By Rachel Theron

Designing websites and owning your own business are two very different things, and each present their own unique challenges. In this month’s blog, I will focus on the importance of the contract, and highlight sections to include.

Having a solid contract not only protects you legally, but also helps clients understand the terms of service, scope of project, and what is expected from each party. At the bottom of this post we include a basic contract template to get you started, but please note: the sample template provided is for informational purposes only. You should not use any sample document or template without first seeking legal counsel.

Contracts are lengthy and include a lot of legal jargon. This post highlights 5 important elements to include in your contract (here’s some legal stuff you’ll want to include too).

1. Project Terms of Service

This section is where you painstakingly outline every project detail. Will you be creating the website on your server and then transferring to client server once final website is approved and paid for by client? Then say that. Is client expected to provide all website content including text, imagery or video? Be sure to include that too. Does project include minor photo edits or touchups? If not, be sure to state that plainly. Not including every detail will hurt you later on when the client inevitably tries to add tasks to the original project scope. The more details you add in the beginning, the smoother the project will run from start to finish since expectations and project will be clearly outlined.

2. Timeline

Majority of clients are blissfully unaware of how much homework will be needed on their end to start their web design project. Because of this, it is very important to include a clear project timeline in the contract. Not providing clear guidance will allow some projects to drag on for eternity, and that can effect when you get paid. Be sure to include details such as how long project is expected to take (i.e. 8–12 weeks), how many versions of website will be presented (i.e. 3 versions), and how long, in general, client has to provide feedback for each version of website (i.e. 7 business days).

3. Deposit, Fees, and Payment Schedule

In the sample template included below, we give an example layout of how to structure this section. It’s important to include if deposits are refundable, how client might incur additional charges above and beyond original project cost, and the payment/fee schedule. If being paid a flat rate for the web design– such as half project cost to start and remaining half once project is completed– I highly recommend outlining additional milestones when payment will be due such as if client becomes non-communicative, takes an unreasonable time to provide feedback, or if project spans beyond original timeline.

4. Indemnification

This is a standard clause in most contracts. In it’s simplest terms this clause means allowing the business to “indemnify”– compensate or secure– its members, managers, and officers and cover legal expenses if sued. Although dated, the following article gives great real-world examples of why a proper indemnification clause is crucial to any contract. Click here to read “Manage Risk By Including an Indemnification Clause in Your SEO Consulting Contracts.”

5. Dispute Resolution

Disputes, unfortunately, are part of the business world, and it’s a good idea to be prepared well ahead of any potential disagreement with a client. There are several ways to structure this in your contract. You might be fine with litigation, you might want to try mediation, arbitration, and the list goes on. Since most web design companies typically operate on a national scale, it’s important to include where litigation (or dispute resolution) will occur otherwise you might be flying across several states to attend a court hearing.

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