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Contracts Are An Artist's Best Friend

When you have your documents prepared and ready you are one step ahead.

Have you had a bad experience with a gallery or shop? Did someone commission a piece of artwork only to never pay you once it was completed? Has someone copied and reproduced your artwork without permission?

These are just a few of the issues you may have already encountered or will if you don't have a clear understanding of what documents you need as an artist.

Tip #1 - Friends get treated the same

Let's say your friend LOVES your artwork and wants to commission you to create a piece special for them. Your first thought is excitement! YAY! Someone wants to pay you for your work. Your next thought may be, "Oh boy, how do I go about creating a commission for someone?"

I bring this example up specifically using the "friend" because that may be where your first commission comes from. This is great. You should be excited but you also need to remember they are still a client. Yes, you may have known them for over twenty years but that doesn't mean you treat them any differently.

Tip #2 - Communication

Friends, collectors, galleries, etc. who reach out to you for a commission all will receive a contract agreement from you. A contract is more than a piece of paper to protect you, it is there to communicate your process. It communicates to the collector/buyer how you work. It should state clearly and break down each step.

"Contracts like an artist agreement help avoid miscommunications and confusion over the rights and responsibilities of both parties involved."

Tip #3 - Protect Your Business

Many of you who follow Art Connective know I am a photographer. I have been for over 20 years. That's a long time and within that time I have experienced a lot. One time stands out to me when a friend of a friend was referred to me for photography. Now, I don't know why but for some reason I did not give her a contract that broke down in detail how I work and operate.

Most likely because I trusted the past client/friend who referred her so why wouldn't her friend be the same?! It's that kind of thinking that will always get you in trouble. Fast forward and when I arrived at the shoot she bombarded me by adding on more photography services that were not previously agreed upon. If they were it would have been an added fee, she was getting free work out of me.

Next, I always did a retainer up front, to secure my services and then final payment before the delivery of the images. But for some reason, I went against my own rules and delivered the images to her before she paid in full. And guess what happened after that? You got it, she came up with some excuse why she wasn't going to pay me in full. It turned into a whole thing and finally, I just walked away from battling it out with her.

It was a waste of my time and a loss of income. Hard lesson learned but it was certainly learned.

Tip #4 - Be Prepared

Even if you have not had a commission project yet get your documents ready. The last thing you want to be doing is scrambling to put together a contract, rushing it, and missing important details. Have a general commission contract typed, prepped, and ready to go for when the opportunity presents itself.

You need to be prepared. This is key to running your creative business.

I recommend having someone within the art field review it to see if you are missing anything and then you can take a step further and have an attorney look it over.

Tip #5 - Learn More!

These things are not taught in art school, it was not taught at my University. And what about all the artists who do not attend college for art? It's these essentials that are vital to you starting and growing your business. This is why I have designed the online courses, Building Blocks for Becoming a Successful Artist. Save time and money, and learn what is needed to protect your creative business today!


Artist agreements typically include availability expectations, performance markers, and licensing or ownership rights of the works created during the partnership. This and more are all part of your contract/agreement. Define how you want your business to run. Set it up for success today! Enroll in the Building Block Courses TODAY!

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