As much fun and “glamour” the courtroom seems to have for some people, staying out of legal battles with your clients is definitely a good idea. Since most graphic designers are in their business because of their love of the arts and digital design, it can be easy for even the most professional of designers to overlook the importance of legal contracts with their clients. However, despite the fact that this is an often ignored aspect of graphic design, legal contracts can actually be a crucial component of an effective and smooth running designing firm. If you wish to avoid potential legal issues with your clients, then here are some good ideas to consider when drawing up client contracts at the beginning of a job. (*Of course, you should always seek professional legal advice when actually writing a client contract; the following is just several ideas to keep in mind but is in no way meant to provide for/act in place of actual professional advice.*)

Dates: Obviously a clearly stated expected project completion date is generally included in any client agreement/contract. However, including more specific dates can also be to your advantage. For example, your contract might detail a date for a preview of the project before the final deadline or a date by which all complaints/corrections need to be requested by after the final project is completed.

Concept Rights: Definitely more fluid than general rights to the use of a project, make sure that you have established how much of the “concept rights” you wish to give you client. This basically means that if you believe an artistic idea is uniquely yours and you don’t want to give you client exclusive rights to that concept, then you might need to state this clearly in your contract prior to beginning the job in order to avoid any copyright problems in the future.

Payment Deadlines: A good graphic designer will let a client know beforehand the overall cost of the product. However, to be on the safe side as a designer, including a clause where you state a down payment or partial payment deadline can also be a great plan. This way you are guaranteed at least part of the money for a project while you are still working on it.

Client Rights: Slightly different and basically less specific than “concept rights,” client rights are a must-have for any well-written contract. Establish clearly beforehand just how the graphics you’ve designed can be used/printed/distributed. If you don’t want to give all-out rights to any piece of work, then you’d better clearly state so. Also, if you want to use the project as a reference point for future work, then you should also clear this desire with your client beforehand, as a way to respect their privacy rights.