Illustrators and contractsBy Patricia Pinsk
The business side of illustration is something you need to embrace if you are to make money doing what you love: creating art. A contract helps keep things simple. It’s good to have one - regardless of whether you know the client or not.
Why do you need one?
Think of having a contract as a way to force yourself along with the client into a project plan. A contract helps both parties understand what resources are required, if any. It also helps (through discussion) determine any unforeseen obstacles.
What is in it?If you are freelancing, your contract doesn’t have to be complex or written in legal jargon. You can determine what kind of contract you want to use. Publishers however, usually provide their standard contract.
Some of the things to look for in a contract are as follows:
Project overview – sum up in a few sentences what the project is about
Client and illustrator contact information – include preferred methods of communication
Project scope – include start and end dates, and the project details
Project price and payment terms – state payment requirements, types accepted, late fees
Revision allotment – include the number of revisions included in the price (state additional costs when the client exceeds the limit)
Ownership of artwork – state who owns what, in what medium, and when publishing rights expire – if at all
Will a contract prevent bad clients?
A contract shows that you are serious about your work. It helps ward off bad clients, but it’s not foolproof. Clients that don’t like to pay for work or request ridiculous amounts of revisions are not as likely to sign a contract as someone that understands this is work, not play.
If someone gives you grief prior to a contract signing, they are likely to cause issues throughout the project. Part of good business is in understanding the kind of people you want to work with. Try to not get caught up in the excitement of having a project. You need to also question the integrity of the client, and whether the project is likely to be a pleasant experience.
Do your research. Usually bad clients have a history that can easily be found on the Internet. If your gut says “no”, listen to that. Otherwise, you risk working for free, as well as jeopardizing your reputation. Some resources that can help include the following:
Canadian Writers union can help you with your contract
Sample contract for designers (one-off projects)
Why creative workers and freelancers need contracts
Contracts for designers who hate contracts (PDF 4.1 MB)
Preditors and editors
SCBWI Blueboard (members only)
Good luck with your projects!
Patricia Pinsk lives in Vancouver B.C. She holds a BFA from Vancouver’s Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (now called Emily Carr University of Art and Design), a Certificate in New Media from Vancouver Film School, and a Certificate in Technical Writing from Simon Fraser University.