How to Write a Contract, Part 3: Here’s a Sample

In our first two installments, we talked about Talking to Your Partner and Rights. We also outlined a few important elements in a contract.

Today, I’m going to share a sample contract I have used before, so you can see what a contract looks like (or possibly just copy it and tweak it for yourself. I don’t mind).

Keep in mind that the contract is something you and your potential client have talked about, and the terms detailed in it are things you both have discussed and agreed to beforehand.

I’ve left name spaces and prices blank. This contract is for someone sharing their rights with the partner signing the contract, but you can change it to fit the agreement between you and your potential client.

Contract in Regards to the ____________ Project

I, ___________________________________________, herein referred to as “the author,” hereby agree to the following terms regarding the project ______________:

  1. That _______________, hereby referred to as “the artist,” will be paid ____ per image drawn.

  2. That the artist retains all rights to the artwork for the project, and that the author retains all rights to the script, dialogue, and other written word associated with the project.

  3. That the author and artist will split any future royalties of the project 50/50, excepting Rule 4.

  4. Any profits made from artist-rendered prints will be split 75/25, favoring the artist.

  5. Payment transferred from the author to the artist, or vice versa, may be made via Paypal or Bank quick pay. If the payment method is Paypal, a small percentage of increase will occur due to transfer fees. If the payment method is Bank quick pay, it is fee free and will need email address for set up.

  6. An invoice will be given once weekly on Sunday to the author from the artist for service rendered, royalties owed, and other expenses associated with the project (including postage).

  7. In regards to revisions, the artist agrees to share the artwork in progress to the author and allow the author any number of revisions to the final work, as long as the request for revisions comes before the end of the week, which is Sunday.

  8. If the request for revisions comes after Sunday in regards to the previous week’s images, then the time frame of finalizing the strips will be extended.

  9. When work for each image is finished by the artist, one large digital copy for printing and one small digital copy for digital release will be submitted to the author, along with a copy of the invoice, at the end of the week. Special requests may be made for sending physical copies of the artwork.

  10. If at any time the project is canceled, the author must pay for what images are finished or in progress to finishing for that week of cancellation, and disperse what royalties have been earned within that week. Any royalties made after the cancellation date must be split according to the above agreements between the author and the artist.

  11. The artist will make every effort to ensure that each image is error-free and ready to print when submitted at the end of each week. If any errors still exist, the author, within their best capacity, must make the artist aware so the artist may correct them. Any errors that need correcting after Sunday submission will be edited and resubmitted the next day, Monday, or as soon as possible.

  12. All correspondence and documents provided will be treated as confidential between the author and the artist, unless consensus had been granted for both parties.

The above prices, specifications, and conditions are hereby accepted. It is the responsibility of both the artist and the author to honor the agreements specified above. These agreements are not valid until signed by the author and the artist. After signing, copies must be made for the author and the artist for their records.

Artist’s Signature: _____________________________________


Author’s Signature: _______________________________________

Date: ________________

If you need further resources for making a contract, be sure to read up on the Artist’s and Graphic Designer’s Market, as they cover this in depth.

I hope this helps! Let me know if it does or if I forgot anything in the comments below.

How to Write a Contract, Part 2: Rights

Here’s Part 1.

Last time we discussed talking to your potential partner and the rough outline of a contract.

Today, we’re going to talk about rights, because this is what most people mess up or don’t notice.

The problem is that when you do a Google search for artists’ rights, you come across a bunch of legal jargon, or articles concerning Rights Acts passed by the President of the United States and whatnot.

I’m going to make this a lot simpler and outline your rights for you, using the 2013 Artist’s and Graphic Designer’s Market as a reference (which is what I use).

The artist has these bundle of rights with the images they make…

Reproduction Right: You can make copies of the image.

Modification Right: You have the right to take an original work of yours and make derivative works based on it.

Distribution Rights: You can lease, rent, or sell your art. (I’ll talk about leasing and renting in a minute.)

Public Performance Right: This applies to musical and performance arts more than the visual arts. This means that you have the right to perform or otherwise play the work in public.

Public Display Right: You can display your work in a public space.

Now that you know your rights, you now know that you can divide these rights between yourself and other people in many different ways.

In a contract between artists and the person hiring them, these are some of the ways you can divide rights between the two of you…

One-Time Rights: Your client buys and uses your image once and that’s it. Most books and magazines tend to do this. Once they use it, it’s yours again to do what you will.

First Rights: This is like One-Time Rights, but trickier. Basically your client wants to be the FIRST ONE to use your image, and can use it only once (unless you both agree to different terms). Sometimes this is broken down geographically, in the instance of first North American rights (which means the client has the right to be the first to publish the image in North America).

Exclusive Rights: This is often used by people who print products, like greeting cards. Exclusive Rights means one company can buy your image exclusively for that product (say, in this instance, a mug). If they do that, that frees you up to sell the same image to a different company who makes a different product (if they allow you to do this).

(Remember how above I mentioned you can rent or lease artwork? The instances of One-Time, First, and Exclusive Rights is where you do that.)

Promotional Rights: This means that, say, if a magazine buys your image and uses it as the cover of the magazine, they can also print the image in promotional fliers. This just means that the client can use your image for promotional purposes as well as its original purpose.

Electronic Rights: This lets your client put your image on a website. They’ll ask separately for print rights, if they are interested.

Work for hire: Someone hires you (usually for a movie in the case of these rights), you make a piece within the time you are hired, and you surrender all rights to the image and cannot use it again. If you do this, make sure the money is worth it.

All rights: You relinquish all copyright to an artwork. This can be done in any kind of project, not just movies. Before you agree to this, make sure you can live with it and that the fee is worth it.

When a client buys your image, they can purchase any combination of rights. Some clients may buy Exclusive and Electronic Rights. Some clients may buy One-Time and Promotional Rights. Some can just buy All Rights (make sure that if you do this, you’re alright with this! Selling All Rights is not something to back out on easily).

HOT TIP: If your client writes up a contract for you and you want to double check it or it’s way too confusing, get in touch with the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. They can help you figure it out.

Also, let’s mention when it’s the best time to use “Copyright” or the c symbol on your art.

You can use it pretty much anytime in your art if you so choose. However, you cannot add it if you sell the rights as Work for Hire or All Rights. This is because your client now has the rights to that image, and THEY can use the Copyright or c symbol for themselves.

I hope this helps you understand a few things when you write up your own contracts.

In the last installment of this series, I’ll have an example contract up so you can see these principles in action.

And in a stunning turn of events, I’ll post the last installment on Wednesday!

I’ll see you then.

How to Write a Contract, Part 1: Talk to Your Partner

You’ve been talking to this person, and this person wants to hire you to make an illustration for them. They have a deadline to get it done. The best part? They want to pay you!

But before you jump the gun and start working on this masterpiece, you need to do one very. Very. Very. Very. Important thing.

Write a contract.


Don’t run away. This isn’t a root canal. I’m going to make this as clear and painless as possible.

I understand that there’s a nasty taste in your mouth when you say “contract.” That’s more than likely because you’re used to contracts from phone companies, insurance folks, or other people who generally want to separate you from thousands of your hard-earned (or stolen) dollars.

Trust me, I don’t like those people either.

That’s why your contract is going to be much more awesome than that.

Keep in mind that I haven’t been freelancing for very long, but I write up all of my contracts myself. And after having to deal with other contracts and other legal forms myself (mostly from hospitals due to a car accident), I do my best to make all my contracts as clear and concise as possible. I want to show you my method so you can get a good idea of how the process works.

Here’s how you do it.

The first step actually happens before you write the contract.

The first step is to talk to the person who wants to hire you, say you want to write a contract to protect the both of you, and discuss what you want covered on the contract.

What you want covered on the contract is:

The Deadline.

How long the project will take. If it takes longer or shorter, talk to them about adjusting your fees to account for changes in the schedule.

The Fee.

This is probably the hardest part for beginning freelancers, because you don’t quite know what you’re worth yet. When pricing, remember these:

  • The Timeline. The shorter the project, the less you can charge.
  • Your Materials. Digital tools like Photoshop are expensive, but you only buy it once and you’re good to use it repeatedly (unless your computer breaks). However, mediums like oil paints are not like that. Oil paints (and other paints, for that matter) are cost per tube, and who knows how many tubes you need for this project?
  • Their budget. If they’re a non-profit that you trust, you probably shouldn’t be charging. But if the person works for a small company or they run their own business, talk to them about the budget honestly. If they don’t know their own budget, ask them to think about it and get back to you later. If they know their budget, keep within that frame.
  • Charging per hour vs. per project. The both of you will have to talk about which of these you feel most comfortable with. My own personal preference is to charge per project (like, say $200 per illustration) because my schedule is very flexible. I’ve done one project that paid an hourly fee, which can add up quickly if the project takes a while. Be sure to talk to your client about this.
  • Rights. I’ll be talking in more detail about this in the next post, but here’s what you need to know now: if you keep the rights to the art, charge less, because you can re-use that image again. If you are selling the rights off, charge more. Like, a lot more than you usually would.
  • Miscellaneous charges like shipping (if they want a physical copy or the original work).

These are guidelines to help you start. There will more than likely be other things to keep in mind when pricing, but these are the baselines.

When you’re pitching a price with the person you want to collaborate with, know your worth. You don’t work for free (or for T-shirts or sandwich coupons), unless it’s for a worthy nonprofit organization. You have a skill your potential partner lacks, and they want your skill.

But Don’t be an ass. Be prepared to negotiate, if necessary. If you must negotiate, start with a higher number and work your way towards a fee you and your future partner are comfortable with.

Another thing to keep in mind when writing contracts:

Cancellation Terms

These are terms you both agree on in the event that the project cannot be finished, or is otherwise discontinued. This can happen anytime, so be prepared. Set up an agreement between the both of you to determine who gets paid what and what happens with the work made for the project up to that point.


This will be covered in the next post, but it is important in your contract to outline who has rights to what. The reason it’s a separate post is because rights can get complicated (in case you haven’t noticed, a lot of problems people have with contracts is that they either don’t read, or they don’t double-check, the rights, and they screw themselves over).

In All of This, Remember that You are Making This Contract To Protect the Both of You.

Emphasis on the BOTH OF YOU. You are awesome, sure, but your future collaborator saw your awesomeness, so you need to see theirs too. They have rights just as much as you do, and they want what you do: work, and a chance to do something great with someone else.

This is just Part 1 of a series about How to Write a Contract. Next time I’ll be talking about the tangled nature of rights and how they can be divided, and what that means to you and your future collaborator.

Thanks for reading!