When working in the creative industries, it is really important that you form agreements with people before engaging them. Even if you are an independent artist working with another independent artist in your backyard — make an agreement. Problems only arise when two people’s expectations don’t match up.
An agreement, MoU, contract, letter of engagement, waiver or quote — call it what you want. Each one has a different format and varying levels of information, but they are all communication devices that let both parties communicate what they are getting themselves into, what they can expect from the other person and what is expected of them.
It puts all the vital information in one place and you can refer back to it if there are any miscommunications. It’s about setting up the right conditions from the beginning for creativity and good relationships to flourish.
If you are new to forming agreements it can be as simple as working through the questions below, putting them in a PDF as dot points and emailing it to the person you are engaging with then getting them to email back and say they have read it, understood it and agree.
What personal/business information do you need to identify both parties? E.g. name, address, phone number, role, email, ABN etc.
What is this agreement for? What are you both working on? 100 words max.
What are the start and end dates? How many hours are involved? Are you exchanging money? How much and for what? How will it get paid? Is GST involved? Is Superannuation involved?
Are there key dates and milestones that you both need to work to? List them here.
Your obligations to (insert name)
What can they expect from you? How do you like to work? How will you credit or acknowledge them publicly? How do you like to handle communication? Is there anything that’s off-limits for you? List them here.
(insert name) Obligations to you
What do they expect from you? How do they want to work with you? How will they credit or acknowledge you publicly? How often do they want to communicate with you? Do they need to let you know about something if it changes? List them here.
Terms and Conditions
What happens if there is a disagreement? How will you handle it? What if one person no longer wants to be involved? What happens if someone gets sick? What happens if an unexpected life event occurs? Who owns the intellectual property right? What if this project leads to a future opportunity? When will you need a new agreement? Write it down, even if it seems obvious.
Any other business
You can write all sorts of things in agreements, in all sorts of formats. What else might you want to include? Do you have an agreed-on measurement of success? Objectives? Outcomes?
The last thing to remember about forming agreements is that everything is best worked out in conversation and through negotiation or reason. A written agreement should not be used to hold each other accountable in a disagreement, but to remember your common ground and mutual understanding.