Struggling to find a decent free contract for web designers that works for your business? Look no further for the essential elements of a web design contract.
Kerry, a web designer, understands the importance of having a contract. She knows that a contract ensures her clients are on the same page regarding essential project details and protects her when things go wrong.
The only problem? She’s not quite sure how to create one. But Kerry, always resourceful and never one to let uncertainty bring her down, consults Google. She searches for variety of related phrases, like “free contract for web designers,” “web design contract template,” “web design agreement template,” and “contract templates for web design projects.” She even searches for “web development contract templates” to see what a related industry (web developers) is using.
And the search is a success! She finds countless articles on the topic—plus links to several legal documents and downloadable web design contract templates. “This is promising,” she thinks.
But not so fast, Kerry.
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The Problems With a Free Web Design Contract Template
Her optimism soon evaporates. None of the articles are much help. The website design contract templates are too complicated, cover aspects that don’t apply to her web design business, and contain legal jargon she doesn’t understand. Creating a legal contract that even remotely resembles one that will work for her web design business will involve a lot of work.
Kerry sighs. She wonders:
- “How will I create a web design contract if I don’t know what to include?”
- “Will I have to waste money paying some big-shot lawyer to do it for me?”
If Kerry’s story sounds familiar—or you’re just generally struggling to create a web design contract—then you’re in the right place. This post shows you, as freelance web designers, how to create your own web design contract by highlighting only the essential elements you need to include. All of these elements, when combined, form a neat web design contract template that requires minimal customization.
The Key Elements of Any Decent Free Contract for Web Designers
The essential elements of a freelance contract for web designers include:
- An introductory statement with contact information
- A detailed description of the services
- Payment and costs
- Ownership of the work
- Privacy and confidentiality
- Contract termination
- Details of the working relationship
- A dispute resolution clause
- Signatures to make the contract legally binding
As you read the ten sections below, remember that your contract should be easy to understand. The goal is not to confuse your client with legal fine print; it’s to get both the client and you, the designer, on the same page. So, as a general rule: Remove any phrases, sentences, or words you struggle to understand. Chances are if you can’t understand these phrases, your client can’t either.
1. An Introductory Statement With Contact Information
Your web design contract should start with an opening paragraph that:
- Mentions the parties involved
- Lists the addresses (street address, city, and state)
- Stipulates the date (month, year, and day)
Here’s an example:
“This web design agreement is made between [client name] situated at [insert address] and [business name] located at [insert address] on [insert date].”
When completing the above paragraph, ensure you use your official business name (e.g. if you’re an LLC, include that). You may also choose to add your name and your client’s name throughout your contract instead of generic terms like “client,” “service provider,” or “company.” This inclusion will make your contract just a little more personal.
2. A Description of Services
Provide a detailed breakdown of the services. Your services may include programming, search engine optimization, both, or something else. Regardless of what services you list, ensure you’re specific to avoid confusion. If, for example, you only handle the design aspect of any project and not the copy or development services, explicitly state that so your client understands and there’s no confusion.
Don’t Forget the Revisions
After listing your services, clearly stipulate how many rounds of revisions are included in your work as a freelance web designer, if any. Maybe it’s one, two, or even three? If you fail to mention how many revisions are included, your client will think they can ask for as many as they want and your project will continue indefinitely. And you’ll be out of pocket.
Furthermore, explain what the revision process entails. Don’t assume clients understand your revision process. They likely don’t as they’re not from your industry. Here’s an example of how to define your revision process, from InfinVision: “Once a design draft is presented, the client has a specified number of days to provide their feedback. Once all of their comments, ideas, and questions are consolidated and we provide a new version, that’s the end of that round of revision.”
And finally, state that while the revision process is there to help produce a finished product, certain revision requests will be an extra cost. If, for example, the client requests a significant change that alters the direction of the entire project (e.g. a layout change like moving photos and images), you’ll need to charge extra as you wouldn’t have factored this into your costs.
3. Payment and Costs
Specify whether you’re billing by the hour or project and include the total cost. If you charge hourly, include an estimation of how long the project may take based on past projects so the client has peace of mind their budget won’t be blown. You can also factor in a 10% buffer to protect against underestimating. If you bill by the project, mention the total investment and, again, include a buffer if need be.
Your Payment Schedule
Once you’ve decided how you’ll charge, set a payment schedule. For an hourly model, you may choose to set a weekly or even monthly payment schedule. For a project model, consider billing clients once specific project milestones are met and also ask for an upfront deposit before you start working. You could display this as follows, in your contract:
- Deposit required: [insert value]
- Balance at completion (or final delivery): [insert value]
- Total investment (or cost): [insert value]
Whatever payment schedule you choose, be aware of the following:
- When calculating the total cost of the project, factor in miscellaneous expenses like travel. Specify the limits of this travel time; otherwise, you may travel more than you budgeted for and be out of pocket. The alternative is to exclude these costs and mention you will charge on an ad-hoc basis.
- “Balance at completion” is open to interpretation. If you have a client who drags their feet, the project will technically only be complete when they provide their final feedback, which may take months. So you may want to ask for payment within a certain number of days after final delivery. This puts pressure on the client to provide prompt feedback and protects you from late payment.
Once you’ve explained how you’ll bill clients, what the payment schedule is and what the project investment will be, specify the payment terms. Consider the following:
- Payment method. Do you want clients to pay via direct deposit, FreshBooks Payments, or another method?
- How much your up-front deposit will be. Will it be 50% of the project value or less?
- How soon the client needs to pay after receiving the invoice for the deposit, milestone payments, and the final balance. For the deposit, mention that work will only start once the client has paid the deposit.
- How you will deal with late payment or non-payment. Will you include late payment fees? Will you suspend any work if the payment isn’t received within a reasonable time? In these instances, use your discretion—as each client will be different.
It’s always a good idea to provide a project timeline. Timelines help you manage client expectations from the start and prevent constant back-and-forth with clients asking when you’ll deliver.
When creating your timeline, include the different project milestones as well as a review period for client feedback. Explain to the client that meeting future milestones and final project delivery will depend on their timely feedback during the review period.
Here’s one way to depict a timeline in your contract:
- Initial design concept: [insert date]
- Review period: [insert number of days]
- Final delivery: [insert date]
5. Ownership of Work
Who takes ownership when the final product is delivered? It’s standard practice for the client to take ownership when the final payment is made. However, you may want to retain ownership of the coding that went into the site or request that clients display a copyright notice at the bottom of the website. Make sure to include information on ownership of work (including intellectual property rights) in your contract.
6. Privacy and Confidentiality
Mention that any discussions and project details will remain confidential. This will give your client peace of mind.
7. Contract Terminations
Most contracts have a termination clause that specifies that either party can choose to terminate the agreement at any time as long as they provide adequate notice.
Because a sudden contract termination can lead to you being out of pocket, you may want to include the following two clauses.
- “Received payments are non-refundable if the contract is terminated, for whatever reason.” This clause ensures you still get paid for services if you are invoicing on a regular schedule.
- “If a project is delayed by more than 30 days, the [insert business name] can still bill [insert client name] for any work completed up until that point.”
8. Nature of the Working Relationship
State that you’re being hired as an independent contractor and are responsible for paying your own taxes (assuming you’re not being employed on a full-time, employee basis).
This clause is essential because it helps companies deal with tax agencies that will often query their employee classifications. The phrase is evidence that their classifications are correct and that they’re not trying to avoid paying taxes.
You can say something like “[Business Name] is working for [client name] as an independent contractor and is therefore not entitled to any fringe benefits such as health insurance or paid vacation.”
9. Dispute Resolution
Disputes do sometimes occur, so prepare for these scenarios by detailing how you will handle any disagreements. Mention that the first port of call will involve both parties working together to find an amicable solution.
Then, add that if both parties are unable to find a solution, the next step is arbitration. Arbitration is typically less hostile and easier to organize than litigation. The American Arbitration Association offers standard arbitration clauses on its website.
A contract is only legally binding once both parties have signed it. So remember to add a final section for names and signatures. For example:
“Your signature confirms you have read this agreement and are happy with its contents. This agreement becomes effective once both parties have signed it.
Having a web design contract is undeniably crucial. It offers protection if things go wrong and helps you manage client expectations from day one.
But creating one can feel like a difficult task because there is so much varied information on what you should include in your contract. Information that is often irrelevant to your web design business and, in some cases, even harder to understand due to the legal jargon. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
However, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed as long as you write your contract in plain English and focus on the 10 essential elements of a good web design contract detailed in this post.
This post was updated in April 2022.