Why you need a Design Contract?

Why you need a Design Contract?

As a designer we get so excited to jump in, start creating and produce artwork that we often forget the most important steps to secure our artworks.

Often the job is too small or you’re working for a friend or you think you “know” the client and you skip the initial stages. Most designers think that contract is just for large design studios or corporates. That it’s a formality that you don’t essentially HAVE to fulfil. But starting every project with Creating a Design Brief and Having a Contract to go with it can save you a lot of headaches and keep your business rolling! 

Here’s why you need a design contract:


Scope of work:

The first and foremost reason to have a contract is to ensure that the project stays where it started. We found that most of the time half way into the project the client starts to demand additional alterations, add another collateral or they rush you to finish before the deadline discussed.

The lack of a contract can have you working double time for no extra pay. You fear you will loose the client and you end up giving in to their demands because you never clarified it to begin with. This is specially the case with new and freelance designers who get intimidated by clients.  

Having these things written down and agreed upon before hand can save you a lot of trouble and extra hours. This way you work for what you are being paid for. 


Speaking of getting paid, a contract clearly outlines your terms for receiving payments. When and how much should be paid at each interval of the design process. This way the client and you agree (by signing) a timely payment schedule. 

For most projects we tend to take 50% advance, 25% upon approval and the remaining before handing over any final / open files. While this varies from each designer or service provider, figure out what works for you and lay it down on the contact to avoid being walked over. 

There are many online tools that can help you with your finances and help you organise your payment schedules so that you can concentrate on the designing and not the admin work. 


A contract will usually layout a timeline showcasing exactly what will be done at what stage. It lays out the dates for the deliverables and clears out what needs to be done in probable situations. We’ve had clients walk off, cancel the project, change the name of the brand just before the final artwork was to be delivered and delay the timeline amongst other things. 

If you’ve got the client to sign off a contract stating ‘what happens if’… They are legally bound and you can take action (if need be) to ensure that you are not left high and dry because of client’s inconsiderate decisions. 

Business is Business:

Designing, like any other profession requires a lot of research, understanding and planning before you can create an artwork for a client. A lot of time and effort goes into making a BRAND for an individual or a business and it should be treated the same way. Having a contract makes you look like a proper professional or a business and ensures that your client doesn’t take you for a ride. 


This is a bigger problem for designers than you may think. Legally you have the rights to the designs you create. All raw and artwork files are the property of the designers. If the clients wants open files, they are charged separately for them. Also the client has no right to print or publish an artwork that you have designed but not yet been paid for. 

If the client chooses to own the copyright then that’s something that should be discussed and laid out before hand in a contract. The design charges can vary, based on that agreement and a contract is used to clearly state that.


While this is not exactly the topic we are discussing, it is directly linked. Emails are a form of written communication with your client. So it’s important to archive them in folder for each client. Should there be a situation where you have to go to court with a client – having emails with all the communication can be your saviour. Like we said, design is like any business and having your back is the best thing you can do for its stability. 

Remember if we don’t act as professionals, there’s no reason that the client will treat us as professionals either.

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