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How to handle this situation?

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jjbuttsHow to handle this situation?
by on Oct 10, 2007 at 4:46:30 am

This is my first job for a new client. They specialize in graphic design and layout, but have recently begun to expand into corporate video production. About a month ago, they hired me to create a DVD for one of their clients. The main movie was already completed, so my job is to create all the appropriate menus, menu intros, and outs. After a couple of lengthy discussions and meetings, in which my client and I hashed out the specifics of the job, what it was to look like, pacing, cost, etc, I spent the next week creating the DVD assets. Upon completion, I uploaded a copy of each asset (in low res, mind you) to my client for them to show to their client for approval. Well, we did not get the approval. My client informed me that this was in no way my fault. They said that they had misunderstood what their client wanted and that there would be changes to make. They acknowledged that they would have to pay me more than our initial, agreed-upon rate, and to "sit tight" until they could talk to their client and get a clearer understanding of what they wanted.

This was three weeks ago.

As I'm sure you can imagine, I am not a wealthy man. (haha) This job was supposed to take a week to complete, and though I have done only a week's work, this waiting game is about to have a serious impact on my finances. What is the best way to go about this? I don't want to "sit tight" until its too late, we lose the job and I get screwed, but at the same time, I don't want to alienate a client. Can I ask them for payment for the work I have done? Do I have to suck it up and wait it out? What would you do?


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David Roth WeissRe: How to handle this situation?
by on Oct 10, 2007 at 5:15:01 am

This is a classic no-win situation JJ. It seems that in this business we are damned no matter what we do in these situations. The worst thing you can do is stew over it and wait patiently while your credit gets ruined.

So, my advice is always to simply call the client, and as nicely as possible, ask them politely for some or all of the money that you're owed and don't worry about any potential consequences. Try to keep reminding yourself that you're not a bad person for rightfully asking to be paid for your time.

David

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY™

A forum host of Creative COW's Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.





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beenyweeniesRe: How to handle this situation?
by on Oct 10, 2007 at 6:03:48 am

I agree with David 100%. Just say you are still there for them when approvals DO come, but you need to be paid for the work that has already been performed.

Beyond that, this situation should be some cause for concern regarding your future dealings with this company. I am always wary of the print/web/plumbing company that "now does video," they never know what the hell they are doing.



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Bruce Bennett in Madison, WIRe: How to handle this situation?
by on Oct 10, 2007 at 6:54:55 am

[beenyweenies] "I am always wary of the print/web/plumbing company that "now does video," they never know what the hell they are doing."

Brendan,

LOL. You're exactly right (and so is David). Such companies rarely have a clue on what real, professional quality video costs. Like years ago, I find that a lot (not all mind you) of Website design companies respect video like yesteryear's brochure print designers.
An exagerate quote that I've heard too often: My son has a Best Buy video camera just like your $90K DVCAM camera package and a Mac just like your $120K Avid non-linear system, so we hired him instead of hiring you. (But you're welcome to call on us next year).

Bruce

Bruce Bennett,
Bennett Marketing & Media Production, LLC - http://www.bmmp.com


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grinnerRe: How to handle this situation?
by on Oct 10, 2007 at 12:58:57 pm

just invoice em for the hours you have in it so far. You can invoice em for the rest after ya do it.



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Mark SuszkoRe: How to handle this situation?
by on Oct 10, 2007 at 1:50:27 pm

Bill them now for the work already done. You fulflled your end of the contract, delivering what was asked for, even if it's not what was wanted. (See the "Stonehenge" section of the movie "This is Spinal Tapp" for reference)

Add a friendly note that sounds sympathetic to their problems as the intermediary, and say that the re-do, if it comes, will be billed as a separate job, but you'll point out that much of the groundwork is already laid from the first job, so the re-do *could* possibly take less time than the first time, depending on how radical the changes are going to be and how much from the first effort can be repurposed. But by no measn can work continue until "accounts have been brought up to date" (Sounds more polite put that way).

Your situation is yet another advertisement for sticking to the policy of getting paid in thirds for these kinds of jobs. It protects you, it protects THEM. See, you would at least have had *some* money already for this project and the work you put in, even if it was cancelled before completion, had you had a down payment and a mid-project payment to begin the work and get it to first review stage.

The client would know that, in a world where "stuff" happens, if they had to cancel this project in the middle, they only had to pay for as much work as was actually done, and not a higher figure. This is how I sell clients on payment in thirds: it is mutually useful and mutually protective, and it allows the client to retain a greater sense of control over costs of the project. While you get what's coming to you.

You are also the victim of a common problem in the industry, one I've had a few times: you were pleasing the wrong guy/ seeking approvals from the wrong guy. The guy you have to make happy is not necessarily the one who comes to the edit bay. In all cases, the guy you have to make happy is TGWSTC:

The Guy (or GAL) Who Signs The Checks.

It is important to find out who this person is during your initial negotiations. When you are not sure what to do, always defer to TGWSTC, not their minion or intermediary. This should also inform your billing procedure: don't send your bill for services past-due to the jerk you just worked with, who is only going to try and sit on it, send it direct to, (say it with me guys, all together now)...

TGWSTC.


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Mark SuszkoRe: How to handle this situation?
by on Oct 10, 2007 at 1:50:56 pm



TGWSTC.


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David Roth WeissRe: How to handle this situation?
by on Oct 10, 2007 at 3:27:04 pm

Mark,

Just when I was thinking to myself that this was an unusually brief post for you, I saw you had posted it twice.

A very sneaky way of getting more Suszkospeak in print with just half the work involved, but certainly an excellent example of the rule of effective messaging, to iterate and reiterate.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY™

A forum host of Creative COW's Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.





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Mark SuszkoRe: How to handle this situation?
by on Oct 10, 2007 at 4:38:42 pm

David, I'm going to take that as a compliment, despite your possible intent:-) I think it was Blaise Pascal that once said: "I would have written a shorter letter, but didn't have the time".

I actualy double-posted by accident the first time, browser or the site had a hiccup and duplicated the first post. The fancy shmancy new editing controls locked out because you can't edit a post once it has had a comment, and the duble post was considered the comment.... ok, I'm rambling now, it was a mistake, get over it:-)


I like my answers to be complete and unambiguous, so I'll tend to write one longer, well-considered answer rather than a bunch of short, incomplete points separately. But I *can* be brief if needed: I can write you a 16-point esay on how to be more concise if you like...

Don't want none? Don't start none:-)


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David Roth WeissRe: How to handle this situation?
by on Oct 10, 2007 at 4:51:53 pm

[Mark Suszko] ": I can write you a 16-point esay on how to be more concise if you like..."

Please do... I'm looking forward to reading all 16 points.

BTW, if I was at all serious with anything in my original post I would never have written it.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY™

A forum host of Creative COW's Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.





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Mark SuszkoRe: How to handle this situation?
by on Oct 10, 2007 at 4:56:49 pm

Secrets of Brevity, An essay in 16 parts
by Mark Suszko

Chapter 1:

"The earth's crust cools...."







(Don't make me go there!) :-)


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Michael HendrixRe: How to handle this situation?
by on Oct 12, 2007 at 3:24:17 pm

As someone pointed out, money up front is common in this business, I even ask for half up front. I think this could be a great point to bring out to your client that you waived the standard up front fee as a courtesy.

Another thing that I changed on my invoices is not putting term 30. I put 'due upon receipt' with the idea that most will pay within 30 days. I just simply feel like that puts the idea in their head that they have 4 weeks to pay when due upon receipt makes it feel like it is overdue.

The problem I see with this client is another common one 'I will pay you when I get paid'. I am dealing with one of those right now and it will probably be the end of that relationship, basically to me that is a partnership and I doubt a check will have my name on it when the business is raking it in.


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MindYourVideoBusinessRe: How to handle this situation?
by on Oct 13, 2007 at 8:09:13 pm

There has already been a lot of great advice here. It will be hard to win this battle anytime soon. Odds are good that your client doesn't have the money to pay you until their client pays them. And their client won't pay them until they are happy with the finished product. You could be looking at 60 to 90 days before you see a check. Definitely sucks but chalk this one up as a learning experience and negotiate accordingly next time.

Something I have done in similar situations is to demand payment in full before doing any more work and definitely DO NOT release a master or associated files prior to getting paid. This will force your client to pay all or a portion of your rate OR will force your client to demand payment from their client. It doesn't make for a comfortable situation but you shouldn't be the one that loses here.

Of course, it only took a few of these experiences to realize that I need to get as much of the money as possible before the job even begins. It's now my policy to collect 50% before the job begins. It's harder to get agencies (or web/brochure/wannabe video companies) to agree to this because they don't want to pay us before they get paid. For this very reason, agency clients make up a very small percentage of our yearly revenue....we simply don't target them as prospects.

Kristopher G. Simmons

Video Business Coach

http://MindYourVideoBusiness.com


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Raymond Motion PicturesRe: How to handle this situation?
by on Nov 17, 2007 at 1:39:09 am

[MindYourVideoBusiness] "It's now my policy to collect 50% before the job begins. It's harder to get agencies (or web/brochure/wannabe video companies) to agree to this because they don't want to pay us before they get paid."

Even then, I had an ad agency promise a deposit ($30,000) and then string me along - turns out they had collected it from the client and spent it! When the client found out what had happened - we both learned to go directly to each other and use agency 'assets' (artwork, etc.) as needed.

I tell agencies now that we can work as team, but I must bill direct and have direct contact with the client - my 'read' of a client's wishes is better first-hand - than getting a second hand 'read' from someone who hasn't a clue about video production.

This is not advice for Fortune 1000 clients or their larger, more professional agencies. You can, generally, trust them to do the right thing in a real world.


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