Contracts are integral for any business, but few professionals know how to use them to their fullest extent. When Creating a Website Design Contract it is essential to keep you and the client legally liable if a disagreement occurs or someone walks without payment. With that said, you should never make the following eight mistakes, or you could risk financial or personal repercussions.
Mistake 1: Going Off of Your Clients Word
Verbal agreements often don’t hold up well in court unless they were written down in an email but not signed or were recorded with permission from the client. It’s difficult to prove a verbal agreement as well since most people will take the term “verbal” seriously and just make promises via phone or in-person. Put all agreements in writing and ask for a signature to create a legally bound contract. Also, never change the project terms with a verbal agreement either, because the client could withhold these amends or not follow through as their leisure.
Mistake 2: Paying Expensive Legal Fees for Every Contract
It’s common to seek a lawyer’s help when constructing a contract because they know the in’s and out’s of your industry and can protect you against most legal pitfalls. However, getting a contract drafted can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in fees. Instead, use Bonsai’s web design contract template that outlines the project details, project schedule, payment details, and more. With a template contract, you don’t have to guess if something is necessary or pay a lawyer to edit a fine detail; just fill out the contract yourself and focus on finding clients.
Mistake 3: Using a Copy and Pasted Contract
Never use someone else’s contract from another website or without the expressed permission from a template website or company. Stealing a contract can put you in a lot of legal trouble from the other business or website if found out. Even if you get away with it, you’d need to make sure that the contract covers you legally and states all the necessary terms within the agreement. If the client finds a typo or you discover after the contract is signed that you need to adjust it, you’ll look unprofessional and may lose a project and risk your reputation.
Mistake 4: Not Including Rates or Using the Wrong Structure
As a website designer, your primary goal is to receive payment at the end of a specific period, but using the wrong structure could make clients less willing to pay even with a contract. It’s typical for website designers to ask for a retainer invoice from the client because you’ll have funds before starting. A retainer payment structure can help weed out serious inquiries from the scammers. Fixed-fee and per-hour billing is more beneficial for the client, so you may want to change the rate structure after the first invoice. Include this change in your contract.
Mistake 5: Not Establishing Boundaries for Work/Time
Most of the clients you’ll speak with aren’t interested in squeezing every last dime from your wallet, but others will monopolize your time undiscussed terms. Without an effective way to manage scope creep, you may end up doing extra work or rushing the project at no extra cost. You’re likely doing this to keep the client happy, but this often results in a needy or frustrating work relationship. Establish what extra work looking like for the website (aka something not agreed upon in writing) and how much you’ll charge for overtime and rushed jobs.
Mistake 6: Creating an Unreasonable Time Frame
Plenty of contract mistakes have nothing to do with how the client can take advantage of the web designer but how the web designer neglects their own needs. Say a client needs a website done in a month, but you’re unsure if you can meet that deadline. It’s unwise to establish that timeframe and rush to deliver an unsatisfactory product or work overtime and burn yourself out. If you can’t make the deadline, discuss this immediately. Most clients will adjust the deadline before signing the contract and may agree to pay you extra for the rushed timeframe.
Mistake 7: No Out Clause or Termination Agreement
Sometimes a client runs out of money, isn’t impressed with your services, or wants to end early because they no longer need a web designer. A client can pull out of your agreement at any time and leave you with no money and no other prospects, which can put you in financial difficulty. Create an out clause or termination agreement in your contract to ensure that your clients must give you notice before leaving. With an out clause, you can still receive payment up until the next payment cycle and have the chance to replace that client or supplement your income.
Mistake 8: Not Establishing Terms for Breach of Contract
It seems redundant to establish what may happen to the client if they breach the contract, but it’s necessary to do this so they’re aware of a behavioral shift. For example, if your client constantly pays late, you could create a clause that states you’ll charge them more or that lawyer fees will come out of the client’s pocket should proceedings go to court. The worst-case scenario should be withholding the website designs or reverting the copyright-terms to your business. You should also state that you’ll terminate the agreement between both parties after a given time.
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