The Artwork of Michael Divine

Blog: Artists Only



Download This Design Contract Packet


If you are self-employed then you understand that it’s up to you to secure your own proverbial ship. What do I mean by this? It’s up to you to take care of your financials, work with clients, keep track of your stock (if you have any), know your tools, and maintain your contracts. I’ve done all kinds of design work for numerous individuals and businesses on projects ranging from web to print to logo to book design. Over the years, I’ve worked out my own contracts and other peripheral bits that have helped establish a good flow when working with clients. Along the way, I came up with two very useful tools that I’d like to pass on to you.

The Contract

Before you start any work for anyone, you must have a contract. The contract is a signed and dated legally binding document stating the agreed upon terms. (Pro tip: Don’t ever work with someone who agrees to the terms but won’t sign a contract.) The contract is important because it…

  • Puts your agreement in writing
  • Establishes what you are (and are not) doing.
  • Reminds you both what you’ve agreed to.
  • Establishes the payment terms.

At first, it may feel awkward presenting your contract. In fact, one of the failings for many artists is the ability to confidently ask for what you feel you deserve. The paradox, however, is that you, the consultant, stating your terms is expected. Let the contract be the doorway through which the client enters into your world.

I’d like to mention however that there are instances – painting a mural or a commissioned painting – where simply stating the terms in an email is suitable. In other instances, the contract is veritably required – especially if the work has a particularly tedious scope.

Note: ALWAYS send a PDF contract. The contract can be mailed back with the deposit or they can scan the signed version. However, sending a PDF is the most professional approach and ensures that nothing is altered in the document. 

The Questionnaire

Once the contract is out of the way, it’s time to get to the artsy making fun part and your client will have a bunch of ideas (or none, depending). But where to begin?

Quite often, as a designer, you’re working with someone just starting out. Often their business has existed in the wordless world of their mind and you are the first person that is really engaging with that vision.Your task is to distill their ideas down to a manageable template from which to build your (and their) masterpiece. This is where the Questionnaire comes in.

I created this questionnaire in order to simplify the beginnings of the creative process. I gleaned ideas from other designers and artists and came up with a suitable 2 page set of questions that drill down to specific nuts and bolts understanding of the project. Sometimes people are a bit stunned even by the straight forward nature of the questions. Questions such as:

  • List three colors that represent your business
  • List three emotions you want people to feel when they see your (design thing)
  • What is your target age group?
    And so on…

This questionnaire will save you so much time! It helps both you AND the client get clear with what they want. If they say something different down the road then, just as with the contract, you have their words in writing to refer back to. More importantly, as you work, you can refer back to these notes.

The Process

After many years of working on various projects, I established for myself a general workflow template that I apply to just about every project. That process flows like this:

  1. Initial phone consultation.
  2. Establish the terms of the agreement.
  3. Submit contract wherein it…
  4. Requires a deposit for services.
  5.  When the contract is signed and the deposit paid, send the client the questionnaire.

From there, we get started. Once they return the questionnaire, I stick to the deadlines set out in the contract and make sure we stick with the agreedupon number of revisions. The work gets completed in a timely manner. Everyone is happy! Establishing a good work flow will help you to be a saner and more efficient artist and business person.


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