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Old May 19th, 2013, 04:53 PM   #1
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SPC / more for less, client pays in end

These days I am finding myself out there a SPC more often than ever. That does not mean I am doing more jobs that only need a SPC , it means budgets are tight and clients are telling me they will only pay for one person. Even though they have no idea what that means to the job or what it requires. When one man does the work of two or three, the client will pay for it in quality. To me, that is a real world equation, not a choice or opinion. And when it comes time for delivering a video, ALL previous discussions or warnings are out the window. Our clients look at our product upon delivery and their brain instantly decides if they "like it or not", period end of sentence. Even if they told you they understood you could make a better video with more help they were lying. That statement was about money and negotiations, delivery is about client satisfaction. They are not related at the moment of delivery.

So it begs for answers to many dilemmas:

1. I am not a low budget provider, I am not super expensive either, I am professionally reasonable. I do not try to compete with the Craigs List weekend warriors that will do a $2,000.00 job for $300.00 and be happy about it. I do mostly corporate work of one type or another. I mention that because I am experiencing more “price priority” new inquiries that ever before even in my market. I hear, “well, I have already talked to three guys that say they can do alone for less, why do you need two guys?” more than ever before. New clients are hard to get, at least for me, in the last two years. I grew easily, every year in the thirteen years before that. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot by giving the store away even in the professional market?

2. Do you ever just say no to a potential new client? I have, when I reach a point of exasperation and the realization I am not the right guy for them. I find the guy that tries to book you for $5,000.00 for a $10,000.00 job will most often be an unreasonable PITA. They usually want $25,000.00 worth of service for their $5,000.00. Good video requires time, labor, and money. Doing a complex job as a SPC is not just a choice. You can get in over your head trying to do all, be all, and something is going to suffer. That something is usually the quality of the finished product.

3. I am a very hard worker. I will do everything I possibly can to make a job work. Regardless of the fees, I give every project my best. I am finding the single person crew issue to be a difficult dilemma. Even in this competitive market I think I will be sticking to my guns and turning more jobs away when the SPC thing just does not make sense. You can choose to lower your fees; you cannot choose to be superman and suddenly do the same work as two or three guys in the same amount of hours on the set!

Your thoughts please. Do you have a tactful way of convincing a potential new client (I don’t have this issue with existing clients) the job needs at least two people when other guys are willing to go at it alone even though you know that is not the right thing to do? Is anyone else finding themselves in this situation?

Steve
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Old May 19th, 2013, 05:27 PM   #2
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

1. Perhaps this is a matter of salesmanship. I've undercut the competition and been undercut by the competition. The combo of generally accessible gear and dismal job market has a lot of freelancers fighting for the same work. Any job that is partly dependent upon technology suffers the same arc... ask any web developer that's been in that business for a while.

2. Following from the above, ideal clients will always value the quality of service and creativity they hire, and compensate accordingly. However, clients that just want "video by the pound" within a set budget can be good clients, too... for instance, they may have work frequently and regularly, they may be more tolerant of imperfection (which can be creatively freeing), and they may be prompt and regular in payment.

But are there "bad" clients? Certainly. Those that expect too much for too little and then don't hire often or pay on time aren't worth the trouble. I've fired or turned down my share.

3. Yes. You're right on everything here.

As to how to "convince" someone? Couldn't say I know for certain, or I'd have higher-budget work to prove it. Day-hire PA's can sometimes be valuable additions for just $100-125/day, just on virtue of carrying around heavy things and being an extra pair of hands... sometimes that's all that's required to make a lower-paying job that begs for full crew tolerable in a quasi-SPC role.

I'd think describing how, in your experience, a shoot may go with a full crew vs. an overtasked SPC might influence a potential client... "Either we can be relatively relaxed, each of us perfecting sound, picture, and directing/interviewing as our individual tasks dictate, putting the subjects at ease and evoking better performance/responses, or we can be a flurry of tense multi-pre-occupation that's certain to spread to our subjects/talent and ultimately yield worse 'that'll do' product. Your call."
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Old May 19th, 2013, 08:23 PM   #3
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

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Originally Posted by Steven Digges View Post
1. I am not a low budget provider, I am not super expensive either, I am professionally reasonable. I do not try to compete with the Craigs List weekend warriors that will do a $2,000.00 job for $300.00 and be happy about it. I do mostly corporate work of one type or another. I mention that because I am experiencing more “price priority” new inquiries that ever before even in my market. I hear, “well, I have already talked to three guys that say they can do alone for less, why do you need two guys?” more than ever before. New clients are hard to get, at least for me, in the last two years. I grew easily, every year in the thirteen years before that. Are we shooting ourselves in the foot by giving the store away even in the professional market?
Steve
I am here in the same Phoenix market and although I don't think I have the experience you do, I think there are some other variables you might not be considering. 1) I think there is very little work locally compared with the amount of shooters who can do such work. 2) The lack of work is impacting everyone's prices. 3) The guys I know who are "somewhat" busy, are working multiple states. 4) The low bid guys off of CL are probably NOT "happy". 5) The price of gear is impacting pricing too. 6) I think things are improving so we need to stick to what works.

Regarding item 2) I have seen guys who were not weekend warriors quoting corporate interview pricing which did not even pay for the equipment they were using. i,e, 2 HD cameras, 2 lav's, lights and 4 hours work for $250. (No editing).

I fit into the weekend warrior category and I would not price the above job as a single op for less than $500. Its probably worth twice that. Even at $500 (if I had the gear) I could bet I would not be the low bid. I see editors being paid $12/hour and camera ops at $15. Those wages though mostly entry level seem to be what folk want to pay for a seasoned pro. I think the economy has impacted folk here locally in crazy ways. I also think the could be a quality issue. For instance I know people who can only deliver 720p and that is just fine to many. That would mean they can be working off a paid off 5-7 year old camera and the client does not care. Also on the quality issue, there are folk who don't know what quality is and will accept almost anything.

Last edited by Steve Varnell; May 19th, 2013 at 08:25 PM. Reason: Kevin made a lot of the same points, I just said it differently.
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Old May 20th, 2013, 12:37 AM   #4
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

If you are looking for advice on how to talk clients into hiring larger crews, I think the SPC forum is probably the wrong place for a sympathetic ear.

I, for one, started really picking up business when the economy started tanking. Companies that had $50k video budgets now had $10k video budgets, and the $50k studios were laughing them out of the office. They're not laughing anymore. The same clients who were happy with their $50k videos are happy with $10k videos. At least as happy as saving $40k can make you, when you feel you're getting an equivalent product, or at least a product that is... good enough to justify an 80% markdown?

I will say that those are not the majority of my clients. The majority are those who had a $0k video budget 5-7 years ago, and didn't ever see a $50k video budget in the cards. They did occasionally have $2-5k for a video, often on the front page of their website. They are not interested in a sound guy and a grip truck, they would rather save thousands and get what I offer.

To go from 1 person on the crew to 2-4 people on the crew often doubles or triples the shoot budget. Does it increase the production value? Generally, yes. By double or triple? Never.

I let the client make the call. They generally do what I suggest. I usually suggest a SPC. Occasionally, we will have a lot of mics, and I will suggest a sound guy. If they decline, I will make clear to them what that means for the shoot. It is their video and their decision. Rarely, I will recommend they find another company to oversee the shoot, as I feel I am not well suited for this production.
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Old May 20th, 2013, 10:40 AM   #5
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

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Originally Posted by Mike Watson View Post
If you are looking for advice on how to talk clients into hiring larger crews, I think the SPC forum is probably the wrong place for a sympathetic ear.
How to talk to clients is not what I really meant. My communication skills are good. I would like to hear input from everyone such as you and Steve V. have provided.

For many years 80% of my work has been outside of my base city. I did not advertise or even plan it that way. The business grew from client to client word of mouth. I am not well known here in my home town of Phoenix, even to other video guys, because I have been on the road working for my corporate clients. I would like to expand my local business. So far that market seems low price driven to me. I am testing the waters to find my niche, so to speak.
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Old May 20th, 2013, 03:12 PM   #6
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

My experience from browsing CL and from the inquiries I get from all my web ads on places like Gigsalad, etc. Is that EVERYONE wants the entire job for $300.

I know realistically that's not true but I guess that's just who I attract, with few exceptions.

As for convincing people of using more crew. . .do you have to mention the number of people at all? As long as they agree on the budget, why do they care at that point how that money is distributed so long as the end product is satisfactory?

I have certainly told folks "I can't do it for less than x". I would rather lose the job that take their money and do bad work that I knew was going to happen ahead of time. One way I'm poor, the other way I feel like a crappy human being.
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Old May 20th, 2013, 08:25 PM   #7
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

Hey Josh,

For a few years I have seen you Slash Rules thing. He is on my list of so called celebrities that treated me poorly. This was when they were doing the first Velvet Revolver tour. His over-sized Bozos were keeping all credentialed photogs, news channels, and everybody, out of the places we normally shoot from. I was credentialed by the company that actually BOOKED them! I normally had access even on stage at that place. After pleading my case and becoming threatening myself (like they care) the head of his private security went over and talked to Slash, he was only 20 feet from me. He came back and said, "you have three songs from the pit and that is all". Sure enough, after the first three songs some guy bigger than Godzilla grabbed my arm and did not let go until I was out of the pit. Don't ask me why they did not want the coverage that night? Weird....bands usually want coverage. I felt like going up to him and asking why nobody told him he was not in an arena band anymore.

Then in the media center I had to put up with all of the good natured crap from all the other guys about me being the only one to get in for a shot.

Not a very good shot but it is what it was.


HS8S0657 by PHXPHOTOGRAPHER, on Flickr
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Old May 20th, 2013, 08:41 PM   #8
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

sorry to hear that. but you can love the art and still think the artist is a turdbucket. im sure if i ever met axl id want to punch him in the throat but i still love "appetite for destruction."
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Old May 21st, 2013, 11:07 PM   #9
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

Post a craigslist ad posing as if you're a business that needs a video done. Don't post a budget. You will get dozens of responses. Most will contain a lack of capitalization, punctuation, and forethought. You will get MAYBE one or two that you would even consider hiring for a video like this. Sometimes, you will get zero. This is what people face who are trying to get a corporate video. If you can shine, you can get the gig. I try and write a personalized e-mail detailing how I would approach a particular situation. I ask questions (because they never mention everything you want to know). They love to respond to questions. I move the conversation to phone as soon as I can. Sell the dream. While everyone else is screaming "I'll do it for twenty-five bucks an hour!" you should be asking them who the audience is and what the message is. What their visuals look like. Who the main character is. If they start out by asking how much it costs, I feel around to find out what story they want to tell before I tell them. I do not disguise the cost (and the cost does not change based on how much I think they can afford to pay), but I don't start with it, because I do not compete on cost, I compete on quality.

I regularly beat out the $25/hour guys, and I charge way more than that.
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Old May 22nd, 2013, 02:37 AM   #10
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

Mike,

You are absolutely correct with everything in that post. I am sure there are a lot of new guys starting out that should heed that advice. As I said, I don’t try to compete with the Craigs List providers. Not only that, I have several clients that are low budget refugees. They went the low price route and got burned. Now I am their regular guy.

Here is the best advice I could give a guy just starting out. I get asked this question all the time by friends and family, “Why do you travel so much? Can’t your clients get the same service you offer in the cities you go to?” The answer is NOT that I am the best video producer you could find in any major city. The answer is TRUST, period end of sentence. They learn the quality of the product is a given. They are going to get the same level of production quality from me every time I work for them. Their trust in me goes far beyond the video quality. They like the “way” I do business and in most cases they even like me as a person and business professional. I have shot interviews in board rooms, numerous private practices, and inside the homes of many very successful business leaders. When I do those shoots I am representing my clients in those professional environments. They trust me to do it impeccably well, and they trust me to bring crew members that can do the same. Client loyalty is about trust and the business relationships you build with your clients. The quality of the product has to meet a high professional standard. Business success takes more than a great product.

Obviously these are not low budget clients or the ones that prompted me to start a thread about the difficulties of negotiating enough compensation for a proper crew. I thought this thread might generate discussion about how other guys deal with the potential of getting in over your head as a single man crew. For me it is not worth it if the writing is on the wall that the job should have at least two people to physically handle it. I would rather turn it down and let somebody else take on the headache.

I really hope I do not sound arrogant. I do not turn down a lot of work. I love to work. My point is still that operating as a SPC can be dangerous. All jobs change once you are on location, it is no fun to be in over your head when they pile stuff on. Yes, I have been there done that!

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Old May 22nd, 2013, 07:35 AM   #11
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

So how do you know when youre in over your head as an spc then?

Also, regarding prices (sort of)i recently met with and submitted a proposal to a company for a shoot/edit. Not only did i never hear back regarding the job, i never even heard back that theyd received the proposal, nor did they answer another separate email i sent them about it. Two people copied on this email, never got a response. What is wrong with people these days?
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Old May 22nd, 2013, 08:57 AM   #12
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

Steve,

I can't speak to many of the specific issues with corporate work, but as far as sales and quality goes...

It's up to you about what you're willing to offer the client. If you feel a SPC isn't good enough, don't offer it as an option. A long time ago, I decided on what my personal minimum of service is and don't budge. Anything else is an upsell.

Also, downturns in the economy are the exact time to start doing advertising, when there is fewer work available and you need to get a larger share of the market.
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Old May 22nd, 2013, 11:31 PM   #13
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

I have been heard quite a few corporations have taken much more extreme cost-savings measures in everything. including how they handle their media production. If they can do it in-house for less they will (and plenty of them shifted that direction). They then shop carefully on everything else.
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Old May 25th, 2013, 12:13 PM   #14
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

The subject of "Corporate" video is a broad one. It's hard to pin down exactly what we're talking about when we say corporate. Some don't want to pay for the 3 and 4 man crews. Others would cringe if you showed up with any less.

All of my work is done under confidentiality agreements but I can say I had a "MAJOR" longtime corporate client tell me at the middle of the economic downturn in 2010, no more video until further notice.
That was 3 years ago and haven't done a thing for them since. And this is a huge company.

I'm seeing others come back in to the fold in full swing, but most of them are coming back in a very scaled down fashion. The biggest trend I have seen is live streaming as opposed to the location shoots.
Although I believe most prefer face to face conferences and the like. And the hospitality industry is not going to let face to face meetings fall by the wayside, as they would just perish.

I flew from New Orleans to San Diego yesterday and I park at this Hotel when I fly out. I saw a AV guy I knew from a rental house that supplies hotels with Av equipment. I asked him if they were doing a lot of meetings. And he said yes. He also said that they had just recently bought their own projectors and plan to add more of their own in house equipment. That's something these hotels never wanted to do.

We're living in strange times.
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Old May 27th, 2013, 01:51 AM   #15
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Re: SPC / more for less, client pays in end

I think the problem is that most people cannot imagine how much work goes into making a good video.
They see perfectly good video everywhere, on tv, on the web, and they know that everyone can shoot video with an iphone, so why would you need 2 or 3 or even 4 people?

Even when they see a crew working, they don't know what all these people are really doing.

When I shoot with people for tv pieces, they often tell me that they have been interviewed before and then they always say "and we have been shooting for 3 hours and in the end it was just 2 minutes on tv" and by the looks on their faces I think they want me to say "what a stupid crew that was, I can do the same in 10 minutes"
And then they're totally shocked when I also shoot 3 hours for a 2 minute tv piece, and then they probably think all the tv people are stupid.

I often shoot documentary abroad for one client, and we have a really hard time explaining every time and again that a two-person crew is already a very low-budget version for a documentary. What they see on tv is BBC documentaries, and they expect me to do the same as a single cameraman, and I say no, sorry, I cannot do that. I am not a journalist, I am a cameraman, and if you find a journalist who can shoot as well as me AND do it all alone - good luck, but I don't think you will find that person (because even if they could shoot really well, they'd still be alone carrying all the equipment and that just doesn't work in Africa or the Amazon)

It really is about making the client understand how badly things can go when there are not enough people on the job, and it really is not easy to make that clear!
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