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9 Freelance Design Contract Essentials to Stay Safe and Get Paid on Time (Free Template)

9 Freelance Design Contract Essentials to Stay Safe and Get Paid on Time (Free Template)

Freelance Design Contract

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If you’re a freelance designer, it’s important to have a solid freelance design contract in place before starting any project. This will ensure that both you and your client are clear on the expectations and timeline for the project and helps to prevent any misunderstandings or disputes down the road. In this article, we’ll discuss 9 essentials that every freelance contract should include.

Yes, it’s essential to sign a contract before beginning any new job. This can help to prevent misunderstandings and miscommunication down the road. In addition, a contract can help to protect your rights as a freelancer.

For example, if you are not get paid on time, or if you are asked to do work outside of the scope of the original project agreement, you can refer back to the freelance contract to resolve the issue. Therefore, signing a freelance contract is an essential step in ensuring a successful freelance work experience.

Important: Please do not interpret this article as legal advice. If you want to get an effective contract that meets all the parameters, seek expert legal advice from a legal studio. Our articles are to be interpreted as suggestions only, so this is not for all intents and purposes legal advice.

If you are starting your freelance career and getting paid in the design industry, or if you want to improve what you are already doing currently, I also recommend reading these articles:

  1. 6 Unexpected But Legit Ways To Find Freelance Work 
  2. 9 Oddball But Effective Tips For Negotiating A Freelance Design Contract
  3. Best Freelance Websites To Find Freelance Work Fast In 2022

Get paid with a freelance contract
Get paid with a freelance contract. Image credits: Canva, try it for free.

What is a freelancer?

As the workforce continues to evolve, more and more people are choosing to work as freelancers. This arrangement allows individuals to maintain their independence while still being able to take on prestigious projects and earn a good income.

In many cases, freelancers are hired because they have the specialized skills or experience that businesses need for a specific task or project. And since they are not considered employees, companies don’t have to offer them benefits like vacation pay or sick days.

This can be a great arrangement for both parties involved, as it allows businesses to get the help they need without incurring extra costs. For freelancers, it means they can choose when and where they work, which gives them a great deal of flexibility.

Whether you’re a business owner looking to hire someone for a short-term project or an individual considering a freelance career, it’s noteworthy to understand all that this working arrangement entails. With a clear understanding of what freelancing entails, you can make an informed decision about whether it’s the right choice for you to get legally binding.

How to write a freelance contract
How to write a freelance contract. Image credits: Canva, try it for free.

When do you need a freelance design contract?

The answer is simple: it is always better to have a freelance contract as a written agreement! Chances are, you too have been in the middle of arguments with a client because deals weren’t kept, too many revisions were requested from a design, or you weren’t paid on time or what was agreed upon.

Having a freelance contract as a written agreement that speaks clearly will be able to effectively help you prevent this. For companies, hiring freelancers can be a great way to fill skills gaps on their team.

Independent contractors are not bound by the same rules and regulations as regular employees, so they can be a more cost-effective option. However, it’s significant to make sure that both the freelancer and the company owner have a well-drawn freelance contract in place before starting any work.

The freelance contract should specify the details of the agreed-upon work and so, by taking these precautions, both parties can ensure a smooth and successful experience with a freelance collaboration.

The scope of the project is in a freelance contract
The scope of the project is in a freelance contract. Image credits: Canva.

How to make a freelance contract

A good freelance contract will provide you with the freedom and security that you need as an independent contractor. A legal document like a freelance contract can also help you build confidence, as customers will be able to set expectations in a timely style.

While it might take some time to create a freelance contract, it is well worth the effort. Below are 10 of the best clauses that many freelancers use in their contracts:

  1. Copyright and ownership: This clause will protect your ownership of the work that you produce.

  2. Confidentiality: This clause will protect any confidential information that you may be privy to.

  3. Indemnification: This clause will protect you from any liability arising from your freelance work.

  4. Limitation of liability: This clause will limit the amount of money that a client may sue you for if something goes wrong.

  5. Payment terms: This clause will outline when and how you will get paid for your freelance work.

  6. Termination clause: This clause will outline the conditions under which either party can terminate the freelance contract.

  7. Warranties: This clause will offer warranties on your workmanship.

  8. Force majeure: This clause will protect you from events beyond your control (e.g., natural disasters).

  9. Dispute resolution: This clause will outline how disputes will be handled between you and the client.

  10. Governing law: This final clause will state which jurisdiction’s laws will govern the freelance contract.

By including these clauses in your freelance contract, you can help keep your business protected from potential risks down the road. But it didn’t end there!

Above, we have seen what are the main clauses that would be good to include, below instead we are going to rattle off what are the essential parts of a freelance contract and why you need them for your career.

Indipendent contractor template
Indipendent contractor template. Image credits: Canva.

Clear agreements on the agreed price

When you’re ready to write a freelance contract, it’s paramount to be clear about your pricing from the start. This will help to prevent any misunderstandings or disputes about payment further down the line.

Be specific about how much you will charge for your services, and include details about any refundable expenses. It is also necessary to bear in mind that your experience and skills can affect your price.

Generally speaking, the more experienced and skilled you are, the higher your price will be. By being clear about your pricing from the outset, you can help to ensure a smooth and hassle-free working relationship with your client.

The freelance contract period of time with deliverables
The freelance contract period of time with deliverables. Image credits: Canva.

Delivery dates and Deadlines

Deadlines are crucial to both freelancers and clients. A well-crafted freelance contract will contain all the necessary information regarding turn-around times, penalties for missed deadlines, and guidelines for what to do if a deadline needs to be revised.

As an independent contractor, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of how long you expect the entire project to take. This will allow you to plan your work accordingly and avoid any potential headaches further down the line.

Likewise, when something unexpected happens, you will be able to adjust your schedule and still meet the deadline. By taking these precautions, you can ensure that both you and your client are happy with the final product.

The project deliverables are in the scope of the project
The project deliverables are in the scope of the project. Image credits: Canva.

Project deliverables

When starting a new freelance work, it is consequential to clearly define the scope of work to be completed. This helps to ensure that both the client and the service provider are on the same page from the start and helps to avoid misunderstandings or unrealistic expectations down the road.

For example, if you are hired to design a logo for a company, be sure to discuss with the client exactly what they are expecting in terms of the finished product:

  • Will it be used on letterhead and business cards?

  • Will it be animated, or static?

  • What colors and fonts should be used?

Getting all of this information upfront will help to ensure that you are able to deliver a final product that meets the client’s needs and expectations.

The revision limits in self-employed contracts
The revision limits in self-employed contracts. Image created with Canva, try it for free.

Revision limits

Protect yourself from scope creep when you’re about to write a freelance contract. Scope creep is when a client asks for more work than was originally agreed upon, often without additional compensation.

To avoid this, be sure to include a section in your freelance contract specifying the amount of revision included in the initial fee.

Make it clear that any additional revisions will incur additional costs. This will help to avoid any misunderstandings and will ensure that you are fairly compensated for your time and effort.

Provide the clients with legal payment dates
Provide the clients with legal payment dates. Image credits: Canva.

Payment dates

When you are freelancing, always be very clear about this: the customer needs to know exactly when you want to be paid. This includes setting a salary as well as outlining exactly how many days you will be paid.

For example, if you are working on a project that will span several weeks or months, you should agree on a payment schedule upfront. This way, your client knows how much they need to budget for and can avoid any surprises down the road.

Additionally, defining a payment time frame helps to prevent disputes later on. If there are any delays in payments, both parties will know exactly what the consequences are. In short, being clear about when you will be paid is essential for any freelancing arrangement.

Binding agreement of freelance contracts
Binding agreement of freelance contracts. Image credits: Canva.

Termination and Kill Fee

Another key element for a quality freelance career is to protect yourself and your reputation, with an accurate termination clause. One way to do this is to be clear about what you will do if a client wants to terminate your services, as well as what the termination fee will be.

In some cases, it may make sense to include a kill fee in your freelance contract. This allows you to continue to earn from the work you have already done, even if the client decides to cancel the project.

Correspondingly, if you fail to give feedback or refuse to pay for work, your freelance contract will be terminated without reprisal. By including these clauses in your agreements, you can help to safeguard yourself and your business.

Get paid as independent contractors
Get paid as independent contractors. Image credits: Canva.


When working as a freelancer, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of who owns the rights to the work that you produce.

In most cases, the client will need to have a contractual agreement in place in order to give them legal rights to the work. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule and you may occasionally get recognition for your work without having any legal rights to it.

However, it is always best to err on the side of caution and be sure that you have the appropriate permissions in place before moving forward.

This example can be carried over in case you want to publish the work done for the client in your designer’s portfolio: you will need to have the client’s approval and confirmation, since you are going to publish even sensitive data of his company, such as the logo, the design work done, textual content, maybe even references to his company name.

Non-disclosure agreement with clients
Non-disclosure agreement with clients. Image credits: Canva.


Suppose you have argued with the client for breach of freelance contract, like a problem with the payment terms. You may be able to receive a refund for some of the unpaid work and compensation for the emotional distress caused by the client’s actions and behavior toward you (if that was written in the freelance contract, of course).

Regardless, if it turns out that you were guilty of negligence in your actions (e.g., you did your work poorly, missed deadlines, or did not complete everything that was agreed upon) you may not be entitled to a refund.

In fact, the client’s company may argue that it would not have been obligated to pay the full amount agreed upon in the event that the freelancer did not complete the work by meeting all deadlines.

In this case, both parties may be asked to return the money received from the other party. However, this will ultimately depend on the specific details of the case of your freelance contracts.

Include a clause of confidential information
Include a clause of confidential information. Image credits: Canva.

Confidential information

As an independent contractor, you understand the importance of confidentiality, so keep in mind to provide the client with a clear confidential information clause, in order to create a strong freelance contract for both parties.

Whether you’re working on branding, design, or marketing strategy and, therefore, having access to private data (such as numbers related to company turnover, or developing a promotional campaign with confidential data so as not to run into disclosure to competitors), handling customer data, or managing sensitive information, it’s crucial that this information is kept confidential for both parties.

That’s why you always take measures to protect client data, such as encrypting files and ensuring that only authorized personnel has access to confidential information. You also know that it’s important to respect the confidentiality of other businesses.

For example, if you’re working on a project for Company A, you would never disclose Company B’s confidential information to them. In short, confidentiality is essential in the business world, and you always make sure to uphold this important principle as an independent contractor.

Freelance contract template for Freelance business. Image credits: Bonsai, try it for free.

Free Download: Grab this Freelance Contract Template

Bonsai is a project management platform built entirely to manage your freelance business and offers all the services you need to manage your business directly online.

As a freelancer, you have access to a really really interesting amount of freelance services and templates that are perfect for any need. Download Bonsai’s free template now to build ad hoc freelance contracts.

Within the Bonsai platform, you can also find lots of other templates, including the Proposal Template, the Agreement Template, the Freelance Contract Template, and the Quote Template.

In this Freelance Contract Template by Bonsai, you have all the details you need to build your first legal agreement (in the first place, I suggest you communicate also with a legal studio). There are all the features you’ll need, such as hourly rate, the scope of work, payment schedule, deliverables, related services, ownership, and much more.

Find a job as an independent contractor with written agreements
Find a job as an independent contractor with written agreements. Image credits: Canva, try it for free.

How do I write a freelance contract?

When it comes to freelancing, there are a few basics that every job should include, in order to work properly as independent contractors do. First and foremost, you need to have a clear understanding of the scope of the project.

What is the customer looking for? How many revisions will they need? What is the deadline? Once you have a good understanding of the project, you can start working on the deliverables. This includes creating drafts, revising according to feedback, and finally delivering the final product.

As a freelancer, it’s essential to be clear about what the client is responsible for here. Is the client providing the assets you’ll need? Will the client need to sign off on the design before it’s finalized? Make sure you have all the details ironed out before you start work to avoid any confusion later on.

Finally, you’ll need to agree on payment terms. How much will you be paid for the project? When is payment due? Who will hold the copyright to the work?

Once you have all of these details worked out, you can start writing your contract with all these clauses, so both parties, you and your clients, will work on the project with confidence knowing that everyone is on the same path.

How do I write a freelance contract?

In today’s business world, more and more companies are turning to freelancers to help with short-term or one-time projects. While this can be a great way to get quality work at a lower cost, it’s necessary to protect both the freelancer’s and the company’s interests by having a written agreement in place.

There is an option, besides the freelance contact, which is a letter of agreement, an informal variation of a contract that can be used for freelancing arrangements. It should outline the scope of the project, the payment details, and any other relevant details.

Are freelance contracts legally binding?

Yes, a freelance contract is a great way to protect both the freelancer and the client. By agreeing to specific terms in advance, both parties, freelancers and clients, can avoid any miscommunication or misunderstanding.

The contract can include things like the scope of work, deadlines, payment terms, and so on. Having a contract in place can also help to resolve any disagreements that may arise, as both parties will have a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities.

In short, a freelance contract is an essential tool for any freelancer looking to protect their interests and ensure a smooth working relationship with their clients.

How do you get a contract for freelancing?

A contract is an agreement reached between two parties, in which both agree to certain conditions in order to complete a task or goal. Before any contract can be completed, both two parties must first agree to the terms and sign the contract.

In the case of a freelance contract (for example, for freelance writers), the following documentation is necessary: the date the agreement is signed, contact details between both parties, description of the services or product being supplied by the freelancer, payment information, how the deliverables will be handled, if confidentiality should be included, job requirements, and finally, contact details.

This list may seem like a lot, but it is essential in order to protect both the freelancer and the business. Each party involved needs to have evidence of their involvement in the deal, as well as confirmation of their identity.

Ensuring that all of this documentation is in order before beginning the freelancer work, will help to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes in the future.

Contract advice for getting new clients
Contract advise for getting new clients. Image credits: Canva, try it for free.


A good contract is essential to staying safe and getting paid on time as a freelancer. Many freelancers already know this, and that’s why a quite big amount of them are using Bonsai’s Contract Templates, which provides an easy way for you to create contracts and fill them with your personal necessity.

Always remember that it is substantial if you want to have a successful career and live peacefully on this fantastic journey in the world of freelancing, to have a solid freelance contract.

Take some time, study this article and the others you can find in our blog in-depth, and build your freelancing business! By following our blog and using the tips we’ve provided, you can be sure that you can find the right advice, and that you’re always putting your best foot forward in your freelance design business.

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