First Things First…
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I interviewed Christina Scalera, owner of The Contract Shop!
This is a post you don’t want to miss. Christina told us all about the five things calligraphers should have in their contracts.
This is actually the second time Christina has been on my YouTube Channel. A couple years ago, she came on to talk about copyrights for artists. It’s an oldie but a goodie, and you can view the post right here.
Christina founded The Contract Shop, which sells contracts for creative entrepreneurs and artists. They’ve really refined their contracts, so they cover everything from the start, so you don’t have to worry about them.
Contracts intimidate people, but they don’t have to be scary. Christina is going to break it down for us!
Rather watch than read? No problem! You can watch my interview with Christina in real-time by clicking the video below!
Let’s Get Started!
Before we jumped right in to Christina’s must-haves in calligrapher contracts, I asked her a few questions.
What would you say to someone who is doing calligraphy for clients and isn’t using a contract?
This could be because they didn’t know they should be using a contract or because they feel awkward about making things too formal.
- The relationship needs to matter to you and needs to be memorialized through some sort of written agreement – even if it’s just an email. The relationship is so important, and it’s critical to establish expectations. What do you expect for the client other than just payment? Do you want them to get back to you by a certain date? Are they going to be providing any materials or signage? You need to memorialize these in a written agreement.
- If the relationship is important to you, even if it’s your best friend, you need to have a contract. The contract gets to be your scapegoat if things go south – you both have time to read it, review it, and sign it, so you can refer back to it if things don’t work out.
- The second thing is whether or not you’re having money mindset issues. If you don’t have something written down about what the payment looks like, when it will be paid, etc., it can be challenging to lean on your client to do those things. If it’s not in a contract, it’s unclear what they’re paying, how they’re paying, when they’re paying, etc. If money is important to you, it needs to be written down in a client agreement.
- If you don’t have a client agreement, it sends a message to your clients that you don’t care about their interests. A contract is there to protect both you and your client. It’s a sign of caring and a deep place of service that you’re willing to put into writing what you’re going to provide, when, and for how much.
Are there instances when an email is acceptable since it’s in writing or should it be a PDF that’s formally sent over and physically signed?
Christina recommends you do have something in writing. She said she never recommends physical signatures because it’s a pain. Digital signatures are much more convenient. Resources like HelloSign or DocuSign let you send contracts for free each month. You can just swap out the few things that change just as fast if not faster than writing it all out in an email.
The few things that change are often called a term sheet in lawyer lingo. These are basically the small parts of a contract that actually change from one client to the next – specific services, deadlines, dates, payment, etc. Your information as the business owner is always the same though and shouldn’t change much if at all. You’re only swapping out the things that will change from client to client. Lawyers will email a bulleted list of what it is the two parties are agreeing on in a specific circumstance.
Any kind of written agreement, even if it’s just email, is still valid and can be considered an agreement. Christina does still recommend a formal agreement though. If the email is all you have, you can use it in small claims court, but you’d have to track down all the back and forth versus just using the neat agreement all in one place.
You can use the emails though. You can do all the back and forth and then send them an email that summarizes everything they’re agreeing to in a bulleted list. Doing this will cover the client agreement side of things – it covers what you and the client are agreeing to. It doesn’t necessarily cover all of the legal things. If you want more liability protection, go with a formal contract.
Christina’s FIVE Things Calligraphers Should Have in their Contracts
#1: Make sure your numbers are specific.
If you’re providing a specific amount of envelopes or charging a specific price per envelope, make sure you’re listing those out. If you’re not sure exactly how many envelopes they’re going to need, put “quantity to be determined” but still list out the price. That way the client at least knows the price they’re agreeing to. If something isn’t immediately clear, like maybe they don’t know the guest count yet, that’s totally fine. Just list them as “to be determined.” But make sure you’re listing your pricing – your hourly rate, rate per item, rate per style, etc. Make sure they’re aware there may be different prices based on style, material, etc. Be very specific even if you don’t know the specific quantities or hours.
If you have a price list or handout that lists prices with variations, that’s a great thing to include with the contract too. They need to know the prices they’re agreeing to, and you need to be sure you’re providing those prices.
It’s nice to have all of your prices and variations all in one place. You can make it like an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for your business.
#2: Determine who is responsible for buying the materials and how the client will be invoiced for those.
If you’re providing the envelopes, for example, are you charging them at cost or adding a surcharge? You don’t have to tell the client if you are adding a surcharge, but you have to determine what you are going to charge the client for those and you HAVE to tell them ahead of time. If you’re not sure how much it’s going to be, you can have a provision to cover it. The provision should say that you will find out the cost and notify them for approval before you purchase on their behalf, they have to respond before purchase is made, etc. Then you can invoice them ~7days before the purchase is made – that way you’re paid up front.
If it’s a larger item like a mirror that the client is providing, how are you receiving the item to letter on? How is the client receiving the item back? All of those things need to be established ahead of time. If it’s an heirloom mirror or something super expensive, they need to provide insurance for that item in case it gets damaged in transit or at the event. If they don’t want insurance, they can choose to not get it. They need to know though that you’re not accepting liability as the business owner if something happens.
#3: A “no pause” clause or a financial penalty if they go MIA.
This happens a lot. Life happens. However, if a client stops responding or stops paying or something, you still deserve to be paid. If they changed their mind about the project or they wanted something adjusted or needed a payment plan, they had that opportunity before the contract was signed.
As the calligrapher, you need to have a clause that says you’re not going to pause the work if the client doesn’t get back to you within XX amount of days. You’re not going to pause the project – you’re going to put their project on hold. They may potentially have to pay you to “restart” their project – typically about 10% of the total service charge. This incentivizes people to not push pause on their project. Pausing projects interferes with your workflow, prevents you from taking on another client during that time, etc. You need to be compensated for that time. The client needs to respect your time.
Little nuances like a no-pause clause help to establish your legitimacy as a business to your client. This isn’t just a little hobby – this is your livelihood, your business. Treat your business like a business.
#4: Shipping – iron out your shipping details.
Insurance: You need to establish who is providing insurance on the shipment. Either the client is insuring the shipment or you are. If you are providing it, be sure you’re incorporating that cost into your pricing schedule.
Timing: You also need to specify the time of shipment. Obviously the client needs to respond to you by established deadlines knowing when it needs to be shipped. You should keep in mind potential shipping delays (like a winter wedding in Canada). You need to make sure all of those potential delays are established and thought through.
Customs: You can include something in your contract about customs and shipping. You can state that you will declare accurate information for custom purposes and will not do anything illegal. Some people will request inaccurate reporting to reduce customs fees. THIS IS ILLEGAL – don’t do it.
If you aren’t familiar with shipping speeds, costs, options, etc., go to the post office or shipping company and ASK those questions before adding it to your contract. Do the research specific for your business – you don’t want to get screwed over. Make sure you’re putting the correct shipping times and rates in your contract. Feel free to overestimate in your contract – you can always do it faster or cheaper.
You can also add a shipping amendment to your contract in case those prices or times do change. These amendments can be via email. ““Hey, I’m changing THIS, do you agree?” “Yes I do.” Etc.” It’s okay if you mess up something shipping related – just fix it via an amendment in an email. Don’t make a habit of it though! 🙂 Customer experience is always key.
#5: General provisions.
This is something everybody forgets! The problem is if you just consider the services or just the librability, etc., it doesn’t consider the full agreement. You need some general provisions that make this a solid legal document that will help it hold up in court.
- Governing law: This is where any disputes would be handled (generally where the service provider is located).
- Severability – If anything in the agreement is unenforceable, the rest of the agreement still holds up.
- A merger clause (Christina’s favorite!): This means that the contract is the final agreement between the service provider and the client. Every conversation, every request, every text – it is memorialized in this contract. For example, if your email says an envelope is $4 but your contract says it’s $4.25, your contract stands. Amendments are allowed after though. Even though the amendments live in your email, they are part of that final contract too.
- Dispute resolution: If you do have a dispute, it’s going to go to an alternative resolution. Usually mediation or someone that will go between you two to work it out instead of going to a full-on lawsuit.
- Titles (the sections and provisions): If the title doesn’t capture the spirit of what the clause actually says, we’re going to go with what the clause actually says.
These general provisions are such easy fixes, so make sure you’re including them. You don’t have to start from scratch on a contract each time you get a new client. Just update the small areas that need switched out and send!
DIY contracts can often miss this stuff.
I used to DIY my contract and eventually purchased Christina’s contract instead. In my first three clients after I bought it, I had a situation. Christina’s contract includes a clause about selling my lettered pieces after the fact.
I was going to do a bunch of wedding signage for a client. There was probably $1000 worth of signage for this job. A lot of it was custom, but there was one thing that was super general, like “welcome to our wedding.” No names. No dates. When I sent the client the contract, she replied and asked about that one clause. She wanted to rent out the sign to other brides after her own wedding.
I was so grateful I had Christina’s contract! I would have never known to include that in my own contract.
I told her “Thanks for asking, no… Here’s my updated price if you want to use it for rental purposes” which is a lot more. She ended up not hiring me. It stung, but it would have sucked way worse to see her making money off of my own work later on.
And that’s a wrap!
I truly do recommend spending the money and purchasing one of Christina’s contracts. They’re SO good. I don’t even have to think twice about mine now. I send it to every single client, and I know everything I need is in there.
If you want to hear a traumatic story about someone who wished they would have had a contract, go listen to the last couple of minutes of my interview with Christina. Ommgggggg.
Wanna connect with Christina?
You can find all of Christina’s contracts at TheContractShop.com!
For a full contract checklist, check out RockSolidContract.com. You can compare your contract to the checklist to make sure you have everything you need. It doesn’t include Christina’s friendly language though!
For Christina’s first interview on my show, you can check it outhere.
And finally, your dad joke…
What do you call an agreement between two alligators?