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Writing Your Own Contract: Pre-Contract Checklist

by Mark Monlux

Here is a list of items that you should discuss with your client before you write up your contract. These questions should be covered in early phone conversations and confirmed with a signature.

Determining the Estimate

(Remember—a bid is locked in, an estimate is not.)


  • Time/Rate
  • Budgeting
  • Meetings
  • Research
  • Concept Development
  • Thumbnails, Roughs
  • Comp Preparation
  • Type Design
  • Type Specifications

  • Layout
  • Color Selections
  • Production Supervision
  • Production Coordination 
(proofing output, printer)
  • Revisions
  • Delivery
  • Rush Fee
  • Paperwork 
(final bill calculations: invoices; phone time)


  • Telephone charges
  • Special software or apps
  • Storage – discs, thumb drive, memory card, external hard drive, cloud subscription
  • Hosting services
  • Printouts/Proofs

  • Photography
  • Scans
  • Supplies and Props
  • Postage/Freight/Courier

Terms & Payment

  • Who is billed?
  • Advanced payment –- how much?
  • Progressive payments –- how many?

  • Payment upon completion, OR
  • Payment by invoice (30 days)
  • Interest added (or late charge) on past 30 day account

Licensing Rights

  • Is the license national, local, or regional?
  • Is it for limited or unlimited usage?
  • If limited, define re-use rights.
  • Always state time and location limits.
  • Know your re-use fees in advance
(or include them in your original contract).

  • Determine who owns original work.
  • Determine a time for return of work not owned by you or your client.
  • Be concise about who negotiates rights when subcontracting. Will the client negotiate rights/fees with contractor or subcontractor?
  • Are you flexible in negotiating your rights and amendments for re-use rights?


Kill Fee: Some people like to charge a “Kill Fee” (this is usually a percentage of the total estimate) for work that has been cancelled. Another option is to cover yourself by asking for a downpayment before work begins.

Client Approval: Remember to get your client’s signature of approval not only throughout the process, but a final approval before going to press! It’s not a bad idea to state that final signature approval is required in your contract.

This article was originally published in the Graphic Artists Guild column, Dear Mark.

© 2009 All Dear Mark materials are copyrighted by Mark Monlux, and may not be reproduced in any way without expressed written permission.

DISCLAIMER: To the best of my action or belief the material posted on “Dear Mark” discusses general principles of law in response to issues of concern to the illustration community. Nothing posted by Mark Monlux should be construed to be a substitute for advice of counsel regarding the specific facts and circumstances of an individual case.

Laws and their interpretation differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Legal advice addressing a specific situation should be sought from an attorney duly licensed in the appropriate jurisdiction.