The Contract Proposal

I got a great project recently and felt overwhelmed that I wanted to do everything right. So I needed to re-invest into the contract/proposal, the first step every designer should take in preparing for a job. The contract/proposal is the first and last word in client relations and should be handled very carefully.

Graphic Artist GuildMy original contract is based of the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. I took snippets of what made sence to me and my business and created a one page contract that covers me in case of a project gone bad. You can also look into AIGA, the American Institute of the Graphic Arts. Their site’s section on Design & Business has a set of useful forms, and contract examples.

After I feel I have the legalities established I create the proposal, which is similar to a cover letter on a resume. Basically I layout the terms of the project and specifics: here is the project Joe-business has requested of my firm, here is how I/we will proceed, this is how much time it will take. I have learned to be careful not to put myself in a hole on time. I layout that a project will follow in phases, and bill accordingly to each phase of a project. This way if I quote x amount of $ on providing three comps of a logo design, and the client decides he wants to go in an entirely different direction, I can charge him/her for a different phase.

I also include a creative brief to gather any information I can on the project. This is something that can be established in a prior meeting and then reinforced in writing with a pdf form. I make one page of questions and leave room for explanations. All in all I try to keep the contract/proposal very short: one page for the cover letter, one to cover price and time estimates, one for the creative brief and one for the actual contract terms.

In my research I came upon several related articles on the contract:

Using freelance graphic design contracts.

BoDo (Business of Design Online) kindly allow you to download their own information in PDF format: Download free forms, from BoDo.

What to include in your design contracts.

Brian Hoff is a self-employed graphic designer living in Philadel­phia and known to many in the design industry as the founder of the popular design blog, The Design Cubicle.


About mikerdzign

Graphic designer/social media addict: CVB tourism design by day, Mac owning freelance business by night. Lover of Flagstaff, AZ. View all posts by mikerdzign

2 responses to “The Contract Proposal

  • Nicola Connolly

    Interesting to see your process. IMHO communication is the key in any client-designer relationship. Laying out expectations, cost and timings at the start of the project in some kind of written form is certainly vital. However, it’s also the communication (both written and verbal) throughout all phases of the web design (or whatever project it may be) which usually avoids any problems. Nice article 🙂

    • mikerdzign

      Agreed. I just recently drew up an addendum to a previous contract. It’s purpose to assign time and pricing to a requested new design layout of an established newsletter. The contract put everything out on the table. including that I recently raised my rates. We had a discussion afterwards that was a little tense at first but in the end allowed for both of us to express the rational behind our concerns on the project, and it all happened before getting into the thick of the design process. Thanks for your feedback!

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