Being able to afford food is nice.
This is a handy guide on how not to get screwed by contracts and how to actually bend them to your advantage!
The importance of having a signed and agreed upon contract before actually starting work on commissioned art cannot be understated. This document allows everyone involved to fully understand what they are getting into before, you know, getting into it. It also means that you are infinitely more likely to actually get recognition, (deleted repetition) payment in the amount expected, and at the time it was expected. Make sure that in your contract, it states any and all details concerning the job and therefore, any later additions to terms must be added to this contract and signed by both parties. This way, if the check arrives with additional obligations and claims to rights, there is a legal precedent that you can fall back on.
Here's a checklist by the Graphic Artist Guild for things to consider when forming a contract!
It may be handy to bring along a printed copy of industry standard prices for similar work. It not only establishes a basis for pricing, but it also establishes a high level of professionalism. Standards for current (similar) work can be found in the 13th edition of the Graphic Artist's Guilds' Hand Book: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. This book sets the standard for commercial artists, it will become your most valuable possession.
Explaining industry standards to clients.
When negotiating the terms of a contract, always discuss money last. This will give some time to get the details nailed out before coming up with a number. It also allows time to establish your professional credibility and knowledge within your given field. When money does comes up, you can (deleted more) easily point to where the costs are coming from and why they are justified, or what might be done to adjust them. Options for lowering a clients fee can include restricting usage rights or simplifying the design or colors used. One could even request a larger number of tear sheets (samples of one's work how it would appear in the final format) or an advertisement within the final publication.
The idea is to negotiate something that leaves both parties happy.
Returning clients are one's that have been treated fairly.
When given a contract, take it home and read it over. Makes notes (removed “next to”) and cross out parts that you don't agree with. Talk over all suggested changes with the client.
Always try to find a better option than work for hire. Often this is a line put in contracts by lawyers who want to avoid any and all legal complications. However, they do this by stripping a commercial artist of any and all rights. Many times, negotiations can give the clients the rights they want without resorting to such drastic measures.
More on The Graphic Artists Guild's handbook.
and where you can buy the book cheap.
Sample contracts (1, 2, and 3)
Further Resources on Contracts:
The Graphic Artist Guild will help you rework your terrible contract!
Get a free PDF on Copyright Myths from the Guild (by giving them your email address)
Escape from Illustration Island on contracts and pricing!
Good luck guys, in the future, look forward to Invoices 101 AKA. Getting Paid!
Also, Happy Holidays!
Hoping your Christmas was Merry and your New Year will be...Conscious!
-Josh's Several Cents