Dealing with new clients is sometimes difficult. The process requires having safety mechanisms that will prevent from you engaging in a deal that will hurt you or your business.
There are a few rules I use to make sure the deals don’t fall apart and the deals that have problems, do fall apart.
Here are my top 7 rules for a website development contract:
1. Get money upfront!
Always get at least 75% upfront. This is the main rule I use to weed out clients. If they can’t or don’t want to pay for at least 75% of the project, there is no deal here. This money pays for the initial research and the middle of the project.
The last 25% of the money is received before deployment on customer server.
2. Do not do any work on customer’s server unless project is 100% paid!
You should always use development server for the project. If you develop on client’s server they might not pay you the full amount or keep stringing you along for “more changes”.
3. Changes outside of scope of the project are always extra!
99% of the time clients will request changes to a website that is unfinished. In some cases, these are small changes that you might have missed.
But, most of the time these are changes outside of the contract scope. You need to preempt these changes before the contract is signed. Write these changes into the contract and add them as additional payments (per hour) or add them into the contract total(10 hours of changes).
You need to explain to the client that after work within the scope is done, any changes are extra. I recommend running a client through an example change to a page that can take hours to do after initial work was done.
4. Client gets access only after project is fully paid
Clients often like to jump into the project to change the content of the page when the project is unfinished.
Do not let clients into your development server, because they might destroy work that was already done by you.
If client wants to make changes, they should send them via screenshots and emails.
5. Be very specific about what you will do for the client
Being vague in a contract will leave you open to providing more service then you have originally planned.
An example of this could be: “Social Media Strategy” as an item in the contract.
What does “Social Media Strategy” mean? What will you actually do for the client to cover this item in the contract?
You will need to break down that item into an actionable list:
Social Media Strategy
1. Create Facebook, Instagram, Twitter social media accounts
2. Set up profile images and backgrounds for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
3. Create posting schedule for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter accounts
This will leave nothing to the interpretation when you sign off on project completion.
6. Refund policy?
I believe most of the project is done by the time you sign the contract. The research that was put into the contract is what makes the project viable. That is why the initial 75% of the project should be non-refundable.
This policy acts in two ways:
1. It makes sure that you are paid for the initial research and setup for the project.
2. It keeps client from backing-out of the project in the middle of the process.
Depending on the project, you can swing down to 50%, but I would not go below that.
7. Set realistic timelines.
Setting up correct deadlines for the project will keep it from failing. Your task is to complete the project on time and on budget.
If you rush projects that require certain amount of research / design / development you will hurt the project and relationship with the client.
The first initial weeks of the project are usually dedicated to research, graphic design and planning. They are important for the development part of the project, because you should not be doing graphic design when the website skeleton is already built.
Schedule enough time for things that are unknown. If you don’t know the full details of a feature the client requests, you need to ask more questions and do more research on the topic.
If you can’t get enough information you will need to guess how many hours it’s going to take you and then double it. Because you will be approaching a topic you are not expert in, it will take you at least double the hours for additional clarifications, research and work.