6 Non-Negotiables For Your Design Contract


So, you’ve probably already heard about why it is so important to have and use a contract for your design services. 

And if you haven’t, you should probably start using one right away. 

But why, you might ask ?

A contract is the only way to ensure that you, your pay, and your work is protected, and it also makes your client working relationship that much stronger and more clear from the get-go. 

And as a designer, there are certain things you will want to have in your contract that differ from industry to industry. 

From my experience, these are the six absolutely non-negotiables you need to have in your design contract before starting any work. 

And to make this perfectly clear, I am not a lawyer. I can’t give you legal advice. This is just what has worked for me and my business. Take my advice with a grain of salt.

Let’s dive in!

01. Entire Project Scope

Including the entire project scope in your contact is essential to avoid scope creep

Usually scope creep isn’t entirely the clients fault, especially if you didn’t make it clear what’s included for your time together from the very beginning. 

Clients aren’t designers. They don’t know how much goes into a project unless you tell them! 

To avoid any confusion of what is ACTUALLY included in the scope, put everything you can think of into your contract. 

This should include project deliverables, time on calls, revisions, rush work, etc. 


02. Communication Expectations

To start off a strong client relationship from the very beginning, lay out your communication expectations. 

This could be anything from what hours you’re available to what means your client will be able to contact you (email, Asana, text message etc.). 

I also like to make sure that I have in my contract expectations of what the turnaround time is for the client to get back to me with feedback, and what happens if they should ghost. 


03. Payment Schedule and Late Fees

You want to get paid, right? Of course you do! It’s important to lay out in clear terms when the client will make payments, and how much those payments will be. 

I suggest putting in your contract the exact date and amount the client is required to pay, versus making payments on project milestones. 

That way you know exactly when money should be coming in and how much. 

And when it comes to late fees, there ARE rules around how much you can legally charge interest for late payments. Make sure you know what you can and cannot charge, and put it in your contract! 


04. Ownership Rights

The majority of clients just expect that if they’re paying you to make them a logo for their business, that they have the copyright to the design. 

And as a designer, you should know, that’s not always the case! You hold the copyright to your designs unless you decide to give them to the client. So make this well known!

Make it clear in your contract WHO owns the final product (yes the final product, and not all the work that the client decided to not move forward with).

If you decide to hold the copyright, make it clear in your contract the fee to transfer these rights.  

And if you want to display your work in your portfolio (even if handing over the copyright), make sure that terms of use is noted in your contract as well. 


05. Termination 

All clients can’t be dream clients, and unfortunately, you might run into a less than ideal situation where you need to cut ties with the client and end the project. 

Make sure your client has clear terms about what is required from both parties regarding termination, and what should be expected regarding deliverables and payments that have been made, and outstanding payments. 

This can be a bit intimidating, especially if the feelings aren’t mutual, so make sure you’ve got yourself covered on this front. 


06. All the Other Legal “Mumbo Jumbo” 

Like I said earlier, I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know exactly what this entails, but I know you need it. Things like indemnity, force majeure, confidentiality, etc. etc. 

And you want to make sure that the rest of this legal stuff actually pertains to you, your business, and where you’re located! 

If a pandemic has taught me anything, it’s make sure your contact is clear and legal in your jurisdiction about these things so you’re covered when worse comes to worse. 



So now you might be asking yourself, this is great, but where can I get a contract that has all this? 

As a Canadian, it was super super important to me that I get a contract that covers all the legalities in MY country and MY province. 

With most contract templates being American based, I felt as if I wasn’t truly protected, and making certain changes here and there to make it Canadian wouldn’t actually be legally binding. 

Luckily, Jaime at Contracts Market has managed to fill the gap for Canadian entrepreneurs, by creating Canadian based template contracts. 

Her contact templates are incredibly thorough, easy to set-up, and most importantly, easy to understand. 

And they’re not only for designers! Jaime has templates covered for a wide range of industries including coaches, photographers, and virtual assistants. 

So if you’re a Canadian Creative looking to get legal, I highly recommend checking out Contacts Market


*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.




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