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I'm going to be working a gig for a month as a sound recorder with an employer I've worked with before. We have agreed on a fee for the days planned and what my responsibilities will be. This has all been agreed in emails.

I would like to get him to sign a contract, but in some ways feel that it might sour the relationship and create and air of distrust. In my mind this director would see it as not being able to take his word for it whilst also seeming like an insult, disrespect...or what have you.

What do you folks out there think? Have any of you been burned?

The definitive question is: I would like to know how well an email can stand up as a 'type' of proof of the working terms that were agreed by both parties.

Hope there's some kind folks out there that can help.

Young Geo.

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Hey Young George, emails aren't contracts. And getting someone to sign a contract is usual business practice, so go ahead and do it without feeling uneasy about it.

You can tell him it's how you always work, if you fear it will create distrust, but it never happened to me in the past. And if he doesn't want to sign it that's a huge red flag.

  • Thanks for the response George, In most cases I would absolutely insist on a contract. I have worked with this director on dozens of occasions over the past couple of years, which leads me to think he might think it strange that I demand a written contract. None the less I think it is professionally acceptable to do so, and if he has a problem, well, he's just not professional. – Young George Feb 1 '13 at 15:08
  • Agreed. Let us know how things will have worked out, Young George. – Cat Feb 1 '13 at 15:34
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I give contracts to my closest friends when I hire them for work. It is the only way to guarantee that everyone is on the same page and everything is spelled out in case there is a disagreement/misunderstanding down the road.

  • Thanks Chuck, that makes complete sense and turns the issue of disrespect into respect where everything is clear and on the same page for everyone! That way we can concentrate on the creativity instead of the legality! – Young George Feb 1 '13 at 23:11
  • This is a great way to be, I'm a huge fan of the idea that "contracts keep friends friends." Nothing ruins a relationship like business disputes. – Sam Ejnes Feb 6 '13 at 1:52
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Don't take risks, if there's anything that makes you feel like you have to get a written agreement for it. If the opposite side doesn't understand your intention, then they aren't acting professionally, nor maturely.

If there's no written agreement, then there's nothing you can fall back on, if something changes or goes differently from what was agreed.

I think emails can be valid proof for what was agreed, but to be legally sure, you'd have to consult the law.

  • Yes, I'll have to check that emails are classed as proof of a negotiation. Although I can already think of many ways that they'd be able to back out of it...i.e. not in a fit state of mind when replying etc.. So i guess it will have to be a short written contract. – Young George Feb 1 '13 at 15:10
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Totally do a contract. It not only protects you, but it protects them. There should be no reason in a business situation that they would want to turn down a contract.

  • Thanks Jack. That's a great point in that it protects both parties so that either way it's equal. – Young George Feb 1 '13 at 16:02
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For me, if I'm not given a contract for ANY type of work, I find it almost unprofessional and could make me feel uneasy about who I'm dealing with as my assets may not be (and in most cases won't be) protected.

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It's worth pointing out that contrary to popular belief, even a verbal agreement could be construed as a contract. A contract is simply a legally enforceable agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of something specified. An email would technically count as a contract and should technically be legally enforceable. However, there are reasons why people sign actual contracts and don't generally rely on emails as evidence - a properly written contract with clear terms and a written signature is much more likely to hold up in court should it ever come to that.

And as already mentioned by numerous people above, using a written contract is not only a demonstration of your professionalism but also offers protection to both you and the director - as it is a mutually beneficial agreement, I don't see it as a violation of trust/friendship.

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[vimeo]22053820[/vimeo]

best part is halfway through when his lawyer stats speaking, but worth a watch all the way through regardless.

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