Contracts are in every aspect of our lives - our housing, internet, cell phone, even those lengthy terms and conditions in every app we use (that we all say we’ve read...but you know 😬). So, why is it that when it comes to creating art or working in the creative industry, people get scared of using contracts?
It can be daunting getting your creativity and your work tied up in a contract, especially with all the horror stories that come with contracts in this industry, but I want to help work through those fears and explain why having contracts can help protect you in the long term. Contracts make running your business easy and protect you every step of the way.
1. Contracts are made to be equal and they should be - In this industry, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that there is a power imbalance between those who are purchasing creative services and the artists creating them. However, that’s what makes contracts so great! When discussing the layout of the contract (or even reading over one that has been given to you) it provides an opportunity to negotiate the terms of the contract to ensure there is a power balance. Never sign the first copy of a contract you receive - there is always room for negotiation in contracts to help solidify a power balance that works for you and the purchaser.
2. Contracts leave little room for misinterpretation or misunderstanding - Communication in all projects is vital to ensure that not only the set expectations are being met, but also that the project is fully organized. Contracts are in place to not just “lock you in”, but they are there to help address and interpret any grey areas that may come up when negotiating. Any good contract will lay out the scope of work without leaving room for interpretation so both parties know exactly what they are getting from each other. Contracts lead to success.
3. Contracts provide protection should something go wrong - contracts are a bit like insurance, you don’t want to have it, but it’s crucial to have if/when things start to crumble. A good contract will protect you if something happens during the project such as boundaries being crossed with the scope of the project, payment being withheld, or creative rights being misused. When there is a contract in hand, there is an opportunity to negotiate or fight back if there are issues that arise. Contracts also offer protection for the relationship as both parties work through any issues or disagreements. Keeping the relationships intact is the best protection that contracts can offer, as we all know, your connections are everything in business.
It can be scary putting yourself into a contract because there is a seriousness tied to them, but they exist to be more than just daunting - contracts are here to keep your projects organized, protected, and the power dynamic in check. It’s important to remember that the worst contracts are the ones we hear about most often, but nine times out of ten contracts do their job in making the creative process streamlined and simple for both parties. It’s not scary to have a contract, it’s professional and a great way to keep your work moving forward. You’ve got this!
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