Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Practical Advice: design contracts

I hear from a lot of my students about crazy contract negotiations they get involved in with clients (where the client writes the contract and the student wonders if they should sign it).

Worse yet, I know that many of my students do design work without a contract and a letter of agreement. Don't do it, not even for friends...not even for a drawing for a tattoo! Always take the time out to write a contract, even just a simple one. Contracts let your clients know you are serious about your business, and can help lead them through the steps of the design process and to understand the design fees and related expenses. They protect both the designer and the client.

I always go to the Graphic Artists Guild website to read up on contracts (and I wouldn't be anywhere without my Pricing and Ethical Guidelines Handbook that I got free for joining (you must be a freelancer to join; they also offer benefits like group health insurance and job boards).

Don't neglect to click on the Letter of Agreement tab, too! Extremely helpful!

1 comment:

Beth Tondreau said...

My guess is that the "crazy contracts" are work for hire contracts, which often essentially say the hiring party can get everything for an all-you-can-eat price. Negotiation is key (and not always a piece of cake).

Possibly, your students are encountering the old trick of "just getting a student to do it" with the implication of saving money. Naughty!

The key is to make sure that revisions are controlled. The Guild language says it well—i.e. the designer sets "reasonable limitations for recisions as well as fees for expected changes."

Old enough to know much better, I plead guilty to not setting forth clear limitations or fees for unexpected changes. "Oh mothers, tell your children not to do what I have done. (The Animals)" Overproviding serves no one.

For many of your students's projects, a Letter of Agreement should suffice—ideally after a a clear estimate that lists/ maps out "deliverables."

Below are some other good tips for designers, whether students or seasoned.