Good Client Contracts
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
Contracts are probably the most exciting part of business. NOT! But really, they are probably the most important part of business. From client relations to employee engagement, contracts will set expectations and offer protections to you. We’re going to focus on contracts between independent contractors and clients, but a lot of these aspects can apply to any working relationship.
First things first, before beginning any work with a new client, make sure there is a signed contract between both parties. Let’s talk about what a contract should include, if you’re presented with a contract that doesn’t include these items, ask for a revised contract so your butt is covered!
Scope of Work
This includes the services you are offering and will help you if you are asked to take on additional tasks. Basically, it gives you an opportunity to charge for additional services if they are requested. It will also layout the number of revisions to the project allowed before additional charges are applied.
An example is if someone asks you to complete a video edit. Your contract may state that the scope of work includes: video editing, color correction, and audio editing. If the client then asks you to create lower third animation, you can respond by saying that will be an additional charge since it wasn’t laid out in your original scope of work.
As you can probably guess, deadlines will layout when you expect different parts of your process to be completed along with the final product. You should create deadlines that are feasible for you and your team, and can possibly be delivered early so you look really good in the client’s eyes. If your client is pushing a deadline that is not realistic, have a good discussion laying out the project’s process so they can align their view for project success.
Say you’re working on a new brand design. You’ll want to have deadlines for your mood board, first round of logo design, second round of logo design, first round of style guide, and final round of style guide. And you’ll want to give yourself adequate time between each milestone. We would probably give ourselves two weeks to a month for a full brand design.
Get compensated! This section will layout what your terms of payment are. If you’re going by hourly rate it will state what your hourly rate is and when the client will be invoiced. If you are using a fixed-rate, it will state the project total, whether you are charging by milestone or completed project, and when the client will be invoiced. All contracts need to state when payment is due by the client, ie 30 days after receipt of invoice, or other terms. This section will also state whether you require a deposit, payment upfront, charges for additional revisions, and late payment fees.
This clause will hopefully not have to be used, but it is important if you find yourself in a less than ideal situation. It will cover separation of client from artist and artist from client, and what compensation will be in the event of a separation.
In the event of a client separation, client will be invoiced for all completed work to that point, with payment due within 30 days of the invoice date.
In the event of an artist separation, artist will give client 14 days notice and invoice the client with all completed work up until that point, with payment due in 30 days of dated invoice.
Ownership of Work
In most cases, 100% of ownership of work is that of the client, as they have paid for the time in which content was created, and for the final product. But this is not always the case! An example being: You are designing a logo for a company that is going to be merchandising the art and creating more revenue based off of your work. You may want to request royalties. This is especially important when a company may not have the best initial pay rate. If you are able to request royalties you may be raking in dough for years and years to come.
This basically lays out whether you are an employee, independent contractor, vendor, etc. and what you and your client responsibilities are. Are they compensating with health benefits, are you responsible for your own worker’s comp insurance, who’s paying payroll taxes?
Let your contract pack a punch while communicating to your client that you mean business! Basically, this section lays out where you are located and which laws and ordinances are applies to your contract.
“This Agreement shall be governed in all respects by the laws of the United States of America and by the laws of the State of Montana. Each of the parties irrevocably consents to the exclusive personal jurisdiction of the federal and state courts located in Montana, as applicable, for any matter arising out of or relating to this Agreement, except that in actions seeking to enforce any order or any judgment of such federal or state courts located in Montana, such personal jurisdiction shall be nonexclusive.”
Optional BUT I like to add in: Communication
Tell your client what your boundaries are. What are your office hours? How can they communicate with you and how can they expect you to respond? Do you want to be woken up at 3:00am with a pesky text? Didn’t think so, layout your availability so your client has reasonable expectations of your work life balance.
These are must-haves for me, but you can add in anything that may pertain to you and your needs. Maybe you need an NDA or special accommodations, remix the must have items and add in your stipulations. But remember, a good contract is built to protect you as a worker and your time.
What advice do you have? We’d love to hear from you!