SoYou have just signed a new design project and are eager to get started. Congratulations! Winning A new work round is an exciting time for any creative person. But before you sign on the dotted line, it’s important to make sure that both you and your client are on the same page—and stay that way throughout the duration of the project.

Illustration By: Fe Melo

You can build your business by establishing long-term relationships with clients and gaining referrals. But Even the most experienced of designers can hit roadblocks. A client relationship can quickly turn sour for a variety of reasons—from scope creep and seemingly unending revisions to feedback delays or client disagreements.

To Set boundaries to protect your time, your relationships and your work. Clear Project terms can give you and clients guidance if something goes wrong. By By setting expectations, both of you will know what to say. “no,” You need to know when you should walk away from a client if they are unwilling to pay.

In In this article we will discuss 7 important terms that you and your client should always agree upon before starting any work.

Let’s get started!

1. Discuss your deliverables

The The client gives you a brief for a creative project. It seems easy enough. But Have you both really delved into the details? It’s It is important to be precise when describing the number of variations and designs that will be included in a particular project.

logo suite and variations for dead flower shop
Logo Suite by coric design

Scenario #1: Say A client asks for a custom logo. What What are they expecting? These Today, brands can choose from a large variety of logo deliverables that they use for both their digital and physical assets. Will Do they require different sizes for legibility? How How many different color options would they like? Will Do they need badges or wordmarks to identify their products? How about the extra details—patterns, ornamentation, brand accents or animations. Do They assume that a guide to the brand is included?

You Your client could be defining “logo project” The expectations of each party are different and it is important to establish these expectations at the beginning.

By You can itemize and bill for additional work if you outline the project deliverables with your client at the start. Having A list of clearly defined deliverables can also help prevent scope creep.

2. Agree File formats

Miscommunication about file formats can really set designers back—especially if they’re at the end of a project. Always Verify with your clients what file formats are required.

illustration of a person talking to two other people
Illustration By: Daria F.

Scenario #2: You’re Working with a nonprofit client who needs a brochure template that can be edited. You Your client has gone through the revisions, and you are ready to finish the project.

You You can send a client a customizable Adobe InPrepare the final invoice and design file. But You get a call from a client who is confused. They Don’t have Adobe Suite The brochure was not in the place we expected it to be Microsoft WordThey know how to use it. Now You’ll be required to recreate the template. Word They can then use it.

Some Your clients may not be graphic designers and need you to help them understand what file format they require. Ask Ask them which design software they are comfortable with, if they want an editable version and what they intend to do once your design is finished. That This information will help you understand what formats your client requires and avoid any last minute snags.

3. Set Maximum number of revisions

Ask You can ask any designer about their worst client experience. The following are some of the most effective ways to increase your effectiveness. last design change… And Then, one last small change. And then…. OkOne more small thing.

We get it! Designers Can be perfectionists too. But we all have our limits and—at least where client feedback is concerned—it’s best to set some boundaries. Your Clients need clear instructions on how to work with The following are some of the ways to get in touch with us..

three versions of the logo design
three versions of the logo design

Talking Understanding your revision processes will help your clients understand what you expect from them as they provide feedback on the project. Explain You should include how many design suggestions in your project cost, along with how many feedback rounds you’ll deliver and how many revisions.

To In your negotiations, you may want to include additional revisions at an extra cost. By The client should understand that feedback must be given with intention (and this will hopefully keep you out of a never-ending loop of design tweaks).

While While it may be nice to make a small adjustment here and there, it is important to know how much time you are worth.

4. Timelines

Time is money—especially when you’re working on a design project. If If timelines aren’t set up in advance, it’s easy to get off track. Misalignment Working schedules, due dates and time estimates are all factors that can ruin an otherwise good project.

Make Make sure you understand how long the project will last and that your estimations are in line your client’s expectations.

logo of clock
Logo design by Cope_HMC

As As you work through feedback and revisions you may find the project taking more time than expected. This would be a good opportunity to renegotiate prices—but only if you both understand that the project is going out of scope.

Questions To ask yourself before starting a project,

  • When Will this project begin officially?
  • When When should this project finish? Is Is there a deadline for completing this project?
  • How How time-consuming is this project going to be? How How long will this project take?
  • What What are the estimated dates for each of the milestones in this project?
  • How How long should it take to revise each document?
  • Does When does the client expect that you will be available? Are Are there set working hours?

By Asking yourself these questions will help you to understand the scope of your project and how best to price it. By You should be prepared to have difficult conversations with your client if necessary.

For If your client has a tendency to be slow in providing feedback, explain how the delays will affect project milestones and deadlines.

If If your client wants to make major changes to your design you can tell them that it will take longer than estimated. This is a great opportunity to push back or to renegotiate the price.

5. Prices Payment Structure

Once After you have determined the deliverables, timeline and project payment structure you can start thinking about it.

Start Look at the list of deliverables for design. What What is the cost of each? Then look at your timelines. How How many hours should a project take and what are they worth?

 illustration of an American bill with the text
Illustration By: Irudh

You can choose how you want to communicate your prices—perhaps you prefer to bundle your services. Or Maybe you want your client to know the value of the deliverables by presenting them with a pricing sheet. The It’s up to you how you choose to share prices with clients. But It is essential to know where your prices are coming. The following are some of the ways to get in touch with us. The value of the project is not limited to the end product.

Once The following are some of the ways to get in touch with us. set a project priceThink about it “what ifs.” What What happens if the client asks for more deliverables in the future? What If a client requests more revisions that you originally agreed to, what should you do? What If they need you to attend more meetings than anticipated or take up more of your time? How What will the cost of all these extras be?

By Included are solutions to these “what ifs” As additional services are included in your payment structure you can gently push back on your client to add these services to their invoice if they want them.

6. Termination Cancellation

Let’s Face it Sometimes Things don’t go as planned Budgets get cut. The The client isn’t satisfied Timelines Are you getting overextended? You You may need to act quickly in an emergency. Life happens! And You need to be prepared.

So Ask yourself this question: What happens when you, or your client, need to walk out? And What should be your compensation if you have to terminate the contract early?

illustration of a planet
Illustration By: Zombijana Bones

Scenario #3: You’re Working with a difficult customer and the project goes sideways Emotions When tensions rise, the client terminates the agreement. You You reach out to the client and ask if they will pay you for your work. But, they are refusing because you did not deliver on what you had promised. You You can’t seem to find any clauses in your contract that state how much money the client will owe you if the job ends earlier. Now You’re in the wrong for this negotiation.

As When you are preparing your pricing structure and payment schedule, include a clause to help you and your customer navigate the cancellation of a project in case of a worst-case scenario. In In your negotiations, it is important to discuss the maximum point at which a project may be cancelled with a refund. As When you discuss the timelines for the project, you should also talk about the percentage that a client will pay depending on the amount of work completed.

Some To avoid wasting time, designers charge a fee up front that is non-refundable. Others Set up milestone payments where they pay a certain percentage of the price. The way you set up your payment plan is up to you—but make sure that you get it in writing just in case things go awry.

7. Confidentiality

LastlyIt’s important to know if a client wants you to sign a NDA or to keep the project secret for x amount of time.

logo design with a key in a diamond shape
Logo design by Stamatovski

In You should also include any deadlines for confidentiality and specify when you can make your work public. Maybe Client is waiting for public launch. Your work can be kept confidential only for six months. Or Perhaps there are sensitive details in the project which cannot be made public.

Your Portfolio is how you can sell your services. If If you have spent a great deal of time working on a particular project but cannot share it with others, you may want to include the cost in your pricing.

In You can also find out more about the conclusion of this article.

When When you confirm a creative project, it’s tempting to dive right in. Taking If you take a few moments to discuss your terms with the client, it will make sure that everything goes smoothly.

As As a designer, you need to know how to manage your time. We These tips should help you value your own work and be able to have difficult conversations with clients more confidently.

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