Sunday Mailbag: Freelance Contracts?

March 9th, 2014 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: Do you have a standard freelance contract or agreement you use with all your clients?

A: Yes and no. I do have a standard illustration contract/agreement I use with many clients, but not all. Many clients have their own agreements they have their illustrators sign with specific terms they need. In that case I sign theirs and do not need mine, as they both serve the same purpose: spelling out the copyright agreement and other terms for use of the illustration they are contracting me to create.

Of course, I have to read those carefully to make sure I know what I am agreeing to. I will occasionally ask for something to be changed, like a “kill fee” added in or something like that, but most are just variations of the same basic agreement.

Where did I get my agreement? It’s based on a standard illustration estimate/contract form from the Graphic Artists Guild’s Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines, with a couple of little changes on my part. I’d post a copy of it here for people to use, but as I got most of it from the GAG book I think it would be unethical to do that. See!… that book works! In fact there are several contracts in that book that working illustrators and graphic artists would find useful. Another source of excellent and practical legal advice and sample contracts and agreements is Tad Crawford’s Legal Guide for the Visual Artist. Both excellent resources.

Thanks to Grant Jonen for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


  1. Mark Hill says:

    Excellent advice, as always.

    I also based some of my contracts upon those in the GAG book…and while many clients use them, others have their own, (often larger companies or publishers). In those cases, careful reading and a perusal by your attorney is a good idea.

    One added note; as you have mentioned here in the past, the GAG book has listed somewhat ‘optimistic’ rates for most of us — and particularly for graphic artists starting out — but overall it’s an indispensable guide.


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