Future and contemporary artists of America… You have a commodity that others want to make money from. And some of these middle management types will take advantage of whatever weakness you give them to make more money. The vast majority don’t care about you, your career, your life, etc.
Business people are generally right-brained creatures of logic and predatory in nature. They want something. Artists are left-brained creatives. They are prey, if not properly prepared to enter into a business deal. They’re the stupid gazelle that watches the drooling tiger rush at them, thinking that the tiger just REALLY REALLY wants to be friends.
If you’re a newbie creative, if you’re really eager to get into a creative industry, if you just want to pay your bills, many business types will see that in you and will metaphorically butt rape you with razor wire until they get everything they want from you. And a bag of chips. Not all business people are that eager to strip you of your working dignity, some will feign concern while only taking part of your soul.
But as a creative, you have to realize that you’re just another resource, like a mop, a company car, or that gritty one-ply toilet paper in the employee restroom. And if you don’t explicitly state what you expect up front in a business transaction, you will be treated just like that gritty one-ply toilet paper.
If creative types are to flourish in this business dominated climate, demand clear and concise communication. It is your right. At least, here in America.
And be clear. And concise. If you agree to do a job, make sure you read the contract, first. You may have to involve someone like a lawyer, but if you’re taking your career seriously, that’s one of the operating costs. Don’t let the person hiring your give you a synopsis of a contract. Don’t let them force you to sign a contract right on the spot, either. If they can’t give you a reasonable amount to review a contract, chances are there’s something skeevy going on somewhere in the process.
Don’t ever forget that you are the one who is in control. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. It’s all in the way you frame it in your mind. Instead of saying, “I lost a million bucks because they didn’t give me time to sign the contract,” think of it as “They lost out on having me work for them, because they didn’t conduct themselves properly.” Or you can think of it simply as, “What a bunch of dicks”. That’s much easier to repeat.
What if there’s no contract? WHAT? Well, all right. Make sure that there is some legal proof of what you’re entitled to as an independent contractor. Don’t ever let someone work out the details later.
Even when I do caricatures, there is a sign at the event clearly explaining what you get for your money. Basically, it reads “Caricatures. Head and Shoulders. Black and White. The price. Color. The price.” and it includes enough samples that any fool should be able to figure out what to expect. If they can’t figure it out, I’m right there to explain it. It’s not a legal contract, but it holds up a lot more in a court of law than a handshake.
Know up front who has what rights for every piece of work you do. If someone can’t get the legal part together for a project, you can’t possibly be led to believe that the project you’re working on is worth a damn.
And make sure the person hiring you knows up front what to expect. Have an online store? Make sure you define all of those return policies, terms of service, postage options and every other requested legal field for every piece you sell online.
I’m not saying get a 40 page contract for every piece of art you do, but also don’t expect royalties on a work for hire piece forty years down the line where none is offered.
Clear communication is one of the keys to success in life. It’s more work up front, but then it’s less work and conflict down the line.
You’re an idiot if you don’t know what you’re getting out job. Work for hire or otherwise.