The Service Agreement Field Manual
The Service Agreement Field Manual

The Service Agreement Field Manual

Understanding and Negotiating Creative Service Agreements Like A Pro

Table of Contents

🔑tl;dr Ten Key Issues🤝Negotiation📑The Service Agreement☑️Conclusion


It Always Starts the Same

You get a great lead and deliver an awesome pitch. The client is ready to sign up. Over comes the form of Service Agreement with the usual prod:

It’s all the standard stuff. Just sign and we'll get started!

Until today, you’ve held your nose, signed on the dotted line, and sent the contract back–probably happy to be rid of the thing. But you also probably wished you understood contracts better or (again) promised yourself to learn a bit more for next time...

That next time is now. So take a deep breath and let's dive in.


Who is this Book For?

This book is for any creative firm facing client drafted service agreements. While you likely have your own form of Service Agreement, it (hopefully) has been drafted specific to your business, preferences, and risk tolerances. Incoming Service Agreements are different. They are often generic and extremely one-sided in favor of the client. This book will help you understand and negotiate those agreements into a contract you can live with.

This book considers the issues typical to design, development, branding, and related types of creative services. Regardless of your creative specialty, the agreements you face will likely contain many of the provisions in this book. Unfortunately, we can’t cover everything. Every contract is different. There will always be specifics to your business, a project, or your industry that require advice and customization beyond the scope of this book. So, use your judgment about when to rely on this book and when to ask for help.

How to Use this Book

This book is arranged around the major sections common to creative Service Agreements. For each section, we’ll explain in plain English what the clause means, key issues to watch out for, and some alternative approaches to consider during negotiation. Next time you are faced with a clause you don’t understand or gives you concern, simply skim the table of contents for the relevant section or do a word search to find discussion on that topic.

This book has lots of examples of contract language you’ll encounter as well as language you can use. Sample language will be presented like this:

This is some fine sample contract language. It has been hand-crafted with love before being delivered fresh for your review. Don’t negotiate away all the best bits. Suggested additions are in red. Suggested deletions are stricken.

Suggested language for conversations or emails is presented like this:

Thus, Sir, you have invited the course I am about to pursue, and now by your silence impose it upon me. If therefore your determinations are final, of which I am not permitted to doubt, Mr. Van Ness is authorized to communicate my further expectations either to yourself or to such friend as you may be pleased to indicate.

Last, a few defined terms. Whether you are a full-service agency, a growing studio, or an adept freelancer, in this book you are the Agency and your client is the Client. The agreement you are facing may go by many names: contractor agreement, master Service Agreement, customer Service Agreement, vendor agreement, Service Agreement, and the like. Whatever your agreement is called, in this book we refer to it as the Service Agreement. The document containing the project specific details is the Statement of Work or SOW.


This book is not a substitute for having a lawyer and it isn’t legal advice. Its educational material. And, what should come as no surprise to you, by reading this book, we are not your lawyer. I know it seems ridiculous that we have to say these things…and you’re right.

You can thank some other lawyer for that.

Like the Field Manual? We can build a version of this resource customized to your Agency's Service Agreement and SOW containing your target negotiating position (and fallbacks) on key terms. Want to learn more? Hit that contact form.
The Service Agreement Field Manual is a registered copyright of Matchstick 2021. Have questions or want to get in touch? Look us up.