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Designing websites is one of most in-demand skills for both freelancers and full-time employees. According to Indeed, HTML5 and jQuery are two of the ten most in demand skills today. Possessing these and other in demand skills can see you excel in your freelance business.

Freelancers who design websites for clients can be involved at many stages of the process, from conceptualizing the website's information architecture to designing the user interface and user experience to actually doing visual and graphic design and even coding it.

Progressions and changes have been seen in the field of web design. However, two things still seem obvious. One, that web design is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Secondly, that freelance website design contracts are essential.              

No matter what part of the website design process you're involved in, it's critical that you have a contract between you and the client before you start work.

A freelance website design contract, like any other contract, defines the business and legal relationship between the designer and the client. It also defines a personal relationship in terms of goodwill, business practices, and mutual respect, relating to your interaction with the client during service provision. Legally, it is an agreement between two or more parties in which each party commits to fulfilling certain responsibilities in the relationship. This document is legally binding, meaning failure to deliver on any of the agreed-upon terms can result in a breach of contract and possible lawsuits.

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Credits: Image courtesy of efoza.com

What purpose does a Freelance Website Design Contract Serve?

As mentioned before, this is a legally binding document. It means that should the client violate any of the terms of the contract; you could take the legal route to compel him/her to fulfill their part of the agreement. Website design clients can violate agreements in various ways. Most common is a failure to pay for services and products delivered.

Similarly, a freelancer is bound by the agreement to fulfill his/her responsibilities. This means that a client can also sue you should you fail to deliver what you promised by way of contract. This provides a level of protection that helps to ensure that both parties do what they’re supposed to do. A freelance website design contract protects the interests of the freelance website designer.

It is for this reason that this document, which many startup freelancers often fail to use, is crucial to the peace of mind of the freelancer and the success of their business. Let’s take a more in-depth look at these contracts.

Parts of a Freelance Website Design Contract

The structure and clauses of a website design contract or any contract for that matter are not cast in stone. The exact details of the contract vary depending on the nature of the project, the nature of the parties involved, and the relationship between them.

The specific conditions and numbers in the contract are also negotiated between individual clients or their representative and the freelancer. Its length, font, formatting, and organization of the content are also dependent on the person preparing it, the client with which the agreement is entered, the level of detail included and the size of the size and complexity of the website design project.

There are, however, clauses that should never miss in any good freelance website design contract.

The three most important parts of a website design contract are: (1) what exactly will you do: clearly defining the scope of work and deliverables, (2) how much and when you will get paid: clearly defining what and when you're going to be compensated, and (3) who will own the intellectual property of the website once your work is done and paid for.

The What    

Clearly defining what you are going to do for the client is crucial. Picture this; you are approached by a client to help design a website. You evaluate the scope of the work, agree on the charges and receive requirements for the website. After putting in your time, effort, and other resources to complete a high-quality website; the client refuses to pay up on the claim that you didn’t provide the services agreed upon. Alternatively, the client might have expected you to build a new website using a different platform or language.

It’s also possible for the client to have expected you to provide the content for the website too among other additional services. In such cases, you can defend your position and have the client compelled to pay up if you had signed a contract clearly describing what it is you will provide.

Any Website Design Contract template worth using must have a clear description of what it is you are offering and will be paid for.

The more detailed the description is, the better. In addition, it may be necessary to explicitly declare what you will not be providing. The contract will help ensure that there’s no confusion on what you are to provide.

This part of the contract also gives you a basis for which to demand payment and defend yourself against scope creep and clients from hell who don’t know what they want and thus have you endlessly redesigning the website. It is only fair in such a case that the payment be reviewed since the scope has changed or the requirements and thus the amount of work has also changed. Being stuck in endless revision cycles also denies you the opportunity to work on other projects, thus making you lose out on business.

It is thus worth working with a Freelance website design contract that defines clearly the service, its scope, and the maximum number revisions that the agreed fee covers.

The How, When, and How Much Of Payment

Your freelance business is your source of livelihood. Therefore, it’s only fair that you are duly compensated for your effort, time, talents, skills, and resources. Therefore, every website design contract must have a payment clause defining exactly how much you will be paid. It should also define when and how you will be paid.

Is it with a certain percentage of deposits upfront, small percentages as you deliver certain parts of the project or complete certain design stages, or will you be paid the entire amount once you complete and deliver the website? Is the fee based on a fixed or hourly rate? Further, through what means will you be paid? Will it be by credit card, check, bank transfers, or cash?

These are all questions that any good freelance website design contract should address. Having these clauses in your contract also improves chances of being paid and on time.

The Intellectual Rights

A website design has many components to it. It also uses a number of tools. Therefore, the issue of who own the rights to the intellectual property arises. You as the designer or developer of the website may want to reuse certain aspects of the design. For instance, you may have developed a new font that you want to use in another client’s website. The structure of the website and layout of the pages, as well as the original graphic used, may also be things that you want to retain rights to.

The client, on the other hand, might not want certain aspects and features of their website to find a place in another company’s or individual’s website. Additionally, what type of right will the client have and at what point will these rights be transferred to the client if s/he is to have them?

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Credits: Image courtesy of rocketlawyer.net

One of the mistakes a website designer or any other design professional for that matter can make is signing away their intellectual property rights to clients who have not paid them. This is a pitfall that you as a freelance designer must avoid at all costs. This is because you can easily find yourself suffering after dealing with an unscrupulous client who not only fails to pay you fairly for the work that you’ve done but also runs with your intellectual property rights. Get all things in order before you sign away your rights.

Note also that accepting payment for the work done doesn’t automatically give away your intellectual property rights. Nevertheless, issues might arise if the owner of these rights to the website is not explicitly specified.

Other protections are afforded to website designers by including certain clauses in the website design contract. For instance, specifying the kill fee amount and when it is to be paid will help ensure that should a project be terminated, you’ll be compensated for what you’ve already done. Further, termination terms must always be made crystal clear in the contract.

Preparing The Freelance Website Design Contract

The most important thing about preparing this type of contract is ensuring that the crucial clauses are included in it. However, you also need to make sure that the contract is actually legible. Small measures can ensure that the contract looks good, but also that anyone, especially the client can easily read it

You should also make it easy for one to find a particular clause of interest without having to look too long and hard for it in the contract’s content. Strategies such as keeping the fonts simple, avoiding underlining, italicizing or writing too much of the text in caps can be adopted. You should nonetheless ensure that the fonts are large enough to make reading easy. You should also leave enough white space, use the correct line spacing, and include page numbers if it’s a large document.

There are other important parts that should feature in the contract. Confidentiality, client approval, and liabilities of both parties, are also important clauses that can make the project proceed to completion smoothly. They also help ensure that each party gets what is due to them.

There are also certain things aside from the clauses in the contract that can render it completely useless when conflicts arise. One is that the names of both you as the freelance designer and the client must be indicated on the contract. These often, for a good reason, appear at the beginning of the contract. The contact details of both parties should also be included. The project name and type should also never be omitted. Simple things like including the date of the contract; of both preparation and signing can easily render a contract useless when it comes to taking action or resolving disputes.

Finally, but not any less important than the features already mentioned; both you and the client must append your signatures to each copy of the document.

This simple act makes a document that otherwise carries no legal weight, into one that is legally binding.

Sadly, many freelance website designers, especially the first-time ones make a number of freelance design mistakes; some small but very costly. One is not having a contract. It’s also unfortunate that the small details mentioned above can easily be forgotten when preparing the contract. Failure to have a contract signed for instance is a leading mistake most designers make; effectively taking away the protection that could have been had.

There are however simple things that a freelancer can do to guard against most of these errors.

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Credits: Image courtesy of wordtemplatesbundle.com

Guarding Against Some Common Website Design Contract Errors

Avoid errors in contract signing

Some of the common mistakes people make in contact signatures are getting the wrong signatory to sign, signing in the wrong capacity, and missing key signatures. A wrong signatory signing the contract might not be a substantial danger if your client is an individual.

However, if you are undertaking a website design project for a larger company, a wrong person in the wrong capacity can end up signing the contract on the company’s behalf. In such a case, it also means that the right person’s signature is missing. Make sure you ascertain the authority of the person signing the contract on the company’s behalf. If providing services to an individual, just remember to give the contract to the client to sign.

Send the copies to the client for them to sign, get them back, and sign them and finally send a fully signed copy to the client and retain one.

Get help

You can write up a contract on your own and present it to the client for approval and signing. However, you also need to tell when getting legal help is better or necessary. If for one reason or the other you find that you can’t write a good contract, you can employ the services of a lawyer to help you prepare one.

It will cost you, but it might be exactly what you need to protect yourself from the consequences of making costly contract mistakes.

Use a template

There are many freelance web designer contract templates that you can find online. Of course, there are certain things you should consider when selecting a template, among them picking the right one for the type of freelance job. However, once you’ve found a good template you can rely on it to avoid omitting some of the crucial details for any web design contract.

The template, which can also be a form contract, acts as a guide, telling you what you need to include in your freelance website design contract. You’ll also need to modify some things depending on the clauses you think are necessary for the type, size, and complexity of the project. However, they can make your work easier, especially if it’s the first time you are preparing a website design contract.

Finally, always read through the contract and if possible, have someone read it so that errors can be eliminated before it is sent to the client for signing.

Remember, it's best for your agreement to be specific to the type of work you're doing.  We also provide contracts for freelance mobile design, which includes work done for iOS and Android apps as well as websites

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