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How to write a Graphic Design Contract January 18, 2021

For anyone starting out as a graphic designer, the thought of drafting contracts and negotiating terms is something that doesn’t often cross the mind. For you to protect yourself, your business and your product, you must understand and write a contract. Similar to any other contract, a graphic design contract is meant to protect your interests during a graphic design job.

You don’t need an actual lawyer for shorter and less formal projects, but when dealing with a big corporate client or a project with extremely complex licensing terms you need one. But, most people don’t know the actual format of the document or what to include. Below is a look at how to write a graphic design contract and certain professional expectations about how the document should look.

Detailed project details

While the project details might seem simple, more than having a verbal understanding, you need to make a clear list of what work you’re responsible for and the deliverables. If possible, include a “Terms and Conditions” section like the number of revisions or follow-up tweaks, etc. This will not only safeguard you when the clients ask you for more but it’ll also make it easy to settle up debts.

Timing and deadlines

The ability to stick to the time limit and meet the deadlines is often the reason for designer-client conflicts. Set and agree on the exact time frame for each project and when the client can reach you for feedback deadlines so that you can monitor your progress. In case of any overtime, you need to know if the client is willing to pay more.

Client responsibilities

Make a creative brief that specifies all the details of the entire project once you get full information. Include your client’s responsibilities and what they need to deliver for you to complete the project. Find out the main point of contact and who will make any final decisions which should be the same person specified in the contract to prevent client conflicts and confusion due to different client opinions. If it’s a very big project, specify what information the client should provide, how to correct potential errors, the time they should notify you and how much time for making tweaks.


Provide a working file with a brief description about what the product includes. Include what file types will be provided in the contract to avoid unnecessary surprises. Consider the storage of files. Are the files in a cloud link, email, or a flash drive/hard drive? This should be laid out in your contract. Many clients might need you to hold onto a copy of the files so as to have a backup in case they should lose theirs. Specify how long you are willing to hold onto files and you expect them to pay a fee for file delivery and storage.

Payment terms

Be clear on your charges, when you expect payment and the payment method. This can either be by-the-project if it’s a larger task or by-the-hour for small, quick or basic work. State how you will bill them, how much deposit is required and when the rest will be sent. In case of a mid-project cancellation, state if you accept refunds on payment already given or set a cancellation fee.

Lastly, be sure to write a legible graphic design contract that is simple, with a dignified font and of a good size. Find out more on a graphic design contract and the different types of graphic design retainer contracts.

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