Design Services Proposal

Beginning a new project is an exciting time for design professionals and new clients alike. But sometimes, in our haste to begin and onboard a new client, design professionals can leave important details to chance, relying only on a handshake or verbal agreement. This can open us up to more risk and forego protections for our businesses, our livelihood and even our own personal assets.

Every design professional needs a legal agreement that codifies the responsibilities and the terms of our professional working relationship with our clients. A contract with easy to read terms and conditions that describe every last detail is not an optional "nice-to-have" it's a requirement for every practicing professional.

You Need:

  • Legal Protection: A contract provides a legally binding agreement, outlining the rights and obligations of both the architect and the client. This protection is crucial in case of disputes or misunderstandings.
  • Clarity and Communication: It clearly defines the scope of work, project timeline, and deliverables, ensuring both parties have a shared understanding of the project's parameters.
  • Risk Management: The contract allocates and manages risks by specifying responsibilities, liabilities, and potential consequences for breaches or delays.
  • Payment Terms: Clearly outlines the compensation structure, billing procedures, and payment schedule, ensuring financial expectations are transparent and agreed upon.
  • Scope of Work: Describes in detail the services the architect will provide, preventing scope creep and establishing the boundaries of the project.
  • Timeline and Milestones: Sets specific deadlines and milestones, helping manage project timelines and expectations for both parties.
  • Change Orders: Defines the process and cost implications of any changes to the original scope of work, providing a structured approach to modifications.
  • Confidentiality: Establishes confidentiality clauses to protect sensitive information about the project and the parties involved.
  • Dispute Resolution: Outlines procedures for dispute resolution, whether through mediation, arbitration, or other agreed-upon methods, minimizing the likelihood of legal battles.
  • Professionalism and Credibility: Having a formal contract enhances the professional image of the architect, instilling confidence in clients and stakeholders.
  • Project Completion: Clearly states the conditions for project completion, including client acceptance criteria, ensuring a smooth transition from design to implementation.
  • Compliance with Laws: Ensures that the architect's work complies with all relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards.
  • Termination Conditions: Specifies the conditions under which either party can terminate the contract, protecting the interests of both parties in case the need arises.
  • Insurance and Liability: Outlines insurance requirements and liability limits, ensuring that both parties are adequately protected against unforeseen events.
  • Professional Standards: Reinforces adherence to professional standards and ethics, setting the groundwork for a collaborative and ethical working relationship.

The best contracts are ones you'll never have to use.

The fact is, we practice in a litigious profession. There are many things that can go wrong on a job site, in the design and bidding process, at every phase along the way. In an ideal world your proposal and contract will never be needed: filed away on the day of signing and never looked at again. But, when you need it most you want one that's been field-tested and drafted with the needs of design professionals put first.

Your agreement can also help set boundaries and establish your preferred modes of communication, project deliverables, and define how (and when) you'll be compensated. And sure, you can use the standard AIA agreements, but they're generic and most are designed for big firms. Ever tried to read one? You need a law degree. And, I've found them to be outdated with respect to modern practice needs. Do they discuss texting or email protocols? Nope. There are important professional boundaries you want set early on in your relationship with your client.

Our Proposal for Architectural Services comprehensively details the project, scope of work, compensation, and all the legal terms defining your relationship and responsibilities. It serves as both a proposal letter and a formal agreement. With clear, professional graphics and accessible language, they're designed to empower clients, protect the design professional and minimize the need for extensive attorney reviews.

There are two basic parts: the first is the Architectural Services Proposal which includes: scoping sections, deliverables by phase and your compensation terms. The second (and arguably more important part) are the Terms + Conditions. These outline all the nuanced detail to cover every aspect of your relationship with your client. These terms will protect you when things don't go as planned and serve as guardrails to get things back on track when, let's say, your client keeps texting you on Saturday evenings with "urgent" messages. Every designer will tell you that professional, healthy communication practices are the foundation of successful project delivery system.

Check the abbreviated list below for the major subheadings of everything that's included.

What's Included:

  • Draft Design Services Proposal / Contract (.docx + PDF) - 9 pages (10 pt font)
    • Summary
    • Scope of Services
    • Phase breakdowns
      Deliverables by Phase
    • Compensation (hourly model included)
  • Draft Terms + Conditions (.docx + PDF) - 6 pages (8 pt font)
    • Services
    • Additional Services
    • Compensation
    • Client's Responsibilities
    • Design Professional's Responsibilities
    • Schedule (delays, etc.)
    • Ownership
    • Reimbursables
    • Publicity
    • Liability clauses
    • Dispute Resolution
    • Termination
    • Communication
    • Trade discounts, and more...


  • Digital download files of the above in (.docx + PDF) formats.
  • Additional resources in support of these files


The draft proposal / contract does not constitute legal advice. Design professionals using these documents agree to retain and consult with an attorney prior to using these documents to review the applicability and legality for use in their local jurisdictions. Every design professional will have individual needs, risk and liabilities particular to their unique circumstance. Neither Eric Reinholdt or 30X40 Design Workshop, LLC make any representation that these documents will apply without such review by an attorney.


The sample proposal / contract and terms and conditions are intended for unlimited use by one person (the Purchaser). The Purchaser cannot resell, duplicate, share, copy, distribute, or offer the Agreement to any third party or marketplace without express written consent from 30X40 Design Workshop, LLC. 30X40 Design Workshop, LLC retains title and ownership of all items included in this template. 30X40 Design Workshop, LLC reserves the right to take action against you if you violate the terms of use.

Course Curriculum

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  Process Tools + Resources
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Your Instructor

Eric Reinholdt, RA, NCARB
Eric Reinholdt, RA, NCARB

Hi, I'm Eric, an award-winning architect, entrepreneur and founder of 30X40 Design Workshop, a design studio located on Mount Desert Island, Maine. I'm also author of the Architect + Entrepreneur book series and creator of the most popular architecture-focused YouTube channel online. I've been designing simple, modern residential architecture for more than 27 years and a practitioner of all the novel, entrepreneurial business strategies I teach in my courses.

When you're choosing to invest in tools and resources for your business, to find better clients, or design a life that's more congruent with your values, you want to learn from an experienced practitioner. There’s a meaningful difference between someone who simply teaches principles and someone who has actually implemented those principles in the field, to find clients and generate passive income. I know what works and what doesn’t because I've done it. Learning from my mistakes will put you ahead of your competition.

Need more proof? Check out my work here

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this a course?
No, these are downloadable files I use in my business 30X40 Design Workshop. I've refined and updated them over the 10 years I've been in business and made them available to you so you can get started on the right foot. You'll download them, customize them to suit your needs and use them to help build + operate your design practice. Although it's not a course, I offer these via my course platform Teachable because it's easy to keep everything current.
How long do I have access to the tools?
How does lifetime access sound? After purchasing, you have unlimited access to these resources for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
I don't have a design business yet, is this for me?
Yes! Planning to start a business is an ideal time to download these assets. Starting out with a proven set of documents and templates will give you a head start and ensure you're creating your business on a solid foundation of industry best practices.
How will I receive the assets?
You'll receive immediate access to download all the files upon purchase.
How do you handle refunds?
Because these are digital assets that you'll have access to immediately upon enrolling, I'm not able to offer refunds.
Are these legally binding documents?
I'm not a lawyer and as such, you should not use the proposal or terms and conditions included without first consulting your own attorney.
I'm a...( Student, Landscape Architect, Interior Designer, Engineer, Draftsperson ) right for me?
Ultimately, you’re the best person to judge whether you can adapt the contents to what it is you’re hoping to do. There are Students, Landscape Architects, Interior Designers, Engineers + Draftspeople and allied design trades who have all chosen to purchase and implement these tools in their workflow and businesses. If you're a design professional and use industry-standard phases, there's a good chance you can adapt these to your needs.
Are these included with the Startup Toolkit or A+E Course?
The full set of documents are included with A+E Course, while only the proposal is included with the Toolkit.

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