If you've been following Create! Magazine's career blog for some time, you know that navigating the business side of being an artist is as crucial as mastering brushstrokes or sculpting techniques. Among the various administrative tasks that constitute running an art business, drafting invoices stands out as a vital aspect of maintaining a professional and transparent relationship with your clients.

Beyond merely requesting payment, invoices serve as legal documents that outline the terms and conditions of your artwork sales. For visual artists, including specific terms ensures clarity, protects your rights, and fosters a smooth transaction process. In this article, we'll explore several essential terms to incorporate into your invoices. Ranging from payment deadlines, ownership rights, and shipping to insurance and resale agreements.

You'll walk away with valuable insight into what to include in your invoices to both feel confident and cover your bases. Do keep in mind, however, that you do not necessarily need all of these in each invoice you draft. Just like you would with your resume, tailor the invoice to the situation and your client.

Original artwork by Erika Stearly | Available via PxP Contemporary Gallery

  1. Payment Terms: Clearly specify payment deadlines and the options for how to remit payment to you. Outline the timeframe within which the artwork must be paid for (e.g. within 7 of receiving the invoice, or 50% deposit now to secure the commission and 50% when it is completed). Although this hopefully does not happen to you, you may also want to consider consequences for late payments. Be very clear what penalties or interest charges are incurred if the client fails to make timely payments (e.g. artwork will not be delivered, or X% interest for each week the payment is delayed). This instills a sense of accountability and encourages prompt settlement.

  1. Ownership Rights: Define the transfer of ownership rights upon the sale of the artwork. Specify whether the client acquires full ownership or if certain rights, such as reproduction or commercial use, remain with you as the artist. Including this clause prevents misunderstandings regarding the usage and distribution of the artwork post-sale, safeguarding your intellectual property rights.

  2. Shipping and Handling: If this was not already discussed during the sale or negotiation, you will likely want to address shipping logistics, including who is responsible for shipping costs and packaging. Provide estimates for delivery and any special handling instructions to ensure the safe transit of the artwork to its forever home.

  3. Insurance Coverage: Mitigate risk by noting insurance coverage for the artwork during shipping. Outline the extent of coverage and any steps the client should take in the event of damage or loss during transit.

  4. Legal Title and Authenticity: Address legal title and authenticity concerns by including a clause affirming the authenticity of the artwork and the transfer of legal title to the client upon payment in full. Provide details regarding any certificates of authenticity or provenance that you'll send with the artwork to reinforce its value and provenance in the art market.

  5. Resale Agreements: If this is something that concerns you, you can avoid future issues by proactively incorporating resale agreements into your invoices. Outline any resale restrictions (e.g. right of first refusal) that apply if the client chooses to sell the artwork in the future.

Crafting clear and comprehensive invoices is an integral aspect of conducting business as a visual artist. By including specific terms, you establish a framework for straightforward and mutually beneficial transactions with your clients. Keep your terms concise and to the point, including only what you feel is necessary to protect your rights. While you may worry that some buyers might be put off by an overly legal sounding document, remember that it's up to you to decide who you deem trustworthy enough to safeguard your work for generations to come.

If you found this article helpful, you'd probably also enjoy The Complete Smartist Guide book or our comprehensive business course for artists: The Smartist School. You can also access this free invoice template for artists.


Alicia Puig has been a contributing writer for Create! Magazine since 2017. Find more of her work here: www.aliciapuig.com