Being asked to produce commissioned work can be extremely exciting. After all, it shows that someone appreciates your work so much that they want you to make something just for them! 

Before you jump the gun and start working on the project, it’s important to make sure you have a Commission Agreement in place to protect your rights and interests, and prevent disputes arising down the track. Having a good agreement lays down the foundation to a strong relationship between you and the person commissioning the work. It could be the key to ensuring a successfully completed project, a happy client, and help pave the way to more commission opportunities.

Read on to learn more, as we look at what to look out for when drafting a Commission Agreement.

What Is An Artist Commission Agreement?

A Commission Agreement is a contract that establishes the terms and conditions of the relationship between an artist and the commissioner (that is, the person or group requesting the work to be made). 

A Commission Agreement will generally include clauses addressing the following:

  • Payment terms 
  • Design brief and deliverables
  • Intellectual property (IP) rights
  • Dispute resolution
  • Termination

Hammering out the details and ensuring that the rights and obligations of both parties are reflected in the Commission Agreement will help to ensure that you are on the same page as the person commissioning the work. This makes sure that everyone is confident with the process and minimises risk of misinterpretation or confusion in the future. 

Commission Agreements that are too simple or use general terms (e.g. reasonable, appropriate, satisfactory) may risk leaving the terms of the agreement open to interpretation. If there is an argument or disagreement, you will need to make sure that the contract doesn’t end up creating more questions than it does providing answers.

Taking the time to draft a comprehensive agreement can assist with keeping both parties accountable. A detailed agreement can clearly define expectations for the project and working relationship and ultimately keep both parties accountable.

Be sure to keep the Commission Agreement on hand so it is easy to refer to whenever you need to. 

When Should You Use A Commission Agreement?

Use a Commission Agreement whenever you are engaged to produce a specific work for someone else. Regardless of the size of the project, formalising the arrangement in writing demonstrates a sense of professionalism and protects you if an unexpected event occurs that affects the project or relationship. 

Don’t start working on the project before a Commission Agreement has been signed by both yourself and the person or group commissioning the work.

Why Is It So Important?

As an artist, having a Commission Agreement in place not only guarantees that you will be paid, but it also helps to ensure that you will be paid on time. 

What your clients wants you to create may change and shift over time. It is important that you are compensated for the time and effort you have put into the project, even if it is delayed or cancelled altogether. 

Additionally a Commission Agreement can implement specific timelines and processes that must be followed throughout. For example, it may require meetings to take place to ensure that you and your client’s vision of the work continue to align. These catch-ups also offer your client an opportunity to provide you with feedback and direction so that they are happy with the final work you produce.

What Is In An Artist’s Commission Agreement?

As we mentioned earlier, a Commission Agreement will typically deal with things such as payment terms, details about the work itself, timelines and due dates, IP ownership, how disputes are to be resolved, and how the contract can be terminated.

Payment Terms

Be realistic and open about how much work is involved in producing the work and what materials you will need to make it happen. Don’t forget to discuss things such as framing, shipping and delivery, installation, and any other costs that may not be directly related to the production of the work itself.

When do you want payment to be made? A common practice is to require a 50% deposit before you start work, and the 50% balance upon completion. You may want to consider the costs of materials needed to create the work. If it is a large-scale project, you may require a bigger deposit to cover these costs.

You may also want to outline a penalty for any payments that are not made by the due date.

Furthermore, you could include provisions to deal with unforeseen circumstances. For example, what happens if the project is delayed for any reason? What happens if your client requires more changes and modifications to be made? It is likely that your client will bear these additional costs, but it is important to include a statement to this effect in the Commission Agreement to avoid being left out of pocket.

Design Brief And Deliverables

It may be obvious, but including the design brief is an essential component of the Commission Agreement. After all, this section describes the concept and work you have been engaged to produce. It may also outline any applicable project requirements or constraints.

You may wish to include references to similar works, as well as sketches or prototypes of the work you propose to create. 

In addition to this, this section could include a timeline and estimates for the production stages of the work. You may want to outline or schedule when meetings with your client should take place to receive feedback or updated requests. Any additional meetings or requests beyond this should be charged according to your payment terms.

Intellectual Property

This section defines who owns the work once it is completed. 

Unless otherwise stipulated by the Commission Agreement, you will retain copyright over the work. You may grant your client a copyright licence to use your work and include the licence costs in the initial fee you charge. Be sure to set out the terms of the licence clearly and clarify that you retain copyright. 

Alternatively, you can transfer IP to your client. This will permanently and irrevocably transfer the ownership of IP, allowing them to use the work however they wish. If you go down this route, make sure you are remunerated appropriately and are able to retain the right to reproduce the work for nominated purposes (e.g. for your portfolio, promotional material, or submissions for grants or awards). 

Dispute Resolution

Hopefully you won’t need to refer to this section of the Commission Agreement, but it is always best to be prepared for anything, including a situation in which you and your client have a disagreement. 

The dispute resolution clause sets out the processes for working out disputes that may arise during the agreement – from who pays for any changes to the work, to whether the project has been completed to a satisfactory standard. A common method of dispute resolution is mediation with a mutually appointed independent mediator, with costs worn by the client.

Termination

How can the agreement be ended and what happens if it is terminated before you finish working on the project? This clause should outline the circumstances in which the agreement can be terminated, as well as the processes that must take place. 

If you have already started working on the project, this clause can ensure that you get paid for the work completed up until the point of termination. 

Need Help

Whether you’re on your first or hundredth commissioned work, it’s important to have a Commission Agreement that protects you and your work. If you need advice or assistance drafting a Commission Agreement that is tailored to your specific situation, you can reach out to us for a free, no-obligations chat on 1800 730 617 or at team@sprintlaw.com.au

About Sprintlaw

Sprintlaw is a new type of law firm that operates completely online and on a fixed-fee basis. We’re on a mission to make quality legal services faster, simpler and more affordable for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

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