The blurry lines of freelancing
Copyright is easy when you create for yourself. But when someone else hires you, everything changes.
Now that we’ve talked about what copyright is and what it isn’t, it’s time to tackle the issue of legal rights when it comes to freelancing specifically.
Here’s why the lines get a little blurry: When a client hires you, they might assume you’re giving them exclusive rights to the work you create for them.
After all, what client hires a designer, pays them for their work, and then sees no problem with that same designer turning around and reselling the custom company logo they just created?
See the problem?
Without a contract (as we’ve learned above) you still have complete and exclusive ownership of your creative work.
But law and logic don’t match up here. Especially in the eyes of your client.
Step into their shoes for just a moment and imagine the same scenario: if you hire a freelance creative professional to design, write, or create something for your company, you naturally assume you own the final product that you pay for.
The truth is: legally, the creator of the work still owns copyright and can do anything they want with it. That includes reselling it or—worst case scenario—suing you for using their copyrighted material.Contracts protect both the client and the creative.
That’s why both the creative and the client need a contract.
Our goal in making and signing a contract is to define who owns what when all is said and done: you vs. your client.
Your contract will not only define who owns your work, it'll also answer these common questions:
- Does your client have exclusive usage rights?
- Does that mean you can’t use that work in your portfolio?
- What about all the versions they discarded during the creative process? Can you reuse or resell those?
- What if the client wants to make changes to the work you've given them? Do they need to consult you first?
A contract will help you answer all of these questions.
More importantly, a contract will help you answer all of these questions at the right time: before you begin working together.
These are all hard questions to answer after the work is completed. That’s why contracts are so vital to your creative business.
In the next sections we'll cover exactly who owns copyright in the work you produce for a client.