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Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed

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Luke HaleClient wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 3, 2008 at 7:10:52 pm

Hi everyone,

I've got a job designing a brochure for a client. There is a simple four page booklet, they then also want me to provide an editable page, i.e. the original InDesign file that they can edit and use it as a template to create pages for all their different products. I thought this was kind of cheeky, as it meant they are just reusing my design as much as they want and altering it to make new designs. Does anyone else think this is slightly cheeky? Should I charge a lot more, say 3/4 times (or more) the rate for a single page, for the editable page or is it unreasonable? The amount of work wouldn't be much different, however, they are getting much more value out of my work. Any thoughts on this would be very welcome.

Thanks,

Luke Hale


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Todd at Fantastic PlasticRe: Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 3, 2008 at 7:27:14 pm

This is a bit like what happens to us in the video world, on occassion. Usually we work on a project from beginning to completion... pre-prod, shoot, edit, post...etc. However now and then we are booked for a "shoot only" job, where we just go and shoot and hand off the film or tape to the client for them to do with as they wish. In these cases, we definitely charge substantially more for our shoot hours. The justification is, we generally do not make that much profit on shooting because the overhead is so much higher (crew, much more expensive equipment, etc.). We basically do the shoots so we can get the edit jobs, which is where the real money is. So, if you want a "shoot only" gig, it costs more.

As for the print side, when we do print work we generally do not make available the source (in our case, Quark files) to the client unless special arrangements (and payment) is made.

It sounds like they have asked you about this going in, in advance... rather than after a job is completed saying "Oh yeah, can we have all the sources?" That's a good thing, because at least you know what you are dealing with.

In our case we would definitely charge more per hour or job if we were turning it over to someone else and basically cutting ourselves out of future work.

How much more, I'm not sure... but charge enough to make it worth it, definitely.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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David Roth WeissRe: Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 3, 2008 at 7:44:20 pm

Regardless of whether its "cheeky," clients naturally dislike paying additional to get ahold of design files exactly as much as you dislike forking them over. That's just human nature... However, this is business, and you're not in business to give away your services.

So, with that in mind, simply add a charge to your invoice that is exactly equal to what they owe you for creating the brochure, and add a brief note that you will deliver the master files when the invoice is paid. Keep it all business, forget the emotion, and don't compromise. If they question the charge, just tell them that its "customary throughout the industry." Its easy to argue against one person, but very difficult to argue against an entire industry.

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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Mark SuszkoRe: Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 3, 2008 at 7:54:33 pm

Depends if its a work for hire arrangement.

The issue at hand is, are they paying for your creative design work or are they "leasing" your designs that you retain ownership of for their use?

If the latter, they technically owe you for each iteration based on the template you designed (as if it was a song you copyrighted). If the former, you get paid once and they own it to use however they like, and they own the copyrights (like an advertising jingle).

I don't think you have a strong case to hold out for payments every time they use the template without you, you'll chase away most clients with that, so probably the practical thing to do is to charge a bit more up front for the one-time, use-it-any-way-you-want fee, and let them own it all after they pay you once. Be sure to retain the right to reference the original template work in your portfolio, and on web pages, so you can get more work.

Then, as the guy who knows the template best, offer them a discounted rate to adapt the existing work the same way they were going to do themselves, for a lower fee since the hard part is done and you're just dropping in and tweaking new text and pictures. Suggest a "retainer fee" to "maintain" the project for them for some flat price for three alternate versions, for one year. They might like being able to just forget about it and know that the guy that created the thing will take good care of the changes for them. In any case they are not going to go for paying full-price for each iteration, but may go for a lower rate to, as I said, "service" the template for multiple uses.

Reimagining your situation as a video project, say, a 30-second spot, my clients normally own the whole thing once done and paid for. If they want to do alternate versions, they can take it anywhere or do it themselves, but hopefully they'll bring it back to me because I already am deeply intimate with the material and their needs. And I'll bill them each time they bring it back, based on what the project needs. I think this actually brings in more business than holding onto the rights ourselves, which we can't really do in our situation anyhow. Pretty much everything we do is on a work for hire basis.

It is common, I know, to feel very proprietary and nostalgic about your creative work; your art or your script or jingle or whatever is "your baby". Let it go. Let me suggest that your creativity is not a finite resource, that you will come up with more good ideas as long as you live, and you should get people to hire you for that, as someone who generates new things of value all the time, rather than trying to squeeze every drop out of your individual old projects done for one-shot products, living off past glories.

This is the difference between a commercial art mentality and a fine arts mentality. Commercial artists give up the stuff for a onetime fee and share it with the world, albeit usually in anonymity or at least, obscurity (except within the trade)... fine artists keep it all close to the vest and use galleries and such to sell it, and may not get paid or recognized until after death. Both can become immortalized, just by different routes.

Not to say you should not get paid fairly and well in any case. But not every job is the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, you know? And if you made something really that good, don't you think people are going to come looking for you to make more good stuff like what they saw anyway? Are you giving the art away or is it advertising that brings you yet more work? probably both.




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Brendan CootsRe: Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 3, 2008 at 9:17:51 pm

The above comments are all good - it boils down to your contract (you ARE using a contract, right???) and what terms you have arranged with them via the contract. If they insist on getting the files (and it sounds like they plan to use the files to explicitly cut you out of the loop) then you need to arrange a fee or compromise with them.

I wouldn't just give in on this issue, otherwise you are little more than a prep-artist and allowing the client to hire some dirt-cheap artist to do all the meat of the job. It's situations like this that cheapen the entire industry, so HOLD THE LINE! ;)

Brendan Coots

Splitvision Digital

http://www.splitvisiondigital.com


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Luke HaleRe: Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 3, 2008 at 9:26:08 pm

Thanks everyone, extremely helpful as always. I think I will try to do what Mark suggested, and try to get the client to let me "maintain" any future changes to the design. I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks again everyone!

Luke



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Todd at Fantastic PlasticRe: Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 3, 2008 at 9:30:05 pm

I stand by my previous comment (and everyone else's) which is basically "don't give your design away for nuthin'"....

BUT, you never know what may happen.

Case in point....

Our art director has a separate graphics company, and for several years she produced a gigantic (several hundred pages) catalog for a company that sold products via their website.

This year she has learned that an employee at the client's company is attempting to take her last-years' Quark files and re-do the project himself for this year's version. From all accounts, this guy is a complete and total yahoo... and keeps his job pretty much purely based on the fact that he is the owner's grandson, incompetent or not.

The art director has already fielded several calls of the "Ummmm... how do you do such-and-such..." variety, for which she charges a premium for her sage advice. I wouldn't be surprised if in the end she doesn't wind up making more from "fixing" this guy's inevitable mess than if they had just let her do the job in the first place.

You never know....


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Mike CohenRe: Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 4, 2008 at 3:29:10 am

We make arrangements with our freelance designers to get the Quark files, so we can make minor changes - typos, etc. We get a new design pretty much every year for the same catalog - we win and the designer wins.

A working relationship with a contractor should include an understanding of what each party gets out of the deal.

Mike


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Steve WargoRe: Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 4, 2008 at 6:42:39 am

Well, something like this happened to me a while back (2002).

I shot a feature film for a bunch of yahoos and they owed me $ 2400 at the completion of the shoot. I knew they were getting their money in chunks and they asked me to wait for my balance so they could get the edit started. They used someone else who quoted a price of less $$ per hour. This doo-da spent 100 hours reviewing the tapes. I knew where every single good take was. We had copius notes on everything because we had a superior script supervisor. Doo-da did not understand the notes and threw them away. He didn't put them away. He threw them away.

In one scene, one of the lead actresses started the scene with the wrong blouse, white instead of brown. The first two takes had the white blouse. We caught it and the rest had the correct brown blouse. The rough cut that doo-da showed us had the actress wearing both blouses. I asked if there was anything that looked odd to him and he said, of course, "nope".

As time went on, doo-da lost interest and handed the hard drive back to the director who decided that he would get Premier and throw it together himself. He got a message that said something about the drive nearing it's capacity and that he needed to clear some space to make room for more renders ("what ever those are"), and he just started deleting files. he promptly deleted 50% of his movie.

Now, after all these years, they're back, without my money, because I have the original tapes in my possession. Giggle giggle, he said!

I know it's not very similar to your story but once again, they all come home sooner or later.

When you're writing your contract or agreement, give them a price that has a volume discount based on the total job with maintenance and updates and then an hourly rate for initial design and intellectual brain usage. Be completely upfront with your feelings.

We all put up with this kind of "I can do it myself and save money" mentality all of the time and there is always going to be some company brown-noser that wants to be the company hero by saving them $50. Let them swim in their cesspool of stupidity while you remain on the sidelines ready to jump in and professionally save the day.

I recently did a similar deal on a new website design because I have an in-house guy who is a programmer but isn't that sharp on the overall original design. It's been sitting in a half done state for 6 months and I lose money every day that it languishes in the construction zone. Yes, I too, am an idiot at times. Please don't rub it in. http://www.controversial-pictures dot com




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

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1.


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Steve WargoRe: Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 7, 2008 at 7:24:59 am

I've thought about this for several days. I'm going to approach this as a person who doesn't work on either side of the fence:

Why do you consider this "cheeky"?

It's not your baby. It's theirs.

So what if they want the editable file?

What right do you have to expect them to pay you every time they have a small change?

Charge them a fair amount for what you do and make yourself available should they discover that they don't really have the talent to make updates.

Should website designers be the ones to do all of the updates?

If I had to pay someone every time I wanted to post a new clip on my website, I wouldn't be able to afford it.

Not to come down on you but you need to look at it from the client's side. Be glad that they're having you do the basic work.

If you hired a guy to build you a house, should he be called if you want to paint a room or enclose a patio? Same thing on a larger scale.








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

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1 HD .


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Luke HaleRe: Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 7, 2008 at 12:59:06 pm

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your reply. I suppose the reason I felt it was cheeky is that they are not making "small changes", they want to basically want to use my layout, format and style that I design for one catalogue for all their future catalogues, and future products, which I think is slightly different. Continuing your analogy, it's kind of like asking someone to build a house then asking for all the plans, building materials etc. so they can build as many as they want. However, your reply made me see the problem from the other POV. So, I decided to charge simply the hours I put into the project with no premium in any way for the editable files, except preparing the editables themselves, which I think is more than fair.

Thanks

Luke






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Steve WargoRe: Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 10, 2008 at 2:04:20 am

There's two sides to everything and sometime we just have to look at it from the other point of view.

And. look at it this way: They might need "just a little change", three times a week and then three times a day and it would be a pain to do it and then to charge for it. You've probably kept your sanity by making the decision that you did.

It's the Unanswered Prayers syndrom. My high school sweetheart now weighs 300 lbs. And I hope she doen't follow this forum.

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

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1 HD .


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Steve WargoBy the way...
by on Mar 10, 2008 at 2:08:57 am

Architectural drawings are covered by instant copyright and intellectual property clauses. Now there's another can of worms.


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

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
2-Sony EX-1 HD .


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grinner hesterRe: Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 4, 2008 at 3:41:08 pm

you should just stick tou your hourly rate. The more they add for you to do, the more ya make. If you did the layout for a flat fee, just renegotiate as they add tasks not negotiated.



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Genea PadillaRe: Client wants Editable File, Advice Needed
by on Mar 13, 2008 at 10:13:53 am

I've been reading this thread over and over again for the last couple of days because my itty bitty company is in the same fix.

We make booklets for one of our clients. We do the writing, editing, and layout for them. The y provide info, and other materials--product shots, graphs that we have to recreate. We've dealt with them before and overall, it has been a pretty good relationship.

It's pretty weird timing for us because just when we updated the contracts (to define our deliverables and what would cost extra i.e. layered files) the client asks for layered files.

Client was ticked off that we didn't just hand over the files. Even after long, clear, and calm explanations why. We even offered to do some minor editing for them for free (they asked for the files, telling us that there were some changes to be made on the technical page--which turned out to be a bogus ploy to get us to turn them over). They resorted to throwing a hissy fit on the phone, accusing us of being unreasonable and denying them something that was theirs (being quite rude, making it sound like we're making up this thing about layered files) and threatening not to hire us again (to which I replied "that's your prerogative"--when I really wanted to say something else).

Soon after that, the client came to her senses, she found out that we weren't lying about layered files, she offered to buy them. Hmm...

Based on all the research and consults with friends and colleagues in the business (and even all your replies on this thread) we computed the cost based on hours as opposed to client's underling's suggestion that we charge by file size (to be perfectly honest, we didn't find anyone who did that). The rate we used was the lowest one--from all our sources--in our area. We sent the info to the client.

Client exploded.

More threats ensued. More insults--luckily by this time, I have been exempted by my partners from talking to this person.

Was there anything we could have done differently without handing over the files? I'm not worried about losing this particular client (I should, but not after how we've been treated) but I cannot help but worry about my partners.





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