Written By: Nana Annan
A good friend of mine once told me he does not have a contract because he is not planning to sue his clients, nor them him. That is all well and good, but that is not the entire point of a contract! A contract is a great way to document the promises both you and your client make regarding your services and what your client is giving you (typically money) in exchange. It does not have to be 50-pages worth of doom and gloom, and you can certainly stay true to your personality while including all pertinent information in it. A contract also provides a written roadmap for what happens should either of you be unable to keep the promises made in it. In a perfect world, everyone will do as verbally promised and there will be no chance of forgetting or any kind of disagreement between you and your client. In the real world however, we have an unfortunate habit of forgetting things we said in the past, and everything is great until it is not.
Capturing life is an emotional endeavor so before the date of the service, when emotions are at their peak, be sure that everyone knows what to expect! Make sure you and your client are only crying for good reasons!
1. Key Elements
Your contract identifies the key elements of your service, which typically includes, but is not limited to, who you are providing the service to; how much the service costs and who is paying for it; the form or method of payment, and if there is a schedule, what the due dates are; the date(s), time(s), and location(s) of the service; and, if applicable, the types of products the client can expect from you at the conclusion of the session or event. If any of these elements change, be sure to update this in writing that you both acknowledge.
2. Postponement or Cancellation
Everyone expects their session or event to go without a hitch, but what if the client cannot make it at the agreed upon time, or circumstances have changed and they cannot make it at all? Your contract spells out your expectations of your client as far as informing you about the postponement or cancellation, the impact on your business, and the most anticipated part, how payments will be handled.
We typically think that clients will be the ones who, for whatever reason, are temporarily or permanently unavailable for a session or event, but that is definitely not the case. There are instances where you may not be able to make a session or event. Your contract spells out what happens if for some reason you are not available for the session or event and potential solutions or remedies for your client.
Other protections that are spelt out in a contract include those that cover dangerous conditions or unexpected occurrences for which parties to the contract should indemnify each other. Your client should understand that they are responsible for their actions and those of their guests and other vendors, if applicable. Conversely, they are protected against any damage you cause.
4. Copyright and/or Usage Rights
“Wait what? That’s my face in those pictures and I paid for them so I should be able to do whatever I want with them, and say who else can!” Ah, not so fast! Your contract should give clients a clear understanding of who owns what, and how you and they can or will use the images. This is where many future issues arise, so tread carefully!
5. Governing Law
Okay, so some things were unclear or there was this one crazy circumstance that no one could have possibly anticipated that was not included in your contract, and things did not work out happily. In anticipation of this unlikely event, your contract should be clear on how you handle disagreements and the state in which you will do so.
Clearly, the reasons listed above are a small subset of why clients should sign your contract. You should work with a lawyer to make sure you are adequately covered in your state as laws can differ from state to state!
About the author:
Nana is a wedding photographer based in NJ and serves as the COO of one of the oldest non-profit youth development agencies in New York City. She is proud of what she considers to be her “nerd credentials” and has a B.Sc. in Computer Science from Spelman College and J.D. from Boston University, but her true superpower is keeping up with her two children and husband!