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.
My 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. www.davidairey.com
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. www.thedesigncubicle.com
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.