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Taking Care of Business
The pen and paper aspects of DV -- put it in writing!


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Old March 19th, 2010, 05:26 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Silas Barker View Post
they can come to the area of town I am in? (Just like you take your car to a service station, or you go to a store).
I think it depends on whether you operate a "store front".

I USED to operate one and had clients come to ME because then I could "show them around and samples of my work". Now I work out of a segregated section of my home and don't have clients in. My choice so now I am the one who is mobile.
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Old March 19th, 2010, 05:28 PM   #17
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Don and Shaun,

For projects where you are hired for concept to final delivery do you still bill editing time separately by the hour? I maybe stuck in my old consulting mentality but I could see billing an editing job by the hour (which I do) but for complete projects I figure I can control the process enough to give a good estimate for the completed project.

I may need to rethink how I set up my agreements??

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Old March 19th, 2010, 05:38 PM   #18
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Garret,
It it unreasonable, in your opinion, that if the project is worth it to them, they can come to the area of town I am in? (Just like you take your car to a service station, or you go to a store).

Of course, if its a huge client, like the goverment or something, then some exceptions are fine.

But in general for small businesses, restarurants, event planners, speakers, training video people.....
Silas,

I look at it as part of the cost to doing business. If I were to be looking to hire a second camera operator for a shoot, I wouldn't expect that I would have to go to them to discuss the possible business opportunity. I'd expect that they would be willing to come to meet me at my place or a place of my choosing and I would not expect to have to pay them to meet with me. This is were having a certain budget allocated for marketing is important and knowing how to best use that budget. Again, it's part of my overhead cost or the cost of me doing business. I have to manage that cost or my overhead rate will go too high and I'll have to charge too much to make it viable for me to be in business.

I don't think that it would be horrible if all or even some of my potential clients would pay up front to basically interview me to see if they wanted to hire me. But, unfortunately my name isn't Cameron or Lasseter so I don't have the cred to ask people for money upfront. Maybe some day after I make that block buster movie....
;)

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Old March 19th, 2010, 05:50 PM   #19
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For projects where you are hired for concept to final delivery do you still bill editing time separately by the hour? I maybe stuck in my old consulting mentality but I could see billing an editing job by the hour (which I do) but for complete projects I figure I can control the process enough to give a good estimate for the completed project.
I tried this and found that the mentality of most clients is "I'm paying to get EXACTLY what I want so 'let's try some things' " which means often ignoring the good advice they are being given solely because now they have the "right" to see if that idea we said wouldn't work, really wouldn't.

My proposals and budgets state "this is what we normally could expect the project to run, based on our extensive experience. Yours could come in cheaper if we don't need all the revisions that we anticipated but it could also go WAY over if the scope changes or additional input that wasn't discussed at the onset is suddenly required", which often happens in a corporate environment - the person you are dealing with may not actually be able to sign off on the project once Corporate Communications gets hold of it.

My OPINION is that line item budgets protect BOTH parties. Of course, there are those that disagree. You know YOUR clients and business model and I know mine. That way, if I tell the client we are running out of money, I can show WHERE we are facing overages (and it is USUALLY in the client evaluation/changes area - after 12 years, I've gotten pretty good at estimating how long something will take and will usually "make good" on my budget IF I'm the one "at fault" for missing something or wanting to go above and beyond).
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Old March 19th, 2010, 06:04 PM   #20
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Thanks Shaun,

I think we're close to the way of preparing our agreements. I do break down budgets by different tasks and milestones. that way I can also be payed by the milestones as they are completed. I have assumptions so that there is a basis for out of scope work but do you actually put hours in your agreements?

Thanks,
Garrett
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Old March 19th, 2010, 06:12 PM   #21
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I do list hours and keep pretty accurate track of edit hours during the process - I have an edit log that I use to keep track of time on project, breaks, WHAT I'm working on during any given session... and I HAVE had to use it to prove that I really WAS expending the hours on more than one occasion so I'm unlikely to change that any time soon.

Of course, I SHOULD point out that I have one client that gets a "per commercial" price because we have mutual respect AND I have complete control over process and concept so overages ARE my fault in 99.9% of cases.
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Old March 19th, 2010, 06:44 PM   #22
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Thanks Shaun,

If you don't mind telling, what is your average amount of hours spent editing on say a project with a running time about 10 minutes? Also, do you estimate more hours if the client provides footage to you and you just do editing?

Thanks,
Garrett
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Old March 19th, 2010, 07:02 PM   #23
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ASSUMING a lot of things, including quality is intended for broadcast or similar AND it is my typical "character driven" style whereby clips are lifted from interviews for "narration" AND I am the one performing the story edit as opposed to working from a script or EDL, I'd usual plan for 50 hours of edit (5 ish hours per finished minute for long form IN MY WORLD is pretty accurate, including client revisions). Having said that, that number is only a rough estimate based on having ZERO idea what I'm facing. 2 minute talking heads with little or no coverage... SIGNIFICANTLY less...

And it MAY take me longer to edit if the client provides JUST the footage but sometimes it goes WAY faster because I don't have to try to get inside someone else's head.
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Old March 19th, 2010, 07:31 PM   #24
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Also, do you have set "cancellation" or "postponement" fees?

Just wondered while we are talking about fees.

under 24 hour notice?

over 24 hour notice?

calling to postpone right before the appointment (for a short or long job)
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Old March 19th, 2010, 08:29 PM   #25
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Thanks Shaun,

That sounds pretty much what I'm looking at for a starting point in estimates. It's always good to check sanity levels.

Silas, for anything that becomes a "rush" job gets a premium charge. It really depends on my availability. If I have the bandwidth I'd take a project that's a rush with little extra charge especially if they are a good repeat client.

If the client has to postpone I would consider charging small fee and have them reschedule. But I have to admit this has very rarely happened to me and it was for very good reasons so I just tried to reschedule. My agreements are written so I get partial payment upfront so usually the clients aren't going to flake.

Garrett
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Old March 19th, 2010, 10:36 PM   #26
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OK Lets see. I'll start with Garrett first. Actually most of my billing is and has been by the project and since there's always room for jello, (at least in my head) I figure in everything I know I need to complete the job and then MAY or MAY NOT add a fudge factor just in case. As you know there are so many variables. What I thought was going to be a 10 hour edit job really ends up being 12 or 13 and not the fault of the client. I missed something on gear rental, I forgot to add enough for VO, dumb stuff on my part. Luckily it doesn't happen often, but we all make mistakes or have that project from hell. I have worked with clients in the past that wanted to know my hourly rate so they could fact check me when I gave them the proposal which would be a complete project figure. What they forget is that the rate is for ME as a camera operator or with 1 basic camera kit ONLY. No rental, no VO, no graphics no nuthin'.

Silas, in this business you can not exppect to get every job you bid on and with the larger companies they generally expect a bid process and may very well have 3 or 4 or more vendors come in to bid on the job. Many times you work with people that are very knowledgable and have packets at the ready for you with all of the RIGHT information so you can make an informed bid, many don't have a clue but in any case to me it is not a waste of time to pursue these bids. If I spendt 2 hours a week meeting with potential clients, drove 75 miles round trip to meet with them (90 minutes round trip), paid the gas and tolls, bought lunch, smoked a cigar and gave the potential client a business card, did this 5 times a week (which I don't) 4 weeks a month (which I don't) 52 weeks a year (which I don't) and only booked 20% of the work it would 1) prove to me I'm bad at selling me and 2) would more than pay me for all the other time I "wasted" on the other potential clients.
I'll give a quick example. I once did one of these "consults"-there were 3 other guys bidding. After a bit of time I got a call from the company. Can I help them out? They told me they gave the contract to someone else and he proved to be unreliable and was not able to perform as he quoted. I looked at my bid, and told them to add 10% becaue my rates had gone up since they rejected my bid. They got a bit huffy, I said fine call me when you're serious. (I swear I did, that's my personality) Next day they called me and agreed to my new terms. Guess how long I did work for them. Almost 10 years. Did I have to meet with them everytime? Nope and most time over the years it was a phone call. Other times we'd meet on the golf course, sometimes for a meal but it became a pleasant "partnership" and BTW, it paid me a lot of money over the years.
It's only a waste if you have no interest in doing the work.
Hope that answers everyone questions.
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Old March 20th, 2010, 12:19 AM   #27
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Thanks Don,

Always good to hear form so many seasoned veterans.

Garrett
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Old March 20th, 2010, 12:49 AM   #28
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consulting is such a funny thing. It has so many meanings.

I do "consulting" for several video shooters and editors as well as audio "consulting" for several voice talents who I've built studios for. Essentially this is training so I charge a fee or barter for their skills. I have a fantastic pool of people with various skills that I can call on if I need help and I know they know what they're doing 'cause I trained them!

Consulting for businesses is very different from bidding on a project or trying to add them as a client. Consulting is a billable service, either retainer or hourly. Basically they want my knowledge and that costs money.

Having to meet with a potential client or write up a bid or spend time on the phone is marketing which is a business expense.

Having been a real estate agent for several years (in a past life) I can't tell you how many miles and hours I spent with potential clients trying to win their business. (well actually I can because travel is tax deductible) But it's all free for the client until they sign the contract. Part of doing business.

Putting things in writing is something I learned from real estate biz and it's saved my arse many times. Doesn't have to be fancy, just concise and precise.


For me, big projects are generally a single fee (carefully concocted with built in fudge factor) with the half up front clause, balance upon delivery of final. Smaller projects are menu style with day rates for shooting, hourly for editing, and separate fees for motion graphics/voiceover/music/etc.
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Old March 20th, 2010, 12:30 PM   #29
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Estimating is such an interesting and important process critical to getting work and making it profitable. Shaun and Garrett make good points imo.

On meetings ; personally I ask lots of questions right away and try to judge the potential of every job and that drives what I will do prior to securing it. Its a spectrum; on one end I try to limit things to a phone call and an emailed estimate for projects that look small, low budget or unlikely. At the other end of things if a job is large, high budget and has real solid potential then its worth a greater investment of my time with meetings, calls, emails. I do reserve lunches for existing clients though. Also I am very wary of doing much of any pre production work before a deal has been struck.

On estimates ; I have adopted and used with much success a hybrid approach between bidding it by the project vs by the hour. Hourly rate estimates tend to ignore the intangebles I bring - my story ideas, my understanding of branding, my vision, etc. Hourly only bids can lead clients into thinking that they can compare three vendors by rates alone and that all other things are equal which is rarely true especially with higher end work. An even bigger issue with hourly rates is that maybe you can do a job in half the time as another vendor and yet with the same quality. Hourly rates can have the effect of penalizing you because of your experience and proficiency because the client is looking solely at hourly rates without the other component of total hours required to do the job.

Bidding solely by the project has pitfalls of its own though. As projects progress often complexities and additional work are discovered by everyone or added by the client. A project bid can lead the vendor to eat all those extra hours / expenses because he bid X for the project, which is not good business of course.

I estimate the entire project but with line items for expenses like crew or rentals as well as line items for fees such as shooting or editing. That way a client has both the all important bottom line number as well as a glimpse into the details of how that number came to be.

The hybrid approach shows the client where the money goes. In the process it reminds them that much of it is simply a flow thru expense vs it all going in my pocket. It also allows them to judge for themselves the cost vs benefit of an action they are considering like adding a day of shooting. I also include a detailed project description including how many hours we have allocated for each task like shooting or editing. Mission creep is always a danger with any job so this detailed description helps everyone know when we are going beyond the original scope (and cost) outlined.

Like Shaun I include a boiler plate statement that while our invoices usually closely match our estimates, the client will be billed based on actual hours invested and actual expenses once the job is complete. If we can save time or expenses it will be reflected. If the scope is ramped up that too will be reflected.

I also spell out exactly what the deliverables are. I have found this to be critical in preventing the clients from saying that they thought xy and z were included when most likely they just had not thought of it at the onset. It also keeps everyone working toward the same goal (getting the footage the 30 second spot, period) vs "hey lets shoot some extra B roll for our archives while you are here".

I also include a "what to expect / how we work / industry norms" white paper with each estimate. It covers stuff like "we need a sit down lunch for the crew sometime between 11 and 1 each day" or "we work 8 hour days, beyond that we charge over time" etc. What mine says isn't important but laying out how it will go is again critical in my experience - otherwise its 12 hour days with no lunches which is a silly situation that being proactive can prevent.

How we get paid is another interesting area that I am currently playing with. I am experimenting with specifying that we get half on the first day of shooting and the other half upon delivery of the finished product, which I do in person. I am hopeful that this will fly but we'll see. My experience has been that if you provide a vision / service / skill set that clients really want and if you articulate in advance how you work that you can have a smooth process, hopefully that includes this payment schedule. So far so good but like everything else regarding selling and estimating jobs its a constantly evolving experiment - one that benefits from comparing notes with peers you respect.

Thanks to all participating in this discussion.
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Old March 20th, 2010, 03:04 PM   #30
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I also include a "what to expect / how we work / industry norms" white paper with each estimate. It covers stuff like "we need a sit down lunch for the crew sometime between 11 and 1 each day" or "we work 8 hour days, beyond that we charge over time" etc. What mine says isn't important but laying out how it will go is again critical in my experience - otherwise its 12 hour days with no lunches which is a silly situation that being proactive can prevent.
Thanks so much for the input, Greg. Great stuff. And you are right - "little" things like coffee, meal and washroom breaks(!) CAN bit you in the bottom with SOME "clients" if terms AREN'T discussed or laid out. I once had a client ask if we could shorten a meal break to get more work in if he catered in sandwiches. I talked to the crew and we were amenable so that we could get a long day "in the can" before we ran into losing our light. I thought we'd be getting subs or something. The PA went and bought a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter!
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