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Thread: Commission Contracts and deposits

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  1. #1
    Guild Expert Jalyha's Avatar
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    Info Commission Contracts and deposits

    I've never done a lot of commissions. Usually, I simply paint my landscapes. Sometimes they sell. More often they don't.

    My very first commission was a disaster. I did not know how to negotiate properly. I accepted a price far below what was reasonable. I invested much more time than was necessary. I did not ask for a payment of "Earnest money" up front.

    And, of course, the client/patron decided they needed to see the nearly completed work. He "didn't like" the painting and refused to purchase it. I was stuck with a work outside my usual sphere, that didn't appeal to ... well... anyone. I was out time and money.

    A few weeks later, the patron came back and offered to buy the painting at a much lower price than we had agreed on. I protested, but I was desperate and ill-informed, and I finally gave in. I sold it to him for less than the cost of my paints/canvas.

    Fastforward. I now use a written contract for all commissions. I insist upon a non-refundable deposit before work even begins. Usually, it's half the price of the artwork, it's always at least 25%. At least that way, my supplies are covered, and I only lose time, not money. I've had very few problems since I began this practice.

    Recently, I've been (obsessively) browsing these forums, and I've seen several posts where a commissioned map was stalled because the patron either backed out completely, or stopped replying. This started me to wondering if any/all of these members had contracts, or had GOOD contracts, and whether or not everyone here was familiar with the true value of their work.

    Your maps are ART. What goes into a map varies (as it does with any artwork) and prices will/should fluctuate based on many factors. But it is art. And any handling of/pricing of art can and should cover everything you put into it.

    You should also, unless you retain all rights, receive something before you give your work away. An author receives an advance. A realtor receives an earnest payment. A car dealership receives a deposit.

    So, too, should an artist. And, as I've said, Cartographers *are* artists.

    Each artist (each Cartographer) is different. Your needs/desires/expenses... everything is different. So there's no form I can point to, and say, "Use this contract," or "Demand this payment".

    I can, however, share with you the contract (originally ripped off a CC webpage somewhere, and edited to suit my needs) which I use as a *template* when I come to an agreement with a patron.

    If you're an old pro, you probably have better, but if you're new at this it might help a little. (If you like, you can change "art" to "map" and "artist" to "cartographer", but it means the same thing.)


    Contractual Agreement for the Commission of Artwork

    This agreement is made this ______ day of ______________, __20_____ (year) by and between:

    Artist’s Name: ________________________________________________(h erein known as "Artist")

    Address: ______________________________________________


    and

    Patron’s Name: ________________________________________________(h erein known as "Patron")

    Address: ______________________________________________


    All parties agree as follows:

    1. The Patron is commissioning a work of art created by the Artist. Subject matter will be described herein.

    2. It is the intent of all parties that the Artist creates artwork for the Patron that the Patron will purchase the work. However, if, after the work is completed, the Patron does not wish to purchase the work, the Patron may refuse the created artwork. In that case, the Artist will retain the refused artwork and the nonrefundable deposit, free of any claims or interests of the Patron and the Patron will owe no additional fees to the Artist.

    3. Artist reserves ___________ to all works commissioned by Patron that are created by the Artist, including _________ rights and the right to claim statutory copyright. The Patron may _________.

    4. The Artist will decide selling price for the artwork. Fee will be based upon size and complexity of completed work, time taken to complete said work and will be consistent with other comparable works by Artist at the time of sale. For additional and/or unusual services, a "hassle-charge" may apply. All parties will agree to price in writing prior to the commencement of the artwork. The Artist and Patron will mutually determine size.

    5. A nonrefundable deposit of one- half of the selling price is required before any work shall commence. Payment in full is due upon receipt of artwork(s).



    Artwork # ____________

    Working Title _________

    Medium ______________

    Size _____________

    Price ___________

    Date _________


    Initial of Patron


    Initial of Artist


    IN WITNESS WHEREOF the parties hereto have executed this Agreement on the day and year written above.




    ________________________________

    Artist


    _________________________________

    Patron

    The Artwork # field, and those that follow, can be repeated for each map/painting.

    The important thing, imho, is to make sure 1) They're serious, 2) You're agreed on what you both want/need, and 3) That you have proof of that.

    Of course, my way is not necessarily the best way. I'm curious. For the seasoned vets out there... What's your method for insuring payment?


    WOW I really do talk too much...

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    Administrator RobA's Avatar
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    Appreciate you advice Jalyha-

    I will either write up a contract or keep it casual but cover off all the details in an email.

    This is similar to my standard terms:

    - I ask for a payment up front (usually 1/3)
    - Since I do not have consumables (being a digital artist) my prices are based on expected effort and my desired hourly rate
    - If specific fonts or graphics are required that I don't already own, my cost of purchasing that font/graphic is a straight adder
    - For my normal pricing I retain copyright, and provide a licence for the intended use
    - I limit the number of significant revisions in that price
    - I do not provide the final work (either the full image at full size or a PNG file) until after the final payment is received

    I've been fortunate and only had one or two bad clients.

    -Rob A>

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    Guild Expert Jalyha's Avatar
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    That's what I meant about differences! When I saw the "1/3" up front, my jaw dropped thinking you were losing money, but, as you said, with digital art, I guess you don't have many of those And I never thought of things like fonts and graphics as expenses.

    In digital artwork, do you account for wear and tear on your equipment as an expense?

    Like, uh... (trying to look at this from a digital-art perspective)...

    If you spend, say, $1500 on a new laptop which you use for your art. That's an expense. Obviously you can't charge one patron for that, but... Say you use your computer half of the time for your art and the other half for .. other stuff... that's $750. If you keep the laptop for 3 years (?) that's $250 a year. If you get 30 patrons per year, then the expense for one patron, for use of your equipment, is about $8.

    Same thing for tablets/accessories, pens/papers for sketches, etc... it's not a lot, but it adds up if you don't include it.


    I'm glad you have only had a few bad ones. And you're right, an email IS a (legal) agreement, but really, in art, we can't FORCE a patron to purchase something, but...

    I don't know ... They don't always *know* that, and contracts tend to encourage them. I don't ever get any clients online, so I've never really tried a simple email solution

    (I'm not very technologically advanced!)

    Anyway, thank you for sharing your system! It sounds like it works pretty well!

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    Guild Artisan Jacktannery's Avatar
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    Great advice Jalyha,

    I've had nothing but good experiences with commissions on this forum. Most of time I'm at the upper end of the cost spectrum so generally speaking the clients I end up working for were never looking for the cheapest deal anyway, so that is probably the reason I have never had any trouble with payment. It might seem counter-intuitive but in many trades its a pattern where those going for the 'value/cheap' customers have much more trouble getting the money.

    That said, I would always be very clear and very formal about EXACTLY what you are offering for EXACTLY what product at the end. It is crucial to get all this out on one email, clearly laid out, and not possible to misinterpret, from the outset. This is the same in any business. Important things to have clearly defined from the outset is: deliverables - date and method of delivery (in my case it is usually dropbox for digital files), format type/resolution/number of pixels, etc; money from client in currency/date of payment(s)/method (ie usually paypal for me); and then copyright/reproduction agreement; number of revisions you will make.

    It is amazing how quickly everyone forgets the details of this initial agreements, so if they are scattered through fifteen emails its impossible to ever really keep it clear in your head; so after you agree in principle with the client all the details it is a great idea to write it all out in bullet-points and email it to the client and call the email 'contract agreement' or something like that - also you need an email back from the client to say that she agrees with your proposal and instructing you to go ahead - this email (their reply) is the legally enforceable written document (in your own country only in practice) - not your email with the details!

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    Community Leader Gracious Donor - Max -'s Avatar
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    I have some similar terms, though I tend to ask 1/2 payment up front (except for expensive and long commission where I use to ask only 1/3) I also agree with Jack that the exact details of the product delivered should be mentioned in the form, whatever the one you use. As for the rights given, many people (clients and artists) tend to forget that a specific license with some commercial use or a full copyright assignment should increase the price of the commission (and those exacts terms of rights have to be detailed in the form used, since ther can be many different ways to assign some commercial rights for instance).

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    Guild Expert Jalyha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jacktannery View Post
    It is amazing how quickly everyone forgets the details of this initial agreements, so if they are scattered through fifteen emails its impossible to ever really keep it clear in your head; so after you agree in principle with the client all the details it is a great idea to write it all out in bullet-points and email it to the client and call the email 'contract agreement' or something like that - also you need an email back from the client to say that she agrees with your proposal and instructing you to go ahead - this email (their reply) is the legally enforceable written document (in your own country only in practice) - not your email with the details!

    I think that's very important advice.

    A contract, legally (usually/in most countries) is an OFFER and an ACCEPTANCE, with details. Those 15 emails back and forth are changes in the offer, so even if the patron agrees to hire you at first, the changes nullify that. They usually have to agree after all changes are outlined for it to be an ~enforceable~ contract.

    So you're right, none of those emails (including the summary) are worth much, until they agree. And (in the USA, at least) if a part of the contract is unclear/vague, it benefits the person who did NOT draw it up - that's your client. So all those details are super important!

    Quote Originally Posted by - Max - View Post
    I have some similar terms, though I tend to ask 1/2 payment up front (except for expensive and long commission where I use to ask only 1/3) I also agree with Jack that the exact details of the product delivered should be mentioned in the form, whatever the one you use. As for the rights given, many people (clients and artists) tend to forget that a specific license with some commercial use or a full copyright assignment should increase the price of the commission (and those exacts terms of rights have to be detailed in the form used, since ther can be many different ways to assign some commercial rights for instance).
    Another important point. *Everything* has value... including the rights over your work!

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    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
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    I, also, request a deposit of 1/3, but I add another payment that is due with the client's approval of mock-ups. The final 1/3 is due upon delivery of the finals. My kill fee is usually equal to that second payment.

    And a kill fee, for those who aren't familiar with the term, is a payment that the client must pay if the project is cancelled for some reason other than the artist's non-compliance.

    I highly recommend that any artist who works freelance or on commission get a copy of the Graphic Artists' Guild's Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines. You can usually find a second-hand older edition (it's currently in it's 14th edition, I believe) for a few bucks. It has a lot of good advice for the business side of commercial arts.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist
    http://www.bryanray.name

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    Guild Expert Jalyha's Avatar
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    I've never utilized a kill fee, but that's just me. It's a good preventative measure.


    I personally wouldn't feel right (trying to) enforce a payment on an unfinished piece of artwork that the patron truly disliked. Art is an aesthetic... I do landscapes, and their purpose is (usually) enjoyment, and it just.. feels wrong.

    Then again... MAPS (however artistic) have a use and a purpose as well. So, maybe that would change things.

    And it prevents those who would normally just waste your time out of curiousity, or who simply do not want to pay

    I think that sort of fee would be harder to do with certain forms of art, and depending on your ... recognition as an artist.

    I have a 20 second, 2 am commercial on a local television station, posters/signs in several local shops, and a studio in my 1 bedroom apartment. I can pull enough to cover my supplies, and my *time*... and still make a bit of profit (I don't starve) but I can't push things too far

    The guy downtown has nothing but an easel and some oils, and does the most GORGEOUS portraits I've ever seen, and his patrons balk at $20 for a painting. I yell at him, but he doesn't listen. *sigh*

    Graphic art, commercial pieces, digital effects, maps... people can probably charge a lot more than I can for those sort of things, even if they're not very well known. With a little recognition (FAME!) you could get away with almost anything

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    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
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    It bears mentioning that my services are usually business-to-business, providing support for visual effects on television shows. Thus, I work with producers who are well aware of the value of my work and the realities of commercial arts. Not that they won't try to cheat me, anyway, but that's Hollywood. Most of the time I actually work hourly at a visual effects company's facility rather than truly freelancing, but when I'm working as a true consultant rather than as a misclassified employee I bid as I described.

    I've never actually charged the kill fee. Most clients who would have been trouble seem to cancel the job as soon as they realize that I expect to get paid for my work rather than waiting until they've already paid the deposit.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist
    http://www.bryanray.name

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