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Tips for Handling and Writing Graphic Design Contracts

written by: Avionne Akanbi•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 2/23/2010

Graphic design contracts often bring about a type of apprehension from the client who has to sign, but it's your job as the artist to protect both you and the client from any disputes.

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    Do You Need a Contract?

    Graphic design contracts are essential to your freelance business. It's often a challenge for a graphic designer to get the client to sign on the dotted line. The customer may feel that it is self serving for the artist, and somehow they are trapped. This is why it's important for the artist to let the client know that it is serving both of your needs to have a contract, before committing to a graphic design project.

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    Tell the Client About the Benefits

    Graphic Design Contracts - Consider the Details What clients need to understand is how the contract is just as important to them as it is to you. It protects the client by clearly spelling out the tasks that need to be performed to complete the project to their liking. If the project is not completed, then the consequences of partial payment or refunds are there as an exit for the customer. As the designer, you are protecting yourself from not being paid once the specific tasks outlined in the contract are carried out. While working on the project, it feels better knowing that a legal document has been agreed upon with this clarification in mind. The project goes a lot smoother and everyone is happy if the contract is completed successfully.

    All a graphic designer or any other visual artist wants to do is to concentrate on their art. It's a difficult thing to work creatively and deal with the legal side. Although a simple contract can be created by the artist, one may consider hiring an attorney to look it over. In the interim, here are the basic elements every graphic design contracts need to avoid disputes.

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    What to Include in Graphic Design Contracts

    It's important to outline your work for graphic design. This is done by making a brief list of what needs to be done and the costs involved in getting it done. Usually the outline is further defined to create a proposal. In addition to other particulars specific to the project, any graphic design contract should include details on these elements:

    • Outline of the Work
    • Description of Work
    • Source of Materials Supplied by Client
    • Cost of Work
    • Refund Policy
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    Credit and Promotion

    Everyone wants to receive credit for their work. You want to have a clearly defined window of time when you can use the work for your own promotional purposes. This is important for those clientele, who may or may not want the work to be confidential.

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    Fees and Schedule

    Create a time line for your payment schedule. This is usually the crucial part of the entire business transaction, so you want to ensure specific days and amounts due. Line up the payment schedule, with specific points in the time line for the graphic design project. Try to be realistic with the turnaround time, and late fees.

    • Jan 1, 2010: Start of project – 25% due
    • Jan 7, 2010: Turnaround first draft of project – 25% due
    • Feb 1, 2010: Final revisions – 25% due
    • Feb 14, 2010: Project completion – 25% due
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    Copyright Use

    If you are creating any original illustrated images, let the client know when and where it can be used, so that royalties can be incorporated. This is especially important if you are offering the client a competitive rate.

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    Of course, you want to make sure all parties involved in the graphic design project sign the contract. If you are online, this can be done with an email signature. If you are in an office setting, you can sign the contract and fax it in.

    Here is a sample of a graphic design contract for a web designer. It contains all of the elements described above to avoid any disputes and to simply spell out the service rendered. Protect yourself and protect your client by signing a contract before you commit to a graphic design assignment.

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