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Old December 20th, 2009, 07:11 PM   #1
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delivery time woe

Hey board. I need a little advice on how to handle a particular sticky business situation.
I've been shooting weddings for about a year now (I shoot plenty of events/commercials so not a newb).
So earlier in the year I signed a gig that was to take place early in the summer. The deal was that I would cover the wedding and produce a higher end package at a price less than full as we were still a little green and needed some exposure.
I explained to them that their video would take some time to complete as the editing process was a long one, plus my company would be in peak season thus slowing down completion time for all projects.
Now at that time I had been doing some research and found that most videographers were quoting 4-6 months for delivery, a time that i have always felt was completely understandable. When I discussed this with the clients I noticed the cringing that it induced and was compelled to give them a 2 minute crash course in what i do on the editing side after there big day. I said that I hoped that my delivery time wouldn't be that long, although i did advise that it would be a possibility.
They understood, i collected 25% and went on my merry way.
A month or two later i ran in to the clients at a store and they cut me a check right there for 40% more of the total (something that i didn't ask for).
So the wedding happens and its a disaster. There is a terrifying violent thunderstorm that lasts the entire day (the reception of course is in a party tent).
Even though it states in my contract that i reserve the right to put away my gear in the face of danger i still persist in shooting. As a result some of the day is blown. I almost completely miss a speech, there is not much b-roll, etc.
Now i felt horrible about this and explained it to the couple. They understood but i insisted on knocking the remaining balance off the cost. I tell them that i would love to use some wedding photos and to drop them off when they get a chance....a month goes by before i get the pics.
So i cut and i cut and i cut, desperately trying to make good from the bad, trying to make everyone happy.
Then the email comes.
They want to know where the hell the video was. It had been 3 and 1/2 months and enough was enough...i remain calm but motivated and finish up the final touches on the disc.
I like it (and i never like anything that i do) and deliver it.
A couple of weeks later i hear through other people that they loved the video. In fact, they even feel bad that they got such a discount as the reception that was washed was still pretty good. The bride melted, blah blah blah.
At first I am satisfied (if a little miffed that i didn't collect the rest of the $) until i hear the rest.
Despite all of it they will not recommend me.
The delivery time was waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too long.

So now this couple has gone out of there way to complain about my business.
I feel like i can't afford that kind of thing in this area as competition can be a little strong and i am a small company.
So my questions are as follows:
Whats your average delivery time?
How do you handle such situations?
Do I have a right to feel that this is crazy?

It seems that most people don't understand what goes into these things...Don't get me wrong, its not that i expect them to, but man...this really doesn't feel like its my fault.
This almost feels like a personal attack on me.
What are your thoughts pros?
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Old December 20th, 2009, 07:24 PM   #2
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Location: Willmar, MN
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Bottom line - your delivery time is way too long. All the other stuff does not matter.

The problem is that everyone here thinks they are an "artiste" (myself included) when in actuality, everyone else sees us as no different than the caterer or the guy who sets up the tent. We provide a service and they pay. They don't want a bunch of excuses and explanations, they just want the job done, done right, and done on time. ;)
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Old December 20th, 2009, 07:32 PM   #3
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My delivery time is supposed to be One month from the time of the event.
but thanks to computers it is getting longer and longer, and i have less and less of a life too :-(.
Customers i have worked for for 19years straight still expect a 1 month delivery time.
some of them know that given the time i can get it "perfected" (far from it actually).

very few of them are starting to have total ballistic fits , and of those they could franky care less about all the perks and extensive editing they dont even give a crud about the authoring or chaptering , SO THEY SAY.

one particular burr on my easy chair has trippled the ammount of shows i do for them, that is besides spending days on end piddling with thier project in the computer. expects the 3x work do be done in the old 1x time.
we had a nice little phone conversation with them going ballistic, my trying to explain something they frankly dont give a crap about, or want to understand.
(if they DID understand everything, they could also DO my job ;-)
I just kept my mouth shut, transfered the anger into my own adrenilin and got my Butt more into gear.

i donno should i care? do i really think if they dump me and go with someone else they wont come back? YES . when a customer gets so ticked off they diss you and hire somone else, they would have to take an even bigger hit to come crawling back begging for your work again.

So i get off my butt and work faster, longer and please the customer, the customer is always right, because the customer is my freaking boss, even if the boss doesnt understand my job.

When i started working for myself, people would say "now you dont have a boss to have to deal with, that is cool" but reality was now i had 3000 Bosses, and still have to please them all or get Fired.

I do certannly feel your Pain, suck it up , live and learn, move faster, get paid better/more and do less if you cant keep up, and remember your doing the things you want to do . . . to dang slowly :-) just like me.
Re-learning everything all over again, one more time.
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Old December 20th, 2009, 08:30 PM   #4
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everyone wants it now! especially with the convenience of youtube and itunes customers are expectitng an immediate download of the wedding day.

i have found very few clients actually read the contract. our delivery time is clearly stated on the contract and we mention the time during consultations. I still get the calls and emails asking when can we pick up the dvd way before the promised completion time. occassionally the mother of the bride will call on monday two days after the wedding expecting to pick up the dvd that afternoon.

putting together a short 1-3 minute clip such as a trailer, highlights montage etc. and posting it on your blog or sending it by email within a week of the wedding day is a good way to let the bride know her edit is in progress and it gives her something to watch.

the sooner you can complete the edit the better. the bride and usually her mom have spent countless hours planning the wedding day. after the wedding the time spent planning has now become free time with nothing to do. don't be the vendor providing something to do for the bride and her mom to fill this free time! the sooner they get the finsinsed dvd the less they will be filling their free time calling, emailing and asking to make changes to the finished dvd.

also the longer it takes the higher the expectations. the bride thinks wow it is taking four months to edit my wedding it must really be good! if the wedding is not absolutely stunning the bride then says wow i waited four months for this!

find the balance between price and quality. this will not only keep the brides happy but will lead to less backlog and a more effecient use of your time.

brides will never know or understand the amount of time it takes to record and edit a wedding. i always take too long to get the edits complete. i try to get them done in 8-10 weeks but usually run closer to 12-16. consider using templates whenever possible to speed up each wedding edit without making it cookie cutter and get the dvds out the door as quick as you can.
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Old December 20th, 2009, 08:43 PM   #5
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I feel your pain Jason.

It was repeated here so many times: "cheap, fast, quality" - choose only two out of three. I've always wanted to deliver the best at every time for my customers - it doesn't work - it takes for ever, and customers are getting annoyed. I could have done it faster - I would need to hire an editor - but that would jack the prices significantly - nobody will pay more for no reason. So my answer to the problem is - cut down on quality. Less time spent on the computer means quicker turn-around, means happier customers and more referrals. I just delivered my first wedding done in new "technique" - I managed to cut my editing time from a month to two weeks (and that's in afterhours - I have full time job as well).

As far as your situation - it's too late to do anything about it. You should learn a lesson - no discounts - everybody pays the same price. Also clear message to the customers about turn around at the moment of signing the contract - it's a part of your terms - they pay the price for such and such package which will take 4 to 6 months to deliver. They like it - they'll sign it. If not then let them go to someone else. If the average in your area is similar, then they'll have to bite the bullet.
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Old December 20th, 2009, 11:56 PM   #6
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i feel for you man!

What we do is try to provide them a wedding highlight video a month or so after the wedding and post it in their facebook for them to show their friends ...usually buys us a couple of months...BTW our usual turn around time is 3-4 months... others in my area are from 8-12 months...

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Old December 21st, 2009, 01:18 AM   #7
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On a videographer's website (I don't remember who it was) I saw an interesting attempt to put their clients at rest during the wait. One page of their website offered a timeline detailing what part of the edit would be completed each week. It went something along the lines of...

Week 1 (Load and review footage)
Week 2 (Pre-ceremony completed)
Week 3 (Ceremony completed)
Week 4 (Reception completed)
Week 5 (Highlights completed)
Week 6 (Picture and audio corrected/enhanced)
Week 7 (Film burned to DVD and delivered)

I don't remember how many weeks they listed or the exact descriptions, but it was something similar to this.

Alec Moreno
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Old December 21st, 2009, 01:22 AM   #8
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This is the story of every videographer, I suppose... We give an average of 4-6 months and although many clients seem to understand that (it's always written in the contract), some of them really go wild when time passes. If you want my advice, always try politely to explain what are the reasons for the delays, that you always try to do the best you can, and that is not happening if you are in a hurry. If they can't accept that before signing the contract, let them choose another videographer.

Now, if they accept it but they think different later, you should again remain polite. But some times, although our clients are generally patient because they know we deliver what they expect, things may get out of control.

(Real conversation)

-Videographer: Good day
-Client: Yeah...
-What can I do for you?
-What can you do for me? You guys have gone too far, you know? This is unacceptable!
-(Initially speechless videographer). What do you mean? What have we done?
-(Bad tempered client). It is three months now and we haven't yet taken the video in our hands? And I am asking you, is this a normal thing??
-Sir, you signed a contract that had specifically stated the 4-6 months time. We had also talked about it.
-What???? Six months time? Are you serious young man? If we knew that, then blah blah blah

The client continues and the videographer suddenly gets in "dark mode". And you don't want to see this videographer in dark mode.

-Ok, listen to me. I will deliver the video in three days from now. Are you happy with it?
-What do you mean? How can it be in three days?
-Easy. I will deliver the same qualities as the rest of them in town. I can do it for you. It's easy. Do we have a deal?

Of course the client didn't want that. It always works though. They want the best result, fast. That's the human condition. But he continued with the same erratic style.

-I don't know what you're saying about qualities and such. I know that this unacceptable! Do you know that our parents are old and they may not live until you deliver??

(And there goes)...

-Sir, I am not a doctor. It's not my business to control who lives and who dies. I do a specific job, and that is what you pay me.

After that, he left. I don't regret it though. It's inevitable with so many happy clients, to have someone like them. It's statistics. I don't do them favors.

PS. During their shooting day, something happened and they couldn't play music at the reception. The clients were furious with the people responsible, but we ran to our studio, found cables, went back and made it happen. And this is the "thank you" we received. :)
"A successful wedding videographer is the one that offers for viewing some excellent videos and some boring videos, and gets positive reviews for both".
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Old December 21st, 2009, 01:35 AM   #9
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I'm surprised that anyone can have anything but sympathy for Jason. There's lots of elements one could point to as unsatisfactory but he already knows most of them. One he hasn't mentioned though is that the other clients he deals with are pros, wedding clients are amateurs.

Because we shoot everything with three cameras and because I'm busy throughout the day already, I've never been tempted to offer an SDE but such things make rods for our own backs.

My own view, incomplete and unsatisfactory as it must be, is to make it crystal clear in your contract what the price is, what the maximum delivery time will be, what, if any financial penalties you will accept, and to put this in the main contract, not the small type.

I'm sure Jason won't make the same mistake again but his story is a lesson for us all.

Finally, as I've said before, referrals are fickle things, nice but not something to base your business on - especially in the early days when you're building your price up to what your skill, scope and effort justify.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 04:23 AM   #10
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Last Sunday I produced a theatre christmas show, via an independent management company, shot on location with an OB unit. - Far, far too many people with vested interests, and an absolute nightmare to coordinate - but we got it done, and completed the edit - 50mins from a two hour production, with mistakes and re-takes - in two days. It goes out today, but has been trailered for the past 4 days.

I got a frosty reception last time I mentioned this subject, but 6 months?? Worst of all is the fact the client who pays the bill knows there were problems in the production, so from their perspective they might be expecting a dodgy product, with the 'hope' of a good one. 6 months is a ridiculous time-scale. If you ordered a three piece suite and paid for that, you get cross when they tell you 10 weeks for delivery. I really can't blame them for not recommending you. It's a brilliant video, but took 6 months to come? As I understand it, wedding videos are not cheap, so what people want is value for money - making them wait half a year has to colour their judgement - and I can't help feeling it's justified. You may not have told them it would be quick, but I wonder if anybody really understood it would take 6 months.

The other problem is that the business model means you are also waiting 6 months for the balance of the agreed fee. What happens if the happy couple don't make a go of it? By 6 months, they could be divorced! Come to think of it, babies may be coming along, moving house and other expense elements could come into play. Will they actually have the balance to pay you.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 05:15 AM   #11
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ugh, I am going through this now. I have been managing, but having a full time job AND a two kids (one with issues) has really taken its toll. By the end of the evening, I am way too tired to stay up 3 more hours and feel motivated to try and edit. I think for those of us who are truly busy enough, and are still working a full time job, it is time to re-assess where you want to be. You either go all in and give it a shot, or you pull back and do less and try
to live a normal life not shackled to your computer all the time. Every minute I am not sitting here, I feel like I should be working. Bottom line, they signed your contract,
they should read it. You need to email them and keep them up to date, at least with some
contact, they will feel like progress is being made.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 07:03 AM   #12
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I personally find that I need to do the edit as soon as possible, otherwise it gets harder and harder to want to start. I need the excitement and freshness of the shoot to keep me excited about finishing the job. Money also helps.

Personally, I feel that 2 weeks would be the idea delivery time for a video that I shoot and produce. Obviously, larger more complicated projects will vary this.


PS. With regards to Jason's story, a month delay in receiving the wedding photos is worth bringing to their attention. This sort of thing can really mess with an otherwise functional production schedule.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 08:10 AM   #13
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I promise 8 weeks or less and have never had a client who found that unreasonable. I find that if my contract states a specific date for delivery "your DVD will be delivered on or before December xx, 2009," it puts any concerns at ease. Of course, that means you absolutely have a hard deadline to meet, but for me that's good. Keeps me motivated, and I can usually get it to them a little earlier.
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Old December 21st, 2009, 01:48 PM   #14
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The way I see it is that you delivered the product within the agreed upon window that was discussed before the fact. It is completely unreasonable for the couple to behave like they are behaving now.

That being said, if everyone else was quoting 4-6 months for delivery, I would personally adjust my workflow so that I can get each project done within 2-3 months, and I would make a big deal out of it. "Everyone else is 4-6 months but I have a quality workflow that allows me to stay on top of my post production. I would see it as an opportunity to do better than the competition and stand out from them.

I understand that a solid edit takes time, and I would certainly prefer waiting the extra time for a quality product, but there are people who don't feel that way. In my very humble opinion it's better to go the extra mile, get the job done quickly, get it done right, and keep couples like this from turning on you.
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Old December 22nd, 2009, 07:51 PM   #15
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Thanks everybody for the responses. I guess that in the end I still feel justified in my anger. The issue really isnt about the length of my delivery time, its that they knew the delivery time, I came in under (despite the photo debacle) and their impatience still got the best of them.
I'm the most impatient person on this planet. I hate shopping for things online or via mail because I hate waiting for the package to come in the mail.
Ebay does not exist for me.
I totally get them being antsy for the video of there big day...however they might have acted harshly and at the expense of my business IMO.
Is the customer always right?
Sure. And I felt pretty good about my customer service up to this point.
This is something that a lot of us will face and I guess that it was my turn.
Thanks for the support and all of the feedback.
I will take some of the advice and try my best to speed up my workflow, but I just can't bring myself to do it at the expense of someone's wedding.
Thanks again for all the help guys!
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