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titan3iumCan't find the post...
by on Sep 14, 2007 at 3:07:33 am

Hello to all;
To make this quick and not waste time, I am a new (1 yr 4 months) production comp. in the CNY area. I saw a post a while back about keeping track of hours on different projects. I am finally able to charge by the hour and not give flat rates. I hate to ask the same question again but I searched as best I could and I can't find the post. Also, not much money to spend so if there is a cheaper way I would like to know, if not what programs are there to keep track of hours?

Chuck O.

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Steve WargoRe: Can't find the post...
by on Sep 14, 2007 at 6:50:02 am

We do it in QuickBooks. When we start the job, we start an invoice. We enter a charge for every session as a line item. When you're done, it will auto total and there you go.

A less expensive way would to get a pad of lined paper and write your hours down. Using math, you can add up the hours and figure the total hours. Then, you multiply the number of hours by the hourly rate and you will have the amount to charge the client.

For our edit room, we made a form in Word and it is composed of boxes where we enter line items and also keep track of supplies and tapes used on the project.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut Pro systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck

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titan3iumRe: Can't find the post...
by on Sep 15, 2007 at 10:30:58 am

Thanks Steve,
I started the pad and paper thing earlier this week. What I worried about was clients asking how could I take so long on a project and me having to prove or show why it took as long as it did. But when you think about it, there is no real way to prove unless you are an honest person. I have quickbooks and would love to use it, but I have no idea how to set it up still.

Thanks for the help,

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Nick GriffinRe: Can't find the post...
by on Sep 15, 2007 at 11:46:05 am

Well maybe this will seem simplistic, but it's been working quite well for us for several years.

We use the Mac version of the computer-based (not hand-held) calendar for the Palm, "Palm Desktop Software" to be specific. With it I've set-up Category 1 with client names and Category 2 as task names. This enables us to both set appointments and track sessions in as small as 10 minute increments.

When it's time to do billing I export into a tab & return file which I open and sort in Excel. Viola - a highly detailed timesheet which I staple with the invoices which use the language "XX.X hours, per attached detail."

In 7+ years of doing this I've had one client complain -- and he was and is a complete jerk. Everyone else seems be quite pleased with our level of detail. In fact, I've yet to see an invoice from any of OUR vendors who charge by the hour (lawyers, accountants, etc.) with any where NEAR the detail we provide.

The advantage of this over simply keeping a written or Quickbooks-based record is the calendar format. As mentioned before, it provides a place for scheduling as well as billing. And because it's visual, it's simple and straightforward.

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Steve WargoRe: Can't find the post...
by on Sep 15, 2007 at 4:59:35 pm

Quick books has an on-line tutorial type class and you can find it at You can also find it in the Dummy or Idiot section of the book store. I have lots of those.

The first thing you need to do is make a list of everything you do.

Things you charge for:
Prep for shoot
Production -
Contract labor -
Post production: Broken down of course into sub fields - scanning and logging, digitizing, editing, graphics,

Rentals -

Meetings - Administrative
Travel - Airlines
Accomodations - Hotel
Mileage @ $ .50 outside your normal area
Shipping - Boxes, UPS, courier, your sister
Cost of goods: Broken down - Tape, DVDs,
Office Supplies - Ink, printer paper,

Look at your check book or the shoebox of receipts that you have for more items

Next, make a list of things you will invoice for. It will probably look a lot like your first list.

Find a grad student of accounting that had a 3.75 gpa and knows QB. Pay them $25 an hour to set up your books. Pay a CPA $65 to look it over and approve or fix things. You can sometimes get a half hour free if you book them to do your taxes each year. A good CPA is the best money you can spend. You're going to pay taxes anyway and a CPA will way more than save you his cost and he might just keep you from loosing everything or going to prison with Gorgo.

A lot of people put this off thinking that they will do it next week. Next week will never come and then it's expensive. QB is easy to use it does all of the work for you.

When I first got into the video business (I used to build off-road race trucks), I went 10 years without filing taxes on my video business. I got a letter from the IRS one day that basically said "We are on to you. Fix it". Gads! I hired a 4' 9" tall guy named Calvin, who was licensed to practice before the Tax Court (a BIG deal) and he charged me $2500 to plead my case of stupidity and I had to pay $3900 in back taxes. I guarantee that you will not be this lucky.

For your edit room, we have those post production reports that I mentioned before. Use Word to make a table. List your tasks on the left side with a box to the right. Every time you start or stop, jot it down. I don't mean potty breaks but be reasonable.

Don't be so quick to think that you have do work cheap to get work. What you need is good work ethic, honesty, a big box of talent and lots of drive. Don't think in terms of what you want to pay but instead, what you want to earn.

When someone calls our office for a quote, my office manager comes to me and says "How much?". I give her a price and then I hear her on the phone telling them 2 or 3 times what I said and I'll be darned if the job doesn't show up and the client is thrilled. I just hope they don't read this.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut Pro systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck

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titan3iumRe: Can't find the post...
by on Sep 16, 2007 at 11:29:56 am

Nick and Steve,
Thank you boh so much, this was extremely helpful and I feel better about doing an hourly rate now!

Thanks again so much,

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Jay CurtisRe: Can't find the post...
by on Sep 17, 2007 at 9:42:14 pm

At my last full-time job as an editor, I used the task timer in Microsoft Outlook (not sure which version it was, though).

Once a client is listed in your contacts, you can set up a task, call it "Production 1." There's a timer you can start and stop as long as you keep that task window open. You can Alt-Tab over to it when you have to take a phone call from another client, etc.

The timer keeps track of your time in user-definable increments -- we used tenths of an hour. That way, when the DP/Business Manager called down the hallway "How long did you work on the ____ project?" I could quickly and easily look it up. (Later, I got into the habit of emailing him the total after we sent out dubs of the commercial, thus saving the down-the-hallway yelling.)

Hope this helps as well.


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