When you agree to carry out a service for another person in exchange for money, you’re entering into a commercial contract. This ‘contract’ is legally enforceable regardless of whether it was based on a handshake or written agreement. But as a design professional, you’d be mad to base your business on a warm feeling or steady hand.
We often speak with designers who are reluctant to ‘scare’ their clients with a wordy contract. With the reasons set out below, however, we believe you’ll have no trouble convincing your clients that a well set-out contract – particularly one that is compliant with Australian Consumer Law – is in the best interests of all parties.
#1 It’s a Profession – Not a Hobby
As designers, we have a rewarding, creative and most-times fun profession. What we don’t have – despite popular belief – is a hobby that we do during regular work hours. With a detailed understanding of the design and build process, an upfront fee schedule and a streamlined system, you’ll let your Clients know you mean business, and they’ll know they’re dealing with a professional.
#2 Setting out the Scope
The KBDi Design Consultancy Agreement (free to financial Associate, Designer and Certified Designer Members) includes a detailed section for ‘Scope of Work’, and we encourage you to use this as a step-by-step guide for your Clients. While you may know the order of works like the back of your hand, your Clients may never have worked with a designer before, or never have experienced the delights (and dramas) of building or renovating. By talking them through what you can and can’t do, you’ll all be on the same page about what happens when, and what’s not included in your consultancy fee.
#3 Detailing the Deposit
If you don’t collect a deposit before digging into the design, we encourage you to consider adding this step to your process and payment schedule. Letting your clients know you’ll need a deposit before you get started soon sorts out the wheat from the chaff. If your Client isn’t prepared to contribute to the hours/days/weeks of work you’re about to put into their project, be wary. It’s not unusual for Clients to get cold feet about a new renovation, or simply disappear into thin air (it happens!) – if they’ve committed to a project through a contract and a fee, they’re much less likely to wander.
#4 Pacing out the Process
With a well set out scope of work and a clear schedule of fees, both you and your Client will always have a reasonable idea of your ‘progress in the process’. If your Client’s expectations begin to take a detour, your contract will help you set out how any additional design work will affect your project planning.
#5 Additions + Omissions = Variations
If your Client is adding to the scope of work, or a site or budget issue means your contract has been reduced, it’s essential to set out the changes clearly and concisely. We’ve included a variation sheet in your KBDi Design Consultancy Agreement, and encourage you to bring this to your Client’s attention before changes come into play.
Have you seen the 2020 KBDi Client Consultancy Agreement? As indicated above, this Consumer Law compliant document is available at no charge to all current financial KBDi Members. Complete the form below, and we’ll send you a copy.