The Beginner's Guide to Web Design Contracts

Web Design contracts are a very important part of your career as a freelance web designer. It protects you...and your client.

Last Updated: • Business Lessons •

A company emails you and says, "Based on the proposal you created, we want to move forward with the site. Could you please write up a contract for us?" Now what?

Contracts are not only for the client's protection, but for yours as well. According to Wikipedia, the definition of a contract is as follows:

Contract - A legally binding exchange of promises or agreement between parties that the law will enforce.

Some of the components of a contract include:

  • Overall goals of the site
  • Domain name and hosting details
  • Description of graphic content
  • Cross-browser/cross-resolution
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Maintenance agreement (if necessary)
  • Estimated cost and payment schedule
  • Ownership rights (who owns the code?)
  • Confidentiality statement
  • Design credit statement
  • Delivery date, approximate or specific
  • Charges for amendments

These are just a small amount of topics covered in a basic contract. Contracts can range from one page to (uggh) 18 pages. The size of the contract primarily depends on how much you want to C-Y-A. The law isn't forgiving, so unless you and your client can't come to an agreement, I would hire a lawyer to look over the contract and provide his piece of mind.

Nick Gould at Digital Web Magazine talks why you should bother with contracts and what's included. My feeling on the subject is that no matter how small a web design job is, if you don't have a contract and you're sued, depending on the lawsuit, that small job just turned into a big problem overnight because you didn't have a contract.

If you've never made a contract before, take the time to understand your client. Put yourself in their shoes. If you were presented with this proposal, what would you require from the web design company to put your mind (and company) at ease? Include additional items to the list above and consider that your checklist.

If you're new to creating web design contracts, I've included a list of resources below to kick start your process of building one.

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Picture of Jonathan Danylko

Jonathan Danylko is a freelance web architect and avid programmer who has been programming for over 20 years. He has developed various systems in numerous industries including e-commerce, biotechnology, real estate, health, insurance, and utility companies.

When asked what he likes to do in his spare time, he replies, "Programming."

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