Free Design Contract
A major mistake made by inexperienced freelance graphic designers is not bothering with a contract.
As a freelance designer, a contract is an essential protection for both you and your client, and the best way to ensure things go as smoothly as possible.
In this article we’ll cover:
- What a freelance graphic design contract is
- What you should include in your contract
- A contract sample
- Why you need to have a contract
- When you should introduce your contract to your client
- Why you should use Bonsai
- How to create a Bonsai graphic design contract
- Frequently asked questions.
Let’s get into it!
What is a design contract?
A graphic design contract is a legally binding document and agreement between you, the graphic designer, and your client.
That makes sense, right? A solid graphic design contract will detail all your requirements and list out your professional services. If you’re a specialist in typography, brand recognition, layout and print, or logo design, a contract is going to outline those particular responsibilities and make sure both parties understand exactly what it is you’re being hired to do.
As a graphic designer, you represent a business’s visual communication. So, a graphic design contract will represent your ability to visually communicate the business’s goals, as well as protect both parties' best interests.
Note: Create a well-designed and personal template in minutes without the help of Photoshop. Sign up to Bonsai now and get started.
What Should Be Included in a Freelance Graphic Design Contract?
Because graphic design is fluid and subjective, you may need to edit your contract depending on your client and project.
1. Detailed Descriptions of Work
This is the most important part of a graphic design contract.
You should clearly explain all the work you’ll perform for your client in detail, with nothing left out. Describe what you’ll do, and what they’ll receive at the end.
You can refer back to the client’s proposal when writing this section to understand exactly what you’ll need to create.
2. Timeline for Deliverables
Next, you should outline the exact timeline of the project.
This should include any milestones along the way, as well as the final date of handover. Include anything that may extend the timeline, such as client-requested revisions, and explain how this will impact it.
Whatever you do, be specific! A contract should avoid being vague at all costs.
3. Payment Details
Any graphic design contract should explain exactly how and when your client is expected to pay you. Describe the method they’ll pay with, how much and whether you want a non-refundable deposit before you start working.
Some designers charge by the hours, while others prefer to set a price for the whole project, or milestones within it. Explain which system you use in your contract.
You should also include whether you charge a late fee for missed payments.
4. Copyright (Intellectual Property) Ownership and Use
Intellectual property (IP) is incredibly important as a graphic designer, especially when you hope to use client work in your portfolio.
Some clients may want you to sign an NDA, and not disclose the work you make for them publicly.
Clients need to know exactly how they can use your work, and how much of it they own. Explain who owns the IP, and at what point this transfers from the original creator (you) to the client. This should be once you’re fully paid for your work.
You should also define whether a client can edit your work later, or expand on it with a different designer.
5. Termination Clause
Ideally, nothing will ever go wrong while working with a client. Realistically, something will go wrong eventually!
Your contract should include details of how either party can end the agreement.
You should include a required notice period, for example three weeks, so that you’ll have some warning if a client decides to back out.
In the case of a project canceled halfway, you should define what you’ll be paid for, who will own the IP of the half-finished work, and what you’ll hand over to the client.
Graphic Design Contract Sample
If you’re looking to create a new design contract, Bonsai has an excellent template and a super easy method to fill it out, combining text boxes and drop-down options.
Whatever the specifics are of your business or client, all information is customizable so that you’ll have a personal graphic design contract, ready to go!
Signing up is free, and we’ll walk you through every step of the way!
Why It’s Critical to Have a Graphic Design Contract Template
1. Clearly Outlines Project Scope
A contract creates clear expectations for both the client and designer about exactly what work will get done over the course of the project.
By avoiding misunderstandings about scope, you avoid disagreements with your clients and create a smoother work process for both of you.
2. Defines Client and Designer Responsibilities
The contract will lay out the responsibilities of you, the designer, and the client.
This ensures that all parties know what they need to do throughout the project, and what they can expect from the other party.
It establishes boundaries, creates accountability and keeps communication clear.
3. Sets Project Timeline and Milestones
By establishing when your project will start, end and how it might be extended, your contract further improves clarity for both parties.
The client will understand when they can expect updates from you, and what reasons may result in the project being extended. This builds trust in you, and keeps the client from constantly asking about your progress.
4. Addresses Revisions and Change Requests
Scope creep is a major problem for graphic designers.
Often, a client will ask for small extras or changes that mean extra work for you, but no extra pay. These small things are easy to say yes to in the moment, but they add up quickly, and constantly push your boundaries back by a small amount.
Clearly outlining what changes, revisions and extras are included in your original fee, and which will require extra funds, avoids this.
As your client requests extra work, you can refer them to your contract and explain the cost associated.
5. Establishes Intellectual Property Rights
Within your contract, you should lay out exactly who owns what, and at which point ownership of your work transfers to your client.
By fully explaining how IP will work, you avoid any legal troubles later on, and ensure you can use the project in your portfolio in future.
6. Includes Confidentiality Clauses
In some cases, your client may want to keep aspects of your work private. This can be for a variety of reasons.
In this case, your contract should clearly define which information is confidential, how long it should be kept private for, and what happens if confidentiality is breached.
7. Outlines Dispute Resolution Processes
Inevitably, every designer will eventually have a disagreement with a client.
Your contract should outline exactly how these should be handled, including if they escalate to legal action.
This protects both you and your client, and prevents any ambiguity about who is responsible for what during the course of the project.
8. Protects Both Parties Legally
Ideally, you’ll never end up in court with a client. However, it’s best to be protected just in case the worst happens.
The contract will act as proof that both of you understood your responsibilities, and knew what to expect from the other. It will ensure that the result of a court case will be fair according to what was originally agreed upon.
9. Ensures Project Expectations Are Aligned
You and your client should be fully aligned in your expectations. Ambiguity breeds conflict.
If your client knows exactly what to expect, and what’s expected of them, they won’t be unpleasantly surprised. The last thing you want is to suddenly find out there’s been a huge miscommunication about your work, and now your client is upset.
When they know what to expect, your client will enjoy working with you. When they enjoy working with you, they’ll be more likely to return to you for work in future, and recommend you to others.
When to introduce a Graphic Design Contract
Once you get an understanding of your clients wants, and exactly what they’re seeking from your project, you should turn your attention to creating a suitable contract. Generally, you’ll do this by customizing your existing template.
You should absolutely have your client sign a contract:
- Before you start any graphic design work
- Before you share any concepts or drafts
- Before you discuss pricing or payment
- Before you receive or share sensitive information with the client
- Before you commit significant time to the project.
Once the client has clearly outlined their requirements, you should present a contract.
A great time to do this is at an early meeting with them, or even the first meeting if you already have the necessary information.
Whatever you do, don’t begin work until they’ve signed and confirmed the contract.
What’s the benefit of using Bonsai, rather than editing your own template?
Bonsai is a widely-used service that makes creating contracts super easy and quick.
We’re trusted by over 500,000 business owners of all kinds, including graphic designers. With over a million documents created, you could say we know how to build a contract!
But why use Bonsai?
1. Saves Time, Money, and Effort
As a freelancer, you probably know that time, money and effort are all precious commodities.
Using Bonsai, your contract creation process will be streamlined. We’ll walk you through the whole process, making it as simple and quick as possible, even if you have no experience in writing contracts at all.
We’re also way cheaper than hiring a lawyer to create one from scratch!
2. Provides Professionally Designed and Vetted Templates
If you don’t have access to a lawyer, writing a contract on your own can be risky. You may misunderstand the law and end up with a contract that isn’t legally enforceable.
All Bonsai templates are created and vetted by professionals, and approved by actual lawyers.
3. Offers a High Level of Customization
A lot of contract template sites will use a few basic, one-size-fits-all templates for almost any purpose.
In reality, every contract will have different needs and priorities, especially in a unique field like graphic design.
We know this, and so we have highly specific templates for all kinds of purposes. This includes a specialized freelance graphic design template specifically for your needs.
We also let you customize your contract to a high level, changing any aspect you want.
4. Manages Project Details Easily
Because of our question-and-answer setup, we help you organize the details of your project easily, even if you aren’t fluent in legalese.
Our main purpose is keeping things as simple as possible, without sacrificing quality.
5. Tracks Contracts and Invoices
Thanks to our built-in systems, you can use Bonsai to track your contracts and invoices easily.
It can be hard to keep track of these things as a freelancer, especially if you have several clients at once. With Bonsai, you can keep them all in one place, and reference them with our easy interface as needed.
6. Provides e-Signature Capabilities
All of our contracts have built-in e-signature tech, meaning you and your client can sign them online without having to print and re-scan.
This helps keep things fluid and simple for both you and your client.
7. Automate reminders and Follow-Ups
Our system will automatically remind you to follow up on aspects of your work as needed, like when a contract milestone is coming up soon.
This can help streamline your process and acts as a safety net if something important gets forgotten or missed.
8. Enhances Client Communication
Using our contract templates, you ensure that your contract will be robust, detailed and fully fleshed out.
This avoids any miscommunication with your clients, and lays out all important expectations clearly. Any freelance graphic designer will know this is crucial.
9. Offers Integrated Payment Options
Bonsai has completely integrated payment options within our contracts, making things super simple for your clients.
It also helps you keep track of your payments and contracts all in one place, simplifying your work as much as possible. Ultimately, Bonsai’s goal is doing the boring stuff so you can get back to what you love: design!
How to create a graphic design contract with Bonsai
Creating a graphic design contract with Bonsai is super simple. Following these steps, you’ll have a complete contract in no time!
1. Sign Up or Log In to Bonsai
Head to the top right of our site and either sign in to an existing account, or create a new one.
2. Choose “Create New Contract”
Head to our contract creator and choose “create new contract” to get started.
3. Select “Graphic Design”
In the list of contract templates, choose “graphic design”.
4. Input Project and Client Details
Define all details about you, your project and your client. This includes things like names, project types and locations.
It pays to be as detailed as possible in all steps of this process.
5. Define Scope, Deliverables, and Timeline
This is where detail is most crucial. Explain the exact scope, deliverables and timeline of your project.
Leave nothing out — it’s better to overdo it when you’re creating a contract!
6. Specify Payment Terms and Schedule
Describe exactly how and when your client will pay you.
This should include things like hourly vs. milestone rates, and the specifics of your late payment policy if you have one.
7. Add Clauses for Revisions, Rights, etc.
Explain whether your client has any revisions included in their initial contract, and how much extra it would cost to have any more.
Make sure to clearly define how IP will be assigned once your work is finished.
8. Customize With Bonsai’s Tools
Use Bonsai’s easy interface to customize your contract as needed. You can add or remove sections, and ensure that your contract suits your needs exactly.
You may use one basic template for all your contracts, or change it slightly between clients.
9. Preview and Make Necessary Adjustments
Make sure to look over your contract before you finish. Ensure there aren’t any mistakes, especially in regard to money and responsibilities.
Remember, once it’s signed, it becomes binding.
10. Send for Client Review or e-signature
Once you’re happy, send your contract off for your client to review and sign.
They may request changes to the contract, which you can negotiate as needed. Once you’re both satisfied, you can sign and get started on the real work.