Business & Freelance Resources
These resources, tailored to creative services small businesses, have been created to help you plan, manage, and operate your design firm more effectively.
Standard Form of Agreement for Design Services
This agreement allows you to create customized terms and conditions for different types of design engagements. Updated in 2020, it is modular to meet the needs of a growing design community involved in various disciplines.
View the contract
This collection of legal guides has been written by lawyers and small business experts. We encourage you to download and refer to these resources if you have questions about intellectual property—including copyright, trademark, or patents—employment law or freelancing. The accompanying collection of articles explain related legal issues, including how to advocate for your creative rights.
Read the legal guides
Design Business and Ethics
The AIGA Design Business and Ethics book outlines the critical ethical and professional issues encountered by designers and their clients. This publication examines the key concerns a designer faces in maintaining a successful practice and speaks directly to the protection of individual rights. Authored by industry leaders from across the country, each chapter offers clear and concise information, as well as practical and specific directions for approaching design issues.
Read the book
Independent Contractor Agreement
Use an agreement like this when you are subcontracting with design firms and ad agencies. With respect to intellectual property rights, it’s important to note that this form favors the design firm because they control the project as well as the client account. You should not use this form when you are selling services directly to a business client. For that, you should refer to the AIGA Standard Form of Agreement for Design Services.
View the contract
Business Perspectives for Creative Leaders
The Business Perspectives for Creative Leaders curriculum is co-designed by AIGA and Yale School of Management to equip creative leaders to meet the challenges of management give participants the skills and perspectives they need to reach the next levels in their careers.
A proposal is a detailed project document that defines the scope of work, the process, the schedule, and the total price (usually in the form of a fixed fee). It is a discussion document where the designer puts forward a recommended course of action for the client to consider. Read on to understand how you can prepare your best proposal.
Successful marketing involves the systematic planning, implementation and control of a wide range of business activities. For creative firms, some of the most important aspects include clear positioning on the competitive landscape, a varied promotional mix that is appropriate to your creative discipline, and a focus on long-term mutually advantageous relationships. This article shares expert advice on each of these vital topics.
Project Management Basics
Project management is an area where the freedom of the creative process and the constraints of sound business procedures overlap. One is quite loose and visionary, while the other is more structured and driven by numbers. This article shares some thoughts about how to bring the two together.
Why a Project Manager?
Hiring a project manager will not solve all of your firm's management issues. But allowing for leadership of your projects and your firm's work will enable smoother processes and better workflow, and encourage leadership within your organization. In this article, we discuss the benefits of hiring a project manager.
Managing Large Projects: Part One
There are important differences between small and large projects. Perhaps the most obvious difference is that projects of greater scope and complexity require a much broader range of resources. Because of this, more risk is involved. With more moving parts, there's simply more that can go wrong. As a result, large projects require a more formal approach to planning and management. This special two-part article is filled with real-world advice to help you meet these challenges.
Managing Large Projects: Part Two
In the second half of this two-part series, we will look at key challenges related to keeping that project on track once work has begun. Successful implementation requires you to track and document progress and to maintain the right priorities. We also share insider tips to help you meet these challenges.
Agreements Between Designers and Vendors
In general, a vendor is any outside entity that you buy products or services from. If you're buying services from a freelancer, you need to have a signed independent contractor agreement in place. The purpose is to describe the services being purchased and the method of compensation, but also to clarify ownership of intellectual property. Read on to learn more.
Employment Agreements for Designers
If a design firm hires you for a staff position, you'll be given some form of written employment agreement. In small firms, the agreement may be rather short. In larger firms, it will probably be a more detailed document. This articles addresses some basic issues related to employment agreements, as well as extra components that you may encounter. Here's what you need to know.
Freelancing for Design Firms and Agencies
Many designers seek full-time staff positions, but it's also possible to build a very successful career as a freelancer. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that three out of ten designers are self-employed. Here's what you need to know about freelancing for a design firm.
Employment Law for Design Firms: Part One
In this first guide, we look at the hiring process and some important compensation issues. In the second article, we’ll discuss employment-related documentation, anti-discrimination laws, guidelines for leaves and accommodations, as well as laws covering employee benefits.
Employee Handbook for Design Firms
Every design firm needs to have a comprehensive employee handbook. Quite separate from employment agreements that are specific to particular individuals (as discussed in a previous article, “Employment Agreements for Designers”), the handbook applies equally to all staff members. It documents general policies and rules and helps shape the overall culture of the company. In this article, we’ll provide guidance to design firm owners and managers on the essential contents of this important document.