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"Overtime" rates for rush jobs?

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Shawn Marshall"Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 18, 2008 at 8:53:31 pm

Hi:

I wanted to get a sense of whether, as post-production professionals, you think it's appropriate to charge time-and-a-half of your hourly rate (or more) when a client essentially forces you to work outside of normal business hours to meet an insane deadline.

My wife and I have been operating a motion graphics studio from our home for around seven years. We're not getting rich, but we're doing much better than we were working for "the man" at local network affiliates. We have a fairly stable group of clients, creating motion graphics and 3D animations, mainly for corporate and direct response productions. Our niche often involves taking overflow work from agencies, work that their in-house desginers are too busy to complete. We have a very good relationship with our clients, and we think we offer a good value.

When we first started on our own we'd take most any job and work any time to meet a deadline, charging either a flat rate or, preferably, an hourly rate. We didn't charge a premium for having to work nights or weekends when the deadline demanded it. (This, as opposed to working nights or weekends because we chose to, so we could do other things on weekdays.)

For the past few years, as our business has been as stable as it will probably get as freelancers, we've been telling clients who give us a project on a Friday afternoon and want to see a rough sample on Monday that we'd be charging them time-and-a-half of our hourly rate to meet their deadline, or we'll build that rate into estimating a flat rate. Our biggest client, an agency with whom we've worked for eight years, hasn't objected.

Is this an unreasonable stance to take with newer clients, those who don't know us as well?

This issue really come to a head for us the past few days. A fairly large direct response agency, with whom we've worked occasionally, handed us a LOT of work last Friday that HAD to be completed by Monday to meet their deadline. Their in-house artist had to attend to another aspect of the project, so it was up to me to set up and render a bunch of 3D environments for their product shoot to composite back at their facility. At no point did anyone ask us up front how much we would charge to do all this work; it simply had to be done by Monday. So on Friday, Saturday and Sunday I worked from around 10am until between 2:30am and 6:15am to get the shots set up and rendered. We met their deadline.

All those hours add up to a good chunk of change for us, especially if we charge time-and-a-half, but now I have the same concerns about presenting the bill that so many others have had: is the client going to freak out and never come back to us again? If they ask why the bill is so high, and we tell them that we charged a premium rate to meet their deadline, would their complaint be justified? FedEx costs more than regular mail. Plane rides cost more than bus rides. Is it unreasonable to charge more to get their project done over a weekend?

I'm hoping this is just my insecurity that pops up now and then, and that this will be much ado about nothing. They HAD to get this done, and we made ourselves available to help them out. We should be fairly compensated.

Right?

Wrong?

Thanks for your insight.

Shawn Marshall
Marshall Arts Motion Graphics



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David Roth WeissRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 18, 2008 at 9:18:27 pm

[Shawn Marshall] "They HAD to get this done, and we made ourselves available to help them out. We should be fairly compensated."

Shawn,

You are certainly well justified in charging a premium, but next time you really should be bold and mention it up front, even at the risk of losing the gig. Its always better to know where you stand as you'll spend a lot more time being productive and a lot less time worrying.

This time, just bill them what you think is proper and see where the chips fall, but don't sweat it one way or the other. Whether they are willing to admit or not, no one hires a crew over a weekend to meet a deadline without understanding that they will pay a premium.

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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Todd TerryRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 18, 2008 at 9:36:19 pm

I agree.... let the client know upfront what your rates are, and what overages there are for work done above and beyond the call of duty.

Here we bill our usual rates for M-F work done in the 9am-5pm window. Anything within a couple of hours earlier or later than that window is time-and-a-half. Anything outside of that window (say before 7am or after 7pm) and you are getting into double time.

It's rare, but every now and then an "emergency" project will come in that requires overnight weekend work... even though I hate working those hours we love the jobs because then you are getting into the triple-time neighborhood.

We've never had a client complain about the rates... although we've had some decide they actually didn't need it all that quickly after all and "emergencies" became somehow magically not so urgent ("Hmmm, you know, we can probably wait until Monday to do this") but the rates themselves have never been an issue.

Just be upfront. If a client expects you to move mountains for them, let them know you will be happy to do it, but that it will come at a price.


T2

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






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Steve WargoRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 19, 2008 at 7:04:40 am

Sorry Shawn but I'm not sure why you're even asking unless you feel guilty. Anyone who thinks that your evening and weekend time is the same value as your 8-5 time is a grinder and a thief. We have a weekday rate and an after hours rate.

However, you should have stated so when you took the work on. So, you might have to eat part of it this time but in the future, state it up front. Remember this: if they got a rush job this time that took up your whole weekend, they have every right to ask for that from now on.





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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Shawn MarshallRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 19, 2008 at 8:40:47 am

Hi:

Thanks for all your replies. It helps me to know that it's not unreasonable to charge more for working strange hours, though I don't think I'd feel comfortable charging triple time, at least not this time. I think we'll be content with time-and-a-half, even though it turned me into a zombie for a day.

I don't think at any point this agency has asked us what our hourly rate was, and I didn't feel super compelled to volunteer that information. Maybe I should have. Maybe I assumed that if the price was important to them they would have asked ahead of time. I guess I thought what does it matter if we charge 1.5 times our normal rate when they don't know what our normal rate is? Perhaps it comes down to a common character flaw that it's better to ask for forgiveness after the fact than to ask for permission ahead of time.

And it's not that I feel guilty like we're overcharging them. Logically I know we did good work in a very short timespan, and that we should be rewarded for our knowledge and talent. But I also get insecure sometimes when we present a large bill that amounts to a month's usual income for three (very long) days work. It's a totally illogical emotion, but what can you do?

Thanks again for your insight.

Shawn Marshall
Marshall Arts Motion Graphics



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Mick HaenslerRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 19, 2008 at 12:33:35 pm

It's actually a very logical emotion that I think we all feel. I have a steady client who more often than not calls me last minute. Since it's a pretty steady gig I will do whatever I can to accomodate him. He also knows if I have to switch something in my schedule for him that there will be a premium to pay. More than one time I've shown up for the shoot only to find it had been cancelled. The first time it happened I politely told him "no problem, but I will have to charge you 50% of my daily rate". I have to tell you that was a hard thing to do. Tell a client your paying me to do nothing!! But this guy is a reasonable dude and understands that if he books me, I've reserved that time for him and noone else, whether he uses it or not, he still has to pay.

My business coach and I were just discussing this very thing last night. Bottom line, if YOU don't respect your work enough to charge properly for it, then surely the client won't respect it enough to pay properly for it. But man it's hard to do sometimes ain't it.

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media



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Mark SuszkoRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 19, 2008 at 2:21:13 pm

As a public service, I have opened up a business specifcally for those of you that feel you are charging too much. Just send me the overage money and sleep like a baby tonight, with a clear conscience. I take PayPal.

:-)

I agree with Todd; your only "problem" is being afraid to call it like it is up front, and you really should be doing that, so as to eliminate any misunderstandings later that could be worse. You also need to formalize your OT policy, set one rate schedule with clear parameters and stick to it.

Clients can sniff out inconsistencies in your policy and that will lead either to bad feelings that you're playing favorites, or to attempts to exploit you or bargain down your rate based on an earlier, lower rate. If you can't point to a formal document or clause in your billing statements, you have a weaker bargaining position.

Your bottom line should be: it costs what it costs because its worth what its worth. I can buy a gallon of milk for three dollars at the Aldi's if I wait until Saturday afternoon. If I need that gallon at 3 AM on a Sunday, the local quickiee mart has it and I know I'm paying an extra two dollars for the fact that they do and are open at that hour. The counterman there in no way feels guilty, I assure you. Sleepy, maybe, guilty, no.


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Brendan CootsRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 19, 2008 at 6:53:30 pm

If I am reading your story correctly, it sounds like you are planning to bill the client a higher rate without prior notice. In my opinion you can't just charge whatever rate you feel like after the fact, even if it is a fair rate given the circumstances. You absolutely MUST tell the client in advance that you will be charging a rush fee, and give them the opportunity to approve that rate or find a different provider. You can count on never getting work from them again if you do, and to be honest with you it's a little shady. I would eat it this time, chalk it up to "lesson learned" and put together a policy that you apply to all future work.

On the issue of rush fees in general, it really depends on the situation. I have only charged clients rush fees in a few circumstances, mostly where they were adding new requirements to a project in progress, were presenting them very late in the game and odd hours would be required to complete the work. This is the kind of scenario that most reasonable people would expect to pay a premium for.

Brendan Coots

Splitvision Digital

http://www.splitvisiondigital.com


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Steve YankeeRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 19, 2008 at 10:33:18 pm

One saying I've always been fond of is "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on MY part."

Another thought...

A friend of mine is a highly-regarded audio engineer, who tells people he's happy to work on the weekends, at 3X his normal rate. When I remarked "Wow...that's high!" he responded. "I don't like to work on weekends. This rate separates the men from the boys. And if they DO hire me, then at least it's well worth my while."

Steve

The Video Business Advisor
http://www.VideoBusinessAdvisor.com


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Brendan CootsRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 19, 2008 at 10:52:25 pm

That's all true for sure, but you still need to tell the client upfront that you charge extra in these situations, as your audio engineer friend does.

Brendan Coots

Splitvision Digital

http://www.splitvisiondigital.com


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Michael HancockRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 20, 2008 at 1:50:18 pm

I agree with you Brendan, but the poster seems to be in a unique situation. The client never asked for his rate, so they have no idea that 1.5x what he normally charges is 1.5x is actual rate. As far as they'll know, it's his normal rate.

On the other hand, I believe it would be underhanded to present your rate increase as your standard rate. If they talk to any of your other clients...and they will if they can find them...they'll realize really fast what happened and it may be the last time you work for them and probably anyone else they talk to.

Not much to do here except charge your normal rate and learn from it (as Brendan suggested), or charge 1.5x your rate and explain why it's so much more and hope they understand.

Good luck. Let us know how it turns out if you can.

Michael.



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Tim FrechetteRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 20, 2008 at 7:07:42 pm

Every good business person must value their time.

Just before Christmas I had a fairly good client call and want a RUSH job done. I told him I could do it but would have to reschedule my other jobs and this would cost him extra. He was very adamant and agreed. I had to actually put in time on Christmas eve day as well as Christmas. He paid for this but not the full boat.

When he received my bill after he was very very happy with the product, I gave him a discount for being a good customer. Not a loyal one since he has his crap commercials done my the local news crew.

We spoke about the bill and I explained all the details, time, etc, and he understood. I am not the cheapest but I am one of the best in my area because I care about quality. This is why he hires me for the specialty jobs.

Your time is worth something. Ask yourself if the situation were reversed would your client send out a repair man on the weekend under the weekday rate? Would he give you an extra special deal, probably not.

You are not in business to break even but to show a profit for YOURSELF.



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Shawn MarshallRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 20, 2008 at 8:46:40 pm

Well, we sent our invoice to the client and they didn't bat an eye. They replied by saying "Thanks for stepping in in our time of need!", and we just took one of their drives back to them and everyone seemed very happy, so it was probably just my insecurity which prompted this thread.

As I said initially, we have worked with this client four or five times in the past, and we have 6-7 year relationships with one of the producers and their in-house graphics guy. We'd like to be doing more work for them, but they don't seem to have as much overflow as our biggest client. We've done two other super-quick turnaround projects for them, charging comparable rates to this latest job, and things went fine. I think they know us enough to know that our billing would be fair, even though it came out pretty high for this job.

Here's sort of a philosophical question. When a client comes in with a quick turnaround job, is it the duty of the vendor to volunteer their rates up front, or is it the responsibility of the client to ask for that up front? My thinking is that if the rate's important to the client, they'll ask up front. However, if it's more important to get the thing done, they're not going to haggle about rates, within reason. I'm sure that if we'd decided to charge $2000/hr for our work then we'd had a problem, but I think they knew us enough to know we'd be fair.

If I walk into a Toyota dealership and say I want to buy a Prius, here's $50,000, is it their obligation to tell me the sticker price is only $24,000?

And it's not like this is an everyday problem. This scenario springs up once or twice a year for us; this was the first time it encompassed such a large volume of work in such a short time, which is what prompted my initial inquiry.

Thanks for all your input and suggestions.

Shawn Marshall
Marshall Arts Motion Graphics



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David Roth WeissRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 20, 2008 at 9:03:07 pm

[Shawn Marshall] "When a client comes in with a quick turnaround job, is it the duty of the vendor to volunteer their rates up front, or is it the responsibility of the client to ask for that up front? My thinking is that if the rate's important to the client, they'll ask up front. However, if it's more important to get the thing done, they're not going to haggle about rates, within reason."

Shawn,

Its all about the objective. There are times when the objective is just to get the project done. When there's a deadline looming and its "balls to the walls," the client has simply got to pay the added tarrif. In that situation it often just goes unspoken because there just isn't time for formalities and "cheaper, faster, better--pick any two" certainly applies.

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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Steve WargoRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 20, 2008 at 11:36:54 pm

When you're in a restaurant and the server says "Do you want sour cream with that?", is it their duty to tell you that it's $.50 extra or is it your duty to ask if it costs extra?

It's their duty to tell you, just like it's our duty to tell the client that the rate is higher for nights and weekends.

I usually say "Is there going to be any issue with the higher weekend rate?" This is a polite way to open the door with a question rather that slapping them with "Hey buddy! You are going to pay like hell to get me out there on a Sunday".


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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Jeremy DoyleRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 25, 2008 at 7:33:00 pm


[Steve Wargo] "When you're in a restaurant and the server says "Do you want sour cream with that?", is it their duty to tell you that it's $.50 extra or is it your duty to ask if it costs extra?


It's their duty to tell you, just like it's our duty to tell the client that the rate is higher for nights and weekends. "


I have never had a server tell me that the sour cream is extra. I have always learned after the fact by seeing the bill. Now it has become customary for me to ask. Maybe that's just a Minnesota thing.



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Steve WargoRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 25, 2008 at 9:29:06 pm

Minnesota too, huh?


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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Rennie KlymykRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 21, 2008 at 10:20:25 pm

In my old studio I used to have my rates framed on the wall where clients would see it for sure. I think I need to find it and put it up here also. It might be a good idea to email your clients your "New Rate Sheet" for spring 2008.

It is so easy to forget about ourselves. We read in the news paper how grain is DOUBLING in price globally and when we go to market we understand why a loaf of bread is $5.00, Not to mention gas is $1.17 per liter (we've heard on the news it is expected to reach $1.50 this year... so we just pay at the pump. We also need to adjust for cost of living escalation.

How about the sign in the local automotive shop that reads:


SHOP RATE: = $50.00 PER HR.
If you watch: $60.00 PER HR.
If you help: $75.00 PER HR.







"everything is broken" ......Bob Dylan


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grinner hesterRe: "Overtime" rates for rush jobs?
by on Mar 27, 2008 at 1:45:44 am

I have a very simple rule of thumb and all of my clients know about it.
Stuff thats easy on me comes out pretty cheap. Pains in my butt are expensive.
This means, while I charge by the hour, if I have a client whos company I enjoy, I round 6 hours and 15 minutes to 6 hours. If I have a grinder int he room making me wish I had gotten a real job, I can very easily make lables well into 7 hours.... 8 if they babble alot.




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