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RFP and pricing?

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Dean BrennanRFP and pricing?
by on Mar 10, 2009 at 2:17:06 pm

I want to get some different opinions.I read a lot about not charging by the video as a whole but charging by the hour for specific services. Which I strongly agree with. What happens when you get an RFP (Request for Proposal) from a University that requires your price for the video and all production services to be stated upfront? How do you approach your proposal? Also, what are specific problems or obstacles with this way of doing things? If you read below you will get a better idea of what I am talking about if you don't already.

The offeror must complete, and return this Pricing Page in addition to all other requested information.

1. The offeror must provide a firm, fixed price for production services.

2. The price must include all required services, travel, delivery of final product, etc.

$ _______________________ firm, fixed price

By signature below, I hereby attest that the above is stated in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Request for Proposal for __________________________.


Company Name


Signature / Date

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Ron LindeboomRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 10, 2009 at 2:52:14 pm

I am sure that some others here will disagree but I would not even bother to bid on such a job because you are going to be -- er, uh, I believe the technical term for it is "hosed" man.

In my experience, and from many others that I have known over the years, these kinds of deals are a nightmare waiting to happen. Regularly, these kinds of contracts become what Roger Corman called "The Job That Would Not Die!"

Because of it, I wouldn't even fill it out.

Now, the others here who are cut from a more intrepid cloth, can jump in and say why they disagree and why they would jump at the chance.

Mileage regularly varies,

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.

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Craig SeemanRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 10, 2009 at 3:01:47 pm

Ron, often clients who do this are new to video. I'm going through this now with a potential client. They were honest. This was their first attempt at video and they admitted they weren't absolutely sure what to ask (don't know if I'll get the job though).

Of their concern is locking down a budget. That's actually not too difficult as long as they can actually lock down a detailed scope of a project.

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Ron LindeboomRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 10, 2009 at 3:36:53 pm

I understand, Craig, that their real concern is staying within budget. The problem arises when the wording is as nondescript as what he posted and based on that wording alone, I wouldn't touch it.

I would also agree with you that the real challenge here is to get the client on the same page with you and get them to change their policies and wording. You can do that with many private entities but I have found over the years that public entities -- such as universities, municipalities, civic organizations, etc. -- are much tougher to get them to change. There are usually too many people who must vote and give feedback, commentary and approval on anything before it happens.

I have done a number of "public" projects over the years and they nearly always become larger projects than was originally presented and agreed to. The reason is that so many bosses have their say and before anything gets final approval, it must pass through channels. (Read: many hands and eyes.)

Therein lies the need to carefully cover your posterior protrusion.

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom

Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.

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Craig SeemanRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 10, 2009 at 3:49:13 pm

[Ron Lindeboom] "The problem arises when the wording is as nondescript as what he posted and based on that wording alone, I wouldn't touch it. "

In my I case I responded to the RFP with some general information and request from them on the detail I needed. I got a response back with a lot more detail although still not enough. If there's dialogue and response then one can continue to get info. My method is to throw it back to them and if they can't follow through just walk away.

To the above kind of RFP I give an hourly and day rate (which is simply based on hourly rate) and list of gear. I'll also list some possible additional gear and the costs per day and include in a response that you need more details to be more specific. Then list those details as they may not be thinking of them.

At that point they're either organized enough to provide details are at least why they can't yet or they're simply grinders and you walk.

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Craig SeemanRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 10, 2009 at 2:57:35 pm

I had to deal with this recently.

I told the client I need a detailed scope or sample script. I can fix a rate and lock it down but that means no changes on their part. I spell out the number of shoot and edit days. If it looks like it's going to go longer THEY have to cut something. Subjects and locations must be submitted. If the location gets x hours and the talent still can't get a good delivery they need to live with that. The graphics and text/logos must be firm. Price includes ONE round of edit revisions WITHIN the budgeted time for post production.

Ask for script or scope
Ask for list of all shot subjects and locations
Ask for graphics description
Give them number of shoot and edit days for the price. Tell them that's locked with the price. Tell them they'll always have the flexibility to add or delete for additional costs or savings at their discretion. Tell them there are cancelation costs too.

I will NOT vary the above. There is no "all you can eat" for a fixed price. Fixed price lunch is fixed menu.

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Nick GriffinRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 10, 2009 at 3:57:44 pm

IF (and it's a BIG if) you can become the "Change Order" Nazi and each and every time the "many hands" make a change, you have a signed record that they made the change and, that by signing, they agree to additional costs. With this type of system in place you can possibly make these kind of jobs work. Not likely, just possible, IMHO.

But Ron is right in that when it's a public rather than corporate gig getting a change made to the RFP/contract is probably not worth the effort. Typically once this kind of mentality is in place, it's too late for it to work out well for you. The ideal situation is one in which you are building a nurturing, consultative relationship with the client. One where you are helping them define what they want, what things cost, and what they are willing to pay. Jointly you set the scope and the budget.

So Dean... just how badly do you want this? Recognize up front that you may be committing yourself to a lot of extra, un-paid work. You may also get trapped in a job that's never considered finished and therefore never fully paid -- even with their agreement in place.

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Gav BottRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 11, 2009 at 2:41:05 am

I've recently quoted on a job a little like this - the start point was "we have about this much, and want something that does this" which makes things a little easier.

It was still short on detail, as others have said above - starting off with a call and a chat about what they actually expect revealed far more than the paperwork ever could.

Once we started that conversation we managed to move on to presenting a "proper" proposal rather than a one sheeter with a dollar amount and a binding signature.

Managing expectations as well as the budget is the tough bit with this kind of work - and of course the panel of exec producers you discover at delivery.

I found the best way was to go in, start the conversation, find out what they are after and then work out if it can be done for the budget.

Expecting a client like this to tell you how many shoot days/locations/graphics etc. are expected is as unrealistic as the initial single sheet quote request I think – which may have been the point.

The Brit in Brisbane
The Pomme in Production - Brisbane Australia.

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walter biscardiRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 10, 2009 at 3:39:13 pm

When there is a hard budget, you have to be absolutely explicit as to what they will receive for that amount.

Running time no longer than X

Shoot hours no longer than x

Edit hours no longer than x

Music / video library / miscellaneous costs no more than x

Client gets X amount of changes

Then you MUST include a line something line, "Any changes requested / required by the client that requires us to go beyond these terms listed, client shall be notified and will authorize, in writing, additional payment to be billed at an additional X per hour until project completion. If authorization is not received, all work shall cease and client will be billed according to the original terms of payment. "

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Biscardi Creative Media
HD and SD Production for Broadcast and Independent Productions.

Read my Blog!


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Dean BrennanRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 10, 2009 at 4:31:04 pm

Thanks for the feedback everyone. All this helps my situation. I know how hard it is trying to change the RFP process in a University setting. It's a battle that most likely will not be won.

Just to clarify, I am NOT bidding on this RFP. I had this RFP sent to me from another department on campus. I was going to give the department some helpful tips on the RFP and what they could include based on my experience so hopefully it can help the company who ends up getting the bid.

I do a lot of freelance work and would never accept a proposal like this because of what you all have stated so I assume if someone agrees to it as it is they are not experienced with production and the process. In return the University is not getting the quality/message they probably want. Again, just an assumption.

Dean C. Brennan
Digital Video Specialist

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Mark SuszkoRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 10, 2009 at 6:44:09 pm

Yeah, Dean, its a bad deal. They are asking for commodity pricing, which is good on things like carpeting, chairs, coffee pots for the cafeteria, etc. You can't put commodity pricing on a custom service job, not effectively. One strategy, if you were foolish enouhg to bite on this, is to run your own best estimate, inflate that by an obscene margin, and if all goes well, pocket a windfall. But you can find dozens of reasons why that's not a good idea.

If nobody bites on the bad RFP, it *can* die off and be canceled, and a better bidding arrangement can evolve out of that. But only if you engage the process and contribute to the conversation, like Craig is doing.

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jon agnewRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 10, 2009 at 9:03:55 pm

I work for a university video department. Make like brave Sir Robin and RUN AWAY!!!!!! far and fast as you can.

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Steve WargoDid this last year
by on Mar 11, 2009 at 3:15:53 am

I did a job like this last year for a state sponsored university. I found out what their dollar limit was and bid $250 under that. I put a firm limit on what we would do for the money as in How many crew people for how much time on the shoot and how much time in edit. We paid for the VO and stated that we would include a certain amount of effects and graphics work.

Clients like this are not bound to take the lowest bid. They are supposed to get the most for their money and not exceed a certain dollar limit. The limit I'm talking about is stated in their business guidelines. Ask the person making the offer what those guideline are. They have to tell you. Don't leave money on the table. If you think you're going to get the job by being the lowest bid, you're probably wrong. Ask them what they're scoring process is.

Now, a note on taking these bids on: In 2004, we tracked how much time we spent bidding on jobs that we didn't get. I'm talking about those RFPs where there are dozens of pages to fill out. We spent over 150 man hours on jobs that we never had a chance on. Total waste of time. If they have 1 or 2 pages to fill out, you might have a chance. The longer the paperwork, the slimmer your chance of getting the job. Also, watch for trick or impossible requirements because they have probably written the job spec around their favorite vendor who will get the job regardless o who else bids. We've had this happen both ways.

These days, I turn down almost every job where we have to audition or make special DVDs or whatever. It seems like the more sophisticated the client, the easier it is to get the job if you have a history of award winning productions.

Don't spend more time on the bid that you are willing to completely throw away.

One more thing: Find out who they've been using in the past and why the job is out for bid anyway.

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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Bill DavisRe: Did this last year
by on Mar 12, 2009 at 9:00:32 am

Like everyone else here I think going through an RFP is a little like getting dental work done.

However, if it's properly done it can serve a useful purpose for you and for the client.

That's when the RFP is specific enough to define the actual terms of the sample job you're bidding on.

If that's the case, you'd expect a vendor or two to come in high. A vendor or two to come in dirt cheap. And a statistical cluster in the middle somewhere that actually defines what the market expects to pay for the scope of work outlined.

This is fair because it tells both the client and the vendors what market rates currently are. If an existing vendor is way out of line on the high side, or if the company doing the RFP has a vendor doing work too cheaply, both those extremes will be uncovered.

However, once that process is done - it's done. The client has surveyed the market and determined fair market rates. Anything beyond that is silly and I've written to clients doing RFPs and told them exactly that.

Of course, I'm different from a lot of people here. I HATE hourly pricing. That's based on my belief that if you're good and fast you shouldn't make LESS than someone who's crappy and slow. And when you bid on time that's the first trap for both sides. The second is that selling hours is stupid because it's an ever diminishing inventory that's leaking away no matter whether you're working or not.

I personally prefer bidding projects based on what I think my time, effort, and mostly my EXPERTISE is worth. That bulk rate should be reasonably "screw up proof" which is to say my skilled rates are such that if I have to work some extra hours on something, I still end up properly compensated for my abilities and experience.

That way it's up to me to do things efficiently - and to the extent I do - I should be able to financially benefit from the efficiencies I bring to the project, not make less because I can do in 8 hours what it might take someone else 14 hours to accomplish.

My view anyway.

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Kai CheongRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 14, 2009 at 11:01:45 am

I'm from Singapore and a LOT of corporate work we [and other local production houses] go for are from the government/public sector. It's the nature of the beast. And they adhere strictly to a RFP-like electronic system [which is referred to as ITQ or 'Invitation To Quote' for projects with budgets under $70k; anything higher would be a call for Tender].

Like Mark said, this is really a flawed system for creative services. I'm sure it works much better when it's used to purchase technical services or inventory items - which it is also used for.

Like it or not, we have to continue pitching [well, more often than not, we don't even get a pitch or face-to-face session... so it's an electronic proposal and quotation] for these projects as part of business.

What we try to do is to always give the issuing personnel a call to suss out as much details as possible. Often, the RFP document is not well-prepared and does not provide enough information.

We always try to find out what their budget is but unfortunately, they're usually 'not at liberty to discuss'. On one hand, their rationale is that it'll protect their interests since production houses will definitely quote near their budget if it's revealed. On the other hand, it becomes almost like a lottery for us.

On more than one occasion, we have quoted for projects that went to some other company that quoted a low four-figure amount! In times like these, I'm glad for clients who actually revealed their budgets - so we didn't have to waste time and effort coming up with quotes and concepts when we know we are not the kind of production companies who do work for such low amounts.

Our integrity to do quality work at a reasonable price is too strong ;]
And we're in this for the long haul.

We have a standard proposal when responding to such RFPs - and it always stipulates number of shoot days, shooting format, number of drafts of scripting, whether VO is required, whether language versions/subtitles are needed, number of edit and viewing sessions and final deliverables needed etc. We also have our own T&Cs attached and also a note that the concepts proposed is our intellectual property and cannot be reproduced if the project is not awarded to us.

It always helps everyone when the client knows what they want the video for. It's part of our job to advise on how to craft the message but there should be some basis to start with.

FCP Editor / Producer with Intuitive Films
Now 'LIVE'! Check Out The Intuitive Films Blog @

At Intuitive Films, We Create: TV Commercials, Documentaries, Corporate Videos and Feature Films
Visit us @
MacBook Pro 2.4GHz | 4GB RAM | FCP 5.1.4 | Mac OS X 10.5.2

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Ron LindeboomRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 14, 2009 at 4:47:45 pm

Thank you for chiming in, Kai. It is good to hear from others outside the USA who have to deal with these issues in their own country. Thank you for the well thought out response, it is appreciated.

Ron Lindeboom

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Kai CheongRe: RFP and pricing?
by on Mar 15, 2009 at 3:11:30 am

My pleasure, Ron. We had a tough week when it came to pitching. We went for a ITQ that was opened for only 3 days [the minimum they're required to have it up], the officer in charge averted all my attempts to find out more details about the project and 2 days after the ITQ closed, the project was awarded to another production company. Then, there was another project that required 2 days of full-day filming of a full-scale emergency exercise and editing to an undisclosed length of time - that went for a four-figure sum.

On the other hand, we had a chance to pitch directly to a quasi-governmental client for a TV commercial but after presenting four well-thought out concepts, we were given an, IMO, unrealistic budget to work with.

But times are lean and we got to make the best of all possible leads.

Though sometimes, one can't help but feel that some corporations are using 'times are lean' as an excuse to try and push down project budgets to unrealistic levels.

FCP Editor / Producer with Intuitive Films
Now 'LIVE'! Check Out The Intuitive Films Blog @

At Intuitive Films, We Create: TV Commercials, Documentaries, Corporate Videos and Feature Films
Visit us @
MacBook Pro 2.4GHz | 4GB RAM | FCP 5.1.4 | Mac OS X 10.5.2

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