You’ve just had a fantastic meeting with a client. The requirement is exciting and the pay will be too. You are ready to start work as soon as possible.
To your shock, things start to unravel right from the very first change request to the invoice date.
What could have been done to prevent this?
Most web professionals, unfortunately, do not sign written agreements with clients before starting work. This mistake could not only cost you the project but could put a dent in your entire business.
Writing that agreement on your own, though, can be quite a challenging task without paid, professional help. To help you avoid the burn there, we’ve put together a short guide on all you need to know to draft an agreement on your own.
Here’s a quick overview of what you can expect:
- Written agreements – a key step to a good client relationship
- Asking a client to sign an agreement
- What to include in any agreement
- Free templates/example documents for your reference and use
- And finally, some helpful tips on what to include in your contract
1. Why you should get a written agreement:-
- To protect you AND your client:
- Agreements and contracts are often (wrongly) viewed negatively. A written agreement will protect you and ensure you get what is due in terms of payment and Intellectual property rights-not to mention protection for using brand information and client data.
- It will also assure your client that you will deliver what is promised
- To help regulate your cash flow:
- The terms of your agreement can include for e.g. – payments in regular installments in accordance with project schedule to help ensure a steady inflow of cash and help you initiate other projects
- To ensure clarity:
- For e.g., the document removes any assumptions your client might have about the scope of your project, how and by when you plan to deliver it, etc. It can also serve as a reference guide along the way. We will cover other components below
- To protect you against endless change requests:
- Of all the pains a developer or designer may face-this is probably the biggest. While changes on a project are bound to happen, you can specify up to how many you can accept without a charge
- Finally we will add- an agreement will make you look more professional
2. Common reasons that hold you back from creating one:
- Your resolute ‘trust’ in certain clients:
- An agreement should be treated as standard policy for your business regardless of your client’s relationship with you. You can never predict a project’s turn of events and an agreement will sustain a good relationship
- Unwillingness to deal with the legal terminology and language of agreements:
- Attempting to decipher a long-drawn legal document can be frustrating. However, you need not follow verbiage neither you nor your client can understand. You could draft your document in your own words
- After all, the ultimate goal of the agreement is for you and your client to be in complete understanding and on the same page from day one
- Fear of losing your client:
- If your client feels ‘put off’ by your insistence on an agreement, remember to explain that the document is meant to protect both parties. It should be viewed as a method to prevent misunderstanding and conflict rather than resolve it
Remember : A client unwilling to discuss or sign a contract is not worth the business. Know what you can and cannot be flexible about but do not go ahead with your project without any kind of legal agreement. There is no protection due to you in absence of any such document.
If you do face resistance from a client unwilling to sign a document-the best persuader is absolute honesty and transparency. Here’s a helpful excerpt –
“… it’s important to have things written down so that we both know what’s what, who should do what and when, and what will happen if something goes wrong. In this contract you won’t find any complicated legal terms or long passages of unreadable text. We’ve no desire to trick you into signing something that you might later regret. What we do want is what’s best for both parties, now and in the future.”
-The opening from the ‘Stuff and Nonsense Contract Killer’ .
It is as simple as that.
3. What to include in your agreement:
- Project scope
- What is and is not included in the scope of the project-e.g. website testing, website content, etc
- Project road map and schedule
- This will serve as a guidepost and have the client aware of what to expect in the months ahead
- Specifies that the project will be completed within the budget specified
- How you want to price your business
- If you wish to have an advance amount paid
- You may include payments due to other material required e.g.-paid images, etc
- The forms of payment you will accept
- How you plan to bill your client
- Consequences for late or non-payment
- Payment schedule required
- Fees to expedite releases
- How change requests can be dealt with
- For e.g-up to how many requests you will accept post which charges would apply,etc
- Your committed response time
- How soon your client can expect an acknowledgement of requests
- When and how communication can be made
E.g.-either through phone call, tickets raised, etc. and the work hours that you will be available, etc
- Browser/device compatibility
- It can detail the kind of devices, browsers and browser versions you will develop or design for
- Portfolio rights
- The right to display your creation on your personal website, other media, etc
- Copyrights/patent rights
- This can detail that your work will not be modified or reproduced without your name or permission attached or that you surrender ownership to the client post completion and payment of the project
- Fair practice:
- May include that you commit that the work you created is original and has not been published before or that if it has, you have permission to reuse it
- That the client may not use your work for unlawful purposes
- Ensures your commitment to data and code security
- Post-project support
- These could be charges for hosting, technical support, training, analytics, search engine marketing services etc. that you can provide your client once the project is completed
- Dispute resolution:
- Which jurisdiction this should be taken up with should either of you have a dispute
- Cancellation terms:
- Ownership right and copyright to the project as completed or not completed including cancellation fees to be paid by the client, etc
- Cover situations that may arise
- E.g. – Unforeseen technical situations that may arise
- Exit strategy
- E.g.-any unpaid fees that should be paid to you for all work completed thus far
4. Types of agreements you can use:
- A ‘must-have’:
- A Letter of Agreement
- Good to have:
- Design and Development Contract
- Software Development Agreement
- NDA or Non-disclosure agreement
- Website Maintenance Agreement (if applicable)
5. Resources online/templates:
- Docracy.com’s Design and Development Contract for downloading- https://www.docracy.com/8574/design-and-development-contract.
- Webdesignlaw.com’s Letter of Agreement provides both a template and an example – http://webdesignlaw.com/contracts/letter-of-agreement.html
- Contractstandards.com’s Software Development Agreement –https://www.contractstandards.com/contracts/software-development-agreement
- Contract Killer’s open-source contract for developers and designers – https://stuffandnonsense.co.uk/projects/contract-killer/
- Bidsketch’s Web design contract–https://www.bidsketch.com/proposal-resources/web-design/web-design-contract-template/
- Be open to negotiating certain terms—the agreement after all is defined by the input from and benefit to both parties
- Don’t download a template and use as-is. Think carefully about your business and your requirements and customize your own agreement. A contract for every business can be different
- It need not be a lengthy document. A formal, simple, straightforward letter of agreement could do
- Offer to take your clients through the agreement
Please note: This blog is meant to be useful information and is not to be treated as legal advice.
We hope you found this post helpful. Tell us what you think in the comment section below !