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Old April 20th, 2011, 04:17 AM   #1
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Neat idea for Final Cut X

Just had an idea of a really neat little gizmo for NLEs (Apple, if you are reading you can have this for free) which would be simple to implement.

For freelance work it would be really handy if the application could keep track of the time spent actively working on each project (discounting non-active time whilst the project is opening but idle).

This would make billing clients easier but it would also give very helpful info for drawing up quotes in the future by seeing how long a project REALLY takes.

Any one else think that would be useful? Surely it would be very easy to implement.
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Old April 20th, 2011, 07:51 AM   #2
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Re: Neat idea for Final Cut X

That would be a great feature, no doubt, but I use a free project called Time Edition that does the same thing. You simply open it, select your project, select your task (editing, dvd authoring, etc) and click start.

You can set different rates for different tasks (e.g. $100 for editing, $50 for rendering time...), set it go stop recording if it there hasn't been a keystroke or mouse movement for X minutes, and best of all, print out a document at the end of a project that you can hand over to your client so they know you're not fabricating the invoice.

It would be nice in Final Cut, but using an external program lets you keep track of different things like scriptwriting, After Effects work, and you can also manually enter production time as well.

I forget the URL but a quick Google search will bring you there.

And no, I don't work for them :)
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Old April 26th, 2011, 06:24 PM   #3
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Re: Neat idea for Final Cut X

There are LOTS of time/billing programs out there.
But it's a HUGE pain the butt to use them since it necessarily moves your focus from acts of creation to acts of accounting, which, while necessary - do little to advance your art.

The larger question is why are you still selling "time."

It's a terrible thing to sell. No matter what you do, your inventory is constantly disappearing out from under you.

Sell expertise - something you can invest in gathering and developing - never time.

For what it's worth.
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Old May 3rd, 2011, 07:07 AM   #4
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Re: Neat idea for Final Cut X

I think its a great idea. Sometimes I would love to know how long I spent on a project, not necessarily for billing but just to know, with projects that go on for weeks or months, this could be rather interesting.

It would be great if it could be looked up whether I previously planned it or not.
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Old May 3rd, 2011, 07:46 AM   #5
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Re: Neat idea for Final Cut X

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
There are LOTS of time/billing programs out there.
But it's a HUGE pain the butt to use them since it necessarily moves your focus from acts of creation to acts of accounting, which, while necessary - do little to advance your art...

...Sell expertise - something you can invest in gathering and developing - never time.
Bill, I think it would do the opposite and allow you to work away without having to worry about your hours. Like most editors, I often work late and slot in an extra hour here and there, so it can be tricky to keep track of the time spent on a project. Like Oliver says, even if the figure is not used for invoicing, it is still very useful to see whether your quoted/predicted time was accurate or not.

When I first went freelance, I quickly found that you had to charge for by days/hours otherwise clients continually stretched what was being asked. Of course I am selling my "expertise" but I sell it by the day/hour, I'm not sure what you meant..?

It's the kind of feature that would be very easy to implement and handy to have as an option. You wouldn't have to use it if it didn't suite your billing model. It's not something I'd go out of my way to purchase but would love as a freebie!
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Old May 3rd, 2011, 08:04 AM   #6
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Re: Neat idea for Final Cut X

Selling "expertise" is a luxury these days. Most of my producers take time very seriously as they are small independent producers that can't throw money around and stay in business. 100 dollars an hour? Good luck if you don't have high end equipment on hand or a top notch resume. Arts organizations can't afford $100 an hour anymore, they barely can afford $25 dollars an hour.

My experience is that package prices don't work unless the client is very professional (yes, there are degrees of professionalism). Most of my clients use per hour charging to keep their production in control. Package pricing leads to abuse of the editor's time except, strangely, on projects with excellent budgets.
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Old May 3rd, 2011, 09:03 PM   #7
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Re: Neat idea for Final Cut X

Look, if you guys see your effort as a COMMODITY - then by all means price it like one.

Slice it and dice it and sell your hours, your minutes and your seconds with my blessings.

And don't forget to spend as much of your inventory as possible, organizing, and arranging the billings for the OTHER parts of your inventory. But that sounds weird to me.

So I'm holding fast on this one.

As I'm fond of saying... If I'm good and fast, I'm supposed to make LESS than the guy who's slow and crappy? (doesn't that sound just a bit suspicious? But it's the essential CORE of the pay-via-time model)

If, on the other hand, I can be efficient, not because by being efficient means I make LESS income, but because by being efficient I can maintain my income and take my diminishing inventory of time and use it to LEARN stuff that makes the time I spend on the next client's work even MORE valuable to them — then I have created a sustainable business model where I get constantly better and my clients get the benefits of my increasing body of skills.

It's just a different perspective.

One that's served me very well since I jettisoned "charging for time" back in the late 1990s.

Your mileage will MOST CERTAINLY vary from mine.

Which is fine.
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Old May 4th, 2011, 02:06 AM   #8
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Re: Neat idea for Final Cut X

Bill,

I see your point but I found that clients are quick to take advantage of a "fixed price." I've had so many jobs where the brief changes drastically and I found that with fixed price models it was far harder to get the client to except the increase in cost. It is an interesting discussion and I'd be interested how you deal with it.

I do occasionally do fixed price jobs but the brief must be robust. In some ways I use a "day rate" as a building block for the quote so that they can see where the cost is coming from. If I work quickly and efficiently, I will make more profit. One occasion where this did backfire was for a fast turn around where I had to pull an all-nighter. The client couldn't understand why I had billed for 2 days editing when the project was only started the previous day. A fixed price or hourly rate would have solved that but I had established a "day rate" structure with that client.

I also work days in clients own suites and they always ask for a day rate on those jobs.
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Old May 4th, 2011, 11:42 PM   #9
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Re: Neat idea for Final Cut X

Dirt simple.

You NEVER start any job without a discussion of the "scope of work" involved. (Some corporate legal departments call this the "Statement of Work", but the point is the same.) That discussion should always end with language from me like "I will NEVER raise your rate for the agreed scope of work without express permission, but if you CHANGE the scope of work, then we have to agree to revisit the agreed fee." It clearly puts the CLIENT IN CHARGE OF THEIR COSTS while simultaneously protecting me as the producer.

That simple agreement puts "scope creep" FIRMLY within the category of something that WILL affect costs.

And both parties have to acknowledge that up front.

Then all I have to do is assess whatever changes the client wants (and decide if those changes will materially affect me. I can be the "good guy" by NOT charging extra for requests that don't seriously affect my costs or margins, but yet specifically allows me to re-visit pricing WHEN the client makes significant changes.)

I've never really had a problem since I started doing it this way.

Actually, with major corporate clients, we hardly EVER do a project without a formal Statement of Work.

There are lots of strategies one can use in a SOW to get FAIR protections in place for both parties. That's why I like them.

YMMV.
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Old May 10th, 2011, 07:06 AM   #10
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Re: Neat idea for Final Cut X

Basically I agree with Bill - but... I always work more, harder put in mor effort than necessary or agreed on. sometimes, especially with Projects that go on over a long period, I would love to know how much time I actually spent on it.
Maybe like a gas mileage display in the car. I know roughly how much I use depending on how I drive, sometimes I would like to know it in more detail.
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Old May 10th, 2011, 08:32 AM   #11
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Re: Neat idea for Final Cut X

You can set up any sort of "standard" you like but I find that it really depends on the client and the level of their production. The network series I worked on was run by cheapskates who way underestimated the time needed for each episode but once the deal was finalized I felt that I overall got a good package price, some episodes took more work, some went quicker than the average so it worked out. Fortunately deadlines prevented the vacillating decision making I had to endure with other package deals. One producer got the boot when a 20 hour edit ballooned to 50 hours with no end in sight. That guy eventually had to pay more to get his masters before I would release the tapes. He found a student to finish it for free.

I haven't done a package price for years until last week when a very professional job came to me that deserves it. A small job for a very large corporation but their terms put my time totally in my power which shows something that is lacking these days. Respect for the artists that are creating your video projects.
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Old May 12th, 2011, 03:13 PM   #12
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Re: Neat idea for Final Cut X

On the PC side years ago there used to be software for this purpose, for documenting and billing time to a client. Note this was for web development. Even if you don't bill the client hourly it can be useful tool to evaluate your time management. We often lose track of how much time we spend especially when its split up over many weeks of editing and small revisions. You might discover you are under billing, working inefficiently, or the money you're getting paid doesn't warrant the amount of time you are putting in. This also can help educate the client. For a $1000 bill, I spent x hrs filming, editing, dvd authoring, etc.
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Old June 24th, 2011, 11:35 PM   #13
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Re: Neat idea for Final Cut X

I've been using a Application called Office Time. Work great!
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Old June 25th, 2011, 08:32 AM   #14
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Re: Neat idea for Final Cut X

Law firms bill for hours, and increments of hours all the time. They bill for 'expertise' by raising the price on that time unit.

Seems to work just fine.

They also bill 'flat rate'. "Easy divorce for 800 dollars." "Simple wills prepared for 500 dollars"

Most will also offer 'FREE consultations' - to determine whether or not a client's needs can be handled with a flat rate,

I see no problems with utilizing this business model. I know lawyers that bill 125 dollars an hour, and some that bill 350. I even know some that bill higher rates for corporate clients, lower rates for Non Profit, and then there's the 'friends and family rate'.


And yes, they keep track of their time.
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