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March 19, 2013
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How to Conduct Freelance / Work-For-Hire Business Transactions

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namenotrequired Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2013  Professional Interface Designer
This thread is to help guide you through setting up and getting paid for freelance work. Please note, however, that at the end of the day, your use of the Employment Opportunities forums is at your own risk.

There are differences in how personal work vs work for a business is conducted, please be sure to reference the appropriate section.




Personal Freelance



Before you start a job, you need a contract. This contract does not need to contain a ton of fine print but you do need to outline the project, what you will be offering and the cost to the interested party who wishes to hire you for your services. 

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 Step 1 
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The first part of a contract is the contact information. Place both party's name, address, phone number, and any other contact info on the contract, and label them "artist" and "client."

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 Step 2 
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The second part is to outline what the job actually entails. Write out what the artist is responsible for and what the client is responsible for. Maybe the artist is supposed to provide drawings of a character, and the client is supposed to provide monetary compensation. Either way, both party's responsibilities need to be clearly outlined. Do not waver from these responsibilities EVER. If the client asks for you (the artist) to do some additional work not listed in the contract, write up a new contract and make sure that you are getting fair compensation for the additional work.

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 Step 3 
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The third step is to make a timeline. Collaborate with the client to figure out when the project (or progression(s) of the project) is due, and when the client is supposed to pay for those items. This doesn't need to be a complicated timeline, but you need to at least have due dates figured out and written down for both the artist and the client.

As the artist, If you feel like you can't achieve the prospected due date or complete your project by the initial due date then make sure that you always keep in contact with your client and let him/her know of the situation or progress you are making with the work you are being commissioned for. Honesty is key and though it might be a little intimidating it's better to be honest than not.

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 Step 4 
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The fourth step of this process is to decide whether or not the client actually owns the artwork. That's right, just because they're paying you doesn't mean they get to run away with it. Your work can be used to make a ton of money on the client's end, and they need to reimburse you (the artist) fairly. So, write out what the work is to be used for. If the client wants to use it elsewhere, then they owe you a small licensing fee. All of this is assuming you don't hand over the rights to the work entirely. Remember, this step is up to you.

Licensing Art means you retain all copyrights İ to an image, and license, or “rent”, the art to someone for either a one-time use, such as in a magazine or advertising campaign, or for a longer term use to print on products, such as a t-shirt line, greeting cards, etc.) Maria Brophy

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 Step 5 
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The final step is for BOTH parties to sign and date the contract. Each party gets their own copy of the contract to keep. Work may begin, now.



IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not hand over artwork until you (the artist) has received payment for the work. Place watermarks or identifying symbols/lettering on all of the sample images you send, and never send final-sized documents that can be easily stolen. Once you've been paid for a certain bit of work, then it's okay to hand over the files. If any client questions this method, then their integrity is equally questionable.

IMPORTANT NOTE 2: If the contract you are about to enter into is going to require an excessive amount of work/time on your end, it’s perfectly OK to ask for an advance or a design fee. This will cover the amount of time you will spend on the commission while also ensuring that you are being paid for at least some of your work before completion. 

Show your client your progression throughout the process to make sure that your client is satisfied with how it's going and can make corrections /suggestions/critiques along the way. There's nothing more frustrating to the artist (or client) when the finished product is presented and the client is not happy with the results and requests an excessive amount of changes. 

Tip: One method of payment that sometimes works with larger projects is convincing your client to pay half upfront. Sometimes if you're working for someone new, you and your client will gradually build trust in each other. But we've all heard of happy endings as well as nightmare situations with payments in freelancing. Unfortunately, that is life.

If you are working on an epic project you can say something to this effect:
"As the project will be a very long one, I would like to ask if it is possible to have half the payment to help me pay my rent and bills, and I'll have the other half upon the completion of work."

This can work as it looks like fair ground for both of you. If you think about it from this point of view, if you're with a new client you need to gain a little trust. So if he was the client that intended to run away without paying, at least you've got a half payment there so you don't have zero! From your client's point of view, if you're the sort of person who is going to get paid and isn't going to complete work or meet deadlines, they won't feel like they got value for their money. So half and half is quite fair game!

Tips for setting a budget: With regards to the budget, naturally you'll have to guess your timescale, rate with regards to your job, etc. With a lot of creative jobs, each one is going to be different to the next. One hour of work with one method isn't going to produce the same amount or result as another way of working. So you'll have different rates for your type of work.

No one piece of work will ever be the same, so have a general idea of how much your work would cost. But by all means be slightly more flexible about it. To illustrate this think about famous paintings, they're all worth different prices. Even with similar works by the same artists, the prices differ a lot.

The value of your work changes with regards to factors like your financial situation vs how right the job is for you, especially when you're starting out as a freelancer. 

If you know you're working for a bigger client, don't be afraid to throw a curveball and ask your client what their budget is. Naturally a lot of clients want cheap and good work for their money, however they'll almost always ask you about your rates first.

To put into context, let's just say a client has a budget of £5000 (US$7515) for a job, which you of course don't know about at the time. They ask you for a budget and you have just told them, you can do it for £3000 (US$4505) and meet the deadlines. Then they are going to think, "HAH we can save £2000 (US$3010) because this creative is willing to do it for a lot less". Then you would lose money because you didn't ask! If you did ask and they said "Well we're willing to pay £5000" then naturally you are going to take that over what your original rate is!

There is no harm in asking them, at the very least if they do not want to disclose this information you won't make a loss, you only have extra gain.

Illustrator Will Terry has a YouTube video with great ideas on pricing your work. Take his advice with a pinch of salt.

Oversetting your estimated deadline: A lot of the time clients want to change something with your work, especially towards the end of a project. So when you're estimating your time scale always leave time for a little slack at the end. And of course when giving an estimate always explain that to your client, that you include this sort of post-editing time with your estimate for them.

So perhaps you're working on an animated short and you reckon, that since you don't have other projects going on, you can get it done in a week and a half. Well add a few days onto that because by the end of that time, they could look at it and think, "Actually I change my mind about this bit" or "Can I add this/take this out?". They will be pleased with the flexibility and choice you are giving them, and it will also give you time to perfect your work for the client.

If a client has already set a rigid deadline and asks you if you can complete it, naturally consider if you can with your way of working. Then consider, can you get it done faster and leave that little bit of slack towards the end? If so then tell your client not only you can complete this project well before the deadline, but you also took into account extra time at the end for changes and edits. It'll help you impress your client and gain trust for future projects!

Of course another benefit to doing this isn't simply just to impress your client. You're also leaving a little bit of time for error, sometimes something goes wrong and it has happened to every creative on this planet. Your computer dies, your Internet messes up, your software keeps crashing etc. Yes, it does happen in the middle of a project, and inevitably it will happen to you as well one day if it has not already. 

It is not being lazy, it is being realistic and leaving room for error, it is better than setting yourself a rigid deadline then making up excuses. Some clients are super nice and understand if you had to overstep your time, but naturally not every client out there is going to be as sympathetic. As noted in Personal Freelance - Step 3, keep in contact with your client and let them know what's happening with each major progress. Regardless of problems, it gives them confidence in your professionalism.




Business Freelance: The Differences



It is important to note that personal freelance commissions and working for a business are very different - this section will outline a few things you need to be aware of in business transactions. 

 1. While in personal freelance it is the artist who will provide the contract, in a business transaction, it is usually the business who will provide the contract. Be sure to read the contract thoroughly as remember - their contract is there to protect themand may not necessarily have any mention of the artist's rights. If you read through a contract and any part of it bothers you, bring it up with the business hiring you if its appropriate, but never sign anything unless you are happy with the terms - if their contract won't protect you and your artwork, you'll have to do that yourself! 

 2. Another point to consider with business freelance, or being commissioned by a company, is that you will often have to hand over your work before you are paid, and then provide an invoice to send to the company requesting payment. Make sure you sort out when and how you will be paid (i.e, method of payment - paypal, cheque, bank transfer, etc.) before any work is started and, if possible, request to have the payment terms mentioned in the contract if they're not already. Its normal to be paid at the end of the month you produced the artwork, or beginning of the following month, along with any other contractors and/or staff. 

 3. When it comes to pricing your artwork for business work, you may wish to choose an hourly fee plus a flat rate base cost for your artwork rather than a simple "here's the cost of it" price that you may give for a personal commission - but remember that this will depend greatly on the type of work you are providing, and which will work best both for you and the client. Some companies may suggest a price to you that they're willing to pay for the work, or give you a budget to work with. If the price doesn't suit you, you are under no obligation to accept the work - just make sure you've got it all sorted before you sign anything!


Many thanks to all experienced Community Volunteers who contributed to this!
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