After looking through some of our claims data I asked, "Why aren't we sharing this information with freelancers?". When you identify where most problems arise for specific professions, you can improve your processes to reduce risk or in some cases avoid issues altogether.
Common causes of claims for graphic designers
- Mistakes in work
- Copyright issues
Mistakes in work
The most common cause of claims against graphic designers is due to mistakes in their work. These can be typos or designing to incorrect packaging dimensions amongst other mistakes. If these are spotted late in the design process—such as once a product has went into production—the client can look to recover that expense from the graphic designer.
Human error can't be avoided, but you can protect yourself in situations like this by getting written client sign-off on your work at all stages. In the terms and conditions with your client it should highlight they're resposible for signing off on work. The responsibility should be on your client to approve the work before anything is finalised.
Accusations of copyright infringement are quite common with graphic designers, particularly around logo or type design.
Some larger companies have departments set up to find work they can accuse of infringing their copyright. Whenever designing something original make sure you are documenting your process. Reference material, sketches and source files can highlight your thought process and how you arrived at your design making it easier to defend accusations of copyright infringement.
Common causes of claims for developers
- Technical issues
- Project management issues
Every project will be prone to bugs. This is especially common whilst something is in development and being pushed to staging servers or for testing. Sometimes bugs can be overlooked and some bugs can have expensive consequences.
Bugs are inevitable in every project and can't be avoided, but it helps to have a direct damages clause in your contract that limits your damages. It's also important to highlight to your client that bugs are inevitable before you begin working with them, and have a clause in your contract that outlines your responsibility in terms of bug fixing and testing.
Project management issues
Not too far behind technical issues are claims relating to project scope. If a client misunderstands the scope (which can happen with non-technical clients) or changes the scope throughout the project, this can lead to confusion around what work is to be delivered and end with the client arguing they haven't received the work they paid for.
It's important to have good workflow processes in place to minimise these types of claims. The project scope and delivery dates should be included and agreed upon in the initial contract. Anything that falls outside of the scope must be discussed as how it would affect or lengthen timescales. The project scope should remove any ambiguity by being thorough. The client should know that anything requested outside of the contracted scope will be billed at an additional rate and impact timescales.
Common causes of claims for designers
- Project management issues
- Dissatisfaction with end product
Project management issues
This is along the same lines as above with the project management issues developers can face. With designers we often see clients not signing off on deliverables or not providing deliverables leading to the project being delayed. Whilst this is the fault of the client, unfortunately there is nothing stopping them from pinning the blame on the freelancer. Some projects are delayed due to the scope changing but the project timescale isn't revised. This can not only lead to missed milestones but also confusion around what work is to be expected.
There are some measures you can put in place to mitigate the risk of missed milestones and scope creep. Timelines with project milestones should be provided for both the freelancer and the client’s sake. The project scope and delivery dates should be included and agreed upon in the initial contract. Anything that falls outside of the scope must be discussed as how it would affect or lengthen timescales. Your contract should have a clause to protect you if clients go quiet and the project stalls, such as enabling you to withdraw from the project and be paid for the work you've done. Remove ambiguity by being thorough when explaining the scope to the client and discussing things like how many rounds of revisions are included. The client should know that anything requested outside of the contracted scope will be billed at an additional rate and impact timescales.
Dissatisfaction with end product
Sometimes clients aren't happy with the end product and look to recover expenses for hiring other designers or having to delay the launch of their website. Client expectations can be difficult to meet for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's down to the brief not being clear. Other times the client changes their mind. And then there are those clients that are always going to be impossible to please whatever work you deliver.
Making sure your client and you are on the same page all throughout the project is important. This is where a wateright brief comes into play, with the understanding that if the brief changes so does the budget and timescale. With clients that are always difficult to please… hopefully you've recognised those red flags before entering into a working relationship with them!
Common causes of claims for photographers
- Equipment failure leading to lost photos
- Dissatisfaction with final deliverables
Equipment failure leading to lost photos
As an ex-photographer, equipment failing at a crucial moment strikes me with fear. If a photographer's CF or SD card becomes corrupt, their hardware breaks or a hard drive is damaged and they're unable to retrieve the photos to deliver to their client, the client can look to recover damages from the photographer. With commercial shoots there can be expenses around hiring models, renting studios or traveling to locations. With weddings, these are priceless experiences that can't be re-shot. Not only is there the expense of the day itself but also the couple's emotional distress of losing photos from a special day. There's a lot at stake!
Cards can corrupt at any time so if your camera enables you to shoot dual card slots, do it. Regularly back-up your work and have multiple copies. Purchase good quality cards from authorised retailers and make sure you're replacing them regularly instead of after years of use when they're likelier to corrupt.
Dissatisfaction with final deliverables
Another issue photographers may face is the client being unhappy with the photos. With all of the planning and investment that goes into a shoot, if the client isn't happy with the deliverables they can look to recover the costs from the photographer.
There are a few measures you can put in place to protect yourself. Ask the client to provide a shot list and make sure important details are discussed in advance of the shoot. This applies to weddings, too. With weddings it may not be possible to photograph every individual. Make sure your client knows this and you have a shot list of who you must photograph.
The examples above have all happened to With Jack customers. Fortunately their insurance has helped them navigate these stressful situations. These problems have been solved either with the help of legal experts negotiating with the freelancer's client that are provided and paid for by the insurer, or the insurer covering the cost of compensation that's been agreed.
Having insurance removes the burden of finding the right solicitor to help you and paying expensive, upfront fees. The professional indemnity policy we arrange starts at £14/month yet many of these claims have cost thousands in legal fees and / or compensation.