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Illustrator Cory Kerr Makes the Case for Using a Contract

Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 11, 2016

“Good clients come from good relationships. Good relationships come from managing and meeting expectations. Expectations start at contracts.” This is how illustrator Cory Kerr begins his podcast, “Contracts and the Apocalypse.” The 11-minute video is directed to illustrators who are new to the business side of illustration, or who are uncomfortable with using contracts.

At the outset, Kerr allays fears that using contracts will scare away good business. In fact, Kerr warns that clients who are unwilling to sign a contract may be trying to evade paying the illustrator. Kerr also addresses the discomfort illustrators have in assigning a value to their work: “Value in exchange for value is how business works. And even if you're an artist or musician or some sort of creative, just because that seems more fun doesn't mean [you’re] not providing value and it doesn't mean it's not a business transaction.” Kerr stresses that exposure – creating work for free in exchange for publicity – is rarely a value-for-value exchange since, as he points out, clients rarely can offer the kind of exposure that would reward the illustrator adequately.

Kerr makes arguments for why illustrators should use contracts, and provides a quick overview of what contracts should establish: price, deliverables, payment schedule, and kill fee. Kerr also gives a huge plug for our Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. (One clarification on Kerr’s presentation: the Handbook includes pricing tables created from pricing information provided by artists nationwide. These do not represent pricing the Guild recommends that artists charge, but rather, provide guidelines on what artists’ peers are charging.) The Handbook includes a full complement of sample contracts for a number of disciplines, and can be purchased either in print or, as a three-volume set, in eBook format.

Kerr has enhanced his podcast with a mesmerizing video of him working on a motorcycle-themed illustration, The Four Horseman. It’s an incongruous but delightful touch that somehow works in engaging the viewers’ attention, while not detracting from Kerr’s soliloquy.

Video © Cory Kerr. Used with permission.

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