Article on Creating Good Contracts for Designers

Excerpt from article I wrote for Designer Planet

2012 marks my 20th year as a professional designer and business owner. I started my career in design while still in high school in 1987, I was an art student and a club owner in Detroit saw me drawing on napkins and asked me to make some fliers for a few upcoming concerts. Eventually I was designing all their local magazine ads as well as painting murals on the building.

This lead to similar work for more bands and clubs in Detroit, St. Louis and Columbus. I have designed countless record and CD covers, band posters, magazine ads, as well as numerous murals. In 1992 I officially started to freelance on a permanent basis, doing work for local business’ and creating little coupon books and magazines for campus stores in Columbus. By 1995 I had moved to St. Petersburg, Florida and had started three local magazines with my soon-to-be wife who was also an artist.

We started the magazines to build design clientele, luckily one of our early advertisers was a local ISP who gave us some server space as partial payment for ads. This was 1995 and the web was still essentially unknown and more of a novelty than the dominant media force it is today. Once the ISP saw the site we built, they had a steady flow of design work to send us.

By 2001 we had moved our company to Atlanta and had established a solid reputation in the industry. I have since worked with some of the largest companies in the world as well as some of the smallest. After 2003 our company had pretty much phased design work out and concentrated primarily on back end development, creating custom enterprise level business applications.

I give you this background information so you know that I speak from experience. I have been involved in every level of transaction in the design industry, from designing band fliers for beer, to six figure development contracts. I have learned the hard way what works and what doesn’t work when dealing with billing clients. I started as a freelancer and ended up running a development firm with 15 employees and have overseen millions of dollars of development work. The last 5 years I was strictly handling business management, working on contracts and making sure projects were delivered on-time and to specification.

The lessons I have learned can apply to almost any service based business, from a logo designer to a remodeling company. Anyone who provides a custom service to a client can use these principles and techniques to make their business run smoothly. And if you are on the client end of the transaction, use this as a guide to ensure you receive exactly what you expect from your service provider.