new client.
Who in their right mind?
Today’s discussion is not about designers who duplicate past projects and offer cookie-cutter design.
We’ll save that for another day.
What today’s post is all about is contracts.
The biggest mistake designers make with contracts
And the reason I brought up my fictitious story to start the post was to illustrate a point.
Just like you would be crazy to copy an old design for a new client, you’re crazy if you think you can just copy and past your old contracts for new clients.
The biggest mistake you can make is thinking that a contract that worked for “Client A” will always work for “Client B,” “C,” or “Q.”
It just doesn’t work that way.
I know that writing contracts is hard.
I know it’s not very fun.
But it’s a very important part of business.
And it certainly merits more of your time and energy than just copying, pasting and hoping for the best.
So what should you do instead of copy and paste an old contract for a new client?
How to solve the copied contract problem
Here are a few ideas:
1. It’s ok to copy portions of your contract that make sense for your current situation.
If you always require 50% upfront, copy that section of the contract.
If you never allow late payments, copy that too.
But make sure that, if you are copying portions of an old contract, you know exactly what you’re putting in the document and what it means for you and your client both.
2. Hire an attorney.
If your business is to a healthy point where you can hire an attorney, your problems can be easily solved.
You simply tell your attorney what you need out of the agreement, what the deal terms are and presto, they write up the contract for you.
If you’re on the fence about it, think hard about budgeting for legal help. It can be well-worth your time and money.
Remember, for every minute you’re working on contracts and other legal issues, you lose a minute working on finding new clients, building your business, and doing what you love: designing!
3. Keep it simple.
When all else fails, keep your contracts simple.
You don’t always have to use flowery legalese to get your point across.
The purpose of a contract is to have a document with clear expectations that both parties can agree upon.
Don’t overcomplicate it, get stressed about it, and definitely don’t let the fear keep you from writing up contracts at all.
That’s death if something goes wrong.
Say no to copying contracts
Do you agree? Do you think you’re better off avoiding the copied-contract syndrome? Leave a comment on this post and let me know what you think!
Written by Preston D Lee Preston is the founder of GDB, a designer, programmer, marketer, and entrepreneur.