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Is this common?

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Andrew W.Is this common?
by on Oct 2, 2006 at 11:11:46 am

I'm new to the independant contractor thing. I've worked as a Post Super, and I know how to be professional, but I'm much more experienced in being the client instead of finding them.

A few months ago, I got a job doing some animations. It was my first time working for this company, and it went well. Everything happened on time, they liked the product, happiness all around.

A month or so later, I get a call from the editor (I'd never spoken with him before, I only dealt with the producer). He says he loved my work, and he's trying to learn After Effects, and how did I do that effect? He'd throw me a little cash (and I mean "a little") if I broke it down.

I'm usually a believer in sharing information, but this weirded me out, not the least bit because he was calling from the company phone line. I told him I wasn't really comfortable doing that, it seemed it bit like giving away trade secrets. However, I suspect he has gone on to figure out how to do it (it wasn't rocket science) and that I'll never hear from them again...maybe I would have been better off having him owe me a favor and getting a little cash.

Thoughts?


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Tim KolbRe: Is this common?
by on Oct 2, 2006 at 2:13:06 pm

I've found that being stingy with knowledge usually has no long-term upside.

I've found over the years that training people a bit...like the scenario you mentioned...tend to send a message to them that you are knowledgeable and they'll tend to keep coming back for sophisticated projects. You may lose some of the simpler ones, but in this case it sounds like you may have lost the client.

For me, it's a matter of what constitutes the outer dimensions of "my knowledge"...it's a combo of know-how and "know-what-works" and it took me 20 years to accumulate this experience. I couldn't train my replacement in a phone call, or even a week of tutelage.

Teaching someone how you create one solution isn't the same as teaching them your problem-solving technique.

Saying "I think the chicken could use a touch of thyme" isn't revealing the content and proportion of all eleven herbs and spices...(I'm not sure if you're old enough to get that reference, but someone will...)

:-)




TimK,
Director,
Kolb Productions,

Creative Cow Host,
Author/Trainer
http://www.focalpress.com
http://www.classondemand.net


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Mike_SRe: Is this common?
by on Oct 2, 2006 at 2:30:38 pm

As I think Tim is suggesting, the "how to" on one effect is never going to replace the creative imagination and sensibility that offers something fresh, relevant and striking. So they want to copy your effect - how manytimes can they reuse it and still have it be worth anything to their projects / audiences ..?

So maybe playing nice would have been a good first instinct - trying to build a relationship with the editor.

Though I agree that was a weird call, coming from the editor and not your client. Maybe the "in house" guy has his nose a little out of joint that they called you in at all.

Might be worth a call to your actual client to say you're glad they liked your stuff as her / his colleague reported in the call, and for sure if s/he thinks it appropriate you can give the in-house guy some pointers.

Or was this all weeks ago ..?



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Tim KolbRe: Is this common?
by on Oct 2, 2006 at 3:22:52 pm

I should also have added that yes, it certainly would qualify as a "weird call" and I agree with Mike_S that perhaps the call that he describes could square things up at least somewhat...




TimK,
Director,
Kolb Productions,

Creative Cow Host,
Author/Trainer
http://www.focalpress.com
http://www.classondemand.net


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Mark SuszkoRe: Is this common?
by on Oct 2, 2006 at 7:39:54 pm

My guess is they wanted to re-do your spot without calling you in.


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Tim WilsonRe: Is this common?
by on Oct 2, 2006 at 10:06:42 pm

I think Mark's right, and I think you made the right call.

I'm clearly in the minority here, but this has been a guiding principle for me: I never, ever give out unique knowledge to paying clients. No effects secrets, no render settings, no tips, or any other secret sauce that I use to differentiate my skillset from my competitors. In some cases I won't even divulge the precise software I'm using.

The COW is a different story. I'm happy to tell everything I know here because none of you owe me money. ;-)

I've known quite a few chefs who wrote books, and I don't know a single one who gave out a recipe exactly as they use it. Why would they? Yes, technique is often enough to separate two people working from the same recipe, but having a better recipe also helps.

The one exception to letting the client peek behind the curtain is if it helps me keep my price high -- wow, you spent WHAT for your gear?

I've never had anything to sell but my knowledge and my skill (well, and my sunny disposition). I'm not inclined to give either away.

Here's what I do give away to clients: help with their computers. Help with their home theaters. (Have even helped install both of those.) Help with camcorders, cameras, or any other general purpose gear. Anything at all that will keep me in their speed dial, anything that gives them reasons to call ME. Nothing that takes me out of their billing cycle.

As for the specifics of your situation, it didn't sound to me like the editor had anything to do with you getting the first gig, so he may not have anything to do with subsequent work. Rather than call the client and say, "Hey, I hope your editor doesn't think I'm an a--hole," I'd make it a more general, "Just checking in -- how's that last piece working out for you? Any irons in the fire?"

But if giving away information for free is a dealbreaker, then so be it. The first thing a business operator needs to learn is how to get a client to say yes. Equally valuable over time is knowing when YOU need to say no. Again, I think you made exactly the right call.

Tim


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Tim KolbRe: Is this common?
by on Oct 3, 2006 at 2:40:47 am

[Mark Suszko] "My guess is they wanted to re-do your spot without calling you in."


I doubt that anyone is debating that...I think the point is that most of the time, even if you train people like this, they won't have the "touch" to be ultimately competitive.

Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but we had a project start recently where one member of the team was afraid that the client was trying to expand to bring the production role "in-house" and I was singled out as one who should resist "training" anyone.

The problem with that strategy is that the project went south right out of the blocks because nobody on the production team stepped up to help the client make some sort of sane plan... It's getting back on track now, but the whole thing was just absurd.

Where the buttons are in After Effects (or whatever) isn't a secret to be protected and how to use them to solve complex production problems is a secret too large to simply steal.




TimK,
Director,
Kolb Productions,

Creative Cow Host,
Author/Trainer
http://www.focalpress.com
http://www.classondemand.net


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Andrew W.Thanks for the responses.
by on Oct 3, 2006 at 4:30:54 am

I definitely plan on calling the company with the usual "I just finished a gig, and I'm available" calls, and I'll get the editor on the phone and see how he's doing. At least keep it friendly.

A follow-up question, this one's probably a bit more basic:

First time around, the company didn't negotiate with me. It was one of those rare moments where they not only paid asking price, but they increased their order at that price.

Now competition's in the air. I'd definitely be willing to negotiate with them, if the need came up. But I don't want to volunteer away my rate. But I don't want them thinking of me as the over-priced guy. But they wouldn't cut me any breaks.

Suggestions?

Andrew

P.S. Don't worry, I'm not pinning all the hopes of my career on these guys, just gotta learn this stuff some time...


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Tim KolbRe: Thanks for the responses.
by on Oct 4, 2006 at 1:10:01 am

I like to "toss in" certain elements at no cost as an incentive rather than lower your rate. Once the rate is lowered, it will never come back, but comping certain elements of the project can be done at will and gives you something you can offer when you need it, or not...

Just a thought...



TimK,
Director,
Kolb Productions,

Creative Cow Host,
Author/Trainer
http://www.focalpress.com
http://www.classondemand.net


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Michael MunkittrickRe: Is this common?
by on Oct 5, 2006 at 2:08:39 pm

Generally speaking, there is no benefit for you aside from the cash you get from them, so in essence, you'll be cutting your own throat. There are times when an open communication about the process of creating an effect is in your best interest, but this seems like someone fishing for the formula that will enable them to remove you from the chain of creation. By all accounts, there is no upside for you here.

This would be best settled with a straight answer explaining that the effect in question is more or less a special recipe that you cannot divuldge due to the fact that it compromises your business ethics, not to mention that it would eleviate the need for you.

Good luck!!

Michael Munkittrick
Gainesville, Florida USA


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btveditorRe: Is this common?
by on Oct 9, 2006 at 2:31:57 pm

Good day Andrew,

I freelance at a couple of places in Washington, DC. area and my feeling is that I am a hired gun and you are paying me for my knowledge and expertise. If I start tutoring the hired staff or for that matter another freelancer, than I start taking money out of my pocket. I don't like haviing money taken from my pocket, especailly when some of the freelancers are clueless and are charging lowball rates for what they are doing, or in some cases what I am fixing because they don't know. As a freelance editor, I have to know not only AVID, but FCP and a multitude of other ever changing programs and equipment. I do this on my time and my dime to get new tutorials and reading up on new systems and also what is coming out from the various companies. Why should I give someone else that information, especially a staff person who I don't even know?

That being said, I do and will help out my friends and even some of the assistants who I work with or know. It doesn't pay to be an ass, if you know what I mean. A strong network of people is your best asset. Be kind and polite to all around you, because this business is a very small community and you never know when you'll need to call on someone for a favor or need their assistance.

btveditor, out


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