Don’t Get Screwed: The Contract Provisions Every Creative Needs to Know

Crucial info for writers and other creative who don’t like to read contracts. And even those who do.

It’s rough out there. Protect yourselves!

watch your backby Vinay Jain

A friend of mine, a very kind and trusting person who happens to be a freelance software developer, agreed a few years back to write some code for a young, charismatic pair of startup founders. The job was only supposed to take a month, and he agreed to it on a handshake.

Four months later, the job still wasn’t finished, and my friend still wasn’t paid half of what he was owed. The founders were constantly changing their minds about what they wanted, sending my friend additional “specs” long after he had started the work. Eventually, realizing that he had already spent more time than it was worth, my friend wrote the project off, never collecting the rest of his fee.

Having a contract with the founders about the project probably would have helped things turn out better for my friend. His story is a reminder that while dealing with contracts may not be the most fun aspect of being a freelancer, the pain is nothing compared to what can go wrong without one. And a contract not only protects you if something goes wrong – it helps things from going wrong in the first place by clarifying expectations and preventing misunderstandings.

Putting together a contract can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. While it would be great to be able to hire an attorney to draft or review every contract, that’s not an affordable option for most people. The good news is that even a basic agreement that you write yourself is better than having no written agreement at all, provided that it’s clear, unambiguous, and covers the essentials of your business arrangement.

Here are a few tips that may help:

Read it all