A contract is a foundation on which your project is built. It can come in the form of a simple verbal or written agreement or a fully executed contract. In this video, we’ll talk about what makes an effective contract for your freelance UX/UI web project, from setting up payment terms to writing a comprehensive scope of work.
- [Instructor] To me, a contract or an agreement, whichever you'd like to refer to it as, is a foundation on which your project is built. It can come in the form of a simple verbal or written agreement, or a fully executed contract, for instance. In this video, we'll talk about what makes an effective contract, at least some ideas from my own experience and things that I've learned for your freelance UX/UI web project work. From setting up payment terms to writing a comprehensive scope of work, we'll take a look at what it takes.
First, why have a contract? I mean that might seem a little naive or simple, but when I first started out, I would actually go by a verbal commitment, or handshake, or an email, or something like that and say sure, I'll do your website. Here's how much it's going to cost. That's great when it come to a project like for your step-dad, but when it comes to work in the real world, we need to protect ourselves. So, you need to protect yourself as much as you can, and a contract or an agreement is something that you can use to do that.
The first time you get burned in a project, you'll realize how a contract can prevent confusion and protect everyone's interest in the project, not even just your own. What should a contract include? Now if you want to call this an agreement, go ahead. It's up to you. Contract seems a little harsh, but a contract is something that unfortunately there's not one-size-fits-all when it comes to this stuff. You can have a contract that you build over time, meaning you add to it, you take away, and that's your contract for specific types of work you do.
It really depends on what your drafting the contract for, but there are a least a few key points that need to be there. Now I'm not putting these in any particular order, in case you're interested. One is not any more important than the other to me. But the first one I'll talk about is called scope of work. You need to include a statement of work, and this statement of work should be as encompassing as you can make it. It should be as clear, and yet as concise as possible, and you're basically describing what you are going to do for the money you're paid or for the service you're going to render for this thing you do.
So, you need to include exactly what's going to happen in there. Timelines are important as well. This is something that you can't just say, we're going to build you an app, we're going to build you a website. We're going to do this design work for you, and then just leave it at, when we're done, you're going to pay us, okay? It obviously, it doesn't really work that way. A lot of times when we do these types of projects, there is a timeline involved. The client comes to you for a reason and says within the next three, six, eight, 10 months, whatever it happens to be, we need to have this done.
Perhaps it could be tied to something, and event, a launch, or something else. So a timeline is something that you're going to want to put in there, at least major milestones, things like, obviously, the end date, when you're going to hand this over and say we are done officially. You're going to put in milestones, like well here's when we're going to hand over first draft, here's when we're going to hand over our two different revisions, etc. So we need to make sure it's spelled out, and that's another thing too we'll talk about, revisions.
A lot of this stuff needs to be in the contract or the agreement, and that way, there's no confusion later on. So timelines are super important. Payment schedule and fees determining how much you're going to get paid for this project, determining how much the overall project is going to cost and breaking it down to include the different fees, let's say the design phase, the iterative phase where we're going through and making adjustments, things like that, the development phase. If you're including anything like shopping cart systems or third party systems that are off-the-shelf those need to be included in there as well, 'cause you want to get paid for that stuff.
If there's any imagery that needs to purchased, that also, as far as a, let's say a guesstimate or an estimate as to how much you're going to want you can do that too. And if you determine, for instance, that you need to be paid half up front and half at the end. How do you set that up? What do you want? It's not only what you want, I guess you could say, but also what the client is willing to do. There are going to be times where you create or generate a contract like this and you're best wishes or the things you really want are not what they're willing to do. So you sometimes have to negotiate a little bit.
In the case of payment schedules, fees, things like that, you may have to go back and forth a few times with the contract before it's fully signed and executed. Who is involved? This seems so simple, but it's something you have to have in here. It's basically who's responsible for what. So for instance, if I have team obviously I'm going to say this x company, my company, is going to develop this product, this thing, for you, your company. Here are the key players.
Here's who's going to be involved essentially, point persons of contact, etc. We'll talk about that for communication and the responsibility. This is key you guys. Responsibility means, okay well, what about the text, what about the content for the app, the site, this thing you're creating. Where is the imagery going to come from? If you're expecting that the client is going to give you all of this content, they might be expecting that you are going to generate a lot of this for them, maybe even write the copy, write the content.
Who's going to host this? Who's going to pay for the hosting? There are tons of things that, like I said, you're never going to answer all these the first contract you create. Maybe you get a winner, maybe you find one on the internet that has a lot of this, and that's awesome. But you will over time, add a lot of this type of thing. Who owns what? This is actually really important. This is something we're going to talk about in a later video, but if you have, let's say, something you create, a third party off-the-shelf solution, shopping cart, etc, who owns that? Do they purchase the rights to use it from you? That needs to be spelled out.
Imagery, if you purchase imagery, if you purchase themes or templates, or different things like that, who actually owns that? There are a lot of times where you're going to go out and you're going to buy a widget, a thing to build a site, maybe a part of a site, maybe you buy the world's best slide show for instance in a website, and you own that, and you have maybe what's called a developer license. You technically own that. You can use that on as many sites as you want, depending on who you bought it from what they stipulate. So, who owns that when you actually use it in this instance, like actually in this site or this app.
Amendments specific to the project, this is may not be involved, you may not have to do this. But if things go along and you realize, well, we set up a few rounds of changes maybe, design changes, and we're realizing it's actually going to take more than that, well, that's outside the scope of work, so that's something that you may need to negotiate with the client, and that may be an amendment to the contract, which calls for more money or calls for x, y, z, so amendments are things after the fact a lot of times that you can use to ensure that the project is done on time the way they want it, to later specifications for instance, and that you're compensated the way you should be.
There's an article on 99u.com I've got right here that I think is good. It really is. You should take a look at it. It's one of 50 articles that I've looked at over time just to understand how to work with contracts and what they should include. But, take a look at this article. I think it's good, I really do. And once again, this is not everything that needs to be included in a contract, but these are things that I think are really important. There are other things you will come up with that may be specific to your work, what you do, and the type of project you're working on.
So where can you get one, where can you get a contract? Well, I wish it was that easy 'cause the contract that I have is taken shape over years. There are a lot of contracts out there on the web you can look at for inspiration and I've got just a ton of places here that you can go take a look at. Matter of fact, aiga.org, the organization for, basically for creatives if you will, they have a standard agreement that you can look at. And this is not something that you're just going to copy/paste. This is something that you are going to look at to see, okay, I can use this as a starting point, and I can start adding what I think I need, once again, depending on what you're doing, the type of projects you're working on, and the clients you're working with.
This is actually a question I asked in the beginning when I first started doing a lot of this stuff, will this contract, I know, will it protect me from everything? It's a setup, right? Of course not. When you say contract or agreement, it is something that is binding. As a matter of fact, I actually will have a lawyer take a look at contracts, just to make sure the language in it is right. For most of us, it's a written agreement that will set expectations for pretty much everything in a project, and it's a way to avoid confusion later on.
It's much better than a verbal agreement. It's all down in writing. It's signed by the parties involved, and that's a key thing to get it signed. I know that seems dumb, but I've had contracts where the person hiring me or the company hiring me never signed the contract, and they came back, anyway. You'll hear all kinds of stories, some good, some bad. Is it fun? Not for most of us. I am not a lawyer. I've had to learn business, I guess you could say, get some kind of business acumen over time just for survival to be honest and to protect myself.
But you know, this stuff, this will go a long way to protecting your best interests. So, think about a contract. Think about an agreement for the next project you're going to work on. And remember that some of the worst client situations that you run across can actually help make your contract better. At the end of the day, a contract or an agreement, which like I said can help protect you, is also not something to just sign and throw in a drawer. It can really be an effective tool for managing anything from conflict to payments, which actually can be a part of conflict at times.
So I would think about starting with a good contract and you can do more to protect your bottom line than anything else.