Dear 80’s Baby, I Need To Make A Contract
Dear 80s’ Baby,
I started my web design business this past November and after months of waiting I finally landed my first real client. It’s a new online radio station that wants me to create their website from scratch and help them to stream their radio broadcasts from their website. I have met with the owner several times and we did agree on what will go on the site as well as the price for the site. My problem is that this client is insisting on having a contract detailing everything they asked for with the price we agreed on. Does this mean that my client does not trust me to do a good job? I need help because I have never written a contract before and I am afraid that I won’t say the right thing and the client will sue me or something. Please help me from looking like an idiot.
Don’t panic. A client insisting on a written contract is not an uncommon business practice. In fact, it really should be you insisting on having a contract between you and your client to protect yourself. The reason they are so persistent with having a contract is because they may have been burn in the past by a vender and want to prevent that from happening again. Conducting business without a contract is risky even if it is with someone you know well.
It is rather impossible to cover everything that could possibly go wrong in a contract but there are certain things that no contract should be without. A lot of contracts are universal but should be tailored specifically for the business venture.
The most important thing about writing a contract of service is that it contains everything that you and your client agreed upon. Whenever you talk to your client, you should take very good notes. This will make writing your contract easier than if you were to just rely on your memory.
The first thing I would suggest is finding a good contract template. You shouldn’t have a hard time finding a free one; Microsoft has some good ones on their website you should check out.
Next you want to organize your contract by the following:
1. Project Details. What is client asking for? Describe in detail what the client expects you to do.
2. Revisions. Don’t expect the client to fall in love with the finish product at first site. Anticipate having to go back and make changes based on feedback from the client and plan accordingly. Clearly define the number of revisions you are willing to make and stick to it. If the clients is still not happy with it after they reached their allotted amount then charge them extra.
3. Content Delivery and Delays. Stipulate due dates and delivery methods for the client’s content. They need to be held accountable for when they are to give you the contents of their website. So I would suggest charging them a late fee and make them fully aware that their lateness can affect the original project completion date.
4. Website Ownership. Simply put, who will own the rights to the website and its content. You should consider copyrighting the website. You can give your client the graphics that you may have created specifically for their company but I would hold on to any source/code files for the web development, like databases and commerce codes. You may be able to apply it to a future client’s website.
5. Cancellation/Escape Clause. Clarify the conditions and consequences of cancelling the contract. Stipulate that their reason for cancelling must be in writing and have mutual consent. You should also state that their cancellation needs to be within a certain number of days or they will forfeit their deposit.
6. Milestones and Timeline. It would be wise to break down the project into phases and have your client sign off on each phase before going any further. You may also want to take this time to clearly define what phase/project completion is. Once you reach that point you should take your client on a thorough walk through of their site and take notes of their feedback.
7. Page Modifications by Client or Third Party. Stipulate that you will not be responsible for changes made by the client or somebody other than yourself. If the client decides to add or remove something from the site and ruin your work you don’t want to be held liable for fixing it.
8. Maintenance and Technical Support. This is very important. Your contract needs to clearly state what technical support is included in your service. Don’t be afraid to charge them extra for this service. Also anticipate the site needing to be updated. Determine if you will do this and how often.
9. Payment Terms. Ah this is what may be the most important part of the deal. The reason you are in business of course. It is essential that you clearly define fees and payment timeline. To guarantee the commitment level, request a deposit before the site is started. A minimum of 30% is sufficient. Let them know at what point in the process you expect to be paid. Make sure you clearly define what phase/project completion means. Sorry, I just think that bears repeating.
10. Signature Line. This may seem obvious but make sure you get a clear legible signature on the dotted line by the client. You should also sign it as well. Make a copy for your records as well as your client’s.
What I just gave you are the meat and potatoes of your contract. There are some more in-dept items you can include. For example, you can talk about what the consequences are for default of payment or cancellation after the allotted time stated in the contract. You can also mention what is called Choice of Law, which is when you clarify the state or province’s law that governs your contract. Sort of like home court advantage protection. Really I could go on and on but I think you kind of get the gist of it. Just make sure that both you and your client understand and agree on what you put in writing.
Good luck to you,
The 80s’ Baby