What they are

A creative contract is essentially a legally binding agreement between at least two parties that protects you and your work, prevents dispute and helps to build trust. If you’re working on a project and there’s an exchange of money or value, you probably need one. It can either be verbal or written, though the written form makes everything a whole lot easier if problems do arise. You can draw one up yourself, but it’s a good idea to get a lawyer to review it before you hit send.  

Why they're useful

Clarifying and agreeing on what’s expected from both sides right at the start can prevent misunderstandings from cropping up. And if they do, you can use the contract as your guide to clear things up and fight your corner. Besides providing clarity on the agreed work you’ll be doing, it will also help protect the work from being used in the wrong way, enable you get paid on time, make communication easier and outline ways to resolve disputes or end the contract earlier if needed. 

What's included

1. The basics

Who the contract’s between, their legal names and addresses, and the start date.

2. Scope of work

What the project covers, what the deliverables are, what isn’t included, the date of delivery and project fee. 

If you’re creating ceramic vases for a boutique hotel, you’ll clarify the number of pieces, the price per vase and the total amount. 

3. Project schedule

A timeline, with dates and deadlines – including payment dates. You might also include provisions for what happens if there are delays. 

If you’re editing video content for a brand, you’ll define feedback and delivery dates.

4. Compensation and fees

The final amount payable along with your terms of payment – how you’ll be paid, the time frame, and any late-payment fees. You’ll also clarify who will pay for any incurred expenses.  

If you’re a videographer, will you be paid when the film is released or on delivery? Who’ll cover equipment costs?  

5. Revisions

The number of revisions included and cost for any additional rounds. 

If you’re a graphic designer, you might include up to two rounds of feedback and charge a percentage of the total fee for any additional work. 

6. Rights and ownership of work

Who owns the work at the end of the project, the rights the client has and in which territories. 

If you’ve created original work, such as a video game, you might want to hold on to the rights.  

7. Changes, cancellation and termination

This should include a clause that allows changes to be made, including the option to terminate the contract. In case of cancellations, you’ll specify the process and clearly define the payment terms.

8. Governing law or jurisdiction 

Identify the state whose laws will govern the contract. Also specify the steps for resolving disputes.

9. Signatures

Don’t forget to get it signed and dated by everyone involved. 

Tools to help

Bonsai is a platform for freelancers that helps with the contract and invoicing process. It’s best suited for use by independent creatives and has many useful templates and an easy payment plan. 

Hellosign enables you to send, request, receive and add legally binding electronic signatures to your documents.

Juro is a contract automation platform that has a variety of plans to suit businesses of all sizes. 

This article was first published in Courier issue 43, October/November 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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