Website Design Client Contract Basics (and Template)

Any significant project you produce will mostly likely be accompanied with a contract. If you don’t have a boilerplate contract, I suggest you take a look at my most recent sample proposal/contract, which is included in our newly launched Web Design Sales Kit.

I have been hot and cold with contracts over the years. For a while I started with a proposal and then sent a contract after I got the thumbs up from the client. This two-part process was pretty time consuming. You’d have to create a proposal, win the business, and then begin a contract creation round (which many times included additional negotiation). This was usually necessary when I didn’t know the exact scope of work at the time of proposal.

Key Parts

As the type of projects we took on got more consistent, I eventually distilled my proposal and contract into a single document. The primary proposal served as an overview of:

  • Scope of work
  • Investment
  • Terms

And then I inserted an external link that goes to the legal mumbo jumbo. I’d say if you are producing projects for less than $50,000 this is adequate (however, I’m not a lawyer, so consult one).

When I was creating my contracts as separate documents, I would invest a lot of time in them. I would create elaborate scope of work sections that doubled as the project plan. Here is an older website design contract that I used on a more custom web app project a few years back. I think it will be a helpful example for anyone that needs some additional boilerplate.

99 Times Out of 100

Your contract is rarely going to be used in court, if ever. Most of the time it allows everyone to get on the same page and make sure there is a real clear agreement on day one. If you have to pull the contract out again during a project, it is usually a sign of things to come.

I personally have never had to go to court, but I’ve had plenty of disputes over agreements and usually the more detailed the agreement is the better.

But you will still have gaps no matter the situation. You will have to make calls over when it’s worth the fight or when you want to stand behind the document.

One More Thing

Make sure you are very clear about “Background Technology” and pass-through any third-party contract that applies to you—and hence your client—to your client. You don’t want to be under a legal requirement that affects your customer’s business and not bind them to that same expectation to you.

This also applies to “Licensing.” Be careful about what you license your customer to, especially when it comes to CMS/E-Commerce/Emailing Marketing platforms. Make sure you inspect your stock photos/videos as well. A lot of the big sites like iStockPhoto.com only give you a limited license, which you want to make sure you client understands.

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