As a creator, negotiating contracts can be overwhelming. The language is complicated, the stakes feel high, and there is the constant fear of being labeled as difficult. But despite the strong (and I mean strong) desire to just sign that dotted line, understanding the ins and outs of contract negotiations is key to protecting your interests and ensuring that you’re fairly compensated for your work. Whether you’re a freelance writer, a fashion model, or a musician, keep reading for some tips for negotiating creative contracts, and how you can use these techniques to get the best possible deal.
Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
This one may seem trivial, but it will most likely be your biggest hang up. We have all been in this position: you want the job and you want to get it as fast as possible with as little chance of something falling through. While blindly signing may move you through the initial pipeline faster, it does not guarantee a smoother process, in fact it increases your chances of having more issues down the line. Take the time to read the doc (can use Kaveat for some help here). Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, and be willing to walk away if the terms aren’t right for you. Negotiation is a normal part of the contracting process, they expect it, as should you.
Know Your Worth
The first and most important tip for negotiating creative contracts is to know your worth. Before entering into any negotiations, take the time to research industry rates and the average pay for someone with your level of experience. Dig into the industry, ask friends, do research, try to find out what norms are and what you can and should expect. This will give you a solid understanding of what you should be expecting in terms of compensation, and will help you avoid accepting offers that are below your value.
Be Clear About Your Deliverables
When negotiating these types of gig economy contracts, it’s essential to be clear about what you’re expected to deliver. Make sure that you understand what the document is asking for, and that this is in fact what the client has in mind. You can never get too simple, repeat exactly what it is you understand back to the other party to make sure you both are on the same page about action items, deliverable, and timelines. This will help you avoid any misunderstandings or disagreements later on, and will ensure that you’re properly compensated for the work you’re doing.
Understand the Payment Terms
Before signing a contract, it’s important to understand the payment terms. This is very similar to the deliverable section above. Make sure you’re clear on when you’ll be paid, how much you’ll be paid, and what your payment schedule looks like (this is often in the form of ‘NET x days’). Repeat it back, have then repeat it to you, or draw a timeline — whatever it takes to make sure you and the other party are on the same page.
Get Everything in Writing
One of the most important tips for negotiating creative contracts is to get everything in writing. This includes project timelines, payment schedules, and the scope of work you’re expected to deliver. Having a written agreement in place can help you avoid any confusion or disputes down the line, and can help protect your interests if anything goes wrong. We promise you, verbal agreements are a lot harder to ensure your payments for. Ideally, this would be in the form of a legal contract signed by both parties, but even an email chain is more binding than a phone call.
Consider the Intellectual Property Rights
As a creator your IP is your currency. It is essential to consider the intellectual property rights associated with your work. Make sure you’re clear on who owns the rights to your work, what you’re allowed to do with it after the project is completed, and for how long. For more details on clauses to look out for, check out our article here, on common clauses to double check.
Keep Emotions Out of It
One of the most important tips for negotiating contracts in any industry, job, or position, is to keep your emotions out of it. Negotiating can be (and often is) a stressful and emotional process, but it’s essential to remain professional and focused on your goals. Remember that this is a business transaction, and try to approach it as objectively as possible. It sounds cliche, but as Michael Corleone said “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”
Know When to Walk Away
Finally, it’s important to know when to walk away. If the terms of the contract aren’t right for you, or if you’re not comfortable with the project requirements, it’s okay to say no. In fact, saying no to a job because you can’t agree on terms is the biggest flex! You know what you have and you are backing yourself. It’s better to walk away from a deal that doesn’t meet your needs than to agree to something that you’ll regret later on.
Contracts are not the most fun of your job, we all know that, but they do help ensure that you can keep doing what you love safely, with terms you agree to, and get paid for it. For more help with your contract check out Kaveat, and if you have an influencer or agency agreement you would like to better understand, upload it here.