Big Illustration Party Time Podcast review
Earlier, I listened to another podcast narrated by the comic illustrators Joshua Kemble and Kevin Cross who run the Big Illustration Party Time blog http://www.illustrationparty.com/. The subject of discussion this time around was how and why to draw up contracts being freelance illustrators and the importance they play in the working relationship you have with any one client. Working freelance can sometimes lead to verbal agreements or an agreement email and new and budding illustrators often use these to make a good impression with clients to show their willing and don’t want to turn work down or be turned down if a client runs away scared from a formal contract. The advice they gave though was not to be fooled – the client who runs away scared from a contract is a client you don’t want to work with anyway. In all honesty, I myself probably would skip the contract part if I thought it was going to send a potential client running for the hills. After all, we’ve heard in other podcasts how difficult it is to gain a clients interest in the first place without then scaring them off with the thought of holding a contract up to them. Though I can see the flip side of the argument too. Why even bother doing the work for them on a verbal agreement which wouldn’t stand up in a courtroom if they then refused to pay for the work produced. It’s a difficult one to tackle.
Reportedly, 50% of freelance illustrators don’t use a formal contract (I guess that this is a figure for the U.S and not internationally?) and Kemble and Cross admit to having not used them in the past too, thankfully their experience has shown them that contracts are a must and are kindly passing on their experiences so we don’t make those same foolish mistakes. In short contracts prevent confusion and protect both yours and the client’s interests and it is a document which can be referred to at any time. Unlike a verbal agreement which won’t stand up in court if anything goes wrong with the work, a contract is a binding document and one which will stand you in good stead if things do go pear shaped. It is the most important foundation to build a working relationship on and shows your professionalism too hopefully building such a good relationship with your clients that they will want to use you again.
Understandably, illustrators didn’t get into art to do paperwork, sure it’s tedious, laborious and boring but it is worth setting aside an hour or so to create a standardised contract. It may have to be revisited on occasions to be amended here and there but these amendments will only be a matter of lines or paragraphs rather than doing the whole thing anew every time. Basically, you want something that is water-tight and wiggle-proof where you will be guaranteed to get your kill fee, payment of fees and licensing that you agreed on. Try not to sound too fancy or over the top however, you didn’t study law, and keep it updated and as comprehensive as you feel the need for it to be. At the same time you don’t want to go overloading the contract with too many terms and stipulations. Also, remember that hiring a representative to do this sort of work on your behalf is much more reliable and they are much better at negotiating than you will ever be, that’s their job, yours is to illustrate.
Overall, this podcast was very informative and based around a subject area that is usually brushed over in school and is only a reality when you are out there actually practising your illustration... by which time it’s usually too late. I am glad for the helpful tips being thrown my way that is for sure. When TWD accountants came in to present to the class earlier this semester, touching on self-employment, contracts and laws etc the information went over my head slightly, there was just so much of it! Hearing it again and picking up bits at a time is certainly more helpful than trying to take all of it on board in one sitting. I can now see that drawing up a contract is definitely the best way to move forward and if a client then decides that they don’t want to work with you because of the contract, they probably were never all that interested in the first place. As the guys said, usually if a client doesn’t like certain terms within the contract they will work with you to compromise on them rather than scrapping you altogether.