Reader Questions: The importance of a contract and explaining your process


Freelance poster from Quotational

Becky had a few design-related questions that I thought might be helpful for those of you starting to take on freelance work…

How do you go about explaining revisions to clients and stating their costs? In my quotes I say that prices include one revision, but I have had quiet a few clients ask for more and more and expect to pay nothing extra. I add my own hand drawn graphics to most of my work, which means a lot of extra work for me. So what I am asking is what percentage of the original cost should I charge for major alterations and how can I professionally state that although you are not using (part of) my initial work I still need compensation for the time it took me to create it? I don’t want to discourage client’s but feel like some are walking all over me and taking advantage of my already super cheap services.

Time for some tough love…Super cheap prices is exactly where you’re going wrong. Charge what you’re worth! If you don’t value your work then you can’t expect your clients to.

If you’re getting to the end of a job and feeling like you’ve done more work than you expected/the client paid for then you need to either A. raise your prices or B. figure out exactly how long it takes you to complete a project, which would also likely result in raising your prices.

I’d also recommend sending a rough sketch of the design instead of a finished product until the client is 100 percent settled on what they want.

Is there some sort of disclaimer you add when handing over your work depicting what the client can and cannot do with it? I have a had a few clients crop my banners and make them into blog buttons and side bar icons (2 services I offer) and would rather they didn’t alter my work as it loses me business not to mention that sometimes their alterations make my work seem sloppy and unprofessional. If you do have some sort of disclaimer how do you enforce it? Are you able to give an example of such disclaimer?

YES – get ye a contract! My contract states specifically what the client can and cannot do with the finished product…

All graphics and page layouts created by XO Sarah Design (or its licensors), and are not to be re-sold, re-formatted, re-used, revised, changed, shared, given away, deconstructed or reconstructed in part or in whole by the client who purchased the design items, or by any party operating on their behalf. Designs may only be used for the name/domain name for which it was purchased, in the manner stated at the time of purchase.

Meaning – do not screw with the beautiful site I built! There’s nothing worse than handing off a piece of work only to discover a week later that the client decided to do a little rearranging. My contract states that if the client would like full rights to edit the design as they please, they may purchase them. And if they decide to add their own creative touch without doing so, I simply remind them of the contract they signed and let them know I’d be happy to invoice them at any time.

As I currently just offer custom blog graphics – is it OK that I don’t include installing graphics into my client’s theme? I am familiar with WordPress and the basics of CSS but don’t feel confident enough (yet) to be installing new toolbars and making alterations to client’s themes especially when they are using other platforms.

How can I make it clear that my services are for graphic design only, not the installation of such graphics or theme alterations without discouraging my clients? Or should I stop offering such design services until I am confident enough to install them?

The bottom line for all of your questions is, YOU decide what to offer, how many revisions are included, what the client can do with the finished product, how much you charge, and whether or not you install or provide tech support.

It’s your business, you make the rules. Nothing you’ve said sounds overboard or unnecessary, so lay down the law, but do it up front (in your first few email exchanges and in the contract) so everyone knows the process and guidelines going in.

Spelling all this information out in a contract is extremely important. Clients are more likely to read things they are required to sign, which will result in less issues mid-project. And if there is an issue you can refer them back to that handy little document.

By doing these things you’ll attract higher quality clients and skip over those who will take advantage of you, which will make your job much more enjoyable.

Best of luck!


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  1. says

    I love this post!! Did you write the contract yourself or get a professional to make it? I am very interested in completing a contract before I start offering my services, but I really have no idea what to include to make sure it covers everything I need to protect my business/sanity.

  2. says

    Working in a digital advertising agency, I see all of these things happen all the time! It’s a pain for all of us, and I can only imagine how hard it is on a single person! Props to you for setting it straight!

  3. Becky says

    Becky here!
    Thank you so much for answering my questions. Your responses are really helpful.
    I think I am going to take a step back and get my contract and costs sorted before I take on anymore clients.
    Hopefully this will stop any repeat encounters/problems and the headaches these cause.
    Thanks again! You’re definitely an inspiration.

    PS one last little question :)
    Do you need to ask for permission from the client or even stipulate in the contract if you intend to use such work in your portfolio (print, website etc.) ?