Contracts for Creatives
Master contracts & get back to the work you enjoy most.
Does the thought of spending hours every week on your legal contracts make you want to jump out of a window?
You’re in good company.
As a group, we creatives don't seem to get excited about legal stuff. Big words, lengthy contracts, boring...boring...boring.
But just because we excel at design, writing, art, illustration, or any other sort of creative work, doesn’t mean the important tasks of business (like legal stuff) can be left unattended.
Many designers, artists, writers, and other independent contractors would rather “risk it” on the premise that “most people are honest and good” than have to deal with legal work. Don't just "risk it" on the hope that everyone's honest.
And if you want to go light on the legal side, that’s fine.
But if you do nothing else, you must at least learn how to draft a binding contract that both you and your client can sign once you decide to embark on a creative project together.
Otherwise, you're walking in dangerous territory.
That's why we've created this simple guide: to help you understand the fundamentals of what it takes to protect yourself legally as a freelancer or solopreneur.
Here's what you'll get from the guide:
What this guide is...
This beginner's guide will teach you everything you need to know to get started with contracts. You'll find answers to common questions like
- What (exactly) is copyright?
- What rights do I have as a creative?
- Who owns my work?
- What should I put in my contracts?
and what it's NOT.
While this guide can dramatically improve the way you think and talk about legal issues, the guide is not perfect nor is it 100% definitive.
Take time to consult with a legal professional in your region and study the details that pertain to entrepreneurs and freelancers where you live and work specifically.
Written for creatives by creatives.
This guide wasn't written by a lawyer. And we're not a legal professionals. (In fact, you should consult one before taking action on anything in this guide.)
It’s easy to read.
But don't let the simplicity of the guide fool you: We've put hours of critical research into the information here.
This guide is not meant to be a lengthy read. It’s short. And we made it that way on purpose.
It’s meant to give you a foundation for creating contracts and act as a lasting resource as you continue in your creative career.
You can probably read the whole thing in less than an hour.
But it can take months and even years to master the principles found herein.
So, set aside all your fears about legal-speak, lofty definitions, and incomprehensible phraseology.
This is going to be easy.
If at any moment, among the legal speak and fancy jargon you have any questions about what a word or phrase means, check out the glossary (click the "G" on the left at any time).
By the time we’re done, you’ll be a contract-writing wizard.
You’ll be able to toss aside that sick feeling you get in the pit of your stomach every time you start a new project without signing a contract first. It's a beautiful thing and we can't wait to share it iwth you.
Here's what you'll learn in this 7-part guide
We've tried to break down this guide into the most important questions we hear from the Millo community about contracts and legal work. We've summarized below what you'll learn as you go through the guide.
If at any point, you want to skip ahead or go back, you can use the buttons below or the navigation to your left.
Part 1: What are my rights as a creative?
Before jumping in too deep, it's important to understand what inherent rights you have (or don't have) as a solopreneur or freelancer.Jump to Part 1
Part 2: What is copyright?
In this section, we'll answer common questions about what copyright is, how you obtain it, and how you can lose it. We'll discuss copyright in the U.S. and around the world.Jump to Part 2
Part 3: The blurry lines of freelancing
If you're a freelancer, contractor, or solopreneur doing creative work for other people, you'll want to take a moment to read this section closely as the lines of copyright ownership can get blurry when working for someone else under contract.Jump to Part 3
Part 4: Logos & trademarks
In this section, we'll cover one very critical exception to the copyright rules discussed in parts 2 & 3. If you design logos or work with someone who does, you won't want to miss this section.Jump to Part 4
Part 5: Terms you must have in each contract
Not every contract has to be 100 pages long. But every contract should have a few key basic terms and points. We cover some of the most important ones in this section.Jump to Part 5
Part 6: Usage rights—who owns what?
When you're doing work for other people as a freelancer or contractor, it can be hard to know who owns the work your creating, who has the right to display or use it after it's finished, and who owns all the discarded drafts or pitches. In this section, we'll clarify who owns what when you partner with another company.Jump to Part 6
Part 7: Contract samples + more resources
Enough talk, it's time to actually create your first contract.When you combine our easy-to-use templates with what you've learned so far in this guide, it's going to be a piece of cake.Jump to Part 7
BONUS: Legal glossary
In this final section, we've compiled a list of common legal words that you may need to reference while studying the guide. If you ever can't remember what the difference between copyright and trademark is, here's where you can find a quick reminder.Jump to the glossary
And that's about it. You'll find this easy-to-digest guide will make a mountain of difference in how you use, create, and read contracts in the future.
Let’s jump right in!
Use the navigation below to get started and continue through the guide in chronological order. If you ever need to skip around instead, try using the navigation to the left.