Plutio - Essential tips for writing graphic design contracts

Essential tips for writing graphic design contracts

July 16, 2021

Writing graphic design contracts is never an easy task for creatives. You are more about the visuals than about writing and legal things. But it is not rocket science and it can help you protect your intellectual property and your professional interests in the right way.

When you are a freelance graphic designer you need to focus on four important aspects of your work - promoting your services, reaching new clients, expanding the customer base, and perfecting the terms of your work. You need to work smarter not harder because people often lack the understanding of your creativity and passion for work.

They will often take advantage of your good will if you are not thinking ahead, no matter how professional they seem. So it is up to you to set up the rules!

Writing a graphic design contract can help you protect your work

Time is the most important resource you have so you need to protect your interests in the best way possible. If you are working without any contract, you might get shorted by your client. Or imagine a scenario when you spend hours and hours working on a very important project and suddenly your client disappears without a trace and explanation. Imagine these hours spent for nothing, these amazing visuals, and ideas that will never see the light of the day. It is both excruciating and frustrating. 

A comprehensive and detailed contract is the only thing standing between you and complicated clients. It is never easy to bring someone’s vision to reality and there is always that moment ‘’Can we do this again but can it be good this time?’’. 

Of course, there is nothing more worse and frustrating than a situation where you listened to every suggestion possible, took your creativity to the next level, and yet somehow, the client is asking for another round of revisions and you are back to the start.

When you are at the beginning, you want to keep every client possible. You want to make them happy and you are flexible. But then you notice that is not the case with them. When you grow your client base enough you won’t have time to deal with things like these. And you won’t manage to grow if you waste your time, talent, and energy.

What should a graphic design contract include?

When we mention all of the above, you are probably leaving mental notes for yourself about all fictional situations that are about to happen. Your ideal contract would be 50 pages long and it would probably scare off your potential customers. 

You need to keep everything simple and just use the right contract template. It can save you time and help you focus on important things. Some elements that need to be there include:

Project details and services provided

Although this is something obvious, it is always great to get back to the basics of writing graphic design contracts. Although you reached the verbal agreement about all important details  - it needs to be on the paper as well so you can go back to all the details. 

This is where you need to set the important dates- the beginning of the contract and the end. Once you deliver your files and payments are made, you can choose not to provide technical support. If the client is asking for another round of revisions, make sure to say that it counts as additional work.

Time is crucial 

When writing graphic design contracts, you need to make sure that you have just enough time to complete the project. Don’t overwork yourself and don’t make deadlines too tight - give yourself more space. We know that no one wants a 60 hours work week so be merciful to yourself. You might get your client pleasantly surprised if you decide to go with a more relaxed deadline and you deliver something beautiful earlier. 

If you work fast, perhaps the results will not be so great so choose to work meticulously.

Also, it is time to set up the boundaries about:

  • Working on weekends or during work hours that aren’t considered regular - explain that these cost more. 
  • Availability for communication - make sure to mention your response rate and availability on a daily basis.
  • Paid overtime - establish the rate that covers the time you spend on doing the additional portion of your job that exceeds your working hours.

Define both your and your client’s responsibilities 

In order to ensure a smooth flow of the entire project, you need to establish the chain of command, and authority roles.

You really want to avoid conflicts, misunderstandings, or disagreements amidst the project. 

Ask for as many details as possible at the beginning. It will help you gain that initial traction. Explain to your client that you need a creative brief and that you can work on the additional details as the project progresses.

You also need to establish who will be in charge of the communication part and for suggestions. The last thing you want is getting caught in a never-ending thread of different suggestions and opinions and you are left unsure which action you should take.

Make sure that the approval of payments is not interrupted in any way, that your client approves of every milestone, and make sure that every extra work is covered in the contract.

How the files will be delivered and stored

At the beginning of the contract, you need to make sure of the following: Which file format does the customer want?

Once the files are created how are they going to be delivered - via email, via flash drive... Maybe via the cloud? Don’t leave much to the interpretation. 

How long does the client expect you to store the files after the contract is over? If they reach you in a few months do they need to pay some additional fees? Establish all these details.


Confidentiality is important for graphic designers since you will work closely with the marketing department and you will probably get insights into their marketing strategy. Protect both your and their intellectual property. It will inspire trust between you and your customer. 

Also, make sure you can use their works in your portfolio right away. Make sure to check when the information is not confidential anymore and when you can use it to promote your services.


You need to set the payment methods at the beginning. When you are in the graphic design world, it is okay to ask for a deposit before you start your work.

It is beneficial in a few different ways - it is a great motivator for you to start the project and clients will be sure that you are prioritizing their project.

Make sure to establish your rules about additional fees for revisions - there need to be some limitations or things tend to get out of control very easily. The last thing you want is to do extra work without proper compensation. 


Writing a graphic design contract doesn’t have to be overly complicated. We can help you automate this process so you can enjoy the things that inspire your creativity, not thinking you missed covering something in your business contracts.

Focus on what you like to do and we will focus on delivering amazing contract templates that will cover everything for you. 

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