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If you run a graphic design business, you must have a set of terms and conditions to outline your relationship with clients. This document will help you to set clear expectations and resolve any potential disputes. A good set of terms and conditions should: 

  • set out the scope of your services and your payment terms;
  • appropriately limit your liability;
  • correctly assign the intellectual property that you generate; and 
  • reduce the possibility of issues arising between you and your clients.

This article details the key issues you must consider when drafting your graphic design business’ terms and conditions.

Format of Your Terms and Conditions

Your client terms and conditions should always include a set of essential terms that apply to every job. You can then specify and include the distinct terms tailored to each client in: 

  • an order form; or 
  • schedule attached to the contract.

Having your graphic design business’ terms and conditions structured in this way will allow you to use the same document for clients who need:

  • a one-off project; or
  • ongoing work.

Only adjusting the order form with the specifics of each job will prevent you from accidentally changing your obligations under the contract.

Scope of Your Services and Payment

The most important part of your terms and conditions will be to establish:

  • your scope of services;
  • your deliverables; and 
  • how your payment is to be structured. 

Some key clauses dealing with project scope might include:

  • putting a time limit on the period in which a client can request changes;
  • placing responsibility on the client to provide the correct details for the design;
  • setting time frames to which you expect to work; and
  • outlining a process to vary the original scope if the client wants additional work completed.

For example, a client may engage you to produce wedding invitations. You could mandate that they have the opportunity to make two rounds of changes. Your client should also be responsible for the costs of correcting any mistakes made on their behalf, such as if they provided you with the incorrect spelling of the groom’s middle name.

Additionally, you should include several terms relating to payment, such as:

  • the amount to be paid;
  • when they should make the payment;
  • the ability to withhold the deliverables if the client has not paid; and
  • outlining that late delivery of the graphic design work does not permit the client to withhold payment.

The most common issues you will face are disputes over the scope and price of a graphic design job after you have completed it. By ensuring that your project scope and fee structure is clear from the outset, you minimise the risk of clients:

Termination of the Contract

If the relationship between you and your client turns sour, you may need to terminate the contract before the job is complete. This is why your terms and conditions must contain a comprehensive termination clause to protect your interests.

Where you or the client decides to terminate the contract halfway through a job, you want to ensure that you can:

  • recover a partial payment that reflects the amount of work you have completed; and
  • retain the intellectual property to the design so that you can use it in the future.

Intellectual Property

As a graphic designer, you will need to consider issues of intellectual property (IP).

IP concerns your legal right over the creative work that you produce. This includes a capacity to control who can use your designs and how they are permitted to use it.

You will need to decide how much intellectual property: 

  • you want to retain; or
  • are willing to give away.

Sometimes you will need to completely assign the rights to the intellectual property that you create to your client. This means that they: 

  • own the intellectual property; and
  • can use your design in any way they wish.

For example, when you prepare a logo for a business, they will likely require complete control over the intellectual property. This is because they will not want any restraints on the way that they can use the logo to represent their brand.

In other situations, you may wish to retain ownership of the intellectual property and simply provide your client with a license to use the design. This will allow you to control how the client uses your intellectual property, such as:

  • how and where they use the design;
  • the purpose for which they can use design;
  • a time period in which they can use the design; and
  • whether they are allowed to amend the design.

For example, you might stipulate that the products you design for a client are for their personal use and cannot be on-sold, replicated, or commercialised without your permission or payment of an additional fee. Alternatively, you could license a billboard design to a company for use only in print over three months, preventing them from using the graphic online or for extended periods.

The decision to assign or licence the design to your client may depend on the price the client is paying. Of course, an assignment to the client should cost more than a licence.

Liability 

Your graphic design business’ terms and conditions will also minimise your responsibility for any issues that arise in the future, which are out of your control. Your terms and conditions should exclude you from any legal accountability over issues such as:

  • problems caused by third parties, such as printing or postal delays;
  • problems arising from a client’s failure to share relevant information; 
  • loss of profit, business or reputation for the client. 

For example, if a client directs you to develop a logo based on a campaign or strategy that they have developed, you should not be held responsible if it is not well received and causes a loss of business.

Key Takeaways

Your graphic design business’ terms and conditions must avoid misunderstandings and disputes with your clients. To protect yourself, you should make sure that your terms and conditions are clear in setting out your: 

  • scope;
  • pricing; and 
  • timelines. 

They should also correctly deal with issues of intellectual property and protect you from legal responsibility for any issues that arise from the work created. If you need assistance drafting your graphic design business’ terms and conditions, contact LegalVision’s contract lawyers today on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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