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How to Write a Legally Binding Apprenticeship Contract

Protecting Both Mentor and Student

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If you’re about to enter into an arrangement with an artist for a tattoo or piercing apprenticeship, all of the conditions need to be written down and signed in a legal contract, so both parties are protected. Unfortunately, we are beyond the days of “handshake agreements” in which people were trusted to be true to their word. While I’d like to believe that most people are inherently honest and good, there’s still a lot out there that aren’t. Whether you’re the artist offering the apprenticeship or you’re the one wanting to be trained, you don’t want to be caught by surprise after investing your time and money into something only to have it all fall apart. That only leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the offended party, making apprenticeships even more difficult to come by these days because people don’t want to be screwed. The only way you can prevent that, or at least have legal recourse if it does happen, is to have everything down in writing.

A legally binding contract does not need to be a formal document filled with lawyer-ese, which usually amounts to a whole lot of gibberish that only serves to confuse the people involved so they have no clue what they’re actually signing. It’s actually much better that your artist/apprentice contract be very clear and consise. As long as everything within the contract is agreed upon and signed and dated by both parties, it is legally binding. If you want added insurance, you could have it signed by a notary public, but getting lawyers involved is not necessary. There’s a helpful eHow article on basic contract writing that will help get you started. But then you have to consider the topics that need to be covered specifically for an artist/apprenticeship contract, which at a bare minimum should include:

  • Date the apprenticeship will formally begin and a pre-determined length of term the artist anticipates will be necessary to teach the apprentice the necessary skills to be a fully qualified, professional and an independent artist. * This does not guarantee the quality of the art or the success of the apprentice at that point, as that is entirely up to them and their own dedication. It simply means that the skills will be taught during that period of time. List of skills that will be taught throughout the course of the apprenticeship.
  • Duties expected to be performed by the apprentice during their time of training. *Artist and apprentice need to both agree on how it should be handled if the artist quits, moves to another studio, or the studio goes out of business before the apprenticeship term is completed.
  • Hours/Days expected to be worked by apprentice. This should include a maximum amount of hours that can be required per week and how requests for time off should be handled.
  • Consequences for tardiness and/or absense.
  • Cost of apprenticeship and how or when it is expected to be paid in full.
  • A non-compete clause, if desired by the mentor, during and after completion of apprenticeship, and how long the non-compete clause is to be active. *If the apprentice agrees to work for the shop or mentor upon completion of their apprenticeship, it needs to be clearly stated where the apprenticeship’s loyalties lie if the artist moves to another shop, quits tattooing altogether, or the studio closes down.
  • How it should be handled if the contract is terminated early by one or both parties. This includes money that may be owed or returned. It may be prudent to include a list of extenuating circumstances in which the contract could be absolved affably and without recompense, such as death, dismemberment, severe illness (which needs to be defined clearly in the contract and require a doctor’s statement).
It may seem like a lot, and it is possible that all of these conditions will take up several pages even without all the legal rambling, but it’s for your own protection to make sure nothing is left out.

Take the time to write up the contract – have both parties sign it in the presence of a witness (who also signs), have it dated and then make sure everyone has their own copy of a hand-signed and dated original version of the contract (no photo copies). That way there can be no questions later on as to what was agreed upon that day.

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