How to create contracts for clients and documents for cetain agreements?

I was wondering how to create legal documents on which the client has to provide a signature to avoid future problems before starting a project .e.g. setting certain revision limits after which extra charges are included, what the client can ask the designer to do and what he/she can’t. Moreover how to make such documents involving payment policies (or any legal documents) (e.g. paying a percentage of the payment initially) seem powerful or valuable so that the clients can’t make a fuss during the design process or after the project is finished; disrespect the agreement and tear the document and sue the designer, etc.

Speaking of legal issues how do designers avoid copyright infringements caused by their clients, e.g. intentional misuse of a design,etc.

Thanks to everyone in advance.

Perhaps give AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) a look…


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Ditto on grfkdzgn’s suggestion. I was going to suggest the same thing.

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Another resource is the GAG (Graphic Artists Guild.)

When I first started my own thing 12 years ago I was all for contracts.

It’s a good thing to get into the habit of.

But as if today I dropped those contracts.

I find it easier just to get a payment upfront depending on price it can be paid in full or split 1/3 or 1/2.

The reason I do this is because a client can stiff you with a contract then it will take a lot of money to go to court to get your money.

It’s better to ask for payment upfront from a small businesses they are more likely to be serious when it comes to working with them.

If you are working with a bigger corporate client you can do a purchase order upfront this is just as good as getting paid in advance.

Contracts are good but there are alternatives that you may not be aware of when you first start.

Contracts keep both you and the client honest.
Pretty much any job that has a dollar amount more than you are willing to toss in the toilet should have some kind of contract attached at least stating that amount, the date when client deliverables are due and the date on which you deliver the finished work, and shows some kind of agreement between you and the client on the terms.

Getting payment, whether up front, in thirds or halves is only a small part of the contract and the contract itself does not guarantee payment. For that, as a business, you should know how to investigate your clients and determine the risk of non-payment. For instance, maybe you have all new customers pay at least half up front, depending on the size of the job. If it is a larger job it is done in installments as each section of the job reaches a milestone as described in the contract.

Larger jobs, like government contracts or very large multi-discipline rollouts, require you as a designer to prove work has been done.You have to submit payment applications with deliverables in some form in order to get your money for that segment of work.

For some jobs, where materials are required (such as a rush trade-show-booth-in-a-bag) the initial investment the customer makes is for the hardware required so you aren’t laying out your own money for that stuff.

There is no set in stone contract. If you are starting a freelancing business it may behoove you to talk to an accountant and see what they suggest regarding not only contracts, but all fees, taxes, and other things you have to know in order to be a business owner. Most importantly, how to separate your personal assets from your business assets in the event you make a bankrupting-scale mistake. Most states in the US also have a Small Business Administration that offers all kinds of information and seminars about running a small business in your state.

As far as Purchase orders go, these are, in effect, contracts. But since they usually only consist of a PO number and maybe a rudimentary description of the item being purchased, and since they originate from your client, you have no control over the terms. You don’t know from looking at a PO if the client pays out weekly, biweekly, monthly or quarterly. That can make budgeting a little tough. They also don’t always specify a due date and they almost never spell out the client obligations in order to meet that due date if there is one.

With longtime freelance clients, I sometimes dispense with the contract too. But contracts aren’t just about getting paid; they’re also an agreement that both parties can refer to that spells out exactly what’s expected of each. In the absence of this document, it’s all too easy for legitimate misunderstandings and miscommunications of various sorts to arise.

Exactly so.

I think the word “contract” sounds intimidating and too legalistic. So I call mine a “written agreement” and spell out the scope of the job and what each party agrees to, in simple and clear words.

For reference I use the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook - Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, and also Business and Legal Forms for Graphic Designers (which comes with a CD with 50 forms).

How do you deal with the transfer of rights without a contract? Like a client who believes they are entitled to ownership of the fonts and stock used in a project… or your native work files. I’ve found it helpful to be able to produce the agreed upon contract and say, that was never part of the deal.

Even if a company paid a percentage up front, I’d be worried about my contact suddenly leaving while a project is in progress, and there being no paper trail for the successor. Projects get killed all the time because someone leaves their job. I broker the printing on a lot of projects and would stand to loose a lot more than billable hours if a company walked away from a project.

Companies don’t have to pay with or without a contract. I was out 11k once but I had the credit card so I charged it because for 3 months they wouldn’t pay me. I was going to be out all that money.

That’s when I said no more contracts because of its just paper, not money.

I broker the printing as well and I expect I get paid before it goes to print.

Everything is on demand now. Get paid first then do the work.

I just hand over all my files to the clients if they ask but most of the time I have them on file and they never ask.

I use royalty free stock photos and if they don’t have the fonts they can buy them.

If I hire a photographer which is rare they own the right because they are paying for it.

That’s true. People who routinely cheat others out of money have the deadbeat game mastered. A contract might get a judgment in your favor in small claims court, but it takes repeated trips back to court to get money actually removed from their bank accounts. And professional cheaters typically have no money in their bank accounts to seize anyway. No matter what, it’s a huge hassle.

It’s usually fairly easy to identify the deadbeats before hand from a few Google searches. They almost always leave a smelly trail that shows up in various online searches. In the absence of a solid history, I require money up front and full payment before delivery.

As for the contract/agreement, though, I find it quite useful for just defining exactly what the job is (sort of a legally binding creative brief). Job creep has always been a problem for me as clients always want to add one more thing into the mix, change their minds midway through a project, delay making decisions for longer than expected, or in other various ways change a straight-forward job into a money pit.

When a piece of paper has been signed stating exactly what is expected, I’ve found it much easier to say that extra request, delay or change will involve extra fees. I’ve also found that clients tend to tighten up their acts when they know that deviations from the agreement will cost them money.

Yeah same here. While I have had many projects that didn’t warrant big effort toward drafting a serious contract, when the client and the $ are big/important enough, the agreement serves as a documented scope-of-work, delivery schedule, and payment schedule, perhaps more so than a legal-recourse vehicle.

Deviations from contract generate a Change Order, whether it is an increase or decrease in scope.

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