Mikayla asks: hello Lisa! I was wondering about artist contracts, for when you sell commissions. What do you put in them? so you’re protected. how do you get online clients to sign or agree to that contract when they can’t physically sign it? would you have to do an online form that says I agree to the terms and conditions? if so how do you go about that?

Any help would be appreciated! 😀 thank you!

First I have to say I’m not a lawyer. What I do may not be the best way to protect yourself, so I do recommend talking to an actual lawyer about this. I will, however, share what I do. I talk with all of my clients through email, so I have records of the entire conversation about what they want, what the cost will be, what the time estimate will be etc. I am very clear in the emails as to what the price will be for the art, the shipping costs (if applicable), and the time frame.

The biggest recommendation I can give you is to require a non-refundable deposit. This is really what will protect you. Most of my clients pay me through Paypal. The paypal request for money should state what that fee is for. The thing with paypal is that custom work (like having a painting done etc) is not covered by paypal’s buyer protection. This means that the person can’t order something then decide after you’re half way done that they want their money back. They can of course, take you to court if you don’t hold up your end of the deal, but paypal won’t get involved and just refund them. This is an issue with paypal when selling other items. If someone wants their money back, paypal will generally require you to give them a refund even if you state that you have a no return policy. This is a pretty sore spot for sellers on ebay who state no refunds. Paypal doesn’t care. If it’s not a service or custom work, they will give the refund.

Most people who would flake on paying you for a commission aren’t going to pay the deposit in the first place so that alone is going to prevent a lot of problems. Never NEVER start a commission without getting that non-refundable deposit first. This is where most issues arise when doing custom work.

You can take this a step further and write up an actual contract that you can email and have them sign and email back to you. This, of course, will be a step above just relying on email. The big thing though is to make sure you have everything in writing. You don’t want your entire interaction with this person to take place over the phone where you have no written proof of what they’ve agreed to.  If you do write up a contract you will want both parties names on it, and any details agreed on. Do you charge an extra $50 per requested change on the painting? That should be in your contract. Do you allow the client to request changes at all? That should also be within the contract. Include the size, medium, time frame and everything like that that is relevant.

If you do want a real contract you can do a google search for “sales contract” or “custom order contract template”. There are tons of templates that you can modify to fit your own needs.