An architect contract is an agreement between an architect and a project owner or company. The contract clearly defines the architect’s scope and establishes essential terms, including payment, intellectual property rights, and more.
Note: You can create your very own architect contract when you sign up for Bonsai’s free platform today. Our templates include everything you need to deliver secure, legally vetted contracts to more clients.
If you are a freelance architect, a written agreement is a critical part of your business. Not only can it help prevent unpaid invoices, but it can also protect you in a legal dispute. We strongly recommend that professional architects abstain from work until all agreements are in writing.
Your architect agreement should clearly define all of the terms, responsibilities, parties, and deliverables of your project. In order to do so, you must create a thorough document with all of the essential elements. We’ve reviewed hundreds of architect agreements, and know what needs to be included to create a watertight project contract. Luckily for you, we have listed them in detail below.
The cover page of your architect agreement is written to identify each party involved in the contract. It serves as an introduction to the project(s).
This section of the contract is generally the place where you would establish a relationship and your intent to work for a client or organization. It’s also a great idea to include the start date of the contract and both parties’ contact information, such as their address and phone number.
As a freelancer architect, you may wear many hats, but that doesn’t mean that you offer full-service solutions to all of your clients. Therefore, it’s crucial that you clearly document all of the services for which you are solely responsible. We urge you to be as transparent as possible to ensure client satisfaction at the end of the project.
That’s not all!
As much as it is crucial to include a list of the services you will provide, it’s also important to define the services you don’t offer. It’s not uncommon to find clients who ask you to do things outside your architect’s scope. When you list the services you don’t offer, you can avoid any responsibilities you weren’t paid for.
To make sure that you are adequately paid, you should take the time to cover your rates and fees. Not only does this include amounts, but this section of your documents needs to cover how you charge your client. Do you offer financing? Will you charge by the hour or the project?
If you choose a fixed price per project, your overall rate should be based on the amount of time you anticipate spending on the job. Don’t forget to include the cost of materials! While this method is often the simplest, it could cause contractors to lose money if you underestimate your time.
When an architect charges by the hour, they will need to keep records of all the time they spend working on the projects. This ensures fair compensation even if the project takes longer than expected. However, this method could cause you to go over a client’s budget, so you should discuss estimated costs in either case.
The next element to include in your architect agreement is your project timeline. When you take the time to create a detailed timeline for all of your projects, both parties can keep track of the schedule and progress.
While writing an impressive timeline to win a contract might be tempting, you should also be realistic to avoid disappointment or disputes. It’s more important to create an accurate timeline. You can do so by considering:
Architects have a lot of responsibilities and could face a legal dispute if something goes wrong. This is especially true when it comes to the design process and monitoring of projects.
For that reason, we recommend that you include an indemnity clause or insurance in your documents. Your agreement should dictate that the architect’s liability is limited only to the project described in the contract.
There’s more to writing an architect contract than simply including the correct documents. If you want to write a professional agreement that impresses your client, we recommend the following tips.
Before you begin drafting your architect agreement, you want to make sure that you have a solid understanding of what your client wants. When you take the time to have a discovery meeting with all parties involved, you can address all of their needs in the contract.
For example, many companies desire confidentiality to protect the details of their projects. Therefore, you might need to add NDA documents to your agreement.
You also might find that the company has a strict timeline. You must keep all of these things in mind to make sure they are satisfied with the contract and ready to move forward.
Your contract is one of the first impressions you make on a client. If you have a poorly written agreement or a basic template, they will notice and may choose not to sign it. Instead, you should view your contract as an example of your professionalism.
What does that mean?
You should use it to highlight the qualities that set you apart from other contracts they may have seen. Everything should be well-written with no spelling or grammar mistakes. While writing might not be your strongest subject, it shows that you are taking the agreement seriously.
Freelancers can also show the clientele that they are detail-oriented by being meticulous with the contracts. Though writing a lengthy agreement with multiple documents feels tedious, it demonstrates thoroughness.
Your list of services is another area where you can differentiate yourself. If you happen to offer services that another architect might not, you should make sure it is included in the document.
To avoid disagreements between parties, we strongly encourage architect freelancers to discuss intellectual property rights with their clients. In general, the architect retains the ownership of their design documents under copyright law. That means your design couldn’t be modified and reused without signing a written agreement.
With the “work made for hire” doctrine, however, things are different. U.S. Copyright Law gives clients complete authorship and ownership over designs that they commission. If you are seeking partial ownership or certain rights, you should consider including a section for intellectual property in your architect agreement.
At Bonsai, we understand how time-consuming it is to write up a contract agreement for every client. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through the process alone.
We offer a wide variety of free templates for architect contracts, so it’s easier than ever to sign more clients and get paid faster. In fact, we have changed the way freelancers conduct business with our:
How do you get started on your architect contract template? Simple:
If you’ve never created a contractor or delivered a project, then you probably have a lot of questions about the process. The following are just a couple of the questions we get most frequently.
The answer depends on the details of your project. At Bonsai, we strive to cover all of your architectural proposal and contract needs. However, you may find that there are specific documents that we don’t have at the moment.
You may find AIA (American Institute of Architects) contract documents to be a good substitute when this occurs. They are fair and designed according to best practices.
Note: AIA contract documents are not free. You must pay for each one individually, and the fees are based on whether or not you are an AIA member.
Though U.S. Copyright Law governs the ownership of your designs, there are no federal laws that dictate licensing or regulations for the practice of architecture. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to worry about other laws or regulations.
Depending on where you live, where your client is based, or where the design site will be, there could be other state laws that affect your architect contract and the language you must use. We recommend that you do independent research or reach to find out if your state has any architecture laws you need to consider.