Contracts for Creative Entrepreneurs - Part 2: Exclusivity

contract exclusivity creative entrepreneurs

In Part 1 of Contracts for Creative Entrepreneurs we looked at some of the questions you should ask when it comes to the Deliverables of a project. This week, we turn our attention to Exclusivity. There are all sorts of arrangements possible - and some may be more your style than others. Think about your unique situation and keep these pros and cons in mind - do they apply in your case?


1) The Monogamous Relationship

Example: You are the designer of a jewelry line, and have been approached to create a signature collection of bracelets for a hip store in the city. They want to be the only store to sell these bracelets (you can't sell them, or have another store carry them) and in exchange, they'll only carry one collection of bracelets - yours. (no other designers' bracelets will appear in their shop.)

Pros: Entering into this type of relationship with a partner that has a strong brand and a loyal customer base will help the prestige and visibility of your own brand. It's also a great platform for future collaborations. If you've worked closely with them throughout the process, and it's gone well, perhaps next time it will be an exclusive bracelet, necklace and earring set.

Cons: This is an 'all your eggs in one basket' type of situation. What if the sales from this store don't materialize? You've just limited the potential revenue from the design and product you've invested in. Also, be aware that while you can benefit from the exclusive association with the store, that can go both careful of their business style or brand confusing your target market.

2) The Open Relationship: Where you have the freedom

Example: You're a personal stylist, and after a few months of working with a well-known local client, you're approached with an offer to be their sole stylist...everything they wear for public appearances will be selected with your help. On your part, you'll still be able to work with other clients.

Pros: It's a great vote of confidence in your talent as a stylist - you should be proud. This ego boost can benefit you by giving you the courage to tackle other projects and pursue other dream clients. This contract could also help bump up demand for your service - if you're talented enough that this local-celeb wants to work exclusively with you, then your market value just went up - big time.

Cons: One of the biggest risks is the pressure this type of arrangement puts you under. There will be an element of time pressure (that's a whole lot of looks to pull together) but also pressure to perform consistently. Being associated with this particular personality could mean that some others won't want to work with you, since you're seen as 'belonging' to a competitor. Based on your client-roster, and your dream clients, how big do you think this risk is?

3) The Open Relationship: Where they have the freedom

Example: As a blogger, you're approached by one of your favourite brands to host an ad campaign. The banner, the background, the side bars, the pop-ups...every bit of advertising space on your site will be devoted to them. This same campaign will run on other sites as well.

Pros: This is a great opportunity to benefit from the halo effect of working with a brand. If their message and image speaks to the audience that you want for your site, then aligning with them is an effective way of positioning yourself in the market. Even though this campaign means that you may have to turn down other advertisers, you'll be able to leverage it in pitches to other dream brands later.

Cons: Just how many other blogs will feature the campaign, and which sites are they? If the brand's selection includes blogs or websites that you don't feel match your vision, you could find yourself lumped into the same category as lower caliber sites. If the campaign is going to run on a high number of sites, it's more of a mass market approach and doesn't provide the same value for your blog when it comes to brand equity.

4) Going Steady...but seeing other people

Example: You're a freelance writer, taking on jobs for lots of different clients. One of them, an online magazine, offers you a contract to write one article each month. Your work will appear alongside the work of several other contributors, and you'll still be able to take on other writing jobs.

Pros: This arrangement offers a bit of stability. Knowing that throughout the year you'll have guaranteed work is a relief. This type of relationship will also allow you to hold on to your independence, but still engage in something meaningful with a client - who knows how this could develop?

Cons: Even though you retain independence, you'll still be tied to this particular publication. If a competing publisher was also interested in hiring you to write articles, this may work to your disadvantage. Think about it, if you're being featured monthly in Vogue, do you think that Harper's would also want to have you as a monthly contributor?

Throughout this article on Exclusivity, I’ve used a variety of examples – jewelry designer, stylist, blogger, freelance writer – but each of these relationships will apply to your line of work as well. If you’re hitting a roadblock with seeing how that’d work, or defining what the relationship is, send me a note and I’ll help –

Next week, we'll look at questions you should ask yourself when it comes to the payment portion of a contract. You already know what you need to provide, you now understand the level of exclusivity the contract represents...and next you'll gain clarity on just how you'll be compensated for your work.


Note: Although I work with contracts regularly, I am not a legal professional and my advice is not intended to take the place of that of a lawyer. I recommend that you seek professional legal advice regarding any contract that you are considering.