Whether you are just beginning out in a business or a seasoned “professional” you should have a contract when doing business – if not for your safety, but for the safety of your clients.
Not a day goes by that I don’t hear horror stories about misunderstandings on projects that could have easily been prevented with a simple contract.
Simply, they state the work you are providing and the cost involved. They should also indicate what is not included, such as incidental material costs and excessive copy changes, etc. Always put into writing your intent and email it to the client.
His or her email response, along with the “deposit” is a contract of the agreement. For added security, have them sign a copy of the contract and mail or fax it to you. My policy is that I do not begin any work until the down payment has been paid and the contract is signed and delivered. This not only protects my business but also shows me that the customer is serious about his or her intents.
When you have developed a good, solid relationship with your client, then monthly billings are the norm. But until then, 50 % down is not unheard of. After all, you are taking a risk doing work – and more often than not, monies owed are not paid based on the client “not liking the design.”
Remember, you are hired to do a job – and it is up to the potential client to research your design ability and make the decision to hire you, based on the findings. You are not hired to “make them happy.”
Now that may sound cold-hearted, and I care about each and every one of my clients, and the work I do for them. However, when I am hired, for example, to do a logo – I am hired to design a logo – based on their specifications. After a reasonable amount of time, if they just don’t like the designs I come up with – they are still obligated to pay for my service. I do attempt to rectify the job and pinpoint the “problem,” but unless the client can somehow convey their desires, I just haven’t perfected “reading minds.”
And I do expect to be paid for my effort. But a Professional Designer will be able to work with the customer, and eventually, completing the project to the clients’ satisfaction. In the 23 years, I have been providing marketing and design, there have only been 3-4 instances where I just wasn’t able to design the project to the satisfaction of the customer – and on one occasion, they refused to pay, as they decided to close the business. I eventually had to sue for the $100! Can you imagine, tarnishing your credit, not to mention your reputation, over such a small sum of money!
The main reason I was able to collect the money easily is that I had a written and signed agreement for the project. I also had documentation that the logos were produced – it was basically “no contest.”
I was able to satisfy the other clients, by hiring outside of my office. I found a compatible match for their needs and all were happy in the end. And that is your ultimate goal: Satisfaction and service.
In closing, remember art is relative. You cannot be everything to everyone. And not everybody is going to like your design style – but many wills. So, remember to be professional, and confident in your work. Have a portfolio of samples to display your design style, and above all, have a contract ready for the signing!