Make A Statement [of Work]

Being a creative professional means creating but it also means getting paid for what you do, and being a smart businessperson. On Friday, April 3, CareerTools is bringing in expert Josh Barrett to help the Portland design community be smarter businesspeople in the upcoming talk, Where Facts and Creativity Meet: Building an Effective Statement of Work. We recently had a chance to pick Josh’s brain on how the design community has shifted it’s view of legal, why statements of work are important, and hear about his love for the Portland Timbers.

Josh is founder of CreateLegal, a Portland law firm that specializes in advising creative professionals and businesses. Hailing from Bozeman, Montana, Josh’s love of working with creative studios, freelancers and agencies led him to leave a downtown corporate law firm after 14 years and start CreateLegal in 2011. Now he advises designers, developers, and other creative professionals on how to get paid, protect their work, and communicate better. When he’s not working at CreateLegal, he  donates his legal services to several non-profit organizations, is a proud member of the Timbers Army, and also serves on the executive committee of the Board of Directors for AIGA Portland, as our much beloved treasurer.

Mike Monteiro’s 2011 talk, F* You, Pay Me, generated a lot of buzz in the creative community. Have you seen much change in the industry since then?

“F* You, Pay Me” was a sea change for the industry. Before Mike’s talk, most of my clients viewed legal as a grumbling necessity. After Mike’s talk, the conversation literally changed. People viewed legal as an important part of the client relationship and what it means to be a professional designer.

An added bonus from that talk was getting to meet Mike’s lawyer, Gabe Levine. Gabe and I have become good friends. We refer clients to one another, share intel on what we see happening in the industry, and look for ways we can make the legal bits better for designers and developers. Its been a great relationship.

What is a statement of work (SOW) and why is it important?
The SOW is just as much a part of the contract as the terms and conditions. The SOW is typically the deal specific aspects: deliverables, timelines, payment terms, etc.

While the terms and conditions usually get all the legal attention, I’ve found that my clients can use the SOW for much more impact. And not just legal protection. The SOW is the main stage for communicating expectations, value, and process. Communication is the key to successful projects and also being able to charge more for your work.

How do I require that my clients sign legal paperwork while maintaining a warm, friendly working relationship?
I think this feeling comes from the fact that many contracts are so poorly written and full of legal gobbledegook. It isn’t how normal people communicate and it gets in the way of understanding. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Contracts can (and should) be written to be understandable, in standard English, and reflect the way you want to communicate with your clients. The SOW is an even better place to reflect your communication style and tone. But you don’t need to accept bad writing or stuff you don’t understand from your lawyer.

What creative work have you seen recently that inspires you?
Anyone that knows me knows I’m a big fan of the Timbers. The local supporters have a long tradition of designing and deploying massive tifo on certain game days. While certainly a show of support, I’ve always seen tifo as a massive, choreographed, single-piece art exhibit on display for 30-60 seconds and never seen again. The hours that go into these pieces from both design and execution is extraordinary. Some of my favorites:

Have your own questions for Josh? Ask him in person at the Career Tools, held at 52 Ltd on Friday April 3, 2015 from 8:00am-9:30am. Event attendees will walk away with a ready to use template SOW full of notes, specific language, and drafting tips.


By Alicia Nagel
Published March 29, 2015
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