Saturday, October 29, 2016

Patricia Pinsk Illustrates the Importance of Contracts -- Plus a Prize!

Patricia Pinsk is not only a wonderful illustrator, but she also has fantastic insight into design and the business side of illustration. Patricia has written many fantastic articles for the SCBWI Bulletin (check out the archives or your old issues for a great read). She is one of the few posters that is in the SCBWI Canada West chapter with me! This is Patricia's second year of being a part of Smart Dummies and once again she has priceless information to share with you.


Illustrators and contracts

By 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?

Add caption
Like any business, doing work for someone requires a lot of discussion. The main reason for a contract is to outline the project expectations, fees due, copyright and so forth. Contracts help open the dialogue around these project elements.

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. 


Follow Patricia:





Mark Mitchell is giving out one last prize: A one-year subscription to Guest Group Critiques! In order to win this prize you must complete the Smart Dummies challenge. 

To win this prize you must comment on this post. I need to know that you want this prize!

It would also be lovely if you could share this post with your friends!


  1. Great advice, especially about including revisions... I had one publisher request new art for a second print run but did not want to pay for the additional work... Clarity in one's contracts are a must for everyone.

  2. Thank you very much for the advice! As a newbie writer, you very much depend on your more experienced collegues advice. Therefore I would also cherish the prize of the subscription to Guest Group Critiques!

  3. Great information on the other side of illustrating. Guest Group Critiques sounds exciting and scary. I would love the opportunity to be included. Thanks.

  4. I wasn't expecting a post like this, but this is so important. Thank you Patricia! There are so many things to consider: how many revisions right now or over time, deadlines, etc. It can be overwhelming.

    And also thank you Mark for the fabulous prize. I would love to be included.

  5. Thank you Patricia for sharing. This contract stuff is uncomfortable and un-creative, but so important. I have learned the hard way. Also, Mark, thank you so much for offering the fantastic prize. I would love to be included in the drawing.

  6. Thanks for the great advice Patricia. Also, I would love to be included in the drawing.

  7. I love that you said, a contract helps keeps things simple, because contracts never feel like that! Great perspective! I'm done, Dani! Thank you for offering the prize, Mark!

  8. Thank you for the advice, Patricia! Hopefully, with luck and effort, we'll be able to put it into practice soon!

  9. And thank you, Mark, for offering this marvelous prize! I think you're amazing and really hope to win either this or Marks & Splashes....

  10. Great info! I will need to get my head about the business side of things. Thank u! and I'd also love to win a one-year subscription to Guest Group Critiques with Mark! :)

  11. Great advice! Artists usually just want to create art - but we know the business side is critical to learn a bit about as well! Thank you for the thought provoking article, and the very useful resource links as well!
    Guest Group Critiques sounds amazing someone will be very lucky!

  12. Oh my goodness, Patricia! I just took a look at your website. I love, love, love your illustrations - quirky and at the same time beautiful! This is exactly the kind of direction I'm trying to go with my work. I look forward to reading about your process on your blog!

  13. This is such an important aspect of this field of work. Thank you for posting this. When I was in my senior year in high school we had a former student as a guest artist. He had just illustrated an amazing children's book. The illustrations were masterpieces. After a couple of months our art teachers pointed out these exact points about contracts. This Book was his first production and his last. The company created the contract so that he would receive, not one penny. We had a long class on, making sure you sign and date every sketch, and the pitfalls of not taking time to protect your work. At Sheridan College, in Toronto, also years later, my graphic design course, we also got a heavy duty instruction on contracts and protecting our work in detail. So many thanks for the article. I have it marked for references. Keep up the good work

  14. this is such a great resource!
    thanks so much for putting this together, and your generosity in sharing it.
    like most artists, this is the part about making a living as an artist that I know the least about.
    I'd love to win either of these two prizes
    :- )

  15. Smart advice - thanks for sharing! And an excellent prize, too! Fingers crossed ;)

  16. Seldom addressed topic, well covered. As an artist, I tend to gloss over this most important step. Thanks for addressing it. I'm bookmarking your thoughts!

  17. Excellent advice, thank you Patricia.

    Mark's Guest Group Critiques would be valuable to help me get ready to become publish-ready. It'd be wonderful if I can win a one-year subscription.

  18. Great advice - thanks for sharing! Highly recommend Mark's Guest Group Critiques if you can swing it.

  19. Thanks for the advice, Patricia. I'm not business minded, tend to lose my head in the clouds.
    I watched the post with Mark and Aiko Ikegami and then went out and got her book Friends. She dedicates it to Mark.
    It would be a dream come true to be in his Guest Group Critiques.

  20. This prize would be interesting because I need to learn about the business of book sales and publishing. Being new to all of this can be challenging enough.

  21. Thanks for sharing your advice--hope to be in a position to use it sometime soon. I just joined the guest critiques group and would love to win this prize.