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Old June 1st, 2010, 12:23 AM   #1
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Communicating to non-editors how much work goes into a project

How do you communicate to people how much work is in a project? In a clear way? I am finding that potential clients have absolutely no idea what you are doing or why it is so expensive.

Along the same line, I did something for a friend for free, taped her stage performance. After spending several lifetimes putting it together, she didn't even bother to call me back after my request that she review the rough DVD and tell me what clips she wanted. After having the files talking up valuable space on my drive, I called her two weeks later, said I needed to finish the project to clear the space, and asked her to review the DVD (which she had only partially done even though I stressed time urgencyy) so I could get her a more finished copy and export any clips. She said, "oh, I thought you took that off your drive last week." She also said, " What do you mean by a more finished copy? It's a DVD of my show. What would that look like?"

I haven't called her back yet. I spent the week irked at her ingratitude and mad at myself for doing free work for someone who doesn't appreciate it. Then I realized, she barely uses a computer, probably has no idea what goes into editing, and has absolutely no clue that I spent my weekend capturing in four tapes, from a two hour show, creating markers, correcting issues, burning tests, exporting her project, and burning her DVD. I know her and I know she probably didn't mean any ingratitude, she just had no clue.

This scenario has repeated itself a few times this month, once with a client who I vastly underbid for editing, out of inexperience. Then after having to troubleshoot an issue that set it behind her deadline, I felt guilty so I went up and above and busted my tail to get it done in a timely manner. I built her graphics that I didn't charge her for. I now see that the time I bid her was ridiculously, ridiculously low. It took longer than that to review the clips. It tied up my machine for hours several different times, just exporting, uploading review clips, etc. I sat up all night finishing this thing to get it to her in a timely manner - yet after three days, I'm still waiting for the user name and password to upload it to her account. I've left three phone messages and two emails and still have not heard. Does she have any idea that I was sitting there until the sun came up three nights in a row doing free work? No. Not a clue. It was worth it for me because I wanted to have something cool to use as a demo and this provided an opportunity. But that was not our arrangement, just something I took away from it. But I should have gone back to her and said, if you want x, it will be this much. I didn't because I was afraid I'd lose the job, The bidding was eaten up in the first day. Next time I guess I'll have a better sense of how long things take.

The truth is, she's not an editor. If I don't tell her what I'm doing or what it takes, she doesn't know. None of this is on her. She's just someone who was referred to me because she needed an editor. I'm the dumbo that decided to work for free and stay up till 7 am building graphics because I got a creative idea.

If I had known up front how long the project would take, and charged a regular editing rate accordingly, I would have choked on the price, and she probably woudln't have hired me. Well, maybe. I don't really know that for sure but I can wage a pretty good bet. Then again, maybe I really still don't have a realistic sense of what editing costs.

Anyway, this lesson seems to repeat for me. I guess it's just experience in bidding. I really need a mentor to help me with bidding. I still don't know what's realistic. This is coming back to a lesson I learned early on working very hard for someone who didn't appreciate it. I learned, then forgot, that people will only place a value on your time if you do. The idea this month was to get out and shoot as much as possible, and put together demo clips. I've had another business so the reason I'm still dealing with this is, that I'm still just stepping out. So I kind of forgot that since there was another objective, but it sure still rings true. You can bet your .. tail.(don't want to get censored here) that if either one of these were paying me a lot more, they'd place a much higher value on my time, and they'd return my calls.

Anyway, whether dealing with a prospective client, a 'pro bono' friend, or a current client, how do you really communicate to them how much work a project is? I suppose if I had a Macbook I could show them their project in progress. People just don't understand what goes into it. I work out of my home so I can't really bring people here to see it.

I feel like Rodney Dangerfield. No respect. And I am learning that I don't like it, at all. I am solely to blame for not setting it up that way. Again. When am I going to feel that I am worth the time and the money, without choking on the bid? When am I going to learn? People will treat you the way you teach them to treat you. If you don't value your time, who will?

Thanks for letting me vent.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 05:46 AM   #2
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Kell, It's a problem we all have that will never go away.

I always tell clients that for every hour of footage we shoot, we only use about a minute. And every finished minute of the program takes at least one hour to edit. Even the smallest project takes 5-10 hours so expand from there. I also write into my contracts how many hours of editing, graphics, etc. their bid includes. Once we exceed that number they pay by the hour.

Bid what your time is worth and what it will take to do the job. If the bid you come up with causes you pain then don't submit. If the client is so cheap they don't understand the value of your work then you don't want them anyway. They'll only cause you more grief.
"The good thing about science is that it's true whether you believe it or not." Neil deGrasse Tyson

Last edited by Rick L. Allen; June 1st, 2010 at 03:13 PM.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 11:16 AM   #3
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Business survival rule #1 - don't sell yourself cheap
Rule #2 - re-read rule #1, raise rates accordingly.

We live in a "fast food" culture, consuming as we go and never thinking about the "resources" that go into pretty much anything. Basically, everyone wants fast, cheap, AND good... the only way to differentiate is to communicate the VALUE in what you do - what will a 30 second spot return? Or a 5 minute custom "infomercial" that brings in lots of new business?

As a practical matter, sit down for a few minutes and think about what goes into a typical "production" - for every minute you record, there's ingest, review, sync, edit, render, review, tweak, re-render <wink>, proof and deliver. LOTS of minutes in there. Probably a 10x multiplier at the minimum, if you've streamlined your workflow, way more if you haven't.

Now, how does one express all the nitty gritty details to the "client"? Most likely you DON'T...

People don't want to know what goes into what they eat, drive, wear, watch, etc. They just want to know what it will do for them, make them rich, beuatiful, popular, or whatever. Ask yourself what would get a client EXCITED about hiring you - what value will you deliver to them they can't get any other way.

In the end, a knockout "production" (as in one that knocks their socks off, not one you just "knocked out") will speak for itself, but to get to where the client understands the value, you'll need to learn to sell the "sizzle", as the old marketing addage says. If you remind them of the big brown eyed cow that went through the slaughterhouse to get to the steak...

Hopefully this will help shift your focus and get you excited again. Excitement is infectious, as are most other emotions...
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Old June 1st, 2010, 05:58 PM   #4
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You know, in retrospect, after posting this, I see that the problem really was that I didn't have a good handle on how long it would take.

For one, I didn't shoot the footage. The clips were given to me. For some reason, I thought that would reduce my time. I thought it would be just a few clips to edit together, no big deal. It turned out to be 102 Quicktime clips to review, from an event I did not attend, so it was really starting from scratch.
It amounted to about two hours of actual clip time, much more for review.
I could not review the clips until troubleshooting some issues and learning that I needed to convert them. So I threw a number out there before I could review the clips.

Then, once i got in, I realized that I would need music to create a satisfactory video. That also helped me to bring it together. But it was an extra element to add to the mix that I didn't anticipate.

My workflow was that I separated out the foundational clips, the broll, interviews and certain similar clips that belonged together (general audience shots, etc). I went back in and built the structure and played with different options. After I had a few different ones in place in different sequences, I added broll.

Then, we did the review which resulted a large re-edit.

After that, I had an idea for a cool opener and ender that would make it more complete. It was the middle of the night and I did it on my own time in Motion and surprised her. I should have pitched it to her first and charged for the time. And then... she loved it, but asked for a change -a good change - which took an hour to add. Did I charge? No. Did she know? No.

Total time for a three minute video with music and graphic? No clue. I stopped counting after a few days. There was a lot of troubleshooting time in there that was my own issue - so that doesn't count. But I"m going to say I have a good 25 hours into the project itself. I'm embarrassed to say what I anticipated it would take, but it was nothing near that.

Since I"m editing in a vacuum, i.e. not around other editors, I wonder if they would do it in a half or a third the time. That's been the hardest part of bidding. If I knew x hours were standard for a project, I think I would charge accordingly.

Anyway, I"ve wandered from the topic a bit. But people really don't understand the amount of work involved and I have to find a way to communicate that it will take x long, while still selling the sizzle. I do send out screen shots of the project at the end and that's a fun way to communicate to people what you are doing. People seem to like that.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 06:07 PM   #5
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Hi Kell,

The first rule I live by is if I am doing a favor for someone, I expect nothing in return. That includes gratitude. If they do show their appreciations I will most likely be willing to help them again. If not, I will politely decline a future request but I hold no ill feelings. I'm the one who decided to do the favor.

As for clients appreciating what goes into editing I've discovered that the only people that fully appreciate post production value are those that have experienced it. Either by doing it themselves or by sitting in the cutting room with the editor. In either case I often ask myself if they were the smarter one for hire me to take all the headaches:). It is a lot like pre-production. Try to get a client to understand why they should pay for you to plan out their shoot with them. In the end though it seems like after their initial complaining, the clients eventually appreciate all the hard work and are "amazed" at the end product.

So, as Dave said, don't sell yourself cheap and continue to try to educate your clients about the efforts that go into editing. And, if they really don't want to pay a fair price they are welcome to find another person to edit their jobs. If they do find a cheaper person who can do as good a job as me at lower rates, then I'll have to re-evaluate my rates.

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Old June 1st, 2010, 08:16 PM   #6
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Yeah, you're right..
I do assume gratitude.. but it's not a given.

As for the one client, I think she was pretty happy with her project. Which is good. She wasn't ignoring me, she was out of town. And it was worth it to turn out something good that i can show, so that was part of the calculation. She'll never know how much work went into it. Maybe she doesn't need to. I did let her know that I ran over on the editing, and so if she referred someone my way, maybe keep the price she paid under the hat since her estimate wouldn't necessarily apply to theirs. Don't want everyone thinking I'm a cheap date.

As for the rest of it... I need to learn when to say no, and say it.

Just had another situation come up. I have been doing a little demo for a group - that was our arrangement. They have a big performance coming up that includes not only their group, but a bunch of others. So its probably a three hour show.
One of the people asked me to help out with a camera at the filming. He said, "X is doing a shoot, we would like you to do a camera." Okay, I said, End of story.
Time is drawing near. So I called to speak with the gal I know who was involved with the filming. I said, "I hear I'm supposed to help out, so I'm calling to talk about camera positions, where you want me, what we are going to be doing, etc. " Then she said, "Wait - I thought I was helping YOU out with the video and this was your baby."
At NO time did I ever volunteer to manage a major shoot of all these performances who aren't related to the group I'm working with and create a DVD - a completely separate project. At NO time did I volunteer 40 hours of free shooting and editing time. And they've just asked me to show up at a hotel tomorrow and do an interview with someone related to this event. And the quick interviews we were going to do for their personal demo (15 minutes in the park near my house) somehow have turned into showing up at the dress rehearsal on Friday and interviewing a bunch of people for the ...DVD of the performance? Are you kidding me?

Clearly a very large misunderstanding. He's going to call me in an hour and I am going to have to clarify matters for him.
DONE with free work. Other than two demo pieces already scheduled. DONE. I don't have the time or the money for this.

Last edited by Kell Smith; June 1st, 2010 at 08:54 PM.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 09:39 PM   #7
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Update...need some quick advice.

Ok, here's an update to that. I ran it by a friend, and she said, "why don't you shoot it, then sell the DVDs to cover your editing time?" A very good idea. I've never done this before. I'm a little hesitant since the cameras aren't HD. Sorry, no way to change that, no funds to rent and way too late notice.

But people may still want a copy, esp. with interviews, etc. Especially the participants.
So let's say I sell a large number of DVDs. 40? 100? No idea yet. I guess I could take contact info at the door? Or have the theater do it?

I'd have to get them professionally packaged, so I'd need to get an estimate on that.

There's another camera person working with me, also volunteer, so she would need to be paid. But I'd be doing the bulk of the editing. So I'd feel like that was my gig.

It's possible that the organization putting all this together and renting out the theater may still go in the hole even with ticket sales. It's hard to tell what sponsors may come on or what merchandising may sell. So my friend suggested kicking back a portion of the proceeds for that. I don't really know how much.

I'd really need to estimate all this. Suggestions, from anyone who has done this? I've never done anything this big.

It's pretty late notice, and a little overwhelming. I don't mind doing it. Just not for free anymore.

Please, welcome suggestions. Thanks.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 10:07 PM   #8
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WHOA... danger danger... is this a performance of a copyrighted work, or an original, and do you have clearances (or if it's original can they provide)?

On the one hand I lean towards the position that you can document the performance and sell a copy of that "documentary", but I'm sure I'll be pummelled for the very thought.

Since I shoot a performance here and there for family, I find I get asked a lot if I can make a copy... my rig sort of stands out. If it's OK with whoever is directing the show, I'll make a few extra DVD's. I know most of these people anyway, so I'm not worried if they get a nice "pro" copy of their kid's performance...

You're jumping into uncharted waters, and with a LOT of unknowns - tread carefully.

That said, I recorded one show for friends as a "favor" that turned into 100+ DVD orders (was supposed to be 20 or so) - they gave me a total, I replicated, they took it from there. So the potential is there, just be aware that with many people involved, if there's any "divas" or copyright issues, you could get burned. FWIW

There are of course lots of threads here on shooting live performances (and the dreaded copyright threads, let's NOT start another), so you should be able to run the show fairly well if you find you've been promoted to management!
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Old June 1st, 2010, 10:50 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Kell Smith View Post
... It's pretty late notice, and a little overwhelming ...
This is a major trend in your posts, and it seems like the subtext is " ... I'm un-prepared again for what this really entails ...". Just echoing what Dave said, all this should be setting off major alarm bells.

It ain't rocket science but you gotta do the math first before you start saying YES or NO to any project. If the customer doesn't seem to care how much work went into your product, it's because customers all assume you already did the math when you quoted them the price. Develop sales projections in an Excel spreadsheet so that you are intimately aware of the expenses and profits that are possible. And just to re-iterate it ain't rocket science but you gotta do the math first before you start saying YES or NO to any project. You gotta know the math stone cold, inside & out.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 11:39 PM   #10
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Yes, it's sounding a little murky.
I haven't actually said 'yes' yet, just kicked around the idea with a friend in the group. She mentioned it - it wasn't even on my radar. . I'm doing the math now since this just came out of the blue. I didn't volunteer for this project.. but once aware of the miscommunication, then thought - maybe it has possibilities? But it might be too much. So this is research. Waiting for a call back to talk more seriously about it to the group.

If nothing else, I"m going to learn a whole lot just researching it here on the boards.

Now the other job, the earlier one, I guess I"m still learning how to do the math on my estimating how long something should take. If I had a strong sense of that, which probably just comes with experience, then the math would be easy to do. Short of a situation like this (which involves cost and merchandising), estimating would be easier. Where the math breaks down is that I underestimate my time, or don't know how long it will take so I just throw out my best guess. It's hard to do the math when you are missing one factor in the equation.

Just another note - on this, I am a little hesitant seeing as the cameras I will have to work with are not HD. That's fine for now for a web video - but to do a performance? I guess you work with what you have. Renting is not an option due to timing and funds.

I need to talk more seriously to him to see what his needs, expectations, and planned use of the project is. Initially, I thought I was just volunteering to help out on a camera for two hours.
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Old June 1st, 2010, 11:55 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Michael Wisniewski View Post
This is a major trend in your posts, and it seems like the subtext is " ... I'm un-prepared again for what this really entails ...".
True that. I throw myself in quite a bit and end up learning trial by fire. When when my tail is on fire, thank goodness for the boards!

I prepare as well as I can for each situation, but lately what seems to be happening is that I think all is well, and a whole new area opens up to research and learn about. Guess it's all part of the learning curve. Mostly not really carelessness so much as inexperience, or rather, gathering experience.

This month alone I've really stepped out there. Had (each after taking on a project I thought would be easy) 1) a project that pointed out a whole lot of audio questions I didn't know the answer to, 2) a project that forced me to learn to work with new files, formats and codecs, 3) a project for a friend that reminded me that I need to value my time, or no one else will, and 4) a project that taught me to work with and match two cameras, and now this, 5) which will bring up a bunch of new areas I've never had to deal with before. You guys are right though. It's starting to sound a bit complicated. Especially on such short notice (four days). It definitely is setting off alarm bells as you say.

In addition, there will be some choreography for the other groups, and I don't know the details of what they are doing.

Edit>>>Talked to him. He doesn't want to go into that big a production. He just suggested we show up, get some footage that he can use for his local community TV show, and decide if we want to do something later with it. So no 50 hours of editing.

I'll still research those threads, since it's good to know.

Last edited by Kell Smith; June 2nd, 2010 at 12:59 AM.
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Old June 2nd, 2010, 09:30 AM   #12
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It's gone way off topic, but thanks everyone for the discussion!
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Old June 2nd, 2010, 09:41 AM   #13
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Be careful on the sale thing. You're first lesson is to make sure you get every single thing in writing, and in detail. What you can and can not use for sale, promotion and so on. Don't be afraid to do this. People are not afraid to approach you to do things. And if they balk, then that is your first big clue that you are heading toward the twilight zone. And if they say no, then let them go to someone else who they can Sc**w.

For every job that I've turned away, I've used the time wisely, like reading thousands of pages of Final Cut Studio manuals. Or making REAL business connections. Or learning from others experiences, good or bad. In my case, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

I think Rick Allen's cost for editing seems reasonable, depending on transitions, effects, other media placement, etc. Don't forget the time you will spend editing and adding music. Everything takes twice as long as you think.

Keep reading these forums, and like me and a bunch of others, ask the dumb questions, and the experts will help out.

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Old June 2nd, 2010, 02:31 PM   #14
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I think one reason "clients" sometimes choke on our quotes is because 1) they don't know what they don't know. What I mean is simply with everyone having a video camera now and posting all kinds of stuff on the net, the client in many cases just doesn't know the time and expertise involved in producing a quality piece of work and time is money. The number thing IMO is this (and I've said it clients of all kinds) You can ALWAYS find someone to do it for less. The problem is, will the person who said they'd do it for 1/2 the money that YOU quoted, do the kind of workmanship you'd do? Maybe, maybe not and chances are not. So then the question is, why should I hire you when this other person can do it cheaper and "just as well". Well we all know that they may do it cheaper but as well? Hmmmm, perceptions.
So I guess the answer is, ask lots and lots of questions, we're the pros so if a "client" won't sit for an hour to talk about the project, well, maybe it's not one you want to do. I keep asking questions until I have the information I need to make a legitmate quote and if while I'm putting it together I need more information I call and ask more questions. In many cases the "client" doesn't really have a perception of what they want the finished product to look like or what the message is they're trying to get out. IOW, the don't have a clear vision of the project. Then it's up to us to help guide them along. Of course some DO have a vison, unfortunately it's kind of along the line that Cameron had for Avatar and the "client" would need a budget that size as well.
Anyway like I said, today many "clients" just don't know what they don't know, but we do!
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
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Old June 5th, 2010, 08:35 PM   #15
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How do you communicate to people how much work is in a project?

I don't. More often than not, people could not care less about how hard something is to do. And, they don't care how much time and effort it will take you.

What they care about is care you deliver satisfactory results and can you do it within their budget.

That is why it is crucial for one to calculate one's cost of doing a project (both cash expense and time). Then you need to figure in a profit amount that will enable you to receive compensation for your work and to continue producing in the future.

I've had a few folks tell me my prices were too high. I told them to go to Walmart, buy a video camera and do the project themselves. I've also had people tell me "the other guy" will do it cheaper. I tell them to go have the other guy do it.

I'm selling a service, not a commodity. I don't consider myself a great producer. But, I am pretty darn good. If they want the work done, and they want me to do it, then they are going to pay me the fees that I charge. Otherwise, they can take a hike.

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