Why do you need one?
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!