Read the Fine Print

Something that was briefly talked about in my Advanced Problems in Visual Communications class was the artist’s contract. It’s something that’s taken for granted but it is something that is essential.

It’s really nice to do artwork for other people and to make a client’s face light up with the work you give them, but if there’s no contract, the artwork can be taken and used for other purposes that you may not have originally wanted or intended it to be used for. So it’s really important to protect yourself and your artwork with a contract.

If the thought of speaking in legalese makes your head spin, there a few things that could make writing up your own contract a little easier.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the Graphic Artists Guild’s Pricing and Ethical GuidelinesHandbook is a great resource for proper business protocol. The book includes several samples of important forms, contracts, and other various documents that can be taken and expanded upon. These can easily be used as the basis for your own contract. There are even volunteer lawyers for artists that will most likely look over your contract if you seek them out (there’s a list of attorneys in the Graphic Artist Guild’s book as well).

And of course, you can Google examples of existing artist contracts. Or you can even seek out an artist you admire and inquire about their business practices. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind giving you a copy seeing as they give them to their clients to read over before any real work is done.

It doesn’t have to be too complicated. My teacher has one simple form; one page with no back side. It’s a contract-proposal combination. There are just a few brief lines of abbreviated legalese. So you may even want to go that route. Bear in mind, as it’s mentioned in the Pricing and Ethical Guidelines Handbook, things are written a certain way for a reason and trying to abbreviate them or put them into simpler terms might not always be the best idea.

It’s your business though, so how you contract is up to you.

For my own artistic development, I just updated my resume. Now I’ve just got to make a contract of my own.

(As a side note, I’m a thrifty person so I bought an older addition of the Pricing and Ethical Guidelines Handbook. The information provided in the thirteenth edition is just as good, in my opinion, but prices do change and lawyers change their minds so if you want to make sure the information is up to date, you can splurge on the latest and greatest edition.)

(Also, I really like the shape of and the cover of the thirteenth edition. Laura Smith’s name is credited on the front, back, and inside of the book for the artwork. That was a good clause to have in the contract ;))

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