All reputable small business web designers work on a contract basis. That is, you enter into an agreement that specifies the work to be done, payment schedule, and options for either party in the event that the other does not uphold their end of the bargain. Make sure you form a contract that clearly outlines all of the following:
Ownership Rights – This provision outlines the ownership rights of the website, its contents, and the domain name, once it is completed. Just because the site is created for your business does not mean you will automatically incur ownership rights to everything posted. Some companies maintain the copyright for sites they have created, or for portions of the site or specific design elements. If the company offers small business web hosting services, they might retain ownership of all or certain elements of your site.
Scheduling – The contract should outline a schedule that specifies when certain elements will be completed. Usually, certain elements, like a logo or page layout, will be designed and then sent to you for "sign off" or approval. Make sure that you communicate regularly with your designer, so that any delays cannot be attributed to you. You should have a provision specifying what happens if work is not completed on time- usually a delay in payment is appropriate.
Cost and Payments – Most designers work on a payment schedule, where you pay as the design is completed. Usually you will pay a retainer, or lump payment, to reserve their time, and then the contract will specify increments for further payments. The payments can be timed (monthly) or be contingent upon completion of some specific design element. Additional costs, such as marketing services or logo design, should also be outlined. Most graphic design companies charge by the service, by the hour, or by the project. Make sure you know how you will be charged.
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