To be a creative in any industry, means to be in a constant cycle of moving parts that shift and change simultaneously. Even when those changes are inconvenient, we evolve and learn to coexist.

I always stress to PROTECT YOUR WORK! But often times as creatives, we’re wide eyed with open hearts and want to share our content with everyone, and include individuals whom aren’t well versed in industry politics. Inviting the wrong people into your process can backfire and become detrimental to your brand and reputation.

With the help of O.T. Walker, Esq of The Walker Collective (save this info, it’ll be useful later), I’ve put together a list of some very useful ways you can protect your work.

(Disclaimer: This article is based on my experience a creative, and steps I take to protect my work that may work for you. I recommend to always consult with a law professional that is capable of providing you with extensive information regarding your legal rights and needs.)

Let’s get started!


Trademarks are the SPFs to beaming UV rays, you like that analogy? I do too. But really tho, registering your trademark is the best business decision you can make.

Having a trademark will gift you many sound nights of sleep. When we talk about self care, that also includes investing in yourself, and hiring a TM attorney is worth every penny. If you’re well versed in USTPO lingo, then that process may be quick and simple, but sometimes it’ll end up costing you more time and money if your application needs extensive revisions.

A Trademark protects goods and services as well as your brands’ likeness. If someone uses anything specifically attributed to your brand, that leaves you with grounds to sue.

For example, my Nails At First Sight series is a registered trademark, so when a knowing party used it to promote their nail related “guide” (without my permission) with a completely different message from mine causing confusion, I reserve the legal right to seek compensation for damages. The lesson to be learned here is, DO NOT misuse other people’s trademarks and don’t allow others to misuse yours.


What is an NDA? An NDA (aka a Non-Disclosure Agreement) is the reason why Queen Bey’s business stays on lock! It’s the legal document that both parties sign acknowledging that any confidential information exchanged should stay between them and them only. In other words, no tea shall spilleth over. You can use an NDA when on-boarding a team for projects. You want to make sure your concept is protected before and after its set release date. You want any details from discussions to processes kept, what’s the word? Say it with me class. . . Con-fi-den-tial, within a reasonable scope of course.

If you’re providing an NDA, be sure to list out what informations you want protected. Be specific.

Have a law professional review everything and/or draft an NDA for you.


If you’re collaborating with or hiring a model for a project, please have them sign a model release, because IT BE YOUR OWN PEOPLE SIS. You want to prevent any type of confusion, no matter what your relationship is to the person.

O.T. says,

“anyone you are doing business with is not your friend during business hours. Whether it's a collaboration or fun project, your expectations need to be outlined in an agreement. Ask yourself; who is responsible, what are the parties responsible for, where are we doing this, etc.”

A model release will also detail how the content will be used and for what, while also telling them, you’re handing over your rights to me, for this purpose.

Here’s an example of a basic model release I use:

I, MODEL NAME, for good and valuable consideration, the receipt of which is hereby Acknowledge, hereby irrevocably authorize YOU NAME OR BUSINESS NAME to use photographs of me and/or my property and authorize her/(him and his/her/their assignees), licensees, legal representatives and transferees to use and publish (with or without my name, company name, or with a fictitious name) photographs, pictures, portraits or images herein described in any and all forms and media and in all manners including composite images or distorted representations, and the purposes is of publicity, illustration, commercial art, advertising, publishing (including publishing in electronics form on CDs or Internet websites), for any product or services, or other lawful uses as may be determined by the photographer or studio.

I further waive any and all rights to review or approve any uses of the images, any written copy or finished product. I am a full legal age and have read in fully understand the terms of this release.

Shoot date:

Description of images/content:

Location of Distribution:

Sign: ____________________________

Date:  ___________________________


As minimal as this seems, watermarks can go a long way. Leaving your stamp on your images and videos where it’s visible will let viewers know right off the bat the source. Be sure to place your watermark in an area that won’t be easy to crop out.

Apps like videorama and picsart are a great place to start when tagging your brand to your work.


A work for hire is a legal document you may sign when there is compensation in exchange for the services. This document details who is involved as well as transferring rights of the “product” to the buying party at a fair or equal value of what you’re selling.

For example, if a brand commissions me to create nail designs for a project, as a part of the agreement, they may ask for the exclusive rights to the designs forfeiting my say to how and what they’re used for.

Keep in mind, terms of contracts can always be open for negotiation. Again, please don’t be quick to sign documents you don’t understand. Enlist the help of a professional to ensure that your rights are not only protected but you’re also getting the best results from the agreement.

On things to keep a lookout for, O.T. advises creatives to,

“be mindful when entering certain contests for the opportunity to gain national or international exposure. Sometimes, even if artists’ work is not selected as a winner, the tiniest print in a contract will have an artist signing over the right to whatever that work is forever. I have seen countless writers lose all rights to their passion projects via contests. If you don't understand all the words on the line, do not sign!” 


Creatively and legally, photographers own the rights to their images, meaning you have to obtain their permission for usage when the scope is outside of the original intended use or when a third party becomes involved. You can read more about this HERE via Chasing Denisse.

Based on the agreement you have with your photographer, they may give you the option of owning the rights to the images or they may choose to not. This is why it’s important to keep an open line of clear communication, honesty and transparency with your fellow creatives.

I’m always clear on what I intend to use the images for whether I am the photographer or the creative hiring a photographer.


Start implementing these asap. A deal memo comes in handy when ironing out details of a collaboration, partnership or something as simple as a small gig. This is a mini contract that is straight forward, to the point and hassle free of law jargon that makes your brain feel like mush.

O.T. adds,

“It’s important to have your own contracts when booking gigs anyway. Creatives tend to follow their passion and it's typically up to us boring suits to come in and wag our fingers. By walking into bookings, whether they be publications, celebrity clientele, or on a film set, with your own contracts, not only does an artist know exactly what is being signed, but the temptation to sign just anything handed to them is eliminated. This makes lawyers happy because if/when it comes to defending these contracts, we know exactly what our client's expectations were and what a potential defendant (hopefully it doesn't come to that) agreed to-- and we have it in writing!”

Here’s a sample of a deal memo you can use for your future opportunities. You can edit this to fit the situation.

Name/Company: [The Editorial Nail Inc]

Job Title: [Nail Artist/Manicurist]

Contact: []

Shoot Date: [Insert Date]

Post Date: [Insert Date]


Project Start Date & End Date: [Insert Date]

Project Description: [Magazine Cover]
Rate: [Insert Negotiated Rate or Exchange (collaborating with an influencer or brand),

ex: 1 Visible visual Call out on influencer’s IG Grid]

Delivarables: [1 Set of Press-on nails]

Delivarables can also be a series of visual content you’re asked to post to certain places on your social pages.

Usage: [Social Media & Print]

Credits: [Where and how are you being credited/tagged?]

Additional Terms: [Any additional requests or requirements you may have that both parties agree to]

Your signature at the bottom of this agreement will serve as confirmation of the terms and conditions above.


Party A:

x ________________

Party B:

x ________________

At the height of excitement we forget to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and our professional relationships. We think asking for what is necessary is asking for too much, or that asking for anything at all will lessen our chances of booking opportunities. I say, work smarter, not nicer. Doing business isn’t always nice, but doing business smarter will definitely position you on the right path to a successful career. This will not only help you in the long run, but will enhance your professional image.

In conclusion don’t let the game beat you, master that sucker and go forth and prosper!

photo cred: @jeaniusshots