Most of these tips are culled from a pamphlet I produced years ago titled 101 Things Your Publisher Doesn’t Want You to Know. Dozens of creators provided handy contract and business tips for the education and protection of their fellow pros.

Illustrator William Stout recommended that you make sure you get a purchase order number for every assignment. If there is a dispute over payment, the court will likely ask you to provide a purchase order number for the assignment to prove the client contracted you.

Usually, comic book companies have purchase order numbers preprinted on their standard invoices. If there is no standard invoice available, request that the publisher follow up on any verbal agreement with a purchase order number (PO#) for the job.

If your publisher fails to pay you, that PO # will be the first thing the judge asks for.

Remember, you are an independent contractor. For whatever reason, many creators fail to follow through with the simplest business paperwork, especially with small press clients who seem like old friends, they’re so accessible. Sometimes they are friends, and those friendships sour. Don’t let a verbal agreement be all you have to prove someone was supposed to pay you.

Contracts aren’t for the good times, they are for the bad times. It’s simplicity itself to dash off a quick letter of agreement via email.

And if you have made this mistake yourself, don’t feel bad. I have been badly burned in the past as well to the tune of thousands of bucks.

If anyone ought to know better, it’s me.

Ever heard that old saying that good fences make good neighbors?

Think of your quick letter with a PO# as a good fence. Professional clients will respect you for it. And unprofessional clients who avoid putting agreements in writing should be avoided at all costs. I don’t care how well you think you knew them.