I was watching Disney’s iconic 1989 masterpiece (throwback!), wondering what to write this blog post about, when it dawned on me: OMG, the Little Mermaid has contracts in it! I could write about that.
(Remember the part when the evil sea witch, Ursula, gets Ariel to sign away her voice in exchange for legs? Yeah. Contract!)
And the irony here is that contracts are not bad, they just have to be used in a smart way. Like most designers, I have a contract. I’m sure your business does too for various reasons. But there are some things to keep in mind when using contracts.
Contracts are not bad, they just have to be used in a smart way. Click To Tweet
And they are:
1. Read the contract before signing it.
This seems like an obvious one, but how many of us are guilty of not doing this? I know whenever iTunes has an update, I hastily click “I AGREE” just to speed up the process and get to my music.
In the Signing of the Contract scene, Ariel doesn’t seem to bother reading the fine print either.
She just signs. With her eyes closed.
Granted, I think surrendering your voice to be human is a bigger deal than having the latest Apple software! So always read your (important) contracts.
I’ve run into this a couple of times with my own clients.
I make the contract readily available to them, and they sign, essentially agreeing that they have read, understood, and agree to those terms. But then they seem caught off guard if I actually enforce some of that! I’m sorry, but “I didn’t know…” doesn’t fly.
You are an adult, in a business world. Read your contracts.
2. Make sure the contract is specific
In the Little Mermaid, the terms of the agreement are that Ariel has to have Eric, the prince, give her the “kiss of true love.” Whatever that means.
I’m sure a kiss of true love might look different to a number of people. There are a whole range of specifics it doesn’t cover; where must the kiss be? Lips, cheek? Open mouth? How long must the kiss last for? You get the drill. It could be any number of things.
Always spell out the details and make sure the contracts you sign make sense to you. Click To Tweet
Always spell out the details and make sure the contracts you sign make sense to you.
That’s why I have two types of agreements; the first is my general agreement of terms for working with me, and covers things like client and designer responsibilities, intellectual property, and confidentiality.
But then I have the actual Project Proposal. In addition, it spells out each project’s specific details. Things like how much it will cost, how long it will take, how many revisions are included, etc.
So with my contracts, there really should be no question in anyone’s mind what exactly they are (and aren’t) getting.
3. Realize that a contract is legally binding
I love the part in the movie when Ursula runs into Ariel’s dad, King Triton, and he tries to destroy the contract. He can’t, of course, because the contract is “legal, binding, and completely unbreakable,” even by him.
This brings us to a great point.
I think a lot of people forget that when they sign a contract, it is legally binding.
They just sort of do it to get it over with, and feel that since they didn’t read it, understand it, or feel something when they signed it, it doesn’t really hold any weight.
Now, I’m not a lawyer or anything, but last time I checked this wasn’t the case.
I’m not saying all this make you paranoid, just realize that signing anything has the potential to be a big deal.
4. The only thing that can undo a contract is another contract
So Triton wants to save Ariel, but the only way he can do that is to strike his own deal with the Sea Witch. The new contract supersedes the old one.
Incidentally that’s how my system works as well; again, I have my general terms of agreement, but it states that anything in it can be superseded by the Proposal, which is more specific.
And I’ve even had some clients come back with their own contracts with parts of it overriding mine.
But the thing is, if we both agree to and sign said document, then we are both agreeing that those other parts of the contract are now void. See how that works?
So the next time you’re watching a cartoon, kids, pay attention: you might just learn something about the business world.
What do you like about contracts? What do you dislike? Have you ever been burned by not having one?