Freelance Design Contract Must-Haves

When opportunities arise for contract workers, a well-drafted contract signed by both the freelancer and the firm will benefit and protect both parties.

The gig economy is growing faster than ever. According to the Freelance Forward Report from Upwork (the most comprehensive study of the US independent workforce to date) 64 million Americans performed skilled freelance work in the past year. This is an all-time high, representing nearly 40% of the US workforce. The World Economic Forum  predicts that more than half of the global workforce will be part of the gig economy. Some projections expect contractors will outnumber traditional 9-to-5 workers in their respective fields.

This shift is a win-win as it gives businesses the opportunity to tap workers from more diverse backgrounds, geographies, skill sets, and talents. But it also calls for both parties to professionalize how they engage in business.

Whether you’re a legal counsel, accountant, a creative web designer or storefront muralist, consider creating your own freelance contract template that you can customize for each job. This document will streamline how you establish yourself with each new client. For the client side, a solid contract will ensure business owners are engaging in a professional partnership that will deliver results, and within set deadlines.

Here is a guide for creating a freelance design contract, paving the way for a harmonious and productive work experience. 

What goes into an effective freelance design contract?

A freelance design contract is a legally binding agreement between a contract worker and their client (be it an individual or a company) to complete the obligations listed in the document. It lays out big-picture responsibilities, as well as detailed terms and conditions. Key components include project introduction, timeline, copyright ownership, and payment terms. Most importantly, it outlines how and when the freelancer gets paid.

Here we’ll walk through every part of the contract and help you understand why each section matters.

  1. Outlining the Scope of the Project

Start by clearly defining the project scope, including the specific tasks and deliverables, the client’s expectations, requirements, etc. The more detailed this section is, the less room there is for errors and misunderstandings. Most importantly, include the start date and estimated completion date that both parties have agreed upon.

2. Payment Terms: How and when
This is one of the most important sections in the contract. Specify the terms, including how and when the payments will be made. When drafting this section, consider the following:

  • How much will the project cost? 
  • What is the payment method? PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, cash, checks, etc.
  • If the payment is delayed, will there be any late fees or interest charges for overdue payments? 
  • If the freelancer works with international clients, what is the currency for the contract?
  • How and when should the freelancer invoice the client? 

To make sure payments are on time, consider drafting a detailed payment schedule to smoothen the transaction processes and prevent miscommunication.

3. A comprehensive list of Products & Deliverables

This section clarifies what your client will receive upon project completion. Create a comprehensive list of the deliverables, including nitty-gritty details such as file formats and design variations. You may also include the delivery dates for each asset (e.g. logos, banners, animations, etc) .

This level of detail may seem unnecessary and more beneficial to the client–but keep in mind that a solid contract will also protect you from unexpected tasks that make you work countless hours for free. It is never too late to add a payment condition for any additional design products that your clients might request along the way. 

4. A set number of Revisions or Changes

For creative freelancers, like web designers or advertising consultants, offering a set package of design services should include a set number of revisions. Make sure the contract includes the maximum number of changes and edits to a project. This protects the freelancer from an endless merry-go-round of back and forth revisions.

5. Copyright ownership and Intellectual Property (IP) protection

Many agencies and freelancers unfortunately find this scenario all too familiar: You pitch a client with your proposed designs, but they reject it and you don’t get the job. Weeks later, you find that the client used elements or completely copied your original designs in their live campaign.

This is where a freelance contract can protect you. Copyright ownership in the contract refers to the allocation of intellectual property rights of the work created by the freelancer. If a freelance designer drafts a logo or banner that goes unused, who has the rights to the drafted artwork after the project is completed? This prevents disputes and ensures both parties are on the same page regarding the distribution, use, and control of the design work. 

6. Confidentiality agreement

Similar to copyright agreements, terms regarding confidentiality should also be outlined. As a contract worker, you are an outsider working on the inside, getting access to a client’s creative ideas, passwords and other personal data. Reassure your clients that their information is in secure hands.

7. Methods of Communication

This might seem like a minute and easy detail but the methods of communication can make or break how a freelance partnership plays out. Some prefer calls and text messages, while others prefer strictly email. Further, with communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom, it’s important you are both on the same page when it comes to how you will meet. Last but not least, there are project management platforms like Asana and Trello–be sure that both parties are trained on and can access these accounts.

8. Get local with Legal Compliance

To make the contract legally effective, it’s important that the contract complies with relevant copyright laws and regulations in your jurisdiction. Consult with a legal professional to make sure your contract aligns with the legal requirements in your state. 

9. Rightful Termination

Not all partnerships are meant to be, especially in the design realm, where creative differences can arise. You should always clarify the conditions under which either party cancels the project and terminates the contract. Make sure to clarify who will own the copyright of the work produced thus far, if any, and whether any termination fees are involved. 

10. Make it Official: Signed and Dated

Last, make sure to ask your client if they have any questions about the contract. In other words, confirm that they have actually read the document thoroughly and carefully to avoid any surprises. More importantly, make sure both parties have signed and dated the document to ensure that the freelance contract is legally binding. Some freelancers are so excited to get started on a project that they eagerly get to work before the contract is signed and dated.

Other notes to keep in mind

When you finish the very first meeting with your client, aim to draft the contract right away and send it to the client before you start your design process. If you are new to the freelance world, or need help writing a freelance design contract, there are some model templates from platforms such as Bonsai, The Contract Shop, PandaDoc, etc.

Top Design Trends of 2022

Written By Liz Achanta

There’s no going back now: we are officially in the New Year. While 2021 was a big year for 3D and abstract, 2022’s trends are already showing us that this will be a year to remember: with both blasts from the past, along with breakthroughs in authenticity. While none of us can truly predict the future when it comes to what will actually gain momentum, if there’s one thing we DO know about 2022, it’s this: there are no rules. Check out what we’ve determined to be the top trends in font, stock images, and graphics below!

Trends in Font

  • Variable Type

Varying weights, heights, and strokes in typography isn’t a new concept in design, but it is making a comeback. By using “gravity” to grab the reader’s attention, VAR also adds emphasis and contrast to the overall design. For more information on VAR, check out Adobe’s Type Trends webinar here.

Case Study: Public Theater

Case Study: HomeGrown Brewing

2. Handwriting Typography

Like VAR, handwriting fonts are not new, but they have increased in popularity over the last few years, and we predict they will only increase in popularity this year. Considering that consumers love the feeling of authenticity with a brand, it comes as no surprise that this trend would make its way into design. As well, many large companies have started to embrace handwritten fonts to promote authenticity with their product marketing.

Case Study: Black Twig Bakery

Case Study: Orange and Blue Co.

Case Study: Lush Cosmetics

3. Vintage Fonts

2022 is going to be a year of comebacks, and we are already seeing a comeback of era-driven fonts. The elegant fonts of the 1930s, as well as the ‘groovy’ fonts of the 1970s are some of the more popular retro fonts we’re seeing, which gives a more expressive, humanistic feel to type.

Case Study: Oliver T’s

Trends in Stock Images

1. Earth-Centered

Climate change awareness and the focus on renewable resources continues to gain momentum across the US. Younger generations are that of action and activism, making these stock images especially relevant to the larger population. While it took a while for sustainability to finally become en Vogue for design, many brands are shifting their alignment with these consumer values.

2. Pandemic-Driven Norms

Wearing masks and social distancing are the new norms; these images are relatable, and are a reflection of viewer’s daily lives. We can expect to see these elements become increasingly popular in 2022 stock photos to encourage continued use.

Case Study: Walmart

3. Movement

For the last two years, many of us have been trapped indoors with quarantines and work-from-home options. Alternative to the pandemic-driven norms theme we also predict, it’s comes as no shock that consumers are interested in seeing images that connect them back to their old way of life: doing the things they love.

Trends in Graphic Design

1. Psychedelics & Nostalgia

It has become widely known that Millennials love nostalgia, as the feeling brings knowingness and stability to the individual, according to Psychology Professor Krystine Batcho. Considering we have been in a time of consistent instability, bringing back designs that we know and love reminds consumers to slow down, and reflect.  

Case Study: MailChimp

Case Study: Aiyari Graphic

2. Brutalism

Making its debut in 1950s architecture, Brutalism was known for its simplistic, functional elements with a utilitarian feel. Having made its way to graphic design, this ‘minimalistic’ approach helps viewers focus on the critical elements being communicated, rather than the aesthetic of the design itself. Read more about Brutalism here.

3. Inclusivity

This just in: people come in all shapes, genders, and colors, meaning business graphics are finally introducing more minor representations in their marketing. No doubt inspired by social justice movements spurring globally, our favorite design trend for 2022 is highlighting the individuality within each of us.

Case Study: Google Fi

Case Study: LinkedIn