Terms of Work

Posted Sunday, February 11, 2024 by Sri. Tagged MEMO

I used to meet with prospective clients more frequently, and as a relatively green freelancer it took a while to become comfortable with what I offered under what conditions. Eventually I wrote it up into a Terms of Work document that I made available; I'm copying it here for future reference.

I believe this was originally written on my design website in early 2010, based on the contracting work experience I'd been doing in the Boston area prior.

old design website, circa 2010inline image

Step 1: The Proposal

Before I give you a price, we talk about what you want to do over the phone or in person. I like to talk to people in person, because this gives me the opportunity to spot details that are implied in passing conversation. It's amazing how much you can pick up in just a few minutes.

If it looks like we can work together, we scope the size and complexity of your project using my "investigative design" process. I may take a few days to contemplate what you need, before putting together an estimate.

If I think that there's a better, cheaper way to perform your work without my services, I will tell you what that option is.

If you would prefer that I perform the work, and I am both capable and available to do the work, I will then prepare an estimate.

Step 2: The Estimate

For short or simple projects, you will get either a range of hours (e.g. 4-6 hours) that are billed at my hourly rate (currently XX/hr) or a flat fee for the entire project. We'll sit and hash out the cost based on your budget and our earlier discussion.

For longer projects, the estimate is provided to you as a PDF document that concisely:

  • Describes what I think the project is supposed to accomplish for you
  • Lists the specific things I will do that will meet your goals
  • Lists the specific tests that we will apply to ensure that those goals are met by my work
  • Makes available which calendar days I will be working on your project
  • Lists any obligations and dependencies that you are responsible for
  • Lists stages of work and estimated costs
  • Outlines any specific additional terms that will be in effect for this project

I work in stages that build upon each other to a final delivery. I estimate the amount of time and required materials for each stage and break this down for you. Simple projects may have just one stage, whereas more complex projects may have many stages. In general, payment is tied to the completion of a stage with the exception of the starting payment (more on that in the next section).

The estimate is good for as long as the project scope remains unchanged, assuming I'm still available to do the work.

If you add a feature or change the context of the project, the estimate may be affected. It's best to talk to me first; it may not cost extra.

Step 3: Starting Payment

If you accept the estimate, you must make a starting payment to initiate the production process. This is typically 25% to 50% of the project cost.

Payment is typically divided into three parts:

  • Starting Payment: Starts the design and production process.
  • Staged Payment(s): Made upon approval of pre-negotiated mutually-agreeable conditions.
  • Final Payment: Upon receipt, you are provided with the final working deliverable, plus all the source code so you can recreate or modify your project.

For very short or very long projects, the number of payments may differ. For example, very short projects may be paid in advance in one lump sum, or divided into just a starting and ending payment. Projects that take longer than three months will typically be billed on a monthly basis. The number of payments will be made clear in the estimate.

PLEASE NOTE: Each stage must be paid for in full before a new stage will begin. If payment is deferred, work on your project is deferred as well.

PLEASE NOTE: Unless we have arranged otherwise, my accounts receivable terms are NET30 from the time you receive my invoice.

Step 4: Production

I perform the work. You review and accept it. We adapt our schedules as necessary.

Each stage is billed separately. The first few stages are made very short with a concrete deliverable. This is so you (and I) can evaluate the working relationship. The stage is invoiced only after you accept it, according to the terms we've agreed upon before production.

Addition of Features during Production: If you decide that you want to change the direction of the project after you have signed off on the estimate, this is regarded as a change of scope. You may be billed for the time it takes to evaluate and schedule the change. When possible, we may defer new features to the next stage of production if it means maintaining momentum. We will maintain a "wish list" of features that we'd like to add, but are willing to defer until the current stage of work is delivered and complete.

Change Requests: All change requests must be made in writing via email or in our online project management website. Change requests made over the phone are easy for you to make, but impossible for me to confirm if my understanding is not the same as yours.

Additional Expenses: If I encounter the need to purchase a resource on the behalf of your project, I will first request authorization from you in writing (via email).

Additional Billable Time: Likewise, if I see the opportunity to enhance the project with additional unbudgeted time, I will first request authorization from you in writing (via email).

Cancellation of Project: If for some reason the working relationship fails, all remaining work can be cancelled without further obligation from you. You will, however, be invoiced for all work completed for the current stage.

Step 5: Completion

When all the work for all the stages is complete, you'll be presented with a release candidate. The release candidate is evaluated by you to see if it's "ready to be released into the world", using the criteria we established at the beginning of the project. If all is well, you officially accept the release and make your final payment.

Upon receipt of final payment, you will receive the master files and sources that can be used to recreate the work. You will be given a non-exclusive license to use my source code to maintain the work, in addition to whatever additional rights we have established are necessary.

The warranty period for my work is three months; if you come across a bug or a problem in the work, I'll fix it without additional charge. However, if you modify or change the work, the warranty is nullified; I will likely have to charge you to figure out what you did to make changes.