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Re: A difficult client.

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Mark Suszko
Re: A difficult client.
on Nov 5, 2018 at 3:39:47 pm

This is a ridiculous ask on the part of the client. Nobody can afford to work like that for more than a week: the client is preventing you from being available to do other jobs. In labor law cases settled by the Supreme Court, this is a case of "being engaged to be waiting", not "Waiting to be engaged" and they need to pay you something for the fact that you are on stand-by to serve them.

If you really want/need to work on this project, at least ask for a retainer. The fee for being on retainer is based on your day rate, discounted over a set amount of time.

Say your hourly rate is 50 bucks and your day rate is 400. A week is then $2,000, without any discounts. A month's work would be $8,000.

It's important to make the distinction that, assuming you can find other gigs and they all pay the same rate, you would be making that 8 grand, not just from one client, but collectively, from several different ones. They are all paying for your time, and eight grand is the max you can make per month.

If the client you mention only actually needs you part-time, but is making it impossible for you to commit to any other work, then they owe you ALL the time, used or not. Let's hope you can find one other client that's willing to work around this ridiculous availability schedule. But if you can't, and they're only paying you half the time, you're losing 50% of your monthly income. And that's a generous estimate; from your description, sounds more like you're only making maybe 25% of that monthly maximum. Right there, the math should tell you, you'd be better off in a job that comes with a plastic name tag and spatula. At least there, the time commitments are something you can schedule around.

So, how much should you demand for a retainer, to keep yourself exclusive to this one client, yet make enough to eat? It's got to be more than fifty percent of your monthly max. That's just survival. I'd opine sixty to seventy percent, to be exclusively "on-call".

Anything less and you are giving it away. There may be cases where you would want to give it away - it's a rare opportunity to work with someone of great stature, for example, or the end product may be something award-worthy that's good for your resume'. Sometimes you do it because you're really into a certain cause, or you're doing it for love. Maybe it's religious material, and you're "editing for Jesus".

But absent those kinds of circumstances, you'd be foolish to keep going the way you have been. It's signalling to the client that you're a chump who can be ripped-off. It's a de facto reduction of your rate. In effect, you've made yourself a bank, lending this client your own money at zero interest. And I will bet you this client eats three squares every day, no problem.

For your long-term financial survival in the business, and for your self-respect, you can't let things continue as they are. Offer them a retainer of at least 60 percent of your max monthly, tell them it reflects a 40 percent discount on your day rate to be "exclusive" to them 24/7, and be ready to walk if they say no. That's the second rule of negotiation: they have to believe you will walk away from a bad deal. If neither of you believes that, they own you. And everybody in that production community will know that they can talk you down from your rate, because you gave in once. This one bad deal could ruin every deal that comes after. You have to think long-term.


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