The legal document that you use in the course of completing any type of design work for a client should include essentials like:

  • how much you expect to get paid,
  • a description of what is expected,
  • what rights to the work are assigned,
  • deadlines, payment schedule,
  • how you will deal with changes requested by the client.

Choose the right document according to the type of project you are accepting. For example, which contract would you use if you were asked by a fan of your work to create a drawing of a monster carrot to hang in her child’s room?

You would look for an illustration contract and the Commissioned Illustration Offer might be a good choice. This contract allows you to have the picture of the monster carrot in your portfolio/website and prevents your fan from claiming that she drew that picture. Your fan is agreeing to go with your creative vision for what a monster carrot looks like, if later she decides the picture is too scary for her kid to see, she can’t get a refund.

What if you do a lot of short design projects for smaller clients that don’t want to get too complicated with legal documents?

The community-curated Designer Sample Contract or Short Form Design Contract have been used by designers like you. Alternatively, if you want to properly protect yourself before taking on a big project for someone you’ve never worked with before, a great template is AIGA’s Standard Agreement for Design Services or the appropriate branched version for your situation.

Very popular documents for web designers are the Contract of Works for Web Design (based on Andy Clarke’s Contract Killer) and lawyer-vetted Design and Development Contract.

Tip: help fellow creative professionals by sharing your own contract or suggesting improvements!