Paper Cuts: Key Things to Include in Your Client Contract

I began planning to leave my full time job back in 2013 and part of this planning involved hiring a lawyer to really help me get my client contract in tip-top shape. Over the past two years I have obviously learned A LOT and have thus made a few additions to my contract. While my contract is reflective of my unique business and client experience, I have discovered a number of key things I might suggest all stationery designers include in their contracts.

Oh, and let's just assume that, first things first, you better have a contract in place!

Here are the key topics that are covered in my own contract:

COPYRIGHT USAGE AND LICENSE: This is where I spell out ownership of the design, how the final design may be used (for promotional purposes, on social media, in publications, resale etc), and how the client can make a request for certain types of privacy (such as hiding their names or address when a photo of their invitation is shared).

FEES AND PAYMENTS: Documenting how, and when, payments are due has been VERY helpful for me. I follow the same deposit and payment plan for all clients, and only strayed from it once - which, as luck would have it, turned out to be a disaster and cost me A LOT of money and some very hurt feelings. Since clients have to pay their balance before their invitations are actually printed, I've never been in a situation where I need to charge clients for late payments. However, I do have verbiage about that, just in case.

DESIGN PROCESS: I go through, very clearly, all of the boundaries around number of revisions, where inspiration can come from, the illegal nature of copying, what makes a design "custom" (and what custom fees are), ownership and purchasing of fonts, ownership of design drafts.

FINAL APPROVAL AND PROOFING: Unfortunately, this part of the contract has come in handy on more than one occasion. This is where it's explained that it's the client's ultimate responsibility to proof read and approve the final design before it is printed. Once a client approves the design, they are responsible for all payments - including any associated with reprinting due to any errors they may have missed throughout the design and approval process. It is always painful for me when mistakes happen - I've had clients who provide me with incorrect information, and instances where I have to re-type information and make a typo. While I try my hardest to proof read and check everything, it's ultimately the client's responsibility that the invitations they are purchasing are 100% correct BEFORE they approve them to be printed. In addition to fees associated with reprints, I also outline rush fees and any other fees the client needs to be aware of.

GENERAL & LOCAL POLICIES: My lawyer provided me with some very important information that apparently needed to be in my contract as per New York State. Some of these items include sales tax rates, dispute resolution, integration, and contract modification procedures.

So there you have it, a few of the key topics covered in my own contract, and some of the things I would suggest you look into adding to yours. Do you have anything else in yours that I might be missing? Any other precautions you take to ensure your clients are reading the contract? I would love to hear!

Wednesdays here on the blog are all about sharing Paper Cuts, which is a behind-the-scenes, down to Earth business advice series. I hope you've enjoyed today's Paper Cuts topic, and look forward to having you back next time! To read past Paper Cut posts, click here.