Last month we invited everyone to submit articles and ideas for a guest posting on the WebEden blog. Here’s another entry by by Alison Cross from AlisonCross4Webs.co.uk on how having a contract can help smooth the relationship between website builder and client. Over to Alison.
I get a huge amount of satisfaction seeing a client’s business take virtual shape on my screen. The Sitemaker software is so easy to use, building is a breeze these days.
However, dealing with clients is not always straightforward and it can be exceptionally stressful when you’ve quoted for work and the client keeps changing their mind about what they want.
The solution is to have a contract
Don’t be scared! I’m not suggesting that you should rush out to the lawyers and get something legally binding drawn up (although if you want to you can). But if you take the time to create a document that sets out quite clearly what both sides are expected to do/supply, you’ll see your website building life become much more straightforward.
Get your client to be specific
Many clients have only the vaguest idea of what they want for a website. Even those with definite plans have been known to back-pedal right at the last minute.
I find it very beneficial to set out, right at the beginning exactly how the game is going to be played and who is responsible for what.
Create a Mood Board
For me, this involves the initial creation of a mood board, just like an interior designer. They send me images, quotes, colours, fonts…anything really…that lets me understand how THEY see their website.
This gives me a clear indication of what the client is after. After studying the board, I make a presentation in which I make my pitch to clarify the scope of the job. This presentation is basically my contract and it helps prevent future slippage in the content of the job.
1. Agree on the number of pages
We agree number of pages and costs for additional pages that the client might ask for later.
2. Agree on a Design theme
Based on mood board, I have a design for them to inspect. If they agree to this design, any significant revisions (what is ‘significant’ may change from design to design) should be priced accordingly. How many revisions are acceptable to you?!
3. What images will be used, and where will they come from?
Images/music cost time and / or money, and if supplying them then it is a cost for me to supply. I also need their written agreement that anything they supply to me is within their copyright. Will you need to have the images/music supplied in a particular format? Named? Sized? License limits on the images – one time only use?
4. What domain name are you going to use?
Domain names can be a thorny issue, and there are lots of questions that you need to ask. To start with, do you need to buy one? Do you need to transfer one? Repoint one? How much are you going to charge for this?
5. Will it be an ecommerce website?
E-commerce – will there be a shop requirement? How much work is that likely to involve for you? Or is it just a couple of items that need linked through to a PayPal account? Setting up an ecommerce website, along with a payments system such as PayPal, can add a lot of time (and therefore cost) to the website build.
6. Who is supplying the written copy?
The main question to answer is: who is supplying what and when! You do not want 30 pages of longhand being delivered to you for an agreed completion date the following day, do you?!
7. How is your client going to pay you?
Whilst we all love building websites, you can hardly start designing for clients for free! When it comes to payment, there are lots of questions that need to be answered. To start with, do you want paid up front? In stages? At the end? Agree these terms right at the beginning and asking for payment becomes a breeze.
8. Ongoing maintenance of the website
Building a website is just half the story. Once its up and running almost every client will require additional updates and adjustments to their website. When it comes to this maintenance, are you offering it? How much? Payable when? Starts from when? If they don’t want annual maintenance, will you charge for a brief tutorial in editing? Or would you simply hand over to client on completion with a cheery wave and hope they don’t screw it up?! Be ready to discuss what you actually provide in an Annual Maintenance contract.
….and what if your clients DO screw up your beautiful design once you’ve handed over responsibility? Include a fee for having to take the site back on and fix it. You might not need it, but I find it helps on the uptake of an annual maintenance contract – if you price it right!
Do you need a Critical Path?
Depending on the complexity of the site, you might need to agree some kind of Critical Path with your client – agree various milestones in the job’s progress. But that’s really for the Big Boys, not us!
Who is going to ‘own’ the website?
The ownership of a WebEden website is limited. It cannot be lifted and moved onto someone else’s servers – hosting and building come together in the package. This must be pointed out right at the outset.
Go through the contract / agreement with your client
I go over every paragraph with my clients and we initial at each one, to show that we’ve both read and understood it. Then we sign and date at the end.
The above suggestions are not legally binding, I don’t think. However, if you had to go to court to claim monies due, or face copyright infringement charges, ANY kind of contract that shows you made an effort to clarify the position will help your case.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, if you want something legally binding, please see your own lawyer.
This list doesn’t claim to be complete and I’d love to hear from anyone else who has additional clauses that I’ve overlooked.
About Alison Cross
Alison Cross lives on the Isle of Bute where she has built over a dozen websites using our software. She also helps people use Twitter to market their business. For more info or advice, visit her website alisoncross4webs.co.uk.