Crooked Business

Why your creative business NEEDS contracts (a real-life example)

A creative business without contracts in place

Let me tell you about the biggest fail I've had in my business.


A couple years ago, a company approached me to create some signage for a huge event they were organizing. The company was well-known in the creative business community in Los Angeles and the event was GIGANTIC. 

There were red flags from the very beginning. The signs were large (3x5 feet) and there were over 80 of them to do. The timing was tight. And the company seemed a bit...disorganized. 

BUT, I was only 15 months into my business and I thought this project would get me a lot of exposure. They were going to pay me $1500, more than I had ever made on a single job. And I had worked with this company a few times before, trading my services for their services. 

Also, I had gotten to know the point person at the company and she had always been so kind and helpful. So I agreed to the project and here's the kicker... I DIDN'T GET A CONTRACT SIGNED AND I DIDN'T ASK FOR PAYMENT IN ADVANCE.


Now, you know how this goes right? 

Yup. I worked my ass off for a full week. Hauled these huge signs around. Lettered until midnight...... and then never got paid. 

You know what the worst thing was? The mental and emotional turmoil of it all. I went back and forth with this "kind and helpful" woman for months. She kept telling me the payment was coming. My e-mails and voicemails got more and more desperate. I started researching small claims court. 

And the whole time, my heart was just torn up. I HATE conflict. I was SO DISAPPOINTED that people could do this. It fundamentally changed the way I thought about business.

Looking back, the money was not that big a deal. It was the mental anguish that was the most painful part. 


Here are the hard, but important, lessons I learned:

  • CONTRACT - Always get one signed. It clarifies all of the expectations, boundaries, deliverables, timing on BOTH SIDES. And it gives you a solid weapon against getting cheated out of payment. 

  • PAYMENT - Get at least 50% of it in advance. Always. This is non-negotiable. 

  • SYSTEMS - Have a plan in place for dealing with stuff like non-payment. Then you can follow the system, not your emotions.

  • IT'S NOT PERSONAL - It's business. You may have a wonderful relationship with an employee, or even the owner, of a business. But money makes people do weird stuff. Treat business dealings like business.

Now, if you're thinking "SHIT! I need a contract... but I can't afford to hire an attorney” I may have the perfect solution for you:


My friend Christina Scalera founded The Contract Shop to give creative business owners access to quality contracts without having to pay thousands of dollars. 

Each contract template is drafted and reviewed by several attorneys to make sure they’re airtight. They’re easy to use; you just plug in the information for your particular client and project and - voila! - you have a thorough, professional contract in place.


(Psst...this is an affiliate link, so I get a small commission when you purchase through me.)

You guys, I know contracts sound icky and scary. I was a goddamn corporate lawyer for six years and I STILL made this mistake. 

Early in my business, I thought I couldn't "afford" to spend a few hundred dollars on a contract template. 

But you know what? If I had a contract, then I would have gotten paid that $1500. Getting a contract SAVES YOU MONEY IN THE LONG RUN. Trust me. I know. 

I only share things with you that I have tried myself and truly feel would be helpful to you. So if you've been thinking that you need a contract... I hope you'll check out The Contract Shop.

Hope this blog post was helpful! Now get out there and build your dream business!





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