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5 Things to Include in Your Web Design Contracts

One of the first lessons that most freelance designers learn is the importance of using contracts. Hopefully that lesson is learned the easy way by taking the advice of others, but for most of us it has been learned the hard way.

Just using any contract is not enough. If your contract isn’t solid or complete it may not prevent the issues that you are trying to avoid.

One contract can certainly be more simple or more complicated than others, and some of the necessities of the contract will be dictated by the size and complexity of the project. But even for small projects there are essential elements that should always be included in your web design contracts. Here we’ll take a quick look at 5 of these important things to include.

1. Scope of Work

Scope creep can be one of the biggest nightmares for designers. A solid contract is probably the best defense against projects that keep getting larger and larger.

Your web design contracts should clearly state the specifics of what services are being performed and what work is being provided under the terms of the contract. You may even want to list some specific things that are not being provided, depending on the situation.

Of course, projects will sometimes evolve and the client may require work that wasn’t included in the original contract. In these situations if you have a solid contract you can charge an additional fee for the new work that has been added.

2. Payment Details

Your contract should be very specific about payment details like the amount owed and when it will be due. There are a lot of different options here, and your contract should be very clear. You may charge a flat fee with a percentage due up front and the rest to be due at completion. Or you may have specific milestones along the way at which payments are due. In some cases you may even be charging an hourly rate.

As you can see, there are a lot of variations when it comes to payment details. Be sure that your contract is clear in case you have issues collecting the payment.

Your payment details can also include information about transfer of files are it relates to the payment. For example, you may want to specify whether final files will be given to the client before or after the final payment has been made.

3. Milestones

In most cases your web design contracts will include some sort of milestone dates. On larger projects you may have milestones where you will be paid based on reaching a certain point of the project.

Even on smaller projects there may be milestones that can be set into the contract, such as a target deadline for getting initial information from the client.

4. Responsibilities of the Client

When you are covering the milestones and project scope in the contract, it’s also important to list the responsibilities of the client. This may include providing written content, providing photos or images, providing feedback on mockups, providing users for testing, etc.

As I’m sure you have experienced, a delay from the client can make it very difficult for you to live up to your end of the agreement. If you are responsible to meet certain deadlines it is only fair that the client is also responsible to meet deadlines that will allow you to do your job.

List the responsibilities of the client, and you may even want to assign dates or time frames to when they should be completed. Also mention that your work is dependant upon the client fulfilling their responsibilities.

5. Intellectual Property

Intellectual property disputes are a potential cause of conflict between designers/developers and clients. Your contract should address the issue of intellectual property, who holds ownership, and whether it is exclusive or not.


Although this is just a quick look at the subject of contracts, it should serve as a starting point for designers who have not used a contract in the past, or for those who have used an insufficient contract. Of course, there are other details that may need to be included in your contracts, but theses are some of the most important elements because they can help to prevent or protect against the most common issues.

Most designers prefer to use contract templates that can be customized and re-used rather than having an attorney draft a contract for each project. There are several contract templates out there, and we have a good web design contract template to offer at Vandelay Premier (cost is $6). It was prepared by our attorney specifically for the purpose of being widely distributed and used in a lot of different situations. It’s easy to use and it tells you where to enter the specific details of your projects.

Whether you draft your own contract, use ours, or use one that you picked up somewhere else, make sure that you are addressing these important points.


This article is intended to serve as an introduction to the topic of contracts for web designers. It is not intended as legal advice and we recommend every designer to have an attorney evaluate their contract or contract template.

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