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This is my first time making a website for someone else who will be paying me. I am writing a contract to have him sign but am stuck on one part. The question is so simple I have trouble phrasing it: how do parties know when the job is done?

For example, what if I finish the website, give it to the client, he pays me, but several months latter gives me more work and says "I thought the website you gave me was just another revision and our contract is still in effect".

Should the contract include a term "Contract automatically terminates after the designer writes to the client that he has made his last revision and has been fully paid"?

Both me and the client have full time jobs and this is something on the side so I don't want to include a formal schedule and say "this contract terminates on day x".

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Usually I work on a testing server that is not the final destination of the site. Once the client approve (by email is better but also verbally if it is a trusted client) the copy on the testing server, I move the site to the main domain publishing it. From this moment I consider the work finished. I also state that process in my contract.

This also saves you from giving the finished work to the client before full or partial payments are done.

If you can't work on a separated testing server you should close the site with an "under construction" or temporary home page, make ad admin account for yourself and a guest account for your client, then after the approval make the site public and consider the work done from this moment.

If the client asks you for bug fixes etc do that for free for a limited time, if he asks for improvement or new features provide a detailed quote for the work to be done and make the client approve it.

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Most of the open-ended contracts I have worked on include the three following conditions:

  • Work ends immediately if both parties agree that the work has been completed
  • The freelancer must give 30 days notice if he decides to stop working on the project before the project is complete. You can adjust this down to 14 or sometimes even 7 days for a smaller project; obviously both parties should agree on the duration of the notice.
  • If the client decides to end the project before the work has been completed, work ends immediately but the client must pay for all work completed thus far. If this was an hourly contract, the client pays you for any hours you worked that haven't already been paid. If you are working by milestones, this includes partial payment for any partially completed milestone for which you otherwise wouldn't have been paid until the milestone was completed.

As an example of the last condition; let's say that the final milestone is to add a News page, and the price for this milestone is $1000 to be paid when you complete the News page. When you are halfway completed with the page, the client decides they don't want to finish the site, and they cancel the project. They have to pay you $500 for the 50% of the milestone that you completed. This does not apply if you cancel the project and the notice period ends with a feature partially completed.

Occasionally on a large project, you can get away with requiring the client to give x days notice before canceling the project, or else to pay an early termination fee on top of any payment for work completed thus far. The idea here is to cover your losses from suddenly losing a planned source of income and having to find a new client.

On a milestone project, you can probably also say that the work is completed when all milestones have been completed. If the client is expecting to add additional milestones down the road, you can add a clause that additional milestones have to be agreed upon by both parties, or that they become a separate project with a separate termination date.

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