When you shoot an assignment for a client, do they have to pay you?
Did you tell them, in advance, that they have to pay you or did you assume a cheque would magically appear in your mailbox?
Newspaper staff photographers automatically get a paycheque every week whether they need it or not. :-) But self-employed photographers get paid only if they have an agreement or contract with their clients.
A contract is simply a legal promise. The photographer promises to provide certain photo services under certain conditions and the client promises to pay for those services. If one party doesn’t live up to its promise then it can be sued for breach of contract.
Contracts can be verbal, electronic or printed on paper. While all are valid, a paper contract is easiest to prove. Contracts can be long or short, printed on fancy paper or scrawled on a napkin.
The purpose of having an agreement or contract with a client is to make sure both parties agree about an upcoming photo assignment. Never assume that a customer thinks like a photographer or even understands what a photographer does.