Why you need a contract for website development

I’m not a lawyer, but I have been working as a contractor for more than a decade, and I’ve learned a thing or two about contracts along the way.

When you’re hiring an agency or freelancer to complete work for you, having a contract is important. Companies that are running their business well won’t do the work without one.

Contracts aren’t intimidating, and they aren’t a way to screw you over using obscure lawyer language. They’re mutually beneficial documents that ensure expectations are set out before a project begins, and that outline what should be done should things go sideways.

We always want projects to go smoothly, but that doesn’t always happen, unfortunately. But it’s much better to have a plan for when something goes wrong than to try to figure it out when tempers may be running high.

For our projects, we use a modified version of The Contract Killer that has been vetted by our lawyer (he found the language to be a bit too casual). This open-source contract has continued to be updated over the years by a community of designers who use it for their own work.  

The most important aspect of any contract is to have everything written out, even if it’s not perfect legal language (though I’m sure my lawyer would disagree!).

Any contract you sign should have:

  • An overview of who is involved in the contract
  • The specific tasks the contractor will be handling (anything not listed may be out of scope for the project and could cost you more if you request it)
  • The agreed upon  budget
  • A timeline with milestones and deliverables
  • What the responsibilities are for both sides (even if you’re hiring someone else, there may still be some tasks required of you)
  • What happens if tasks aren’t completed or responsibilities aren’t met
  • Liabilities and legal matters (you may need help from your lawyer on this part)

If you want to learn more about how contracts work, I recommended this course from The Great Courses about contract law. It sells for $90 on The Great Courses website, but it’s also available from Audible for about $14.

Note: This isn’t a paid advertisement for The Great Courses. I simply liked the course.