Doing Work Without a Contract

A potential client came to me and asked me to do some graphic design work for them (fix up a brochure). I’m a web designer and have a contract that clients sign before I commence any web design projects. However, this job will only take a couple of hours and I’m not sure I even need a contract.

My concern is that there are photographs in the brochure and in my web design contract, I state the the Client is responsible for making sure that they own the rights to any photos and graphics that they use. Do I need to do the same for this client’s brochure?? The photographs are mostly of her product but there are some of other people and children as well.

Thanks in advance for your response!

  • Amy

It’s the projects I least expect to be a problem that are the worst. My largest projects were the ones that were problem-free. The smaller the project, the bigger the problems.

I almost never use contracts, instead managing the risk by:

a) staying in the low budget end of the website market where I’m comfortable and the risk of getting significantly stiffed is lower
b) Requesting a 50% deposit on sign off of the concept design, they’ve had some satisfactory work, I’ve had some money and a commitment
c) I don’t release server/ftp login details and therefore retain control of the site until the bill is paid… no money = no site. Never had to do it yet.

My theory would be that large projects have more to deal with therefore the smaller things tend to go unnoticed and they also tend to be better organized with wider time-scales so you can assign yourself more time to test it (where as most small projects tend to be quick and dirty turnarounds at the request of the client). :slight_smile:

PS: I’m not saying anyone does things this way, it’s just my experience that when people want small things done, they expect instant results so things can get sloppy.

This does seem to be fairly common for some reason. I’m sure everyone has their theory on why the small projects tend to have more problems, but they do. The number of times I see topics on this forum when someone asks for help on what to do because something went wrong, the question is posed as to what the contract states and the answer 7 out of 10 times is: “I didn’t have a contract because it was just a small project”. The size of the project shouldn’t dictate whether or not you have a contract. Nor should the person you are working with. I’ve also seen the issues of “it was my best friend’s dad” or “it was my cousin” so no contract was signed. Every transaction should be dealt with as a professional one. That way you know you’re always covered!

Of course that doesn’t mean every project will go smooth and without a hitch … but at least you’re legally covered if it goes south! :slight_smile:

I don’t strictly adhere to the ‘always have a contract’ thing. I look at it as a managed risk, and the smaller the project the smaller the risk, at least for the most part.

If a client who is known to me but whom I don’t have a standard services agreement with called me and asked for a 2 hour consulting gig, I wouldn’t bother with a contract. I’d just do the work and send a bill. I’m willing to risk a few hundred bucks.

If a client wants a small job where I’m not worried about the money, but there is some special liability involved I’d get an agreement in place just to protect myself.

For work that does not involve great deal of money and time; you don’t generally require a contract. But, for a long term tasks you do need to get hold of a contract with all the terms and conditions laid down in it.

I like your philosophy. Every time I have had a problem with a project, it has been a small one. I agree. You don’t need a four to six page document, but you do need an agreement, at least through correspondence.

Honestly, I always work with a contract, no matter how small the project is. If I have worked with the client before, it is not the full multi-page contract with all the fine print of the original one, but at least some sort of written agreement between us saying what we are offering and what will be delivered. This will protect even the smallest projects from experiencing scope creep (which they sometimes will) … but it will also keep the guessing out of the game when a contract is needed or not. My policy is that there is always a contract for everything. I don’t ever have a client that comes to me with a small project or any other modifications that question why I would need a contract for a new project since they didn’t need one last time, etc. If it is standard practice, there is no reason to question it.

That’s my philosophy at least.

Thanks for the responses!

  • Amy

Honestly, if you feel uneasy about the situation as it appears, I might be tempted to just go with the usual contract process anyway. While it is a small job and perhaps the risk is minimal, if you make it a standard practice for all work to be under contract you can avoid the stress of wondering if you did the right thing. No sense in running a risk but I do agree with Sagewing’s advice that you could just email for confirmation of omitting your liability! :slight_smile:

For a tiny job like that you probably don’t need a contract unless there is some special risk, like the risk you mentioned.

If you want to protect yourself, you could just casually ask the client to accept that responsibility. Even an email dialog in which you ask the client to confirm that they have such rights and are responsible for that content should be enough for you to protect yourself by being able to prove that the client accepted the responsibility and represented that they had the rights.