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How to Protect Your Web Design Work (Legally)

Are you a web designer who wants to prevent copycats or client drama? You'll want to make sure you're legally protecting your creations, your business, and your clients. Read on for all our web design business legal tips — or watch our latest video!

Yes, you need a web design contract!

If you're a web designer — whether you're a freelancer or you've created a business around your skills — you need a contract. A web design contract will make sure you do exciting things, like get paid on time and not get screwed on scope ("Can't we just add 47 more pages?"). It will also outline what to expect in terms of timelines and launch for your client, and what handoff looks like.

Do you pass copyright onto the client after you've built a custom site? Are you asking that they keep your site credits in the footer? Do they need to buy their own privacy policy and terms and conditions, or do you offer that as part of your fee? Your web design contract will outline all of that, so no one has questions — and you're not the one liable if a client doesn't do something they should've once your project is over.

Just make sure the contract you do use is legally legit. When it comes to privacy, copyrights, and intellectual property, you want to make sure that you're very clear  with your clients. Make sure you find a contract or contract template created by a real lawyer, and that you can update it easily with new projects as they come in.

Consider establishing an LLC

Using your sole proprietorship or “doing business as” your name doesn’t give you any liability protection. That's a great reason to form an LLC, or a limited liability company. This can protect your business should a client do something untoward, and prevent people from coming after personal assets should something happen. (Don't freak out, this is uncommon, but it's also a great reason to file an LLC — which is super simple.)

How to Protect Your Web Design Work (Legally)

Encourage clients to get their own coverage

Every website should have a privacy policy and terms and conditions. Period. It's also important to note that the type of privacy policy or terms and conditions your clients need may vary on their website (do they sell products or offer advice? Are they bloggers or coaches?).

If you don't provide a privacy policy/terms and conditions with your services, make sure to state very clearly in your contract that your client is responsible for acquiring those things. You may even want to send them to The Contract Shop® to make sure they get a solid (legal) template — just make sure you're an affiliate so you get a kickback!

There's also another way you can encourage your clients to get covered: with cyber liability insurance. This is something super-new, that essentially protects against financial losses from data breaches and hacks (some businesses have paid millions after a breach). Depending on your client's business and the risk associated with any data they collect, you may want to encourage this — and state clearly in the contract that it's their responsibility to assess their own need for insurance.

Protect your site from copycats

The biggest thing, if you're trying to build your web design reputation, is knowing that you're not going to get ripped off by someone who can't have an original idea. So many web designers have reached out to us, asking if they can sue someone for copying their website designs.

The truth is: It's incredibly  difficult to prove copyright infringement on websites unless it's so blatantly identical. If you haven't registered a copyright, it's also hard to do anything about it besides get mad.

How to Protect Your Web Design Work (Legally)

Our advice? Add a copyright notice on the bottom of your site. You know, the little copyright symbol ©, along with the year the site was published and the copyright owner (usually the client).

You can also add site credits, like "Designed with love by WebsitesWeAre," so that you can establish your reputation and also proof down the road that you're the creator of said site.

If there's a site that you really want to protect, though, you can always register a copyright. It's not very much money — about $50 to register at the time of this writing. You can include this in your services, or you can leave that to client. Whatever you choose, make sure it's baked into your contract!

Build a web design brand. Nobody can copy that!

Our final point on how to prevent copycats and client drama? Treat your web design services like a business — and build a brand that's unique to you! Maybe you only work with comedians, or you only design websites for audiences with disabilities. Maybe your websites are unique because you don't use subpages. Whatever it is, lean into what makes YOUR designs unique, and make sure your clients spread the word.

That's how you stand out, attract awesome clients, and fend off those copycats before they even get started. You'll also find that, with a rock-solid contract and a stronger brand (and maybe a copyright or two), that you are more able to have fun with your designs. No more worrying about getting sued or copied — you can just do your amazing work!

How to Protect Your Web Design Work (Legally)

Don't forget: The Contract Shop® is here for your web design legal needs. You can buy our web design contract templates for yourself, or share our privacy policy and terms and conditions templates with clients. You got this!

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