What to cover in a web design contract

Before providing web design and development services to a client, or even accepting payment from them, it’s important to have a contract in place for the protection of both parties.

Although you should always consult an attorney when drafting a document like this, here are some key points that you might want to cover in your contract:

  • Services – What services are being performed? When will they be completed?
  • Compensation – How much will you be paid, and when? What are your payment terms, and what fees will be charged if a client pays late?
  • Ownership – Who owns your work, and the source materials for it? Do you retain ownership of any of the components, such as photography or proprietary programming code?
  • Revisions – When will the client have the opportunity to review your work? How many revisions will be allowed, and what happens if this limit is exceeded?
  • Liability – Will you be responsible in the event of damages incurred by the client, as a direct or indirect consequence of the services you provide to them? Will the client be responsible for defending you if a third party is harmed?
  • Warranties – Do you make any guarantees about the quality, performance, or merchantability of your work? What is your refund policy?
  • Confidentiality – Will you prevent the disclosure of the client’s confidential information? If so, under what conditions?
  • Credit – Will you be credited for your work? If so, how?
  • Independent contractor status – What are your rights and responsibilities as an independent contractor (as opposed to being the client’s employee)?
  • Duration and termination – How long is the contract valid? How can it be terminated, and how do you get compensated if it does get terminated?

A great resource for web developers in particular is Nolo’s A Legal Guide to Web & Software Development, which contains a variety of legal forms, including a sample contractor agreement. Again, regardless of whether you draft the document yourself, consult with your lawyer before sending anything to your client.

In addition to limiting the likelihood of a dispute between you and your client, a thorough contract helps to prevent confusion and minor disagreements that can eventually become a drain on the relationship. When everyone knows what they’re getting and what they’re responsible for in return, you’re free to focus on doing what you do best—getting results for your client.