One of the most common questions I get from people just starting their web design business is about making website design contracts and agreements that do not scare away the clients.
When I first started out I tried using those templates that are about ten pages long with print so small; I can barely read it, nonetheless understand it. When the clients asked me questions about specific terms and conditions listed in the contract, I could not even explain it myself 😀
Over time I figured out that an agreement is not only protection for the client and me, but it is also a powerful selling tool that should instill trust in your potential client. It should be clear, concise, easy to understand, full of information, yet short, sweet and straightforward. Inspired by the Contract Killer free template, I soon redesigned and revised my contracts, and the changes made a big difference in helping me convert leads into customers.
So here are my tips on making website design contracts that help convert leads into customers. Keep in mind you will most likely need to customize it for your business practices and please remember I am not a lawyer so if you have any concerns, have it looked over by a trusted legal advisor in your state.
Giving Your Contract Some Design Consideration Is Important
When putting together your contract, make sure to use a font that is clean and a font size that is large. Use at least a font size that is 12px. I use Helvetica which makes it easy to read. I also break down each section with a Header. The header can be the same font, but a bold text with a font size of about 21px breaks it up pretty nicely and makes it easier to find & identify sections much easier.
I avoid the “outline” format because it screams “legalistic.” Now obviously that is just a personal preference, but changing my format changed my closing rate, and now we hardly get any questions about the contract before we get the signed copy returned. Here is a sample of what a page should look like.
The Purpose of the Contract
Make it clear from the very beginning what the purpose of the contract is. Here is what we have at the beginning of our contract.
The purpose of this contract is to define the expectations, goals and workflow for the development and management of your company website, as well as disclaim the limited liabilities and legal information involved with website development. This contract agreement is between us (Monterey Premier) and you (insert clients name here).
A Summary Of The Contract
The summary is the part where you state what is in the contract and your intention to make it as fair and reasonable as possible.
We’ll always do our best to fulfil your needs and meet your expectations, but it’s important to have things written down so that we both know what’s what, who should do what and when, and what will happen if something goes wrong. In this contract you won’t find any complicated legal terms or long passages of unreadable text. We’ve no desire to trick you into signing something that you might later regret. What we do want is what’s best for both parties, now and in the future.
So in short;
You (insert clients name here) are hiring us (Monterey Premier) to design and provide maintenance as needed on your website at the rate $150 per hour as outlined in our previous correspondence.
What Both Parties Agree To Do
This section is often the most complicated part of the contract, but the author of the Contract Killer template lays it out in a way that makes it simple and easy to understand.
What do both parties agree to do?
You: You have the authority to enter into this contract on behalf of yourself, your company or your organization. You’ll give us everything we need to complete the project as and when and in the format we need it. You’ll review our work, provide feedback and approval in a timely manner too. Deadlines work two ways, so you’ll also be bound by dates we set together. You also agree to stick to the payment schedule set out at the end of this contract.
Us: We have the experience and ability to do everything we’ve agreed with you and we’ll do it all in a professional and timely manner. We’ll endeavor to meet every deadline that’s set and on top of that we’ll maintain the confidentiality of everything you give us.
This is the part that includes all the details of what you do and do not provide. When I was talking on the phone with a potential client, she asked me to tell her everything that pertains to websites, that we are NOT providing.
At first, I was a little thrown off because I have never been asked that questions. She went on to explain that she paid her last developer a lot of money only to find out later that it would cost extra for SEO, monthly maintenance, content and social media services.We have to remember that people come to us because we know what we are doing and they typically do not know anything about this field we work in. It is our job to consult them and to inform them. Click To Tweet
And then I completely understood where she was coming from. We have to remember that people come to us because we know what we are doing and they typically do not know anything about this field we work in. It is our job to consult them and to inform them. The more informed they are, the more empowered they feel and the more they will trust you.
So a proposal/agreement/contract, should not only list the services that included but the services that are not included. They need to know that there is a whole lot more to having a lead generating and converting website than just a nice design. They need to know what different types of services are out there that they may need to consider.
But remember the key is to keep it short and sweet. You do not have to make this a price list for all your additional services. Just let them know what other items they should consider and let them decide if they will need help with those other areas.
We create look-and-feel designs, and flexible layouts that adapt to the capabilities of many devices and screen sizes. We create designs iteratively and use predominantly HTML and CSS so we won’t waste time mocking up every template as a static visual. We may use static visuals to indicate a look-and-feel direction (color, texture and typography.) We call that ‘design atmosphere.’
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to review our work and provide feedback. We’ll have regular contact. If, at any stage, you’re not happy with the direction our work is taking, you’ll pay us in full for everything we’ve produced until that point and cancel this contract.
We’re not responsible for writing any text copy. You will provide the content that we are to add to the websites.
You should supply graphic files in an editable, vector digital format such as Adobe Illustrator (.ai) or Photoshop (.psd). You should supply photographs in a high resolution digital format such as .png or .jpg
Browser testing no longer means attempting to make a website look the same in browsers of different capabilities or on devices with different size screens. It does mean ensuring that a person’s experience of a design should be appropriate to the capabilities of a browser or device.
Desktop browser testing
We test our work in current versions of major desktop browsers including those made by Apple (Safari), Google (Chrome), Microsoft (Internet Explorer/Edge) and Mozilla Firefox. We won’t test in other older browsers unless you specify otherwise. If you need an enhanced design for an older browser, we can provide an estimate for that.
Mobile browser testing
Testing popular small-screen devices is essential in ensuring that a person’s experience of a design is appropriate to the capabilities of the device they’re using. We test our work in:
• iOS: Safari and Google Chrome
• Android 4.x: Google Chrome and Firefox
We currently don’t test Blackberry, Opera Mini/Mobile, Windows Phone or other mobile browsers. If you need us to test using these, we can provide an estimate for that.
Search Engine Optimization
We cannot guarantee any improvement to a search engine ranking, nor can we promise to get a site higher up or to the ‘top of Google’, but we build every site in a way that is accessible to search engines in an effort to increase its chances.
We’re not a website hosting company so we don’t offer support for website hosting, email or other services relating to hosting. You may already have professional hosting and you might even manage that hosting in-house; if you do, great. If you don’t, we can help you set up an account at one of our preferred hosting providers. We can set up your site on a server, plus any statistics software such as Google Analytics and we can provide a separate estimate for that. Then, the updates to, and management of that server will be up to you.
Addressing Scope Creep
In my last article, I discussed why I chose to charge hourly instead of offering fixed pricing. I have found that most of my customers respect my time much more when they are paying by the hour, thus reducing scope creep.
How you explain that should give them a a sense of empowerment rather than concern for going over the estimate.
Changes and revisions
We know from experience that fixed-price contracts are rarely beneficial to you, as they often limit you to your earliest ideas. We don’t want to limit your ability to change your mind or add new requests. We will take your scope of work and break down each item each with its own estimate for your approval. This will allow you to have better control over the budget through the course of our ongoing business relationship.
We are usually able to complete smaller tasks within 2-3 business days. We organize our larger projects into 2-3 week long sprints. Each sprint has a theme, a set of requirements that we are going to finish during the period. It might be a sign-up process one week and a shopping cart the next. We’ll cover all the areas of a project across these sprints; and because you will know the estimated time/cost in advance, you can budget accordingly. If you have a great idea for something new or simply change your mind, no problem. We roll up those requests into another sprint week, and you can then make a business decision about spending money on those items.
“Legaleeze” Is Necessary But Please Keep It To A Minimum
Again, the creator of the Contract Killer does a great job in simplifying this part of it. I have decided it simplify it even more.
We can’t guarantee that our work will be error-free and so we can’t be liable to you or any third-party for damages, including lost profits, lost savings or other incidental, consequential or special damages, even if you’ve advised us of them. Finally, if any provision of this contract shall be unlawful, void, or for any reason unenforceable, then that provision shall be deemed severable from this contract and shall not affect the validity and enforceability of any remaining provisions.
First, you guarantee that all elements of text, images or other artwork you provide are either owned by yourselves, or that you’ve permission to use them. Then, when you’re final payment has cleared, copyright will be automatically assigned as follows:
You’ll own the visual elements that we create for this project. We’ll give you source files and finished files and you should keep them somewhere safe as we’re not required to keep a copy. You own all elements of text, images and data you provided, unless someone else owns them.
We love to show off our work and share what we’ve learned with other people, so we reserve the right, with your permission, to display and link to your project as part of our portfolio and to write about it on websites, in magazine articles and in books.
I took it upon myself to insert a Footer Link notification right here. This notification let’s the client know we intend to add a footer link to the bottom of the page unless they say as otherwise.
Businesses refer service providers to other businesses all the time. Word of mouth is the highest form of praise, and more often than not garners the best new clients. Having a link back to a developer’s site is the web’s version of word of mouth. With your permission, we will include a small footer link that says “Site By Monterey Premier” with a link back to our website. This will be in addition to the standard Copyright tagline with your own business information.
Getting PaidFor most small-medium size website projects, 50% up front and the final payment before transferring it over works pretty well with us. Click To Tweet
And now for the most important part; getting paid. This section changes quite a bit depending on the project scope. For larger projects that are going to take more than a month or two, you may have more frequent payments. For most small-medium size website projects, 50% up front and the final payment before transferring it over works pretty well with us.
We’re sure you understand how important it is as a small business that you pay the invoices that we send you promptly. You agree to the following payment schedule.
• A deposit of 50% is required up front before we start any work
• Upon completion of the project per our agreed scope, the remaining 50% will be due prior to transfer of the site to your hosting company.
• Any additional maintenance, updates and changes will be charged hourly at $xxx.
Remind Them Once Again That This Is A Legal Agreement
This contract is so simple and sweet, that one might forget that this is your contract. So remind them once again before signing, that this is legit and their signature is saying that they agree that it is a legit agreement.
This Is a Legal Document
Just like a parking ticket, you can’t transfer this contract to anyone else without our permission. This contract stays in place and need not be renewed. If for some reason one part of this contract becomes invalid or unenforceable, the remaining parts of it remain in place.
Although the language is simple, the intentions are serious and this contract is a legal document under exclusive jurisdiction of California, U.S. courts.
We All Agree To These Terms
Date: ________________________________ Client
Everyone should sign above and keep a copy for their records.
First of all I want to thank Andy Clark, the creator of the original Contract Killer, who has made a template available as open source content on github. The purpose of my article was to break down some of the sections and my changes and explain how they have helped me convert leads into clients.
Remember that I am not a lawyer so nothing on this website shall be considered legal advice and no relationship is established. Be sure to consult a lawyer to address the particulars of your specific situation.
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