Charging exclusivity for Freelance work


I’ve been using Blender for about 2 years now and recently started freelancing, with my current project involving making a 3D character to be printed for a board game.

One of my old Game Theory lecturers who has experience in making/playing tabletop games, who is also project manager for my current project, has suggested that as a freelance I could add an optional charge in my quote to exclusive rights to the finished product. Meaning that if a client doesn’t pay the extra free, I could then resell the model/project.

Now from what I thought, once a client comes to me with an idea, with concept art or not, the final outcome I cannot reuse or resell on another platform or to other clients.

Does anyone have any experience with this and could give me a hand?

Thank you for your time and help :slight_smile:

in short
ideas can’t be patented/protected, same goes for food & beverage recipes
more on…

client must at least provide a sketch which is to be mimicked otherwise you’re the author and unless specified in contract you own the rights to do whatever with it - thus always read or have your own contract at hand

Client’s Exclusivity in my book stands for Priority & Interventions
“My time is exclusively dedicated to your task with possibility of working overtime (up to 16h) and/or as needed (available 24/7).”

& Of course it comes with extra cost.

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disclaimer: not a lawyer.

You should consult one and ask your questions. Exclusivity in this case means they pay for the exclusive license to your work. If they do not, it’s yours and they are paying for a license to use it. Yes, it is an extra cost item and many properties would be hurt without that since anyone else with money could also buy a non-exclusive license to use it from you. Fair warning, you can’t then offer an exclusive license since you have already licensed it to someone, unless you want to get into the nitty gritty and try to make licenses that expire and require renewal. That’s probably a messy thing to do.

Given that this is art, patent law is less relevant than copyright law. They own the copyright (at least presumably) on any concepts they provide you. If your model is derived from it, then they may have a legal footing to C&D and/or sue you for selling your work that is derived from their concepts.

However, the work you do is yours until the contract is fulfilled in it’s entirety. Your contract should stipulate under what conditions the work’s ownership is transferred to the client, at what stage and probably ideally under what conditions they are allowed to use any WIP materials (which you are the author/owner of) they are presented with throughout the contract duration. This should probably be limited to internal review processes, but again, IANAL. The idea here is that you have protection from them using your WIP materials for promotional purposes, sending it to other contractors, etc. They should not do this without express permission. Not that you would ever know, but if they refuse to pay you and try to use your work anyway…

This is why we consult contract lawyers. These things get complicated. :slight_smile:


@burnin Thank you for that, it helped a lot!

@sirmaxim I hear what you saying, these things can get complicated and messy quickly…

So charging an exclusive rights fee for the work make/given would just be standard practice, while withholding the fee in order for it to be non-exclusive (other words, I am able to use/sell the project) might start to infringe on the original clients copyright?
Would this also be the case if the client were to come to me solely with an idea where the concept art and model will then be created by me?

Think I’ll have to start investing in a lawyer soon :sweat_smile:

The short version is if you create concept and result, those belong to you. They have a blob of text or words that do not give them much of a leg to stand on trying to sue you for selling that work elsewhere.

If I describe a character to you from my imagination, what are the odds you make exactly what I imagined? Almost nil. 10 people read a character description, and draw 15 concept images of what that character might look like.

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Just go attend an art school (possibly accredited) – it’s common subject in their curriculum.

Or, yeah… I also remembered…

Damn, how time flies…


AH! I forgot about that talk. Best talk on the subject I’ve ever seen.

very nice video, thanks for sharing

Yes. This is how all of my freelance work is conducted.

Disregard anything anyone has told you.

The area that covers this is defined legally as a work for hire:

Owner of the Copyright in a Work Made for Hire

If a work is made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is the initial owner of the copyright unless both parties involved have signed a written agreement to the contrary.

The problem is, that few people ever make or write these agreements. But I can guarantee you, it is assumed. And you will not have much luck a) asking for extra money to make it so, or b) getting any agreement to allow you to use works you have created for others outside of those creative projects.

The general “silent” agreement between freelancers and their employers is this work for hire agreement. And usually when you work with a very strict organization they will have to sign a contract to this effect.

It does not matter if you created the concept or not. It is work-for-hire. And no one. I guarantee you, no one, is going to pay extra for this. Because this is the arrangement already assumed.

You can however insist that they put that in writing. If you are looking out for their best interest…lol

If they have not required a contract, technically maybe you could do it. But is this how you want to gain your reputation and run your business? I don’t think so.

Your best practice would be to get them to put it in writing and honor the agreement, build good business relations.

And sometimes clients will ask for an NDA and require you not put something in your portfolio for a period of time to allow them to market it properly first.

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Thank you for the help, really does help.

So from what I understand, this “exclusivity fee” is basically always included in my quote whether if falls under its own title or included in one of the others as a “built in fee”. The only time a client would want to wave their right or exclusive use to work provided is when its for small projects or individual clients using the work for recreation or something along those lines, then the option allows them to save a few bucks because they dont really care about its use. This agreement of waving the rights would also need to be signed.

I have drafted an agreement that I’m currently using and has been accepted by the client, but I do plan on getting a proper professional contract drafted by a lawyer.

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OK, but a word of warning. I have never heard anyone tell me “I can use it for other projects” unless they were trying to cheat me out of a decent wage. It is basically unprofessional.

I would not even talk about this “discount” as an option. Make people pay you a set price for your work, and have it in writing if you want, that it is Work For Hire. But you charge one fee and that is it.

Now within those parameters, you are free to manage your career moving forward, any way you choose. There are times when you may want to work on a project at a lower rate because you have a plan to use it to your advantage in your portfolio. But that has to be your decision and no one else’s. No one on this board. Not a anyone has the right to advise you what to charge. That is your business.

The process of building a career is the process of skill building as you go. There are many ways to do this. Learn on spare time, work on hobby projects, do work for friends and family, and occasionally volunteer your time. Or work for a cut rate, to support a cause or to support your creative growth.

And there are times when working on creative growth within the parameters of a project for hire is a positive thing. To give you an idea, probably in the span of 10 years I have maybe done this 6 times. And it was calculated. I had a goal I wanted to achieve. And each time I did achieve that goal and I enhanced and expanded my career as a result. So do this wisely.

But to the thread point. Always insist on your fee when you are dealing with professional clients and you are not in one of those times where you can afford to cut your rate, for a positive project or person.

Usually if someone is trying to work down your fee and calling themselves professional and they pull some kind of “you can use it for other projects”, then you probably don’t want to work with that person at any price.

Experience talking here.

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Noted and thank you :raised_hands:

I’ll take those experienced words to heart, thank you for your help :grin:

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