How to Write a Graphic Design Contract

2nd May, 2024

As a freelance graphic designer or small business, sending detailed, professional contracts for work is essential. Not only will it ensure that the terms of the work are clearly outlined for both parties, but also it will boost your reputation as a graphic design contractor. Before you start any graphic design project, you should have a contract that has been read and signed by both you and the client.

In this guide, we’ll be explaining how to write a graphic design contract including the main elements it should have, to help you save time and establish a positive working relationship with clients.

What is a Graphic Design Contract?

A graphic design contract is a legally binding document between a contractor and a client that details the scope of the project, as well as other important details which we’ll be exploring later on. Once both parties have signed it, they have agreed to the offer and have accepted the terms and conditions it sets out.

It’s important that you wait for the signed contract to be returned before you start any work. By doing so you can collaborate with your client confidently, with a mutual understanding of timeline, cost, and deliverables.

Why do you Need a Graphic Design Contract?

Contracts might seem like a formal document that you may not feel is necessary as a freelance designer. However, there are several compelling reasons why you should utilise graphic design contracts before carrying out any work.

It ensures you receive payment for the project

Even if in most cases you work with reliable clients who pay on time once work has been completed, there is likely to be someone who avoids payment as much as possible. They potentially could make a partial payment and then try to claim the work isn’t up to their standard, maybe they agree to make payment and suddenly disappear once they have the files, or eventually make the payment long after it’s due.

Having a contract in place for all new clients will allow you to lay out your payment details, a payment schedule, and any other terms such as late fees. This will work as a crucial incentive for clients to pay on time.

It manages expectations

For graphic design projects, a contract provides structure and ensures that the expectations of both parties are managed, especially the clients. This avoids any misunderstandings when it comes to factors like how many previews the client will receive and how many revisions they can make.

It’s important to consider these details and include them in your contract to avoid a client requesting a full redo after the final project has been delivered. Planning and protecting your time in advance is key in establishing a long-lasting working model for your freelance design business and not letting expectations escalate to an unmanageable level.

It avoids scope creep

Scope creep is when your clients start asking for tasks to be completed outside the agreed upon terms, without paying you anything additional for the extra work. Initially this may start as a small request that falls outside of the original scope, such as asking for an extra round of revisions, or including another page to a document that you are designing.

For small requests you may be tempted to say yes, but the situation can quickly evolve into several time-consuming tasks that stretch far beyond the original agreement. A clear and concise contract is an effective way to avoid scope creep so that the project doesn’t become bigger than you quoted and take up so much time that it affects other parts of your workload.

What Should be Included in a Graphic Design Contract?

There are several important elements that should make up your graphic design contract, these include but are not limited to the below:

An overview of the project

You will find a general overview at the beginning of most contracts and a graphic design contract document should be no different. This will likely include a summary of the project, covering the basic information, you might want to use details from your initial design proposal to customise the contract and flesh it out.


The deliverables section of your contract should break down exactly what the client will be receiving as part of the project. You may want to include specifications for assets such as information regarding the size, format, and delivery method. Another key part of this section is the timeline with the provision of expected dates for delivery of the work. If it is a large-scale project, this could involve smaller milestone dates before final completion. You might also want to add a clause that specifies how you will manage additional requests, to avoid scope creep.

Revision details

If you intend to include revisions in the project, you will want to consider how many the client can have and the extent to which they can amend the work. For example, will you make small tweaks or are you willing to start the project again if the client isn’t happy with what you have created? Generally, most graphic design contracts will feature three rounds of revisions, but you can decide what works best for you.

Payment terms

The payment terms are one of the most important parts of the contract as it will establish how you are to be paid, what the payment schedule will be, when the final payment is due, etc. You will likely want to include the following information in the payment section of your contract:

  • Accepted payment methods (e.g., credit card, bank transfer)
  • The total project price
  • If a deposit is required
  • Payment schedule (if not all at once)
  • Invoicing process
  • Late fees

This may seem like a lot of details, but it will ultimately help to ensure there is no confusion regarding payment for your work, especially if in the worst-case scenario, you must take the matter legal if you have not been paid in line with the contract.


A termination clause is essential if you are required to stop working on a project for any reason. When including a clause for how either party can get out of the agreement if they need to, you should make sure to provide details about what happens to the work and how much of the total cost should be paid. It’s a good idea to include a notice period and possibly some form of liability clause. A liability clause will limit the amount of damages either party can claim for a contract breach.

Section for date and signature

The contract won’t be legally binding until you and your client have signed it, so it’s important to have a clearly dedicated section of your document for an e-signature and date. Always wait until you have received the signed contract before you start the project, or you risk working unprotected should anything go wrong.

Top Tips for Writing a Graphic Design Contract

  • Be clear on your terms – if you have a specific way of working which is consistent across every project you undertake, such as payment expectations, it’s important to clearly convey that in the contract, so your client knows how and when to pay you.
  • Utilise contract templates – as an E-Sign user, you can access free pre-built templates including our graphic design contract template. This will provide a useful framework that will save you time when sending out multiple contracts to clients. You also have the option to upload your own template to E-Sign for consistent, ongoing use.
  • Accurately tailor contracts to each project – accuracy is essential when creating contracts. If the client notices errors or incorrect information relating to their project, it could impact your relationship with them and your professional reputation. Using templates is beneficial in multiple ways, but it’s still important to make sure that each contract is correct and relevant to the recipient it is being sent to. Our templates are easy to edit with a broad selection of optional fields to ensure the document can meet your needs.
  • Avoid overcomplication – having a contract in place is essential for any freelancer or small business. However, this doesn’t need to be an extremely long or complex document as this might deter potential clients. You can strike the right balance between laying out the important details and keeping the content simple.


As a leading electronic signature and digital document solution provider, E-Sign understands the requirements of freelancers and small businesses for their document needs. If you’re looking to optimise your contract and proposal document processes, our e-signature platform is the ideal option to save you time and maximise efficiency in your graphic design business.

Experience the benefits of E-Sign for yourself by registering for our 14-day free trial. This will give you access to five pre-built templates including our graphic design contract template. Once your trial has ended you can select one of our pricing plans, based on your requirements. For more information about how the platform can meet your specific needs, contact our team today.

Laura Cain

Marketing & Brand Manager

Laura is responsible for implementing, executing and overseeing the marketing strategy for the business. She works to ensure we convey eSign’s core business values across all aspects of the business and have best communication practices with our clients.


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