Have you seen the 2022 KBDi Client Consultancy Agreement? Our tailored, Consumer Law compliant document is available at no charge to all current financial KBDi Members. (Log in to the Members Portal to download your copy today.)

But do you really need to use a contract?

We often hear from designers who are reluctant to scare their clients with a wordy contract and wonder if the process is really necessary. Not unlike insurance, the value of a contract is often under-rated until it actually matters – after all, it’s only when things turn pear-shaped that a well-written document is worthwhile. Or is it?

There are a number of pragmatic, sensible reasons to make a contract part of your everyday process. When you enter a project without a clear scope of work and terms and conditions, the inevitable miscommunications between you and your Client could cause undue stress, and a relationship fall out. And – in the worst case – a potential court case and an empty bank account.

With the reasons set out below, your clients will see that a well set-out contract – particularly one compliant with Australian Consumer Law – is the least scary option for all parties. We hope we’ll also convince you that it’s the most sensible pathway for business-savvy designers.

#1 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 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.

#2 Detailing the Deposit
If you don’t collect a deposit before digging into the design, we encourage you to add 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!). But if they’ve committed to a project with a contract and deposit, they’re much less likely to wander.

#3 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.

#4 Additions + Omissions = Variations
If your Client is adding to the scope of work or a site or budget issue has impacted your contract, 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.

#5 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.