Contracts & Invoices for Artists

How do you know if a contract you received as an artist is fair? This video addresses how to spot red flags in contracts when doing freelance work, commissions, and more as an artist. You’ll learn how to negotiate terms in your creative projects that won’t let companies and clients take advantage of you! Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu.

Video Walkthrough

  • Put your foot down!
  • Check for red flags in contracts so you can avoid bad jobs.
  • Keep a paper trail of all your interactions, this is important in case you ever have to prove anything.
  • Creating a project schedule is important for you and the client so that you’re always on the same page.
  • A kill fee is a fee that the client agrees to pay you if at any point they decide to discontinue the project.
  • Create approval “checkpoints” in the process of a job, so you aren’t asked to suddenly backtrack, which creates more work for you that you aren’t being paid for.
  • When a job is finished, have your client sign paperwork stating that they accept that the job is complete.
  • This way, you can charge fees if you client requests changes after a project is complete.
  • Tell clients that they have to pay for delivery & framing.
  • Framing gets really expensive really fast, so it’s best to make the client responsible for that.
  • Non-Refundable deposits are a way of protecting yourself from not getting paid.
  • Don’t start work until a contract is signed, you’d be surprised how often clients can back out!
  • It’s important to be flexible with payment methods, people are more willing to work with you if you can meet them where they are.
  • Invoices are important to track your records, and to make sure you get paid!
  • It’s important to charge your clients late fees, add this to the invoices you send so you can point to it if it ever gets to that point. (and it will)
  • Tracking which clients have paid is incredibly important, people can be awful about paying on time.
  • I never trust that people will pay on time, so it’s important that I mark up in my calendar when specific payments are dow.
  • Hiring a lawyer to review the contract can be helpful if the job is especially large, or going to be on a long time basis.

Prof Lieu’s Tips

If you want to work professionally as an artist, you really do have to know how to work with deadlines. Sometimes it’s just a matter of stopping the process because there is no time left to linger at various stages of the process.

We will never feel like we have enough time to 1000% explore our ideas, and that’s okay! You can set some of those ideas on the backburner so you can come back to them when you have the time.

Ideas don’t expire; I’ve had ideas that I came back to several years later.

Sample Docs