Dear Artists, Make A Contract

If you're good at something...

I've been a freelance artist for sometime now- about the time I graduated. Let me be honest: I do not like freelancing. That's not to say I don't give it the good ol' college try, but generally I'd rather work on my own content before I work on someone else, but the bills have gotta be paid right?

Anyway, I've been freelancing for a while and it has been a mix of experiences with clients. Some were good and easy to work with, some were nightmares and everything in between. Throughout this experience I've learned a lot of lessons, but here's the most important one: make a contract.


...Never do it for free

But Kyle, you say- that sounds so obvious. Well you'd be right and wrong, let me elaborate. Yes, generally it's obvious you want to get whatever work you're doing for somebody in writing, but there are a lot of artists who have never had this important lesson. It's like the saying, common sense isn't so common. There's a lot of reasons why someone may not know this, art schools don't usually delve into the business side of things, maybe they've only had good experiences or whatever.

To be honest, I've never done work for someone without having a written agreement, but I know a lot of people who have, and when they don't it almost always goes bad. Sometimes the projects go over budget, sometimes they don't get credited- really the sky is the limit to how you can be screwed over. So my my advice for you is never ever start a project without writing a contract that both parties agree to. Negotiate and argue until you both agree and if the person your working with is turned off by this, FORGET THEM! If a client isn't willing to hash out the specifics of a fair agreement (note I'm assuming that you present a fair and objective as possible offer to your client, don't be too greedy), they probably aren't worth your time anyway.

Now when you do this correctly, you'll see the difference in how your client treats you, usually for the better. Clients will respect a person who knows their value, and if you're completely professional at this level, you'll usually have a more pleasant experience (unless your client is just a terrible person). Letting someone know you care very much for your business wellbeing by using a contract will make them take you more serious and is a much better method to stop shenanigans than waiting. Really, you can think of a contract like wearing a condom. Without it, you have no idea what you may catch, a bad client or chlamydia. Really are the two so different?

  Protect yourself before you wreck yourself

Protect yourself before you wreck yourself

I'll draft up some papers

Hopefully through my strange use of sex metaphors you get that I'm trying to say that you need to protect yourself first at all costs when doing business because it's very rare you'll get someone who will do so for you. A helpful tidbit of advice before going into a new project is to probably expect the worst from the client. A bit cynical, but this is only for the purpose of never forgetting that you need to protect yourself.

When it comes to actually drafting the poets, that's a whole other ballgame. You can make a simple agreement or you can do something more elaborate. Personally, I use an app called shake that gives me templates to work with. All I do after is input the specs for the project and send it on the way to the client. Simple and easy. Now in the event a client will not work with you unless you sign their contract, the obvious piece of advice here is to read the contract yourself and see what works for you and what doesn't. On this note, you'll want to always be aware of an indemnification clause. Essentially an indemnification clause is a part of an agreement that holds you totally liable for legal costs and damages in the case of a law suit. Usually you'd want to agree to something that doesn't exceed what you were paid for a project, never more, so keep an eye out for that.

The end

That's pretty much all I have to say about contracts for now. I have a ton of artist friends who get screwed over really hard because they're not stringent with their business. This leads to them being taken advantage of and having miserable experiences. Guys, if you go to work for anyone, please remember above all to protect yourself.