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Mural Artist Agreements: Get on the Same Page as Your Clients

Protecting your work & your reputation.



You’re a mural artist, so of course you want to just dive right in and start creating beautiful works of art. But hold up – before you pick up that paintbrush or sketch out the first lines of a mural, you need to get on the same page as your client. We get it, written agreements can feel stuffy and formal, but they’re a must if you want to avoid sticky situations down the road. We’ll break down the key things you need to include to protect yourself and set clear expectations. That way you can relax and focus on bringing your creative vision to life, not worrying about potential disagreements. So grab a cup of coffee and let’s chat about how to craft a mural artist agreement that works.

 

The Benefits of Using a Written Agreement

If you want to get on the same page with your client and set clear expectations, using a written agreement is key. A written contract helps avoid confusion by spelling out the details of your arrangement in black and white. This way, if questions or disputes come up down the road, you have something concrete to refer back to. Without this, misunderstandings can easily arise, and you may end up fighting over what was originally agreed upon.

 

Clear Expectations

A written agreement allows you to map out the scope of work, timeline, payment terms, and other key points so everyone knows exactly what to expect.


Legal Protection

While a verbal agreement may feel less formal, it won’t hold up if legal issues arise. A written contract helps protect you legally by giving you a binding agreement you can enforce or defend if needed. This is especially important for long-term or high-value projects.

 

Using a written agreement for your next mural or commission project is really a win-win. It gives you confidence, helps build a good working relationship with your client, and protects you legally. So take the time to draft an agreement – your future self will thank you.

 

What to Include in Your Artist Agreement

 

When it comes time to sign on the dotted line, make sure your agreement covers all of the essentials.

 

Scope of Work

Be extremely clear about what the client is hiring you to do. Provide details like the size and subject matter of the mural or commission painting. Leaving this open to interpretation is asking for misunderstandings and disputes.


Payment Terms

Outline exactly how much the client will pay and when. We recommend asking for a deposit to get the project started and then structuring payments at key milestones if the project takes more than a month. Don’t forget to include a “kill fee” in case the client cancels for any reason. You’ve invested time and resources, so you deserve to be compensated.


In some cases commercial clients may have a 30-day or 60-day net payment. This leaves a freelancing artist floating without payment. Talk to the client about getting an exception and explain that you need to be able to pay your own bills while you are working on their project. Many times clients can accommodate this request.


Copyright Ownership

Who will own the rights to the final work? As an artist, you’ll typically want to retain your rights to your work. We add a clause that the artist retains copyright, however, the client may use the artwork for marketing purposes for online and print as long as they credit the artist somewhere on the materials. Using the artwork for resale of prints or on products is not allowed. This can be separately negotiated and at an additional cost using a licensing agreement.


If a client would like to have full rights, you may want to do this on a case-by-case basis, but be very careful when you are giving up your rights. Once the art is fully in a clients legal hands, they may do whatever they want with the art including sell it on any products or crop it or change it. You should be compensated well if you give up your full rights.


How to Set Clear Expectations with Clients Upfront

When taking on a new mural or commission project, have an open conversation with your client about what they envision for the final result. Go over the details like subject matter, color palette, size and placement. Sometimes the client has a mood board or example images that they can share. It’s also helpful to ask the client what they saw in your portfolio that drew them to hiring you for the project.


Design Phase

Let your client know how many rounds of design changes that are included in the overall pricing of your mural or commission. We typically include 3 rounds of changes. After 3 rounds, the client will be billed by the hour.


It’s important to set a timeline for your client before you start this phase. Some clients are not in any hurry and the project can be delayed for weeks because the client is not responding or giving you feedback. Be clear with your client that if they have a specific completion date for the project, then the design phase must be completed in a reasonable time. For example, 7-10 days is a good goal to have the design phase completed.


In addition, it’s a good idea to make sure that your client understands that the design is not an exact replica of what the mural or painting will look like. Most artists are working with digital sketch/designs and creating the piece in acrylic, aerosol or oil. The medium will give the final piece a different look & feel. We have run into confusion with clients who are unhappy with the design because they cannot envision the transition from digital to acrylic. It’s good to have prior examples to show the client so that they have a better idea of this process.

 

Project Date Changes

What happens when a client confirms dates for install and then changes them at the last minute? You need to be clear with your client that when you reserve and confirm the dates of install, you are now holding the dates only for them. Which means that you are not taking on another paying project. This is a loss of income if the client decides to change the install dates at the last minute and a Change Order fee will be charged to compensate for this loss.

 

Set Milestones

Lay out a timeline for key milestones, like preliminary sketches, color samples, progress updates and final installation or delivery. This helps give the client an idea of what to expect and when, so there are no surprises. It also encourages the client to provide feedback at certain points so you can make any necessary adjustments to stay on the same page.


Specify what’s included

Be extremely clear about what is included in the total cost. For example, state whether you will provide all materials and if you handle the installation/mounting or if that is the client’s responsibility. Does the wall need to be cleaned? Does it need to be primed? Is it new construction and cement needs to be tested for moisture? Adding a sealant? Protective top coats? Is the artist doing this, or is the client going to do this? Any additional changes or additions can then be discussed as potential add-ons to the contract. 


Should I charge a deposit or get paid upfront?

For commissions, charging a 50% deposit upfront is standard practice. This ensures the client is committed to the project before you invest significant time. The remaining payment is due upon completion and delivery of the final work. For murals, an initial design fee and a payment schedule over the course of the project based on key milestones is a good approach.

 

How much should I charge?

Research the going rates for similar work in your area to determine pricing. Factor in the size, complexity, your experience level, cost of materials, and any usage or licensing rights. It’s also a good idea to calculate your minimum hourly rate based on your expenses to ensure that you are charging enough. Don’t undervalue your work – you are a professional artist providing a specialized service.


Charging appropriately, using written agreements and clarifying key details upfront will help ensure smooth sailing and happy clients on your creative journey.

 

 

 

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