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Do I need a contract to sell my web design services?

  • # March 24, 2013 at 6:41 am

    Hey guys… If I want to start a portfolio site to promote my web design services do I have to get the client to sign a contract?

    # March 24, 2013 at 6:45 am

    @mitso Why would you need a contract to promote yourself on your own site? I’m not understanding what you mean exactly. Can you give a hypothetical?

    In general, it is smart for both parties to sign a contract so there are no “surprises” during the relationship. It not only protects them but it also protects you. To answer your vague question, do you have to get the client to sign a contract? No, you don’t. If a client won’t sign a contract, I wouldn’t do business with them. Simple as that. Should you always have one in place? Absolutely.

    Example:

    I once worked for an agency as a Designer and Typographer to create logos, etc. We mutually parted on bad terms and they left me a voicemail to take down a shot I had posted on dribbble. It was a logo that I had made for one of their clients (which has now been butchered). In the voicemail they said that I had signed an agreement stating all the work was theirs and I couldn’t show it on my portfolio or represent it as my work. I volunteered to include their agency but that was quickly turned down. Thankfully I kept all the papers I signed and it turned out there was no such contract that stated this. Dribbble also turned down their request to have that shot removed. So in this case it would have benefited my former employer to have had a contract.

    Click to zoom

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    # March 24, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    I’m with @chrisburton, but, if you’ve done work in the past a didn’t mention using your client’s work as examples, you might contact them about it first – just as a courtesy. Unless you’ve actually agreed *not* to display the work (or have surrendered “all rights” to it -which you shouldn’t do), then I would simply suggest offering to remove any branding or identifying content.

    I’ve been through this with clients before (thankfully, during the negotiation phase!). A client didn’t want me to include my copyright notice (in *the HTML metadata…!*) or show the work, anywhere, ever. It took awhile, but I managed to explain that I didn’t want to “offer” her site for sale to others, but to show what I was capable of making. I also explained that it was great advertising for me, and almost doubled the price if she wanted me to agree to her terms. :)

    When she asked why, I asked her, “If it’s worth that much to you, don’t you think it would be worth that much to me?” Never heard about it again. Rest of the project went smooth as butter.

    # March 24, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I dont know if you guys in web-development make requirement docs but in programming, well, it’s done quite a lot.. Thankfully i have taken that attitude into web development. More or less you create a document that will outline EVERY-POSSIBLE-THING and explain everything, that way once it is presented to them and it is contractually agreed upon it is pretty hard for anything to go south (on your end at least) and i am presuming you are doing this all freelance. Like Chris pointed out, if he were to sign a document rendering all the work he did to be the intellectual property of his employer, well… you see how that could have possibly turned out.

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    # March 24, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    @JohnMotylJr – absolutely; contracts need to specify anything and everything that’s important. All my agreements include a detailed project outline, as well as clauses that specify a “non-exclusive” license and my right to include the project in my portfolio or in advertising.

    # March 24, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I think the above correspondence was an obviously desperate retaliatory action. I feel I was being more than courteous when I suggested to display the agency’s name alongside the artwork, which I created alone with no direction. Either way, I had no legal obligation to do any of that, including taking it down. Ultimately, they knew what they were trying to do and it didn’t work in their favor. Exactly why contracts can be important but I’m glad they didn’t exist in this case.

    # March 24, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Anyone wanna share an example contract? Do you make them yourself or do you have some one (a lawyer I guess) to make them for you, or at least make the template?

    # March 24, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    The contract I use is for lettering work, completely different from web design/development. I honestly think contacting a lawyer is the best approach but would also advise to seek a law student as well if you’re on a budget.

    # March 25, 2013 at 3:17 am

    I just want to sell simple, five to eight page – $500 websites and promote my services via a portfolio website displaying some of my layout/designs that clients can choose from to base their design off.

    In a simple agreement with an order form I would state a payment of 50% is required before starting any work and the final 50% when finished.

    Do I really need a contract for them to sign? I do understand that the contract could stand for any legal issue, but do I really need one if I take a 50 percent deposit and the rest when I am about to deliver the approved design?

    If so, are these free ones floating around the web ok?

    # March 25, 2013 at 4:51 am

    @mitso Well, first off, $500 websites devalue our industry not to mention might not be fair to the client as each client has different needs. Therefore, setting a fixed price would only benefit you, not the client. Secondly, where do you think that sort of plan will ultimately get you? To me that sounds like an old-fashioned way to do business. A “let’s shake on it” sort of method. Without a contract, both parties can screw each other over.

    Q: Why do you think majority, if not all, service companies require a contract?

    A: Because the customer can clearly say they were not legally obligated to pay.

    Please take some time to watch this presentation by Mike Monteiro.

    # March 25, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Thanks Chris, I know a law student so I think that will work.

    # March 25, 2013 at 6:52 am

    So you think there is no market for a $500 website?
    Im sorry to be the one to let you know, but if that price devalues the industry then it happened a long time ago.
    As far as being fair for the client, no one is going to twist their arm to buy anything and I can assure you I have no intention of benefiting myself and not my clients.
    Besides, my question was regarding the necessity for a contract for the method of service I intend to offer, not your opinion on the quality of my work or business model.

    # March 25, 2013 at 7:50 am

    @mitso To be quite honest, you’re not giving me any information that I don’t already know or haven’t heard before. It is up to you to decide whether or not to take the advice I gave you along with a video resource showing why contracts are important and apply it to your business. Oh, and thank you for being appreciative for the time I’ve taken out of my day to respond to your question.

    # March 25, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Just watched the video, made some notes, good stuff in there :)

    I don’t think asking low prices devalue the industry, but it does devalue yourself. I like this quote: “You can never and should never compete on price, that is just a race to the bottom” – [source](http://optional.is/required/2013/01/21/getting-to-your-minimum-hourly-rate/). Because “If all the customer is worried about is cost, then they aren’t the best customer to have anyway” and there is always some one cheaper anyway.

    # March 25, 2013 at 8:07 am

    > I don’t think asking low prices devalue the industry, but it does devalue yourself.

    If it devalues yourself and you’re a part of the industry, how is it not devaluing the industry?

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