I’m shocked how few creative professionals have formalized contracts.
I’m even more shocked at how short and toothless those contracts are.
If you’re a creative services professional, you should have a service agreement or a contract for every project you work on.
I know that, sometimes, you feel like a handshake or a series of emails will do, but you really should have everything spelled out in one place, and in writing. If you don’t, you’re really just asking to get ripped off.
Without clear deliverables, there’s no expectation of when the project is going to end, exactly how (and in many cases how much) you’re going to get paid, and what the process for resolving a dispute will be.
I can tell you from personal experience, that the worst project I was ever involved in, was one where we did not have a clearly defined contract. That’s a mistake I won’t make again, and it’s one that usually drives people out of the business. It’s such a shame too.
Every single one of your contracts, should have a clause, which clearly states that all intellectual property rights to whatever you are working on for your client transfers when you receive full payment for your services. If you can, you should have an attorney draft your contracts. It may cost you several hundred Dollars, but it will worth it.
This intellectual property clause is absolutely non-negotiable in my contracts, and I’ve turned down projects where the client has wanted it removed. To me, it’s a red flag that there may be issues getting paid once a project starts.
I’ve never had to use that clause, but I know people who have. If someone uses your intellectual property, and makes money off of it, you can file an injunction to stop them from using it, and potentially even receive monetary damages.
You can read more about intellectual property law here.
With this clause, more often than not, a simple attorney letter to someone who uses your work, without paying for it, should get you paid. Every time a client shows me an invoice from a printer, I cringe at how expensive that stuff is. Image if you’re a logo designer and you catch a client using a logo they never paid for? The sheer cost of replacing business cards, signage, stationary, update a website, etc, can easily be multiple times the cost of what you’re owed.