Contracts 101

There are many, many reasons it is important to have a contract in place with a brand before you begin creating, exchanging or posting content on their behalf. Let’s jump right in. We’re going to talk about the different vital sections of a contract agreement and talk about the reasons that each section is important. 

Content expectations
Before you start a project it makes perfect sense to figure out what you’re supposed to do. Some brand managers will have the content requirements already nailed down, others will need some guidance. Once you’ve figured out what is expected, make sure it is outlined clearly in your contract. The best way to cover your bases is to be as clear and specific as possible. 
Content expectations should clearly outline:

  • Type of content (video, blog post, photos, etc.)
  • Number of pieces
  • Where they will be posted
  • Any caption requirements that you will include (hashtags, disclosures)
  • Details about the content (How the product will be featured. Anything you will not include.) 

Why? Being as specific as possible in this section will help you both get on the same page about the deliverables. No big surprise there. But what this will really do is outline the exact expectations, eliminate any opportunistic hopes the brand might have of you “throwing in a little extra” (unless you want to) and will also give you a solid agreement to point back to when the program wraps. Basically, this will cover your ass if there is any question about whether or not you have held up your end of the bargain. Leave no room for creative interpretation.

Project timelines
You need to be clear not only about the work you will deliver, but about the amount of time you’re willing to put forward to create that work. 
A contract timeline should include details around:

  • When the project will kick off
  • When you need items from the client in order to keep the project on track, this includes:
    • Signed contract
    • Documents
    • Products shipped to you or gift cards provided
    • Approvals on content
  • When you will post 
  • How long you will leave the content live (if you plan on deleting it) 
  • When the project will wrap up

Why? Defining the project deliverables is pretty obvious, but the timeline isn’t quite as apparent. It’s important to outline the duration of your agreement with a brand. Essentially, this tells a brand how much work you’re willing to do and how long you’re willing to work for them under the agreed upon price. If you don’t have this outlined at the outset and the brand ends up dragging their feet, taking super long to approve things, or otherwise holding up the project.

 Payment terms
If you’ve gotten to contract stage, we assume that you’ve already agreed on compensation for the project. If you don’t know what to charge for your work, read our resource on setting rates.
This is where you get down to the brass tacks of that agreed upon payment. 
Contract payment terms should include:

  • How you will accept payment (CC, PayPal, etc.)
  • How you will not accept payment (cash value of goods, gift cards, check, etc.) 
  • If the payments are divided, note that here. (Ex: half due up front, half due upon completion) 
  • When you will issue invoices (upon completion of work, upon completion of posting, etc. Here's what your invoices should include.
  • Who the invoice should be addressed to (make them give you this info up front so they can’t claim you didn’t send it to the right person’s attention) 
  • When the payment is due (count from the date that the invoice is issued, ex: 30 days from invoice date) 
  • What happens if they are late (Do you charge a late fee? Interest on the original amount? Both?) 

Why? Because it is important for you to get paid. 
There are some brands who will give you the runaround (we’ve heard a million nightmare stories about brands avoiding payment or downright refusing to pay influencers). We certainly hope that is not your experience, but if you have all of the payment terms and details outlined and agreed to at the beginning, the odds of that happening are lowered. At the very least you’ll have a signed document to point back to. 

Content rights
Content rights are a touchy subject. People always get scared that brands are trying to take advantage of them if they ask for full rights transfer. That’s not always the case. Whatever exchange of rights you agree upon, this is the place to make sure that is very clearly outlined. 

  • How may the brand use the content you produce?
  • How may the brand NOT use the content you produce? 
  • Do they own the content (meaning that they have full copyright)?
  • Do they have permission to use the content but you still own it (licensing agreement)?
  • How long does that agreement last? (1 month, 6 months, in perpetuity, etc.) 

Why? There are horror stories from the past of independent creatives shooting a photo and selling it out right to a brand when they were young and broke and then the brand making a world-wide campaign around that photo earning millions of dollars. The odds of that happening are super low, but again, it is important for you to get paid for your work. Many brands are sourcing content to help populate their social channels or to run some Instagram ads. But if they do want to use your photo in their next Spring ad, perhaps your payment would increase to reflect something closer to a print photographer’s rates. 

Exclusivity expectations
Beyond content expectations and timeline, you need to make sure you understand the brand’s expectations around exclusivity. 

First determine:

  • How long does the brand require exclusivity?
  • Does this exclusivity agreement infringe on your ability to make money from other partnerships?
  • Is it worth it?

Outline the exclusivity explicitly in the contract language:

  • How long before/after each post are you granting exclusivity?
  • What constitutes a competitor? (Be clear: For 24 hours before and after each post I will not post about any other beverage brands.) 

Why? Most of the brands we work with understand that influencers are professionals and must advertise for multiple brands to make a living. But we have encountered brands who are touchy about this. Common courtesy is to give brands exclusivity for the day that the post is live (meaning you don’t post about their competitors in the same day). Example: It would be bad form to post a coca cola promo in the morning and a pepsi one at night. Ultimately you have to determine if you’re willing to grant exclusivity to a brand. If they want long term exclusivity, they may have to pay more to ensure that you’re not experiencing any loss of income from deals you may have to turn down during that period of obligation to the brand.

Any other provisions you need to make sure that you’re successful
Don’t forget to include little things that might seem common sense, like “brand will provide product free of charge,” “brand will handle shipping,” “brand will reimburse for gas,” etc. It’s just better to get those things out in the open ahead of time and make sure that you have your bases covered. 

Creative Community Director at Snapfluence. 

There is often a pen stuck in my hair.