The importance of contracts for Illustrators

So I make art because I have to. If I do not, I think I would shrivel up into a little ball of despair and roll into some dark corner. I love to create things, whether its costumes, painting or fiction, my mind has to working on 4 projects at once (no that’s not a specific number, but it seems the most reasonable). One of my dreams as a kid was to grow up and paint a cover for Dragonlance¬† or Dungeons and Dragons. As I have gotten older I have realized that is not really my style, but I still love to paint fantasy illustrations. I am in a great place because I do not have to make a living from my art, because my costuming business pays the bills. But that does not mean that if I do a piece for a company that they can ignore an agreed upon payment for whatever reason.

If you already do illustrations for companies, than I am sure you have experienced the run around, but for anyone starting out, I just wanted to do a little post and list my mistakes. First thing, do not view your art directors and companies as friends. I have met a lot of cool people in the business and I do consider them friends, but the minute you are doing work for them, they need to be treated as business associates, at least when you are dealing with a contract between the two of you. The second is never fall into a groove of, “Well they paid me last time, I can do this rush job without a contract and everything will work out.” With things like deviantart or even the ability to receive artwork from overseas in the blink of an eye, there are more artists in the illustration pool than ever before.

So my tips on getting paid:

  • Get a contract before you start on anything. They have them pre made and if they can’t even get a contract printed out for you, they will have an even harder time signing a check.
  • Follow that contract as close as possible. Most contracts say you have to send in a thumbnail for approval and you will get half your payment upon receiving that proof. If they can not follow their side of the contract at this early stage, then they probably will disregard it in the end.
  • If you struggle after a project to get your payment, do not accept another assignment from them! No matter how much publicity you think it will get you, there are other companies that follow their promises and contracts. I have noticed that even the higher end clients don’t get you the exposure that you think it might.
  • People think that art is not a real job, but it is. It is no different than any skilled labor and if companies can not pay us, they do not deserve to have our work.

This is sort of a harsh post, and I promise not to have too many of these. The up side is, there are a lot of companies out there that pay on time, give you leeway to make great work and support their artists in wonderful ways. Just make sure you are working for one of these companies and not the suckas.

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