Why It Is Important To Write Contracts – By Natasha Steer


When I was 17 I made a music video for a local band, it was my first paid creative job. I assumed the band would help someone so new to the world of business and provide me with some promo. What in fact happened was that the band posted the video on their website and did not mention once who had made it. As you can imagine I was pretty upset and had a chat with the band to try to resolve the issue.

Kindly the lead singer suggest we form a contract, and helped me in putting something together. I learnt quickly how important contracts are, although sometimes I still forget, and then regret being so absent-minded.

We would like to think people won’t take advantage, but sometimes it is just a misunderstanding that can lead to issues. Therefore I highly recommend, even when dealing with friends and family, to have a contract in place where finances or even just recognition are an issue. The band as mentioned earlier, changed their website to give me recognition for the video I made and I agreed that I would not use the video for anything commercial without their permission first.

I personally feel we should always recognise people and attribute them where ever possible, which is why I love Creative Commons licences. For the benefit of others, here is a draft contract layout for people to use for their creative projects. Adjust as necessary.

Contract of agreement in relation to:


I                                        , in representation of                                             , agree to the following:

To pay                                          the amount of  £                     upon completion of

To acknowledge                               , where ever the work is used and displayed.

That if the work is not delivered there will be no charge/compensation payable by any parties involved.



I                                      in representation of                                           agree to the following:

To complete the work requested by the date of

That if the work is not completed by this deadline, I agree to deduct the amount of                          for each week of the delay.

If the work is not delivered there will be no charge/compensation payable by any parties involved.

To ask permission to use the work for commercial reasons.



Signatures witnessed by:

Print Name



You will need to add requirements as personally needed for the project, and make sure BOTH parties have a copy. Here are some extra notes.

  • A witness is not really required for basic contracts, but I recommend it still. However a contract made with organisations and large authorities actually constitutes as a DEED and does always require a witness. For further explanation visit http://www.freshbusinessthinking.com/articles_print.php?CID=8&AID=1648
  • A witness of a contract must not be a relative or someone legally involved in the project.
  • There will be certain circumstances in which the creator and the person you are creating for cannot fill the requirements, for instance, you may get sick, they may get sick and they also may not be able to pay you! You need to add these details into the contract as to what the circumstances are if this was to happen.
  • I also found this article useful http://helgahenry.com/why-written-agreements-are-preferable-to-oral

p.s I am no legal advisor but realise you do not have to be to create a basic contract, however when large sums of money are involved and with big companies, I recommend taking legal advice.

By Natasha Steer

Area:   UK   Britain   East of England   East Midlands   London  North East   North West    Yorkshire    Scotland    South East South West    Wales   West Midlands

One thought on “Why It Is Important To Write Contracts – By Natasha Steer

  1. Yes, this is so, so important! I issue contracts BEFORE a single frame is shot. In fact, once the subject is happy with the concept, the contract should be made before any further efforts go into producing the piece in question. If the budget is covering other employees, i.e. crew, during your project, you *should* agree that the client settles at least half of the budget with you before you spend a penny. If the client doesn’t pay up, you are still responsible for paying your crew once their time has already been leant to the project. At least agree on an up-front amount that will cover their costs.

    Contracts can also be beneficial to the artistic process. You can use them to agree a limit to what changes an artist or their management can make to your work and how long you will work on the piece without additional pay. This’ll help you not to lose your ‘voice’ when the management come in and make their fussy changes.

    Even on smaller commissions freelancers should have a page of basic terms and conditions ready to send to each new employer. It saves a lot of time and legal rubbish. Trust me as someone who has had to chase clients for payment in the past and ended up in the small claims court. When you’ve only got evidence in the form of email conversations, an acknowledgement by the client of your terms and conditions will save you a lot of time.

    It’s a shame there are people out there who will take advantage of creatives, but it happens all the time. You should do as much as you can to protect yourself.

    By Neil Neenan

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