Is this a work for hire?

Hi all,
I’m a relatively new graphic designer. Recently, someone I used to know through work offered me a logo design job for a pretty big client. He was asked to design the website and then came to me to ask me to design the logo (for website/and to give to her for use on the sign/bags. The only issue…I’m not sure how to write up a contract for this or what this job is considered. He owns his own design company, and that is how he received the job. Would this make the situation a work-for-hire situation? I am looking to design a contract allowing me credit and (if possible) to only give up a vector file and not the Ai file (or editable layers). I would appreciate all input!

Also, he is paying me hourly for the job and I will be writing an invoice/including pricing/payment in his contract.


A logo belongs to the end client in its entirety. No company is going to allow a designer to keep the logo lock-up vector files under ransom terms. Suggesting so shows a lack of experience and professionalism.

Your contract has to include the turnover of all files to the client so they can reproduce THEIR logo in any medium. They will also want to trademark it. There can be no liens on the image.
Charge accordingly.

Working for your designer friends means you are a contractor. How much he is paying you will determine whether or not he needs to 1099 you for tax purposes.

For design best practices I would highly suggest you lay hands on a copy of the GAG Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidlines and give it a good read.

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To add to PD’s comment, select your hourly rate, Include what the hourly rate covers for your first proof.
For logos I often included a set amount of variations/options for the client to select from, one round of changes to a specific variation (not billed at said hourly rate) and then made it clear the further changes would continue back at said hourly rate.

The client owns the piece as stated above, but I rarely send the native file (AI, InD) unless requested. Most of my clients wouldn’t be able to utilize this anyhow, and it offers incentive for future labor on the piece should content change.

Take a deposit for the work, an estimated 50% of the total labor. Deposit is non-refundable, state that so it’s clear. And payment in full prior to the release of any useable file.

The .ai should be sent, along with other formats and a branding guide.
It used to be sweet to package it up all neatly on a CD and put it in a CD box with a printed branding guide included, but no one has drives any more. So package it up in a nice, easy to use folder and hand it off, even if they have no use for some of the formats. You might get hit by a bus, then where would the client be?

Do keep it available for when the client calls that they lost it. Charge a de-archiving fee to go find it (especially if you deactivate files after a year or two.)

But I gotta say, there is nothing worse, as a sign guy, to try to contact a client’s designer and have them get all defensive about what I might want to do with their client’s logo. Give it up already.

That’s sort of a bassackwards way for a business to arrive at their company logo (if that’s what this is). Then again, companies often approach design projects from the wrong end. Anyway, a logo is typically part of larger visual identity and branding project, not something to be subbed out as an afterthought for a website — especially considering that it’s for, as you put it, “a pretty big client.” Is this really going to be used as the company’s logo or, maybe, just an graphic or logo-like identifier for a specific project? It doesn’t really matter to your questions, though. It just sounds a bit off.

PrintDriver referred you to the Graphic Artists Guild’s (GAG) handbook, which is a great reference. Another very good reference is the AIGA Standard Form of Agreement for Design Services, which is way longer and more involved than a contract often needs to be, but it’s a fantastic (and freely downloadable) reference.

You didn’t mention where you’re from, so I’ll assume the United States. Unless this person is hiring you as an employee (which doesn’t seem to be the case), you’re an independent contractor (a business) being paid to do a specific job — it’s not a work-for-hire situation. If you start doing this kind of thing regularly, you’ll need to look into operating as a real business, filing quarterly returns, keeping detailed records, writing off expenses, setting up an LLC and all kinds of other crazy things, but for a one-off project, just write up a brief contract, get an advance, do a good job, get paid, leave with everyone smiling, then report it next year on your income taxes.

What do you mean by allowing you to get credit? No one will ever prevent you from taking credit for the work you do unless there’s a non-disclosure agreement involved. You might write into the contract, however, that you retain the right to use the work in your portfolio for self-promotional purposes. I’ve not had many client’s balk at this.

As for retaining rights beyond that, like trying to keep editable files from the client, well, just don’t. A business owner would be stupid to allow anyone to maintain control over the core piece in their visual brand. Your contract should state that upon payment in full, all intellectual property rights (like copyrights) to work product (the logo) are transferred to the client. If this were a brochure or an illustration or, well, most anything other than a logo, retaining the original artwork might be OK (depends on the designer), but for a logo, um, no — it should be 100 percent theirs once you get paid.

Always bill clients with an invoice (even if they’ve already paid you). It’s standard procedure in all cases. For one thing, they’ll need it as proof of an expense for their tax records. As for being paid an hourly rate, if that’s the case, write that and the rate into the contract.

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It never ceases to amaze me that this is not already required teaching in art school. Ah well, there’s always the school or life.

In graduate school, I got into an argument with one of my graduate committee advisors over this very thing. He was insisting I approach a design project in a way that would never be acceptable in a real-world business situation. I objected and his reply was, “then maybe you should be working on an MBA instead of another design degree.”

Dammit, on reading again I actually meant “school for life”, though as it is it seemed to make sense in a strange way.

I hang my head on your advisor’s reply.

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