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Firing a client - long post

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GregFiring a client - long post
by on Jun 12, 2006 at 5:22:59 pm

Well I fired my first client this weekend. We were scheduled to shoot video in the Caribbean, and this client was getting stranger by the minute. They took over a month to approve my proposal, then came to me with less than a week before they wanted to travel and shoot. I normally require a deposit that covers my costs 6 business days before a shoot, especially with a new client. This client was going to drop off the check on Saturday, my crew was scheduled to depart on Tuesday. That would get me my deposit one business day before the shoot. I was still willing to send my crew.

Then, the client asked to tour my studio where we'd be editing. I work out of a home office and let the client know. (it had never come up before). The client changed her tone...wondering why my prices were "professional" yet I worked out of my home. Then she insisted we complete 2 videos within 3 days at which time she was going on vacation, when I had quoted her 5 days. I'm already booked on another project until the end of June. She was angry about this, while we had never discussed editing right away. She just wanted to shoot it "before hurricane season was in full mode" I offered to take all footage, give her burned in timecode windows on DVD at no charge so she could edit on paper. I'd work nights and weekends to accommodate her. Because I was giving her this option she insisted I drop my price by $1,000. Since she would be "doing my work during my time of need" (her quote) I said no way, and explained how I normally charge clients for this service.

Then the final straw, she sends me the weight/baggage requirements for the airline. I let her know that there will be excess weight/baggage. She says it's because my crew isn't packing correctly. I tell her that since she's travelling with the crew, perhaps she can put the excess on her credit card, since my crew shouldn't have to lay out the money. My contract says that client is responsible for all travel and transportation fees. She said her client would reimburse us, again saying how she would not "float any money" . She said if I couldn't agree to that then perhaps we should call the whole thing off. That was my key to freedom. I said, I couldn't agree, and let's cancel this project. I wished her well.

Now the questions. They had bought air tickets 2 days prior to her even signing a contract. I never sent her my signature back. I never received a deposit check. Does she have ay legal recourse? My feeling was that if she was this poor of a communicator, this argumentative, nickle and diming everything, and realy rude getting to the shoot, I could only imagine sitting with her for 4 days in an edit session.

Second, how do you folks cover youselves in your contracts regarding cancellation. Let's say you do not get their deposit on time. Or let's say you are not meshing with the client and you see signs of trouble. Do you have specific wording in your contracts? Would you be so kind to share with me. Thanks. Sorry about the long post, but I do feel better after sharing this with you all.


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Ron LindeboomRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 12, 2006 at 5:38:37 pm

[Greg] "I never sent her my signature back. I never received a deposit check. Does she have ay legal recourse?"

I don't know where you live or under which set of laws you operate but here where we live (California) a deal is not a deal until a contract has been signed and money changes hands. Some argue that you can bind yourself under a set of legally binding constraints on a verbal agreement but I am 55 and have yet to see this hold water in a court of law. Others may have seen it and I will defer to their greater experience but as of today, I have never seen it hold water.

I think you are pretty safe to say that you are within your rights to bow out of this one. I would.

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom

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David Roth WeissRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 13, 2006 at 7:36:30 pm

[Ron Lindeboom] "I am 55 and have yet to see this hold water in a court of law"


As you say, the odds of losing at trial would be negligable, however, being right and winning seldom negates the cost of mounting the defense, which could easily cost $40,000 or more.

My point is, most of posts I see here about these issues are about who is right and and who is wrong -- and that should only be the starting point. I doubt anyone here would like to pay his or her lawyer 40k for being able to say they were right. The moral is, unless you want to buy your lawyer a 5-star vacation to Europe, do whatever you can to avoid litigation.


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Ron LindeboomRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 13, 2006 at 8:22:22 pm

I wouldn't argue that point at all, David. I have seen people totally within their rights lose huge sums and even lose the battle.

Being right, while nice, is not what the courts are about. As I remember being told by a judge many years ago in a court battle that I was a part of: "This is not about what is right or just. It is about what is legal." That was a real eye-opener and I would agree with you 100%, David, do all you can to stay out of court.

But remember: Many people will bully you with words about taking you to court when, in fact, it many times costs them just as much money to sue you as it does for you to defend yourself. Don't rollover for every threat either... Sometimes, it's like a game of poker and the other guy is trying to bluff you.

Ron Lindeboom

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David Roth WeissRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 13, 2006 at 8:49:37 pm

[Ron Lindeboom] "Don't rollover for every threat either..."


I had one of those "clients from Hell" once who:

a) Had no talent whatsoever
b} Was a horrible person
c) Owed me lots of money

After giving him fair warning that I would pull the plug on post-production if he didn't pay me within one week, I was forced to do so. At that point the client's lawyer called my lawyer and threatened to sue me if I didn't complete the entire project without pay. My lawyer actually advised me to do the work, suggesting just as I mentioned earlier, that I would most likely prevail at trial, but, it might easily cost me $40K to defend.

It took me all of about 30-seconds to make my decision. I told my lawyer to send them a very clear and unambiguous message that I was prepared to go the distance no matter what it cost, and that I would never work with them again under any circumstances. They bitched and moaned at first, and then they settled, paying me just 60-cents on the dollar. But, I never did another minute of work for them...


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KeyDesignzI have had similar problems
by on Jun 16, 2006 at 11:42:31 pm

Usually if it smells like shit, it is shit, so in my opinion, I would write this one down as experience. I know what you are getting into, you just don't want this client to badmouth you all over town. That is the worst that comes from this. I have had instances in the very near present that occurs when nothing is signed, the clients don't want to pay. Here in Australia, there are several free avenues I can take before I throw a court order at her, but at present a couple of clients are reluctant to pay, which I need to stamp down on immediately. In future, I won't be doing anything until I get something in writing. No mun, no fun as they say.
So unless you have it in writing and you have some cash, forget about it.

If you can't be good at it, then don't do it.

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Pixel MonkeyRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 12, 2006 at 7:19:07 pm

Yeesh... From your wording, it almost sounds like this client made the decision ahead of time to break ties with you. What easier way to do so, than to make things so hard that you take the initiative?

1: Legal recourse? No, you're fine - just like Ron says.

2a: Cancellations and late deposits? If you're only going to do this verbally, do so constantly. The 1st sign of a problem, make a big deal out of it. Otherwise, a terse contract illustrating your "rates and conditions" would be fine. Most photographers I know demand 1/2 day pay if cancelled within 2-3 days.

2b: Not meshing with the client? That's a bit grayer. Unless you're a relentlessly sought after artist who can afford to turn down anything, I'd say grin and bear their personality shifts for the most part. Here's a fun example of a similar situation:
-- an ad agency I freelance edited for had a client that hated our end product. We fulfilled our creative end to the letter, but a major change in their attitude was clear. Well as it turns out, the client's new wife (who was not present at any meetings leading up to this) had a couple years of production experience and claimed we were heading in the wrong direction. So, the agency that hired me convinced the client to let us perform one more edit, based on their new direction with the newly written clause in the now ammended contract that if this venture was not up-to-snuff, all services would be considered delivered and the client would be free to pursue other ad agencies. This is exactly what ended up happening. I heard later that the spots were completely re-done, and that new wife did the voice over!

It sounds like this client of yours was receiving some sort of outside pressure, and didn't have an authentic beef specifically with you or your services on that project. I wouldn't worry.

`(=)`/...Pixel Monkey

Just finished editing "Frank Lloyd Wright's Buffalo" - see it on PBS Sept 4, 2006 at 10pm.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 13, 2006 at 6:47:01 pm

Sounds like you gave up your seat on the Titanic just in time to see it sail. My sense is to agree with the others that if you didn't come to a complete agreement, signed off and money exchanged, it's not considered a valid contract. Of course, I am not a lawyer, but this was on an episode of "The Paper Chase" one time, so it must be true:-)

You had a "Grinder". Check the archives here for a great essay about them, I won't repeat all the advice from it here. The only way this could have gone better for you is if it drove the client to your worst rival.

You stuck to your guns and held firm on your terms. With this action you lost a questionable client that was likely going to grind you until you wound up losing money on the hours put in. But you're likely to retain your reputation and the business it brings. You have mantained your rates and terms as well as your dignity, and have not exposed your business to undue risk. You were a prudent businessman. Take yourself out to a nice meal and celebrate, you won.

I really do know how hard it is to let potential revenue go, when the bills are piling up, but trust us, this one wasn't going to profit you in the long run, you did the right thing, and probably were overly charitable in not billing her back for stringing you along.

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Monica F.P.WilliamsOff Topic Re: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 18, 2006 at 3:19:51 pm

Sorry this message is off topic
I am interested to know more about you documentary I did one too for PBS on Wright in the Southwest
Please email me your address.

Monica F.P.williams
crocodile editing

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Frank NolanRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 13, 2006 at 8:28:19 pm

[Greg] "My contract says that client is responsible for all travel and transportation fees."

[Greg] "They had bought air tickets 2 days prior to her even signing a contract"

[Greg] "She said if I couldn't agree to that then perhaps we should call the whole thing off."

Firstly I am not a lawyer, but if your contract was signed by her then that means she agreed to your terms. ie. client pays for travel related fees. By her saying at the last minute that she didn't want to pay or you should pay and be re-imbursed, would mean to me that she broke the contract and you would probably have cause to sue her for the amount you were to make on the shoot. My advice would be to call a lawyer and be prepared.

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Nick GriffinRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 14, 2006 at 2:29:20 pm

Frank Nolan: "My advice would be to call a lawyer and be prepared."

This is one of the only things said here with which I take issue. Sure you can be prepared, but don't start a lawyer's taxi meter until there's an actual reason. It's far more likely that this woman will just go away. The best preparation would be to assemble all the pertinent documents, notes, recollections in one place. If you really have time to burn, build a timeline of what was said and when. Then put it away and move on.

Having been through serious litigation with someone who stole our work product (after months of deposition and preparation they settled the evening before the trial was to start), I can speak first hand for how mentally exhausting the process is. It can be like taking your business, your life and everything that matters to you and setting it aside so your mind can be taken over by legal BS. Massive amounts of time are consumed. It's great to have been right and won. But looking back on what I paid in wasted time and the draining of positive energy, both sides lost. (The lawyers of course were the true winners -- they ALWAYS are!)

Oh, and I especially like Mark's wish that this drive her to your worst competitor. If only things worked out as well in life as they do in fiction!

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GregRe: Firing a client Thanks all!
by on Jun 14, 2006 at 2:51:52 pm

Thanks to Ron, David, Pixel, Mark, Frank, and Nick. As always, you guys are the best. Nick, I did what you said, compiled a file with all documents, emails, timelines, and description of events just in case. Frank, I don't think I would go after her for a lawsuit. I'm just glad to have her out of my life.

Mark, your words are always encouraging, and right on. Thanks for your insight. I never heard back from her after writing my last email saying I was pulling the plug.

As an after thought though, do you folks have something in your contracts regarding cancellation? I'm thinking about 2 areas here... First they do not provide a contract and deposit when due, and second, it needs to be cancelled because of differences, changes in the scope of work, time frame changes, etc.

Lastly, how do you deal with things like rain for an outdoor shoot, or here in Florida a hurricane? Thanks again

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Mark SuszkoRe: Firing a client Thanks all!
by on Jun 14, 2006 at 6:16:02 pm

A guy who I respect says: "with the right people, you don't need a written contract, with the wrong people, even a written one is not enough".

So the first step to my mind is to filter out the likely bad clients before you even get to the negotiating stage.

More to your point, performance and non performance clauses are something you have to reach agreement on up-front, and should be part of any smart contract.

You want it spelled out, what gets billed to whom if for example you have a catastrophic equipment failure or accident on the set just before the shoot and can't continue taping. If the stakes are high enough, I would in such a contract arrange (for an extra fee) to have replacement gear rented and ready or "on hold" for a quick delivery so the dud could be replaced and production could keep going.

I don't know a lot of commercial production people who rent or buy a whole second camera just as an "in case" backup, but I know several wedding/event guys do, and some deposition shooters do, because you just can't stop real life events and make them wait. Cheap clients will tend to not want to pay for the backup unit if it was never actually used, and it raises your rate. But they would get even madder if your ONLY camera died as the bride was entering the church and you wound up ruining "their most special day". Perhaps if you get the right relationship and trust with a rental provider, they will not charge for the unused spare, or cut you a discount if you truly didn't need it. A lot depends on the demand for the extra gear, and whether they passed up another rental just to back you up with the spare.

Back to the contract with the client, what are they willing to pay for to insure against such a worst case? Granted, it's rare, but it needs to be spelled out in advance if all their recourse is just to get a refund.

Weather is out of your control entirely, the contract should specify that while you'll give it your best shot, that's all you promise. Re-scheduling may incur extra costs, and you need to tell them up front they will get billed a certain amount extra for that. If for example you hired a grip for the day and wound up rained out, you still needed to pay that guy for showing up, and will need to pay him again on the re-shoot. You have to pass that cost along.

As to cancellations, when I did weddings, I didn't have any issue giving full refunds for cancellations as long as I had three days notice or hadn't yet spent the down payment to book the camera rental (I never owned the camera, only rented it as needed for booked gigs). If the cancellation was 24 hours ahead, I'd refund everything but what I had to pay for the rental booking.

If, however, taking your gig precludes me from another, your cancellation means you have prevented me from TWO gigs, and now I'm gonna bill you something for my lost work, that's only fair. How much has to be up to the individuals and the individual situation, I feel.

And this brings me to your editing "contract". Did you have other biz you could have handled, other projects you could have edited, that were precluded by this harridan's booking? Then you are justified in asking for some portion of a penalty for a last-minute cancellation. If it's 48 hours or more, you have the chance to scare up another gig, so I would perhaps not charge a fee in that case, BUT... I WOULD put that client on a "watch list" and require a bigger advance deposit from such a client the next time they came back. Call it a "jerk tax", call it whatever you want. Refundable later, of course, if warranted, but, you know, you gotta eat too. You can also decide to not give them the same "freebies" you used to, like free review dubs, or a break on digitizing fees.

The bottom line is to talk out all the possibilities and what you plan to do for each situation that comes up, then get that in writing at least as a memo of understanding, if not in a more formal contract.

Film producers pay lots of money for completion bonds and errors and omissions insurance. Not every project will justify such expense, but you should have a plan in advance of the gig and have everybody on the same page about it.

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Michael MunkittrickRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 15, 2006 at 4:49:41 pm

What a touching story. That poor lady has more issues than anyone I

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KubatkoRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 16, 2006 at 9:04:08 pm

Yep it all sounds like the mess I'm in now.
We are after shoot , and although budget was cut it went smoothly. Problems started during the edditing.
When client saw first drafts, she wanted to change a lot of stuff, and add other stuff that was not disscused as obligatory but an option which we did jut in case. We made that mistake and went along adding our selfs more work, but ... good old client, being friends etc. :)
We send her all the new changes for consideration, and got back response that "Why we have not implemented the changes asked for?" , and that "the due date is nearing and we give them still unfinished product". I was stunned and called back asking which of the changes we spoke of, or emailed about were missing. I got a hudge list of things they wanted to change again, and what they found missing. Some of the changes were impossible to implement due to the fact that during the filming those parts were scraped, or 've not been taken in to the script.
We did what we could as fast as possible, but made mistakes in the process - spelling errors. The response was that they wanted to cut our contract money in half becouse we'r not making the dead line. We also recived a number of insults at our post production team calling them: imbecils and idiots. But all will be oKey - she said, if we change the mistakes and add some other changes they came up with. Finnaly after three weeks of hard work putting other procjects aside, we finished and made the final delivery just in time. All was fine , or so i though. Just a few minutes ago i recived a phone call tfrom my beloved client threatening again not to pay us becuse their animation is at the end, and she wanted at the end (yes) AND at the begining, which was stressed before in her phone calls, but the last email recived by my edditor clearly states "animation at the end" ...
I dont know what to do now i do not recall ever them asking this. Is this te end of our long colaboration, have they found some other company, or they have some other problem with ther client ? Go figure, might be we'll be droping this client :(


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Little Red LightRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 17, 2006 at 10:57:17 pm

Try to keep instructions and the number of people giving and receiving instructions as simple as possible. If you have the slightest inkling that you have a problem client never let them instruct more than one person. Who said what to whom is the biggest cause of arguments in this sort of case.

Looking at your post she may have had a point about the spelling though.

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Todd MorganRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 16, 2006 at 7:13:37 pm

Hi Greg,

According to your contract she was to deliver a deposit by a specific date. As she had not, your contract may be nul and void at your discretion. Since you chose to accept her late payment, you showed more than good faith, though at any time you could then cancel the project if any of the other items noted in your contract were not met by your client.

I cancelled a job where the deposit was not paid before work began. The client insisted that a cheque was on its way but we needed to start work. So I did but no cheque came. I gave them 3 days and no cheque, so I cancelled the project and did not continue any further work nor deliver any elements until a cheque for the full amount of the estimate was delivered. Since they showed a lack of good faith with the deposit, I did not wish to chase them for payment upon completion, so demaned payment in full before ay more work was done, and since they had a severe delivery schedule they did not object.



Todd Morgan
Creative Director
Freelance F/X Inc.

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Robert MorrisRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 16, 2006 at 8:07:18 pm

Great thread, guys. But from the link in the newsletter, I thought this thread was going to go into more about AFTER the project has started and the client keeps making change after change. Do any of you have clauses in your contracts for this? And if so, how are they worded? It's probably not so cut and dry as, "client will be allowed 3 changes" because each project usually has several different stages. Changes are part of the job, I realize this. Things usually look different when realized than they do in our heads. I'm a compositor, and if I'm working on 20 shots, the client may make 3 (or more) changes to one shot. If this happens on all 20 shots (with a client who just can't make up their mind) then it truly turns into the job that wouldn't die. This is great for projects where a day rate is agreed upon, and the client is informed at each change about how much more time this would incur. But for flat fee jobs, the amount of opportunities for revision the client has should be specifically outlined before hand. Any thoughts on this from people who have had such experiences?


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Mark SuszkoRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 16, 2006 at 10:00:05 pm

Hi Robert;

No, as you suggest, it would be impractical to limit it to "three particular changes", but you *could* limit it totwo or three complete "approval screenings", as in: "Whatever changes you suggest, we will implement, then you will either approve the whole version when we screen it or not".

At that point they have paid for the time up to the revised screening; if they do not accept it yet, we must re-negotiate further work. I try to be flexible about this and if the additional outstanding item is relatively trivial and they hae been good people, I might go ahead and do it, maybe not even bill if it's trivial, but only because I want to, not because I HAVE to. I have been burned too many times before to let things get out of hand like that, ever again.

My own rule is the client always get one free revision after seeing my first draft cut. Theoretically, the first version should be 90-100 percent what they expected, because I like to talk things out quite a bit before we start and to keep in touch as the first version comes together. Sometimes they sit in with me for all or part of the first draft, but most of the time, I'm given my head to work alone, and I kind of prefer that. But I have never had a situation where what I did was so horribly different from their vision as to be a complete wash. Sometimes it's even better than they expected:-) Other times, we just have a creative difference of opinion. The client gets their way, that's what they pay for, but I don't feel it's wrong to bill for a moderate amount of time spent exploring better options in the edit. That's all part of the collaborative process.

I will screen the whole thing for them when done, they will give me a list of any and all changes, and if there are no particular problems, I execute the changes and we screen it again; at this point,it should be 100 percent right - if I satisfied everything specifcally on the list, they need to accept it. The only exception would be a technical flaw like a bad level, a missed flash frame, or video out of broadcast spec or something like that; you know, "pilot error".

If they now want to do something else, something more, not a correction to an error but a new addition, that is going to be billed as a new, separate edit. There may be a discount involved, depends on the situation.

I never charge clients for my mistakes: if for example some titles are spelled wrong, and the printed sheet they gave me has it right, I eat the cost of fixing that. If I screwed up levels while digitizing, I eat the time. I think such policy is pretty much standard with editors everywhere. If they GAVE it to me wrong, and the piece of paper in my hand they gave me proves that, Sorry, THEY are paying for the extra time to fix it. If they pause the edit to clear something with remote bosses over the phone or we have to wait for a new element to get delivered, they are eating that time. I make this very clear up front, I charge extra for mind reading:-)

What if you are in a situation where you're not billing for cash? Like a revolvng or charge-back system in a school, government, or corporate setting? Well, you can still create an invoice that describes the time, tools, and effort put in, and you can assign a reasonable average local market value to those hours and tools, to show what they would be paying if they took the project elsewhere. Combine this with a stated policy that each "free" client is charged against a monthly quota of "virtual hours" or "virtual dollars", then it becomes easy to say this:

"We have to stop, I'd like to continue, but we've run out of the alloted hours for your account this month, and we now have to give prioty to the paying clients. If you want to take this project onto a cash basis from this point, we can continue now. Or, I can pick this up again for you at so-and-so date, when we'll gladly re-set your free-hours clock for the new payment cycle. We do this for everyone so we can be fair to everyone with our time and tools".

Such "virtual billing" not only helps you keep control of the calendar, and the grinder clients, it may give your clients data they can use for tax or other accounting purposes. You'd have to ask an accountant about that, but I know people who are writing off something as a charity usually need something more formal than just a figure scribbled on a note pad for the bill.

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Dean SensuiRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 16, 2006 at 10:07:04 pm

I had a situation in which I had to walk away from.

It was a documentary. We shot some in-studio interviews to start off, then went on a trip to shoot some material on location. It was to be a bunch of standups and scenics to establish some of the historical places involved in this bio.

Once we got there, I found out the producer had no script. Had no map to the locations we needed to shoot. Wasn't familiar with some of the places we were going to see. And he didn't even call ahead to schedule interviews with some key people there. He just winged it.

And to top it all off, on a long drive to one of the locations, this guy decides he wants to have a beer. WHILE DRIVING!

That was it.

When I got back I wrote a very detailed letter explaining why I was backing out of that project, and sent copies to the producer and exec producer. We worked out a fee for the time I spent on the project and that was that. I wasn't about to harm my reputation or myself in the process.

The producer and I are still on good terms but I'll never work with that guy again!

Dean Sensui --

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alan in ukRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 16, 2006 at 11:39:35 pm

Our legal systems are different I'm sure; and my current problem is pretty low budget in comparison with the original post, but I wonder if you have the same sort of problems I am encountering?
In UK it seems to be current buisness practice to a) not respond to correspondence, b) not reply to emails, c) never under any circumstances use headed company stationery, etc etc.
I have a job going pear-shaped, absolute idiots, no responses to requests for scripts, no feedback etc etc.
I have no confidence in them so I'm using what we call 'small claims" court (maybe upto $10K).
It's a sad one because I did 2 great jobs for them some time ago.
I don't have a contract (foolish I know) but I do write letters, emails, phone log etc. I have a dossier with maybe 2 email replies in it 30 or so from me.
happened once before and my records did the trick, I got paid before it came to court.
Is my gut feeling that there are a lot of unprofessional people out there just the same over in your neck of the woods ?
cheers, alan in uk

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mark SuszkoRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 17, 2006 at 2:52:44 am

Alan, I don't think that it's necessarily the case you fear. While business school grads have been getting more ruthless since the eighties, I don't think it's a given yet that ALL businesspeople are now "Enron types".

It could perhaps be a statistical bump caused by the ever-dropping cost of the tools bringing in more and more people who are not necessarily streetwise as the more seasoned video pros. So they fall for more of the old cons and are less wary to start with. The real professionals have not changed their way of doing business honorably. But that doesn't make the news, only the crooks and crimes do. So maybe your impression that it's overall getting worse is is subjective, not objective.

Also, the ever-downward pressure on prices versus performance means client expectations (especially uneducated first-time clients) keep becoming more and more demanding; expecting Lucasfilm quality on a handycam budget. In such an atmosphere it becomes hard not to over-promise and under-deliver. When the new clients are used to commoditizing everything, they have a hard time grasping that this is not identical, mindless assembly line work we do, it's hand wrought a piece at a time by a craftsma

Whether you are right or I am, the solution is the same: spend more time vetting the client and coming to a meeting of minds BEFORE the project starts. And don't be afraid to pass on the iffy ones. Then get everything in writing and get the down payment first. Never work 100 percent on credit. Ever.

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GregRe: Firing a client -contracts-
by on Jun 18, 2006 at 1:46:11 pm

Thanks to all who have responded. Normally I send a client a written proposal with both the shoot and edit itemized in detail. I use a few asterisks to indicate that shipping, courier, mileage, meals, travel fees, are not included in ths price, but clients is responsible for all fees . I add a terms and conditions page after the client has approved the proposal, and get a signature and deposit check from them. I'm now looking at adding items to my proposals For example, something stating that if deposit and signed contract are not received 5 business days before start of project, we have the right to cancel the project. Also, something about changes in edits, etc.

Let's say you've proposed a project and estimated it would take 45 hours to edit. How would you protect youself in writing against unlimited edit changes?

Can all of you post samples of your contracts or proposals? Thanks.


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David Roth WeissRe: Firing a client -contracts-
by on Jun 18, 2006 at 3:18:03 pm

[Greg] "Let's say you've proposed a project and estimated it would take 45 hours to edit. How would you protect youself in writing against unlimited edit changes?"


Unless you're a fortune teller there's no way you can accurately estimate how long editing will take on any given project. An estimate is nothing more than an educated guess at best, and its a sure way to financial ruin. The only way to get paid what you truly deserve is to charge for finite periods of time, by the hour, day, or week.


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Ron LindeboomRe: Firing a client -contracts-
by on Jun 18, 2006 at 3:51:44 pm

[David Roth Weiss] "The only way to get paid what you truly deserve is to charge for finite periods of time, by the hour, day, or week."

This is surely the safest way to guarantee avoiding The Job That Would Not Die!

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David Roth WeissRe: Firing a client -contracts-
by on Jun 18, 2006 at 8:13:04 pm

[Ron Lindeboom] "billing on a time-basis is a general rule that is usually only broken at your own peril"


It took me over twenty years in the biz to learn this important lesson. I probably gave away half my billable hours over my first two decades in business.

And, as I've stated here before, I also collect every Friday at quitting time. While some of my clients must work on a 30-day net basis, most will pay at week's end if I ask. The Friday afternoon collection takes a lot of the emotions out of the equation, and never lets a debt get out of hand.


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debeRe: Firing a client -contracts-
by on Jun 22, 2006 at 11:30:44 am

There will always be bad producers out there...and to be fair, incompetent shooters & editors, too (not to slight the other very important positions in the field, but for the sake of brevity....)

I had an experience, a really BAD experience over 7 years ago with two producers. One in-house, the other...I want to say "extra-terrestial", or "out-house"....but I'm trying to be too clever. The other producer was independent, hired by our company to produce this video.

I won't go into the details of how this project went awry, but suffice it to say, I was left holding the bag, because those two really couldn't produce their way out of it, even if it was paper, and soaking-wet.

There was a lot of finger pointing on their part, a LOT of stunned silence on my part, and now years later, after it is all over, they are the ones with the permanent stink attached to them. Because I was "disciplined" mostly to save face with the client, whom I was trying to protect during all of this, it became common knowledge around the company and around the local community. When people ask me the story, I tell them honestly what happened, I even take responsibility for the 10% that really was my fault, which is mostly not insisting ENOUGH that there was not enough time to do what they were proposing. It was great idea, and under other circumstances, with a different deadline...yadda, yadda...

That being said, they trashed me every chance they got from there on out. They did this even at an industry party, an open house for a new facility a couple years later that we all attended. I was told later about it. They were walking around the facility pointing me out and telling anyone who would listen that I was incompetent. They were infantile enough to think that trashing me would cover their own inability to successfully complete their jobs. The people who told me about later thought it was funny, and let me know that it made them look much worse that it made me look. In fact, it helped goose my reputation a little bit, in a good way. I was considered a champion by anyone who had worked with, or rather put up with, them in the past. One guy told me he wished he'd had my moxy to walk away. As for the ones who believed them when they were trashing me at the party...well, I don't lose too much sleep over it, because if they believe those two, they probably aren't the sort I really want to do business with, anyhow.

I haven't repeated their names in over 7 years, because I feel it's unprofessional to trash someone, regardless of whether they deserve it or not. I'll tell the story as honestly as I can, but I have refused to attach their names to it. Some people know who they are, but those are either people who were my co-workers at the time, or the people to which they themselves have blabbed. Honestly, as I type this I realize that I can't even remember their names anymore. The in-house woman, I remember her first name, but I don't remember her last name, and the other one....not a blip on the radar of what her name is. If I hear them again, I'd surely recall...but, it has become so very unimportant to me after all these years.

The gist of all this? They tried to trash me, they tried to ruin my reputation, mostly, in my opinion, to throw scrutiny off of themselves. It didn't work. I didn't play their 4th grade game, and I am the one left standing with a very successful freelance business. People who know me and hear the story, know that they are full of it. People who don't know me, but know them and hear the story, know they are full of it. The best thing to do is to take the highest road you can. Defend yourself, of course, but don't point fingers. Defend your work, your point of view, your method of thought, your decisions on workflow, your attempts to guide the process as justified by the deadline or the budget, and that's all you really can do. Do it honestly, earnestly, and almost most important, LOGICALLY. It will serve you very well in the end. It worked for me, anyway! I left that company a year later, by my own choice. The management knew. My punishment turned out to be really an extra week of paid vacation. They called it "suspended", again to save face with the client. I called it a paid week off richly deserved after what they put me though.

I still have the plant from the very expensive arrangement the company's receptionist "sent" me. I'm pretty sure it was charged to the company credit card. The one with my manager's name on it.


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GregRe: Firing a client -contracts-
by on Jun 18, 2006 at 9:32:02 pm

So how do you put together a cost estimate that includes editing a project? How do you protect yourself? Let's say a client contacts you looking for a price on a 15 minute sales video on a new medical product. You figure it will take 3 days plus build in 1 day for changes. How would you present this to the client? Do you not estimate this at all? Do you just tell them editing will be $125 per hour?

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Chris PoissonRe: Firing a client -contracts-
by on Jun 21, 2006 at 4:18:13 pm

When I was in the ad agency biz, all our estimates had a + or - 10% clause in them. On a $200,000 TV spot that could mean up to 20 grand of gravy for otherwise lost hours or unforseen expenses. Not a be-all end-all fix, but it helped at times.

Have a wonderful day.

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Sandro GentileRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 18, 2006 at 12:24:51 am

Dear Greg,
I had similar experience in the past and I agree with you .
You said no deposit for booking your job!I think it is equal to no job ensured for the customer.No paper, no contract? Be fine, don't worry.
Just as I feel that there are not projects in a hurry but only people in late, I don't consider that people serious and trustable at all.
With the hurting heart for no job but a safe pocket for your life do believe that our job is an elite one, with sacrifice sense needed and investments in goods and valuable know how that clients get for free.
No contract and no deposit ? No product for the client!
This is the way natural selection of boring clients is done.
I run ,always run in the past to accomodate clients mistakes ,like e.g. missing planning or wrong or not discussed deadlines, working by night for the same fee...
I'm 41 years old and I want to work in a satisfactory way,without destroying my liver and my head.Time is precious and life is one.
Simply if you make a balance between energy spent and yearn you'll find that a factory worker lives better.Do fire your client!
And enjoy the best from your job.
Good luck Sandro

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jimmyjimmy05Re: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 18, 2006 at 4:27:43 am

Man, I feel your pain. The hassle of having a project put on hold is almost as bad as the worry of potentially going to court. The best advice I can give is to make a paper trail. EVERY time you get on the phone with a client, let them know that you will be sending them an email

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levinehnRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 18, 2006 at 11:38:40 pm

Hey All,

This is a long reply, but I just wanted to say, as the original post mentioned, that talking about this makes me feel better, and it's almost like therapy hearing other people's stories. Especially as an editor locked up in a box all day, I sometimes feel all alone when confronted with problems, so this is all kind of refreshing.

My own story is that I'm a young editor and I got SCREWED by a producer. After three months on the job, the producer and I had a big arguement, and he fired me impulsively in the middle of a heated argument. This surprised me, but what followed amazed me: he stopped payment on my final pay check, which I had already deposited (apparently it can take 5 days for checks to clear). The whole experience caught me off guard, it simply had not occured to me that adults behaved like that, instead I felt like a little kid who had been beaten up by the school yard bully.

I eventually scared the guy into paying me most of the money by filing a compliant with the labor board, but the honest truth is that he could have fought me, he could have appealed a decision even if he had lost, and so on and so forth. The lesson I learned - its the wild wild west out there, and contracts don't mean squat, even checks don't mean squat. Gold coins and dollar bills mean something, but unless you're a bank robber, that's probably not how you get paid.

The story does have a happy ending, getting knocked down a few pegs made me step up my game and meet new people, and I now get paid three times what I was making before. But the frustrating part is that I still get paid by clients AFTER the work is done, usually by invoice, and I know that leaves me open to getting screwed again. It doesn't even have to be intentional, a production company could go out of business, a producer could get hit by a car, etc.

To be honest, I wish I was in some sort of union, in fact, if anyone has any information freelance editing unions I'm really curious. Watching the union guys on film shoots is awesome - meal penalties, overtime pay, regular breaks - I want that! But the sad truth is, if I started putting down double time after 6 pm, the next time the client wanted someting edited, they'd probably call someone cheaper.

I don't really have a 'conclusion' to this thought stream, because on the one hand I hate the fact that freelancers undercut each other, which encourages producers to negoiate lower rates etc. But on the other hand, the only reasone I got hired on my first few projects is because I basically worked for minimum wage and put in a lot of freebie time. At the time I thought I was just 'paying my dues', but now I realize that my actions didn't just affect me, they also indirectly affected other freelance editors who try to stand by their established day rate. So like I said, I don't really have a conclusion after typing all this, but I do feel better mulling it all over.

And briefly, regarding cancellation fees, I try to get a half day's pay if someone cancels on me after telling me the project was a sure thing. If this stance is not something you are comfortable with (and I admit it gives me butterflies thinking about losing good contacts), you can copy my strategy:

If producer X cancels on me and we don't sort a cancellation fee during that phone call, I ring later that day (or the next day even) and say : "hey, I was just putting together my invoices, and I was wondering how much I should bill you for the cancellation fee on job X"

This puts the ball in his court. If the producer is a good person with legitimate budgets, then she should suggest at least a half-day, maybe a full day. That's the ideal response.
But the less ideal response is still OK. Maybe he says "Oh, I didn't anticipate paying you a cancellation fee, I don't really have the budget for it etc. etc."
You now have a better understanding of the person and the jobs they are producing - and you haven't offended the persone.
Using this knowledge and you our own circumstances, you can then decide if its worth being a stickler and losing a contact over a day's pay. And if you chose to waive the cancellation fee with the hope of future work, at the very least you have planted a seed in her head that your time is valuable, and you have established that you are not a push over without offending her.

Sorry for the rambling note, but to say it a third time it feels good to write it all down,


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RandyRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 19, 2006 at 4:33:58 pm

This surprised me, but what followed amazed me: he stopped payment on my final pay check, which I had already deposited (apparently it can take 5 days for checks to clear).

Whenever possible, I always cash my clients check at their bank the same day I receive it. Also with new clients, I would be hesitant to give them the master tape until I was able to cash the final payment check.

Randy Wheeler

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GregRe: Firing a client - long post
by on Jun 19, 2006 at 5:36:30 pm

Hi Nathan,

I don't think that your call regarding "hey, I was just putting together my invoices, and I was wondering how much I should bill you for the cancellation fee on job X" is the best way to go. Everyone is on a budget, they'll ALL say they have no money for cancellation fees. I think it's important to put it in writing up front. I just don't know how. That's why I asked here. To your point " If the producer is a good person with legitimate budgets, then she should suggest at least a half-day, maybe a full day. That's the ideal" response. I think you can find out how they do business by putting cancellation fees on a contract. If tey reuure to sign that, you have your answer on what kind of business pperson they are, and how reliable they are. Then either choose to work for them or walk away. You'll find out abouth them long befor you argue and get fired.


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