[Intro Music] This is Office Talk with Annette Stepanian.
Welcome back to another episode of Office Talk. I’m your host Annette Stepanian. And in this week’s episode, we’re gonna dive into the most common questions I get from designers.
If you’re a graphic designer, a web designer, a print designer, maybe you design beautiful stationery for wedding couples, you’re going to want to have a listen. And if you want to dive in deeper than what we’re going to talk about in today’s episode, I encourage you to check out my free webinar, Common Contract Mistakes, Graphic, Web and Print Designers Make and How to Fix Them. In a few weeks, I’m going to be hosting this free live webinar. And we’re going to dive into all of the nitty gritty details. So make sure to save your seat over at annettestepanian.com/free-webinars. And if you sign up, make sure to attend live, because there will be no replay.
The first question is: what terms are most important to cover in a monthly retainer service agreement for a client? Great question. If you don’t know what a monthly retainer service agreement is, it’s basically when you agree to provide services and those services are occurring month over month and the client is paying you month over month for those services.
Now, when you raise this question, the first thing that comes to my mind is tell me a little bit more about what is included as part of your monthly services. If for example, your monthly services or something like you’re going to get five hours a month of my design services in exchange for $500 a month. And the client can use those five hours any way that they want. Well, then, in that case, I want to know in your contract, what happens if the client doesn’t use up all of those five hours, do those unused hours roll over to the next month. Or what happens if the client needs more than five hours in a particular month? D any hours in excess of five hours are those bills at a different rate?
You also want to pay attention as you would for any contract, how is termination of the contract going to work for you when you are on a month to month retainer agreement? How much notice is a client have to give you when they intend to terminate? What happens when they do terminate?
But let’s say your monthly retainer package isn’t dependent on a set number of hours. But rather, you’ve agreed to provide a defined set of deliverables each month in exchange for a fee. So for example, let’s say you promised to deliver 10 graphics to your client for her to use on her blog every month in exchange for $500. In this situation, I want you to ask yourself a few questions. So if you have a pen and paper, maybe you want to jot these down and answer them for yourself. Orr if you’re driving or at the gym, make a note and come back and listen to this.
First is your work as a designer is dependent on getting certain information from the client? If so, what is that? Now I know so often, when you’re a designer, it’s kind of this symbiotic relationship with your client. You really need their input, you need certain information from them in order for you to do your job. So I want you to be clear for yourself, what is that information that you need from them? So as in our example, in order to prepare the 10 graphics for your clients, blog posts articles, you probably need to know the titles of the article she’s planning to publish on her blog.
As a follow up to that question, when would I need that information from my client? What is that absolute last date that I need to get those 10 blog posts articles from my client?
Then you want to ask yourself, well, when does my client need these deliverables by? In this situation, the client maybe needs the information by the last day of the month, so that she can schedule those blog posts for the following month.
Then you want to think about are you giving your client an opportunity to revise your deliverables for that month? So in our example, you prepare the first 10 graphics, then she has an opportunity to come back and give her insight and you know, make some changes. And then you make those changes and turn around and deliver her with the final set of graphics.
So if that’s the case for you, then you want to think about how much time are you going to give your client to turn around and give you her feedback on those first draft of graphics? And how much time do you need in order to make those revisions?
So just to recap. Is your work as a designer depended on getting certain information from the client? If so, what is it? And when do you need that information by? How much time is itgoing to take you to prepare the deliverables? When does your client need your deliverables by? Are you giving your client an opportunity to revise deliverables for that month? How much time do you need in order to make those revisions? And how much time are you going to give your client in order to give you her feedback on those revisions?
So once you have all of this stuff, I recommend that you create a system for yourself if you don’t already have one. Both thinking in terms of what is it that I as a designer need to do? What are my deadlines? And then what are the client’s deadlines.
So let’s walk through our example. Let’s say it’s April. And we know that the client needs all of the final deliverables sent to her by April 30. You’ve decided to give her one round of revisions, and you give her a week to get her feedback. And then you need three days to present her with new graphics. So we just work our way backwards. So April 30, is the last day you have to give her the final deliverables. You push it up three days give you time for revisions, which is the 27th. And then you give her another week to give her time to review the initial drafts. So that’s seven days. So we are at April 20. So you know that by April 20, you need to send her the first round of graphics. And then she has until April 27 to give you any feedback for you to make changes.
So then we said you need about two weeks in order to create the initial draft of graphics. So we work our way back. So if April 20th is the deadline for delivering the first draft of graphics, you have 14 days before that. So that takes us up to April 6, am I doing my math correctly? Yeah. Client then has until April 6, to get you her blog titles or whatever information you need in order to create the graphics, okay.
So on or before April 1, she has to pay the monthly retainer on or before April 6, she needs to deliver the 10 blog post titles to you. On or before April 20, you have to deliver the first draft of graphics to your client. And on or before April 27, the client can come back with revisions on those graphics. You have three days to make those revisions, and you promise to then deliver the final graphics on or before April 30. Okay, so do you guys see how we are creating a system here?
Now I know things aren’t gonna always be perfect. Things happen. But the idea is you want to start creating a flow that identifies both what your responsibilities and due dates are, as well as what the client’s due dates are.
The next question is: I’m designing a logo for a client. She wants me to use a specific font. Should we both by the font license or just me? So whether it’s a font, stock photography, vector art, or some other piece of content – this question comes up a lot with designers. And I’m so happy to see that you guys are asking yourself this question.
And unfortunately, the answer is gonna depend on where you’re buying that piece of licensed content from. You’re gonna have to read their licensing terms, okay? I know I hate to break it to you, you’re gonna have to dig into the fine print.
You want to dig into that fine print, and you want to ask yourself who can use it? And for what purpose? And that purpose means, you know, are they printing this content? Are they going to display it on television? Are they putting it on digital content? Are they going to put it in a logo? How are they going to use this content? Read those terms to find out what kind of use is considered to be appropriate, and if there are any restrictions.
So just for the kicks of it, I went and I looked up the licensing terms for iStock. And for example, they are pretty clear that no matter what license you buy, you can never use iStock content for use in any logo or trademark. So for example, let’s say your client really wants an image of a butterfly in her logo, and you go and you buy some sort of vector are from iStock of a butterfly to use in her logo. Well, that’s not going to be compliant with iStock’s licensing terms. iStock’s licensing terms also indicate that the rights granted to you are considered non-transferable and non sub-licensable, meaning that you cannot transfer or sublicense them to anyone else. So, that means that if somebody wants the license, they need to buy it themselves.
However, in iStock’s licensing terms, there are two exceptions to this. It says if you are purchasing on behalf of your employer or client, then your employer or client can use the content. In that case, you represent and warrant that you have full legal authority to bind your employer or client to the terms of this agreement. If you do not have that authority, then your employer or client may not use the content. Okay. And the second exception is to subcontractors that says you may allow subcontractors, for example, your printer or mailing house, or distributors to use content in any production or distribution process related to your final project or end use and the subcontractors and distributors may not use the content for any other purpose.
Using the iStock licensing terms as an example, it says that your employer or client or subcontractors can use this license. However, in the case of your employers or client, you have to have full legal authority to bind them to the terms of that licensing agreement, which I’m assuming you probably don’t have that authority with your clients. So because the rights granted in iStock licensing terms are non transferable, non sub licensable, this is just a really long winded way of saying I think it may be easier just to have your client purchase that licensed content and provide it to you for you to use for their particular project.
Now, this is a very important point you guys. So I want you to listen up. And it’s something that we’ll talk about in our webinar, when a client provides you content for you to maybe put together in a portfolio or a brochure or to design on a website, I think it’s really important that a client represents to you that the content that they are providing you is actually either their intellectual property, or that they have the proper permissions to use it. So what that basically means is they’re not stealing other people’s content and passing it off as their own for you to use in their project.
And this is something that you’re going to want to include in your contracts just to cover yourself. I recognize that as a graphic designers, for instance, you work with a lot of other folks who make the project happen. For example, if you are working with a client on a website redesign, maybe as a graphic designer, you’re the one who’s making everything look pretty, you’re picking out the beautiful fonts and the beautiful color palette, and the kind of the look and feel and the aesthetic of the website. But you’re not the one who’s actually making the website work. You usually connect with another web developer who takes all your pretty designs and puts it on a website. A lot of you have expressed concern about well, what does that relationship look like between me the designer and then the developer. You have concerns about who owns the content. You have concerns about, you know, is this developer going to go and steal my client.
The way I would view these relationships that you’re building with other developers or designers and getting a project done is to really evaluate the nature of that relationship, both in terms of legal perspective, but also just from a business perspective. From a legal perspective, we need to identify the nature of that relationship from day one. Is this person going to be categorized as an independent contractor or as an employee. And I’m not going to go into all the nitty gritty details of what makes an independent contractor versus an employee in this episode, because I have some other great episodes, particularly Episode 20 and 66, that you can listen to where we talk more about what that all looks like.
But regardless of how you characterize them, you do want a contract in place between you as a designer, for instance, and that developer that you’re going to be working with. In that contract, you’re going to want to address some of these issues regarding who owns the IP, the deliverable the native files. You’re going to want to talk about confidentiality. You’re going to want to address fee structure, the terms all those things. That is what governs that relationship between you two from a legal perspective.
I also said you want to think about it from a business perspective. What that means is I want you to take the time to make sure that you are establishing a relationship with somebody who is on the same page as you. You want somebody who delivers the same level of service, who delivers a quality product. So when you are presenting projects or proposals to a client, you have the confidence that the people that you have to work with are actually going to make that happen.
So with that said, Those were my common questions that I get from designers. As I mentioned at the top of the show, if you’d like to join me for the webinar, Common Contract Mistakes, Graphic, Web and Print Designers Make and How to Fix Them, make sure to sign up and save your seat over at annettestepanian.com/free-webinars. And as I said, make sure to attend live to get all the goodness.
Okay, you guys. Thanks again for joining me for another episode of Office Talk, and I can’t wait to talk to you later.
Before you skip to that next episode, I want to invite you to a special event called Legal 360 Live in this live online summit. We’re gonna walk through what you need to know legally speaking as you start and grow your business. So if you’re ready to roll up your polka dotted sleeves and finally get your legal house in order once and for all, head on over to yourlegalbff.com/live. That’s yourlegalbff.com/live.