I just started to work as a freelance web designer, and I may have snagged my first client – a friend. My good friend has had his business up and running for a few years, and I reached out to him to see if he wanted to have a website developed.

We sat down over a cup of coffee, hashed out some of the details and shook hands on it.

I just started to work on his site, but then a coworker asked me if I had a contract in place. He’s a good friend, and since I am new to all of this, I didn’t think to have him sign a contract. Should I meet with him again with a contract in-hand for him to sign?

I actually have a lot of experience with this. My friend asked me to build her a website, and I agreed to do it for free. She was the most demanding client I ever had, even though I was doing the project for free.

She wanted the site done in a week. She wanted a slew of changes. She changed her needs every other day. It was a nightmare.

It also taught me that you always need a contract in place in the business world.

We discussed the situation with a contract lawyer. 

"Contracts should outline the expectations of both parties and address how to handle situations before they arise. However, there should be a balance between flexibility that allows parties to respond to unexpected situations and specificity that prevents misinterpretation," explains the Law Offices of Marc J. Blumenthal, Ltd..

Freelancer’s Union has a quick and easy contract creator that can guide you through the process step-by-step.

You’ll want to have a contract that outlines both parties’ expectations. This will include a rough draft of the site’s design, what pages will be included, milestones and payments. Freelancers throughout the years have found out that demanding payment when the project is complete is never a smart option.

It's better to have milestones upon which payment are due. For example, you may have a milestone that includes the basic template of the site being installed. This milestone may demand 25% of the payment. A down payment of 25% may also be required.

When most of the site’s functionality is completed, an additional 25% of payment may be required. Finally, you will want to receive the final payment once the site has been fully completed and all of the work has been approved.

It's the best way to conduct business because contracts outline all of your expectations.

Some flexibility can be involved, including revisions or minor changes. But you want to make sure that you and your friend have all of the details outlined in the contract. You know your expectations, and the client cannot turn back and ask for a bunch of additional features that were never agreed upon.

It's better for the contract to be thorough than it is for the contract to be too vague and cause you to take on more work than initially agreed upon.

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