Contracts can be a pain, but they also do a lot of good work for you if you’re a contract laborer. (Contraction, Labor; OK that’s enough with the child birth references.)
Some performers would much rather avoid issuing contracts. Creating, sending, waiting for signed replies, amending, filing; all of this seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth sometimes. And it takes time to create a good contract, and then clients will ask for changes, or not read them, or not return signed replies. So, why do we do it?
So here is the short list of why you need a contract:
• To have something to refer to when a client asks you to do stuff you didn’t initially quote for. Fail to include everything, and you can end up putting in a lot more work than you are getting paid for.
• To protect yourself in the case that you need to cancel the project. What happens if you get sick or have to go out of town for an emergency. (it happens).
• To protect yourself if the client decides to cancel the project. You put in a lot of work already, you deserve to get paid whether they use that work or not.
• To ensure you get paid, when you are supposed to get paid, for the full amount that is agreed upon.
• To look pro and have your clients take you seriously! Most clients will think you don’t know what you are doing if you don’t have a contract, and they’ll be scared that they aren’t protected either if there isn’t one.
Of course, if your client does cancel or break the contract, you still might not get paid. It all comes down to how much of the contract the client is willing to honor. You are likely not going to take them to court. That’s why you should get a 50% non-refundable deposit for big jobs or high demand dates like holidays.
In my forty years in the business, I have only had a handful of issues regarding payment and cancellations. I do believe that, as much trouble as they are, that contracts generally improve your dealings with clients, and are worth it in the end.