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  1. #1
    SitePoint Addict clearweb's Avatar
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    Question Do you always need a contract?

    Scenario: You do basic web design - do you always require a contract?

    Are there times when you wouldn't do a contract? What if a customer doesn't want to get in a contract - do you move on?


    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    There are lots of times you don't need a contract, but even more where you do. If the project is such a low value that you're willing to risk not getting paid at all, or you have real trust built up with the client, you can skip the contract. Even then, it's a tough judgement call.

    Most of the time, a contract is a must. If you aren't sure, you probably should write one up
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy
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    On most small projects, I just require payment up front and there is no contract other than an email detailing the basic specifications that I have them approve by replying.

    Also, on several of my best clients I usually just take a verbal OK to a proposal and never have them sign a contract. These are clients that are major companies and some pay me 5 figures a year for multiple projects, so there is a long-term relationship and we both have a vested interest in continuing the relationship.

    However, as Sagewing states if you're even unsure enough to ask here, you probably need one.

  4. #4
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Brandon, you forgot your IANAL!
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing
    Brandon, you forgot your IANAL!
    Ha ha

    here...

    IANAL

  6. #6
    Non-Member demosfen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by clearweb
    What if a customer doesn't want to get in a contract?
    1. If you agree to exchange money for services, you entered into a contract even if it's not written and signed. Saved emails or a conversation recorded on tape is just as good, if all criteria of a contract are met. (almost everywhere, but I'd check your state law to be sure)
    2. Contract is only useful if you intend to go to court if you are not paid. If it's only a few thousand dollars or less, litigating is not worth time and/or money anyway, so I don't think having contract serves any purpose for a small job (other than what Sagewing mentioned in the post that follows).

  7. #7
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    A contract is also useful for getting a client to read the terms of a deal, finalize dates, etc. It's a little strong to say that having a contract doesn't serve any purpose for a small job. It has to be considered case by case.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy
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    I agree... and it serves another purpose as well. You may not be willing to go to court over a few thousand dollars, but the client doesn't know that. Signing a contract and putting everything in writing tells them you are serious enough about the project to take it to the next level if needed. Whether or not you actually do is your own business.

  9. #9
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    A contract isn't just about getting the money or setting payment definitions, it's about defining certain boundaries and ensuring everyone knows what's what. For example, who owns the code, what happens if the client has provided content that violates someone else's copyright, who's to blame if the site goes down etc. These matters are just as valid on a 100 job as they are on a 100K job, so I don't think skimping on the contract is worth it unless the job itself doesn't involve any tasks that can lead to any problems further down the line.

    For really poxy jobs, you could always get a client to 'agree to or terms and conditions, available to read at this URL....'.

  10. #10
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy
    beley's Avatar
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    Yeah, as I explained in another thread I almost always have a contract signed but many times I use a "boilerplate" contract template. My lawyer has had a look at it but because it's shorter and less specific, I'm sure it's not iron-clad.

    It does, however, have clauses for most of the major areas like copyright and ownership of finished work, terms and conditions, liability, arbitration, indemnification due to their err, ommision, violation etc.

    For the really big, complex projects you would probably be better off having an attorney draw up a very specific contract for that specific project.

  11. #11
    SitePoint Evangelist spinmaster's Avatar
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    well, if you do serious freelancing, I would always go for a contract.

    Here is a pretty good article if you need more infos...


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