If you're an artist and you've struggled with navigating and negotiating your way through the business of selling your work or have obtained commissions or had various business transactions with clients, you are not alone. I'm certain we all have our own horror stories.
Many artists, myself included, have frequently experienced situations where our work and education is not valued. We often put our selves into financial predicaments with those who want quality work, who appear trustworthy clients, and so you go ahead with a verbal mutual agreement on the price for a commissioned art work that you've spent hours and energy on, not to mention your formal education. In spite of this you don't get the agreed upon price, though the client is very satisfied with the artwork you've created for them.
This experience is very demeaning and leaves you with such a sense of anger that it's hard to know who you are more angry with, the client or yourself.
First of all the most important and hard lesson to learn, is to value your own work and place the perimeters around it so you don't undersell yourself or allow clients to do just that by not having a contract. If you find yourself in this circumstance over and over you haven't learned this important lesson.
There are vital and significant reasons for a written contract which I've listed below.
1. If we have a written document it avoids he said she said arguments and is a confirmation of what and wasn't agreed upon. Written words provide clarity. Though a verbal agreement can hold up legally, the evidence is problematic as the burden of proof is on you or the client.
2. Formal business relationship establishes and clarifies the perimeters and the ground rules into writing which provides you with and your client with protection in case there is a need for some kind of legal representation in the future. Your contract will be the evidential documentation you'll need if future is legal intervention is necessary. In time we can forget what has been agreed upon in a contact. In having a written contact, your memory will be refreshed and will hold both parties accountable.
3. Providing a written and signed contract promotes the assurance needed for successful, hopefully more amicable and profitable outcome and also will cover your butt!
There is also a need to stipulate the distribution of artwork and clarify the appropriate financial compensation and shared profits made via your artwork.