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Freelance Graphic Design Contract [Includes 5 Free Templates]

Using a freelance graphic design contract template is one of the easiest ways to make your business more efficient. As a designer, your skill and creativity are some of your critical assets.

Administrative matters like coming up with contracts should not be your primary focus. Instead, you should be able to focus your time and energy on creating exceptional designs for your clients.

This blog contains 5 Sample freelance graphic design templates in word doc that you can download and use.

Let’s start at the beginning by understanding what’s a graphic design contract and why it’s essential. We will also look at some of the most frequently asked questions about the graphic design contracts. Let’s dive in. 

All about freelance graphic design contract:
  1. What’s a graphic design contract?
  2. Why is it essential to have a graphic design contract template?
  3. When should you have the graphic design contract in place?
  4. Sample freelance graphic design templates in word doc.
  5. Freelance graphic design contract frequently asked questions.
  6. Graphic designers: Spend less time on contracts and more time growing your business.

1. What’s a graphic design contract?

What is a graphic design contract?

A graphic design contract is a business agreement between the freelance graphic designer and the client. This document describes crucial commercial details like pricing, payment terms, and deadlines. It may provide additional information about reporting, meetings with the client, and other considerations for larger projects. 

Using a contract does not guarantee you will never have problems in your freelance design business. However, it will dramatically reduce the chances of miscommunication. Further, a well-written contract can also prevent potential confusion about when you will get paid. 

2. Why is it essential to have a graphic design contract?

There are a few critical reasons why freelance graphic designers use contract templates. 

  • First, a contract template saves you time. Each time you start to work with a new client, you can take 5-10 minutes to customize the template, review it and send it over to the client.
  • Second, a contract template makes your business more professional and supports charging higher prices. Let’s unpack this second point in further detail.
  • A detailed graphic design contract may not be necessary for small design projects – anything priced at less than $1000. If the requirements are crystal clear and you have a good relationship with the client, you might choose to work informally with your client.
  • If you are content working on small projects, this casual approach to design projects can work well.
  • What if you aspire to earn $100,000 per year or more as a freelance designer? In that case, you have to think carefully about your capacity and pricing. If you can only accept ten large projects per year, you will need to price each design project at $10,000 or more.
  • Few clients will be willing to pay $10,000 for professional services without a detailed contract. Therefore, it is wise to use a graphic design contract template so that your business is seen in professional terms. 

3. When should you have the graphic design contract in place?

Investing time and effort into creating a graphic design contract is helpful, but it may not always be your top priority. If you started your business less than 12 months ago or have completed less than three client projects, a graphic design contract will not help you much. Instead, your focus should be on marketing and sales activities to get more clients.

Once you have completed at least three small projects, it is time to look at your business systems and processes. Specifically, it is worthwhile to develop a freelance design contract. Your freelance design contract will typically include the following elements.

3.1. Pricing Details

Your contract should describe your pricing and fees in detail. For example, you might price creating a corporate logo at $10,000. If you are using an hourly rate pricing structure, it is vital to put some boundaries on this. For example, state that you will invoice the client monthly.

Consider proposing milestone payments for larger projects that will take more than one month to complete. This might take the form of a project start fee of $2500 and then a final invoice of $2500 when the project is delivered to the client.

Bonus: Learn how to charge your freelance clients in this blog post. 

3.2. Timeframe / Due Dates

As a freelancer, you must deliver your design deliverables to clients promptly. To appreciate why this is important, put yourself in the client’s shoes for a moment. Imagine they plan to attend a major industry conference to promote their business and need new designs to attract attention.

To prepare for that event, they need all the design work to be completed eight weeks before the event starts to print the material. Delivering the graphic design work late would be far less valuable to the client. 

In a larger project, you might include other due dates like delivering an initial set of design ideas, a first draft, and a final draft. Providing multiple due dates like this builds a certain level of project management discipline into your agreement.

3.3. Intellectual Property

As a graphic designer, you are helping the client to build their brand and get more business through your design. Your client will probably want to know exactly how and where they can use your design work.

If you intend to let your client use your design work (e.g., a company logo) in any circumstance, your contract needs to be clear. 

For most freelance graphic designers, expect that clients will ask you to work on a “work for hire” basis. That means that your client will hold the copyright and all intellectual property for the work you develop. Make sure your pricing appropriately reflects the value of your work! 

3.4. Invoice Details and Procedures

Freelance graphic designers often start their businesses because they are passionate about design. Yet, it is also important to mind your business’s details, like making sure you get paid. Therefore, ensure that your contract template is very specific about invoice methods.

If you want to get paid via CheckYa within 7 days of sending the invoice, make sure that your contract clarifies this expectation.

Types of invoices - CheckYa invoices

3.5. Client Responsibilities

Most graphic design projects require the client to give feedback and engage with their graphic designer. Clients who have experience working with graphic designers will understand this expectation. Even so, it is vital to cover this requirement in your contract.

Some of the client responsibilities you may want to describe include a requirement for the client to complete a project design questionnaire, an expectation to provide timely feedback on drafts and to identify the ultimate project approver up front.

This last point is especially important when you are serving companies – you don’t want to get stuck in endless revisions because somebody else at the company is providing feedback behind the scenes.

3.6. Marketing Permission

Growing your graphic design business is easier when you can list your client projects on your portfolio and your website. State upfront in the contract that you plan to reference the client in your marketing materials and case studies. If the client has a concern or question about this expectation, discuss it with them

4. Sample Freelance Graphic Design Contract in Word Doc

The following freelance graphic design templates cover a few common situations. Pick the most appropriate template for your business and then customize the template further to suit your business. We are offering these contract templates as a starting point only. If you have any questions about contracts from a legal perspective, consult a legal professional.

4.1. Freelance Graphic Design Template 1 – Small Client Project: Single Design Deliverable

This freelance graphic design contract template is ideal for a project priced at $1000 or less. These smaller design projects are common for graphic designers just starting. If the client has asked for a single design artifact, like a business logo or a PDF design for a document, this template may be appropriate.

By delivering this project professionally, you open the door to selling the client more complex and higher-priced services.

LINK TO GOOGLE DOC – (Click on File and Download to use this template)

4.2. Freelance Graphic Design Template 2 – Major Client Project: Brand Design and Strategy

This freelance graphic design contract template is best for a large-scale strategic design project. Highly experienced graphic designers with a strategic focus will find this template most useful. Since your graphic design services are packaged as a strategic service, they can also charge much higher prices. 

LINK TO GOOGLE DOC – (Click on File and Download to use this template)

4.3. Freelance Graphic Design Template 3 – Ongoing Client Project: Design A/B Testing

The first two templates are best for one-off projects. Your business goals might be different. For example, you may want to build up a book of recurring clients who each pay you $5000 per month.

By providing A/B testing support to a client with significant website traffic, you can help them get more customers! Since your design service can potentially increase revenue directly, clients are often willing to pay a significant fee for this service. To learn more about this type of service, look at Value Based Design by Chicago-based designer Nick Disabato. 

LINK TO GOOGLE DOC – (Click on File and Download to use this template)

4.4. Freelance Graphic Design Template 4 – Graphic Design For An Event/Conference

Graphic design services for a conference are a major undertaking! Your client may need help creating the conference program, advertising materials, and ads. This project template can be adjusted to most types of complex, multi-deliverable graphic design projects.

LINK TO GOOGLE DOC – (Click on File and Download to use this template)

4.5. Freelance Graphic Design Template 5 – Graphic Design Consulting Project

As you become a more successful graphic designer, you earn the ability to charge for consulting advice. In this scenario, you may not be creating a graphic design deliverable like an ebook or logo. Instead, you provide direction, answer questions and support the client in making better design decisions.

This advanced contract template is most suitable for advanced graphic designers.

LINK TO GOOGLE DOC- (Click on File and Download to use this template)

5. Freelance Graphic Design Contract FAQs

As you grow your graphic design freelance company, you may encounter the following questions and challenges. Thinking through these questions now will save you time and frustration!

5.1. The client doesn’t want to sign a contract – they just want to pay and have me start the design work. What should I do?

Start by listening to the client. They are likely signalling a desire for speed. Take the time to acknowledge the value of speed and provide a realistic time frame for completing the project.

Once the client feels comfortable that you understand their needs, they may be more willing to sign off on the contract. If they refuse to sign a contract, ask them why. Contracts are a standard expectation in business, and most business people understand their importance.

5.2. The client says they are too busy to fill in a design questionnaire required by my contract. How can I respond?

Some clients do not see the value of completing a design questionnaire. From your client’s point of view, it looks like time-wasting paperwork. The solution is to emphasize the value of the questionnaire.

Tell the client that you ask these questions each time so that you can understand the project in detail. If the client is unconvinced, ask if there is another person at the company who might complete the questionnaire. 

5.3. How do I set my graphic design prices in my contract?

There is both an art and science to establishing your graphic design prices as a freelancer. Common approaches are charging an hourly rate (e.g. $50 per hour) or a flat project fee. Generally speaking, project fees are the best way to go. Look at the graphic design deliverables you usually work on and create prices for each.

5.4. I have been working with a client for a while and want to increase my rates to reflect my increased skills and experience. How do I update my graphic design contract?

You’re in luck! CheckYa recently published a detailed guide on how to raise your freelance rates: How To Raise Your Freelance Rates: 4 Email Templates To Earn More.

5.5. I have delivered the design work to the client, and they are asking for multiple changes. How do I handle this?

It depends on the details of the situation and your contract. It is fairly common for clients to request some changes when they receive a deliverable. Responding to a single round of changes is generally reasonable. 

If the client requests significant and time-consuming changes, that is a different situation. Don’t let clients take advantage of you! Instead, put a clause in your contract like this “one round of design changes is included in the price quoted. Additional rounds of revisions will be billed at a rate of $150 (two-hour minimum charge).”

In addition, substantial revision requests usually indicate that you may not have understood the client’s needs properly. Improving your client onboarding process may help. For further guidance, check our guide: The Ultimate Guide For Client Onboarding

5.6. The client is asking me to use their standard freelancer contract instead of my contract template. How should I respond?

This is a common issue when you work with larger companies like billion-dollar brands. Before responding to the client, ask for a day to review their template in detail. The template may have standard expectations (e.g. stating you are an independent contractor rather than an employee or that your work is performed on a work-for-hire basis). However, you may object to some parts of the contract (e.g. that invoices are only paid by check every 60 days).

It’s possible to push back and ask for changes to a client’s template. When you request changes, make sure the changes truly matter (e.g., your need to be paid appropriately). 

6. Graphic Designers: Spend Less Time on Contracts And More Time Growing Your Business

Use the freelance graphic design contract template files in this guide to save time in your business. If you save even 1-2 hours on contracts each month, you can spend more time getting new clients and raising your rates. Speaking of saving time, CheckYa is a powerful solution for sending invoices.

If your project requires sending multiple invoices (e.g. milestone payments, invoices for change requests), CheckYa is an excellent choice because you can send unlimited invoices. Get started with CheckYa today!

Use CheckYa to Grow your Business!

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