What is a Contract and Why Do I need it?
Table of Contents
1. A Contract is a Relationship based on a business Agreement
What is a contract to a business? A contract is an agreement which helps define a business relationship between you and your client.
The actual relationship is defined by project scope, pricing of services, delivery times, requirements, each of which make up the terms of a contract.
Web design contracts also define a personal relationship with your clients shown through good business practices. A successful outcome of a project requires empathy towards a client’s needs and creating a web design solution to those needs – something which very hard to define in writing – although we will surely try.
Once must realise that not even the best website contract will be able to cover every scenario. Nothing can replace a good personal relationship with your client where the interests of both are attended to. A contract should be drawn out with a mutually beneficial perspective. This will prevent problems by providing assurances and define expectations. Mutual respect is the heart of a good personal relationship, business relationship, and a good contract.
Mutual respect is essential for a good personal relationship, a successful business relationship, and a good website design contract.
2. A contract also helps you to not get screwed.
If you don’t sign a contract – what do you revert to if things start going tits-up?
“F*uck You. Pay Me.” to quote Mike Monteiro’s informative video highlights the problems most web designers have faced in their career.
A good contract binds both ways – you and the client both need to satisfy the conditions of the contract.
3. A Contract is a Legal Relationship
But what is a contract really?
“A contract is an agreement which creates a legally enforceable obligation between the parties. Each party must give something of value to the other party. This exchange is called consideration and can include money, rights, or anything of value.” (Web Design Law)
Contracts can take various forms: from scribbles on a napkin, to formal written documents, to oral contracts.
Oral contracts are as legally binding as other contracts – through a written contract is always best.
The things is this, human memories are very prone to failure. Terms spoken can be forgotten. Disputes are more likely when a contract is oral rather than written and how can resolve such disputes?
4. Contracts: Create one which works for you
Whatever style of written contract is your choice. Whether you want a very formal contract or a more lax set of conditions is your choice – just do have something.
Some clients will not feel at ease with a full set of terms and conditions over multiple pages – too much legalese for smaller clients might be overwhelming.
A more informal approach such as a letter signed by both parties can be a valid web design contract – this is called a “Letter of Agreement”. It’s a short description of the project, schedule, fees and relevant terms and conditions in an informal letter format on the web designers letterhead or stationary. Conditions usually describe only the essentials such as copyright, right to revisions, payment terms, and miscellaneous legal terms.
A Project Proposal with attached Terms and Conditions is a very solid contract. This is a detailed project document that defines the scope of work, the web design process, the timings, and the associated fees.
5. A contract for web design is an agreement, not a fight.
All contracts can be changed, as long as both parties agree. Provisions in a contract can be removed or added as necessary.
Every contract requires negotiation but that does not need to be a fight. Remember, each relationship must provide mutual benefit. Always keep in mind what is absolutely essential and what can be compromised or delivered later.
This guide provides many examples and explanations of common contract clauses to help you improve your negotiation position and to craft a contract that suits your needs.
Get That Web Design Contract Signed
Web designers, one of the most prolific digital nomads, may not be able to meet the client in person to physically sign the contract. Digital signatures are today accepted as valid as much as physcial signatures – but make sure there is evidence of a signed agreement. Having sent a contract which has not been signed is as good as having nothing at all.