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Contractors: Safeguard your rights

For the service providers of all kind, art, audio and programming, we sell our services online, it's essential to manage the risks. Here're some of my tips

   Our company Beijing Novtilus has provided art design &  production service to the game industry for more than 7 years, and during this time, every contracted work is successfully delivered, and the clients make due payment, no dispute has ever arised.

   However, it doesn’t mean that every project has gone smoothly as we have expected. I think for my fellow service providers, no matter what you sell online, art work, programming, music, etc, it’s very important to take some notes to safe guard your rights. Here I have a few points to share. The very first thing is, your clients are buying services online, they want to safe guard their rights, too. So, put yourself in their shoes, to help build trust.


Terms for testing work:

    Typically, a first time client would ask to do a piece of test work. Try to engage the client to give a piece that they could actually use in the game, and later if the test result comes out good, they would pay for the work.

    We often start the test work without signing a contract, and without upfront payment. The testing term often goes like this: if the result is good, we get payment and the order; If the result is bad, we get no payment and the client goes away without any obligation.

    I know this may put us to disadvantage, but the client will trust us.

    The premise is that you should first judge if the client is someone you can trust. If someone comes to you with a gmail and without any company info, and his/her Linked-in profile is not solid enough, you should pay extra caution.

    Try to make the testing package small, for example less than $1000 cost. In this way you can complete it soon that the clients may see the effect, and your investment is limited.

    On our part, we often get the payment and order. In some cases, the client may not have imminent project for us(or the project dies), but it’s not a loss to us, for we have made the most effectual advertisement of our service.  


Terms for contracted work:

For formal work, typically the client would sign a contract with you. It takes care of the rights of both sides, with the work & payment terms and some legal issues stated. Beside these, Some terms you should include, that later they would do you a great service:

 1)Upfront terms.

You should first reach an agreement with the client, about the percentage for the upfront, and make it clear that only after the money reaches your account, you would make the first work delivery. Be nice and earn your client’s trust, otherwise they would hesitate to pay you the upfront.

 2) Final work delivery/payment terms.

It says, when the final work is completed, you first submit preview to the client(jepg format). If it’s approved, the client would process the full payment, then you deliver the full size, layered PSD files.

In principle, it makes the transaction perfectly safe for both of you.

And please keep in mind, most contractor seekers in the industry are honest people, you should not worry they would not pay you. But without clear stipulation, you would get paid very long after the work is delivered. With this term in place, you can get payment in time.

For some big companies, the delivery/payment terms is not something can be discussed, they often have set rules. For example, the payment is made on Net 15 basis(You get the payment within 15 days after the work is done). In this case, you should be at ease, send the work and wait for the payment.

 3) 5 day’s auto approval

The art work is often done in stages (So the other types of work). For example, the draft first, then the colored work.

More often than not, after certain stage of work is sent to the client, they would let you want unreasonably long before giving feedback. Some times because they are busy, or simply due to mismanagement. The bad news is that you would take much longer to complete the work and get paid.

So you may need this entry to your contract:

“After the Contractor submits certain stage of work to the Client, the Client should make prompt comments; If the Client makes no response to the Contractor within 5 work days, the work is deemed approved.”

In practice, it doesn’t mean you should proceed to the next stage if the client doesn’t reply you in time. It only helps to put some urgency to the cooperation in legal form.


Water marks:

    There was a practice to send water marked picture before the final money is paid. I think all the art service providers should be careful about this. It plainly tells the client “I don’t trust you.”


If the client vanishes during cooperation:

     Sometimes, after you make the delivery, the client vanishes, not reply you email for a long time. I know most people would incline to think of the dark side: “This guy wants to use my work without paying it.” Trust me, it’s rare that people would really play foul against you. For today the world is so transparent, with blogs and social medias. If someone plays dirty in business, words will be spread soon and the person in question would be utterly ruined.   

     We know the game industry is so precarious, that most probably your clients is having some difficulties of founding, even the project or the company dies.

     In this situation, you should first write a polite mail to the client, asking what is happening, and find a solution how to proceed or conclude the work.

     If the client still refuses to talk to you, you can be more pressing. Now I believe most honest people would feel the gravity, and talk to you. If your client doesn’t care about his/her credit, there’s nothing you can do. For it often isn’t worth the trouble to roll out an international law suit, unless it’s a really big contract, or your client is really rich. And it won’t do you any good that you actually go to broadcast this tale, either. Unless you want to gain yourself some publicity.


More of my articles about games & art production:

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