It’s tempting to fall into a romantic “shake hands” way of doing business, but there are certain situations where having a written agreement is important, if not required, both to protect yourself and to get the results you want.

Here are nine situations where you should consider formalizing your agreement into a writing, signed by all of the parties:

  1. Hiring a virtual assistant (VA): If you want your VA to be an independent contractor, you need to precisely define the relationship and even use particular words under the law of the VA’s jurisdiction.
  2. Licensing your photography to use in a book, on a website, or in a stock photography database: You want to be specific about exactly what you’re licensing (such as if it’s only online, or also in print), including whether the licensee can re-sell rights over your work.
  3. Sharing an office with a colleague: Sharing an office can be convenient, but you want to make sure that clients don’t think it’s a partnership, and you need to know who has responsibility for damages, security deposits, and insurance.
  4. Booking a speaker for your event: Be specific about exactly what your speaker is expected and allowed to do, so you’re not surprised by someone unexpectedly selling from the stage.
  5. Hiring a graphic designer to create your new logo: Make clear who owns the copyright over the work, and whether they legally promise that it is their own work (and it is not violating someone else’s copyright). By the way … in the U.S., a logo is probably not “work for hire.”
  6. Licensing your artwork to be used for greeting cards: Be precise in exactly what they can do with your artwork, including whether it can be displayed online, modified, or used in related projects and displays.
  7. Accepting a commission to do a painting or sculpture: Not only do you want protection for payment (and you’re probably taking a deposit), but the contract should also state who is responsible for shipping and insurance, in case the shipping goes wrong, and at what point the artwork is deemed accepted under the contract.
  8. Hosting an event with a colleague: Make sure you and your colleague’s relationship is preserved by working out who does what, who pays for what, and what happens if the event doesn’t go well.
  9. Taking photos of people who are attending your event: If you’re going to use those photos in your marketing, you need right-to-privacy waivers from each person.

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