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What to do???

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fweditWhat to do???
by on Sep 19, 2005 at 3:30:03 am

I was recently contacted by a local production company that handles game day production for a college in my area. The wanted to know if I culd fil in for their regular Audio engineer for a few dates during this coming basketball season. They gave me their rate for this position which matched what I would charge as a day rate. The next paragraph went soemthing like this...

"If you are available to work those dates, we would need you to come to an earlier game to train/learn the room. Unfortunatly we do not pay for training."

Essentially they want me to spend a day at the venue learning the room, which I understand I'd need to do since I hear that things aren't marked and there are lots of quirks, for FREE.

Is it wrong of me to expect to be paid for my time? An AV company would charge them a full day rate for training and probably send 2 people.

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GregRe: What to do???
by on Sep 19, 2005 at 2:37:19 pm

It depends on how much you want the work. Going through training shows good faith and a "can do" attitude. If you're likeable and show a positive attitude, you'll be on their short list for years to come.

I gave 4 days of time to being trained in a new in-house corporate facility. I did it for free, and now I'm their "go to" guy when ever they need anything. Had I hemmed and hawed about 4 days with no pay, they probably would never have called me.

Just my two cents.


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Seth BloombaumRe: What to do???
by on Sep 19, 2005 at 3:31:39 pm

My knee-jerk response was "No way!" Fortunately, I wasn't sitting with a client at that moment :-)

Couple things for your consideration:
It's not just a few days in one basketball season, it's a relationship that (probably) will lead to more work. So, when you sharpen your pencil, it isn't just "one day free gets me four," it possibly could lead to years of work. Long term clients are the best!

I've done a lot of work at full rate, a lot of work free, rented, loaned, equipment, etc. My rule of thumb when approached for less than full rate work is "If there's money being made, I need part of it. If not, I'm glad to work for free, or loan equipment, or whatever" of course within the limits of what I'm willing to contribute.

Realize that the production company is not being paid to train you. So, of course their first approach will be what they offered.

Were it me, and if I wanted the work, I'd do it. I'd also have a friendly discussion with them about the value of the training time ("I realize you're investing training in me, and I appreciate it. I'm also investing time in you, and I hope that this will lead to other work. Will it?") I'd also invoice them for the training time and issue a no charge credit for same on the invoice for the first game. In other words, get all you can out of contributing that day.

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Charlie KingRe: What to do???
by on Sep 19, 2005 at 3:55:42 pm

[Seth Bloombaum] "I'd also invoice them for the training time and issue a no charge credit for same on the invoice for the first game. In other words, get all you can out of contributing that day."

I agree wholehearted with this. It leaves a paper trail of your willingness to be a little better at the job and can indeed lead to work down the road if this company is reputable.


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Bob ColeRe: What to do???
by on Sep 20, 2005 at 2:04:36 pm

It depends on who you are. If you are an established professional, you should charge for the time, perhaps at a reduced rate. If you are a student, you should not.

If you're a pro, and if the room is so idiosyncratic that it takes a full day to learn it, why should you pay the price? Are they simply auditioning you?

I agree with some of the comments. At least, if you train for free, you should ask whether this will lead to regular gigs. If you act as if your time is totally without value, then how can you expect other people to pay for it?

-- BC

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FWeditRe: What to do???
by on Sep 20, 2005 at 2:09:58 pm

thanks to all of you for your responses.

I am a seasoned video pro with a great deal of audio production experience. I am very concerned about setting a precedent by giving my time for free. I don't think this is an audition, because I get the impression they'd like me to observe, not actaully train by doing.

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Charlie KingRe: What to do???
by on Sep 20, 2005 at 3:35:16 pm

[FWedit] "I get the impression they'd like me to observe, not actaully train by doing."

You are probably right. I remember once as a freelancer covering vacation relief for an edit facility. I went over the day before (totally on my own time and without the request to do so) because I would not walk into a facility cold. Where are teh patch panels, what kind of router is used? Where is tape stored, how is the billing handled, how do we print labels?

I consider myself a seasoned professional (at that time I had 30+ years in the business)
I just considered it as protecting my reputation. Would not want to walk into a new place and not know where anything was or any procedures, my reputation would go down the tubes real fast.


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Peter PerryRe: What to do???
by on Sep 23, 2005 at 8:41:48 pm

This comes up often for me. I don't think it sets a precedent, this is common practice. Some places will pay to train, others won't, that's just the way it is. I won't give up a paying gig to train for free, but if I am not working that day, then I'll do it.
I've never been taken advantage of, but I have established working relationships with a number of production houses/companies that ended up being long term.

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hkatzmanRe: What to do???
by on Sep 24, 2005 at 1:28:42 pm

For me this question is always easy. Yes, of course, if I have the time I will ALWAYS go in.

I am a freelancer. I am often hired to go into a new place and be very productive immediately. The client is paying full rate and expects me to be productive. To get access to equipment that I am not otherwise familiar with is money in the bank. I will go into one company and, on my time, get familiar with the equipment. I may or may not get work at that company, but someone will one day call me and ask if I know this very same equipment and I can truthfully say yes. To otherwise get access to unfamiliar equipment, I have to pay a facility for usage time or pay ridiculous amounts of money for training.

I now teach and I tell my students that if you are learning then the money is less important. It will eventually pay off somehow, someway. My "weakness" is that I am not uniquely concerned about money. There are other issues. I may be helping out a good cause (others have equally helped out MY good causes) or I may be learning something new (this is after over twenty-five years in the industry).

But clients pay me well for my diversity of experience and I have never regretted the opportunity, and that is what it is, the opportunity to learn new equipment and setup.

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Allan Klingler / Teton Video ServicesRe: What to do???
by on Sep 24, 2005 at 6:11:36 pm

I liked the idea of being willing to do the training process without charging them since it reflects your willing attitude to do the job their way and find out what that is. Lets face it, every client I take on, I have to spend a considerable time in discussion with them to get a feel for their shooting and editing style and what their expectations are for the finished work of the project. That is a cost I incurr in doing business and there is little getting around that unless it is with an exisiting client who says, do it just like you did last time.

On the other hand. If you are involved in steady profitable work and its all you can do to get things done for your current tasks, that time out of the office to train off the clock is unreasonable and not cost effective. Can you justify that pressure that will come from pushing back the work of other paying clients for something that will forseeably have limits in profitability to your company. If it has the potential of being an ongoing profitable gig you should consider it, but if you forsee the client will always be trying to get stuff out of you for free, Turn it down outright or raise your prices. I have enough clients like that who use tactics like this to reduce their investment in my precious time. If you are established, you need to pick and choose your projects wisely as it will determine whether you are just keeping busy or are making money doing work.

I find I am often further ahead to turn down my marginally profitable work. Always take care of good clients as they are the ones who take care of you. To do what is best for your company, your objective is ideally to pick the most profitable long term mix of projects and selectively fill your time with what you can get done right. Other less profitable work can be either farmed out or rejected. People you take care of well realize the production value you bring and will be willing to pay for it when they need you. Having said that, don't take on so much that each project can't be stellar work. Ultimately quality work will benefit you more than doing lots of mediocre work. Since the nature of the work we do is high profile for our clients they talk a lot to other potential clients and that word of mouth advertising is the best advertising any of us has.

Allan Klingler
Teton Video Services

Find a good woman, treat her right. See life ain't so bad...

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tony salgadoRe: What to do???
by on Sep 26, 2005 at 6:20:47 am

The difference between a full time employee and a freelancer is the employee is entitled to be paid for his time to train because he is employed full time. Based on my experience the freelancer on the other hand is a "at will hire" and it is their responsibility to "self train" themselves on the latest equipment, procedures and protocols.

This is one of the reasons a freelancer can charge such a high day rate given the extra time, and expenses they incurr to stay self employeed.

However if the client is hiring you as a consultant to test out the gear and provide feedback or professional expertise than you should charge them but if the end result is to benefit you with long term steady freelance work then you would be stupid to turn down the "self educational" opportunity. One major advantage would be to meet and learn from the in house engineering staff if any who can assist you with your instructional training. Should the client charge you to meet with their engineering staff?

If however you feel you are qualified to step into the facility without any training whatsoever and will not encounter any problems, workflow issues or a complete failure then you don't need to make yourself available and just show up for day one of the job. Well unless you are God's gift to mankind the most likely scenario is your first day will not go smooth and you may end up damaging your reputation as a "professional skilled freelancer" who takes jobs knowing they cannot operate the gear properly or to the client's expectations or requirements.

You honestly owe it to yourself to be prepared at all times in advance so the client receives the full value for the amount he or she is paying you. If you want to be paid for every time you pick up a manual to teach yourself a new piece of equipment then consider taking a full time employee position at 1/8 of your day rate and all the internal political baggage you have to endure as a full or part time employee.
A freelancer has many liberties in that they can come and go as they please, select who they want work or not work for and what day rate they choose to compensate themselves.

In my opinion if you don't plan in advance you only plan to fail.
Preplanning well result in long term client growth, repeat business and a professional reputation that keeps you employeed time and time again.

Keep in mind freelancers are only as good as their last job.

Tony Salgado

Tony Salgado

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FWeditRe: What to do???
by on Sep 26, 2005 at 1:02:24 pm

Thanks, I had no intention of taking the gigs without the training, it was all or nothing.

In short, I decided to go for it. Since they have a regular engineer, I may get screwed if these two dates are the only 2 they ever offer me, but that remains to be seen.

Thanks to all who replied.

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Mark FrazierRe: What to do???
by on Sep 26, 2005 at 7:30:27 pm

I think you made the right choice. As you have read in this thread, preparing yourself (as opposed to expecting others to prepare you) for a multiple-day gig is time well spent. Personally, I would never walk into unfamiliar settings and expect to immediately perform well enough to satisfy myself or the person writing the check.

I also am with Seth and Charlie on making note of this time on your invoice. Letting your client know that your time, as well as your talents, has value can pay off long-term.

As a bonus, if the rate they quoted you ("...matched what I would charge as a day rate.") is for each event, I can't imagine a ball game of any kind that takes a whole day, even with pre-and post-event work.

Enjoy the gigs!

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foleyvideoRe: What to do???
by on Oct 15, 2005 at 6:37:51 pm

I have to agree with most of what I've read on this thread. You have to protect your rep, so if they don't pay for a day of training, bite the bullet and play it their way. At least that way you'll hit the ground running when you get the call to work.

And -- if you never get called again -- so what. You made a few bucks that otherwise would have gone to a competitor. Production houses / people are so plentiful these days -- take the money and run!


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