My 3 Favorite Contracts For Designers

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When I first started freelancing (which ultimately turned into the business that you see today), I knew I needed to cover my butt. Just kidding, I learned I needed to cover my butt the hard way. If you’re a creative in any way, I think emotions come first when you think about your “why” and when it comes to why you got started. You want to help, you want to serve, you want to produce, you want to see the smile on the other side of that FaceTime call and you want to hear the words “this is exactly what I wanted.” So, here’s the tough love portion of today’s discussion: what do you do when that doesn’t happen? The reality is, most clients are wonderful, passionate and professional, but there’s going to be one that steps on you, and it will hurt.

What do you do when a client doesn’t pay you? How about when they’re late on getting materials you need to start or finish the project? What happens when they try to push and pull you into 5, 6, or even 7 drafts and yet it’s still not their idea of perfect? At the end of the day, this is still a business and you are providing a service for someone else, making it really difficult to have a tangible exchange of money for product (since services are technically invisible, there is no thing to hold.)

I started using The Contract Shop almost immediately in my business (I mean, this post alone is over 6 months old). When people ask for advice about how I handle a client problem, I always ask “What does your contract say?” It’s so crucial to be upfront and communicative when starting a relationship with a client, but you have to have everything on paper to refer back to.


3 great contracts for designers of all types:


Graphic Design Contract Template

Sure, you may know your way around Adobe and love to offer your design skills to the world, but what happens when a client is a major butthead? You need to be able to protect yourself if clients turn on you, like saying your design wasn't what they wanted or paying weeks after your scheduled payment date.

This template is perfect for:  Graphic Designers and Digital Designers

It covers your butt on the following:

  • An outline of services you provide

  • A payment plan outline with suggested dates

  • Late fee clause, in case your client misses payments

  • Confidentiality clause to protect your trade secrets

  • A discussion about who owns the intellectual property you create, with the ability to give it all to the client OR maintain ownership while the client is allowed to use the finished product(s)

  • A limit of liability to minimize the amount of money you'd owe if you ever needed to rely on your contract

  • All the boring legal stuff that makes this baby a real, valid contract (It may be boring but it's easy to understand)

Additional Cool info: This Graphic Design Contract Template is attorney-prepared and reviewed by another 2 attorneys to ensure quality. There’s a breakdown of all the fees you need to charge and a section about what happens when the client is late getting revisions to you (and unfortunately, this WILL happen!)


Web Designer Contract Template

If you’ve ever dealt with a client gone missing or that you can can’t get ahold of, this template is perfect for you. Setting boundaries with your clients at the start of your project is essential for a successful web design project and heck, web design business for that matter. Stop the cycle of overwhelm with this contract template that helps you lay down the law (in a nice way, of course) and get serious about your boundaries.

This template is perfect for: Website developers, contractors and customizers and custom site template designers

It covers your butt on the following:  

  • An outline of services you provide

  • A payment plan outline with suggested dates

  • Late fee clause, in case your client misses payments

  • Confidentiality clause to protect your trade secrets

  • A discussion about who owns the intellectual property you create, with the ability to give it all to the client OR maintain ownership while the client is allowed to use the finished product(s)

  • A limit of liability to minimize the amount of money you'd owe if you ever needed to rely on your contract

  • All the boring legal stuff that makes this baby a real, valid contract (It may be boring but it's easy to understand)

Additional Cool info:  This contract allows you to keep or give away the copyrights you create for clients


Independent Contractor Contract Template

If you can’t quite put a word on the services you provide, then this is the perfect contract for you. This template is for the innovators out there, pushing the limits of what’s possible. In other words, if you provide services to clients, this customizable template is exactly what you need.

This template is perfect for: Freelancers, when creating a new job title, if you serve clients in more than one service

It covers your butt on the following:

  • An outline of services you provide

  • A payment plan outline with suggested dates

  • Late fee clause, in case your client misses payments

  • Confidentiality clause to protect your trade secrets

  • A discussion about who owns the intellectual property you create, with the ability to give it all to the client OR maintain ownership while the client is allowed to use the finished product(s)

  • A limit of liability to minimize the amount of money you'd owe if you ever needed to rely on your contract

  • All the boring legal stuff that makes this baby a real, valid contract (It may be boring but it's easy to understand)

Additional Cool info:  This is what you need if you’re say, a business coach and a designer. It’s totally customizable to what you are providing to each individual client.


AND A BONUS: Client Contract Checklist

If you already have a client contract, this (super affordable!) checklist walks you through everything you need to make sure it’s up-to-snuff! You never know what your current contract could be missing that could legally protect you down the road.


Look, I get it. Reading this stuff can feel boring and a little “meh” but trust me, once you get into it it’s actually extremely easy to understand. Plus, these are templates, so you can adjust it to the way that fits and supports your business to keep it totally legally-binding. And a little additional tip for you: if something seems off with an email or discussion you’re having with a client, make sure to check the contract before you respond as to not accidentally create a clause you didn’t mean to!


Note: This post contains affiliate links, but rest assured I would never share anything that I haven’t tried or personally used before!