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Developer Contract

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Bonsai handles the back office

However sweet a project appears to be, don’t settle for it without a developer contract.

However trustworthy they present themselves, trust them not if they don’t give you a written agreement. As soon as you hear the phrase “Just trust us, let’s get started and then we can sign things along the way,” look for another deal. Of course, trust and gentlemanship form the root of every business deal, but always be sure you’ve got some legal document to back it all up.

As a developer, a contract is vital. It defines what’s expected of you. It spells out your responsibilities and those of the client. The more the detail contained, the better. However, it shouldn’t be too complex and full of legal jargons. The simpler the terms, the easier the language, and the more specific it is, the better it is for both of you.

The good thing about a developer contract is the flexibility that the law gives. You can draw it in your own way, in your own terms, and in your own language, provided everything touching on each party’s end of the bargain is well outlined.

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Here are some of the things you need to capture in your developer contract.

1. Clearly define responsibilities

Face it, contracts that don’t clearly outline every party’s responsibilities often ends up in a conflict. If, for example, you’re going into a web development agreement, as a freelancer, your roles in the entire process must be properly articulated. How about the client? What are their responsibilities? If it’s the provision of content, let that be included in the contract. Any client obligation that’s likely to delay or cripple your development progress must be put in written form, including what such a holdup would mean to the project timeline.

2. Define the termination of the contract

When creating a contract, make sure you insert terms of termination. This is important because building a website is a complex process that’s likely to attract some challenges and misunderstandings.

  • What would be the way forward if a misunderstanding comes up?
  • If one of you breaches the terms of the contract, what would be the way forward?

When you talk about the terms of termination, the developer contract must indicate the attached responsibilities of each party in terms of information, payments and the like.

3. Contract term and warranty

Freelancers often face a contract period conflict with clients, especially where things aren’t clearly defined. Most clients believe that once they hire you, you’re there to provide support and fix bugs for as long as they’ll be using that application. In the developer contract, make it abundantly clear what responsibilities you have from start to finish, also indicating the duration of the contract and whether there is a warranty.

Here is why this is important: technology is dynamic and so what you build now may not be the best in the industry in six months or one year. If you have a warranty for the project, write it clearly in the agreement so that anything that goes wrong after the warranty expires calls for a new contract. It’s also advisable to intimate in the contract that introducing a new technology released after the project has been delivered and approved amounts to a new agreement. It also doesn’t form part of the warranty.

4. Agree on jurisdiction

The contract you sign must spell out jurisdiction. This is important because a contract is enforceable only in a single legal territory. The jurisdiction clause is especially important if your client is from a different country or state that has different laws. The two of you should come to an agreement on jurisdiction and write it in the contract. Only sign the developer contract if you fully understand the legal consequences of violating the terms of the contract.

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5. Fees and terms of payment

Many freelancers only mention the total cost of the project and fail to give further details. “I’ll charge $5,000,” and that’s it. However, it's advisable to break down the amount into project fees, tax obligations, and any other components. The payment schedule must also be clear, more so where it’s not a turnkey contract.

  • How much is the deposit or initial payment?
  • At what points in the contract will you receive the balance?
  • How is the payment related to the progress of the work?
  • Is the payment made through your bank account?
  • What’s the invoicing procedure?

In addition to the above points, also indicate the nature of the project. Is it a new project or a modification of an existing one? Confidentiality, copyrights, contract type, and dispute resolution clauses should also be included in the developer contract.