It’s terrifying to sometimes think about how close to the “real world” I am as student in college, wrapping up my junior year. As of this spring semester, more of my professors have been bringing up the topic of freelance to classes. I had never even considered freelance before this year but now it’s definitely something I’m considering as a possibility. The other day in one of my classes, my professor Ben Hannam talked to my class about one of the most important parts of freelance work — setting up a contract with your client.
There isn’t a point in waiting to have a diploma in hand to get working on freelance work, but because we’re students, it’s even more important to make sure that we stay on top of holding clients to their word. We must be both a creative person and a business person. Sadly, life happens and a designer doesn’t always get paid or gets scammed and isn’t compensated for their work. This is where the contract comes into play.
“Contracts are good for two people, you and the client.”
Talking about money can be really difficult to talk about, but a contract will keep both you and your client accountable for what exactly is being made and the parameters that are set. This is the place to make sure there isn’t any gray areas, have everything outlined exactly how it will be executed and what it will be used for. Otherwise this is where “project creep” comes in, a term from Hannam that described what happens when clients slowly slip in more work into what you’re doing. A contract will break down the specifics of what is being asked for and what exactly you will get paid for doing. This also helps include your rights as the designer, and gives you the safety net of a “kill fee” in case something happens and the project is terminated. Just because the design wasn’t used in the end should the designer be forced to not be compensated for their time and effort.
I’ve luckily never had a bad experience in terms of the little bits of (very unprofessional) freelance work that I’ve done. However that doesn’t mean that I don’t need to worry, and by learning about contracts this early, I’m setting myself up to not be on the losing side of a problem with a client. My time and work have a value and it’s important for me to protect my work. While it’s still scary to think about, it’s discussions like these that help me feel a little more confident in my future.
If you want to have a sample contract to use to help you get started as you move into freelance, or want to look at template for inspiration for your own, click here and select “Supplemental Material” to look at Ben Hannam’s sample contract that he designed and to see an example of what would work.