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Jessie David
client woes here
on Jul 6, 2009 at 5:48:09 pm

First time poster here looking for advice on sending a message to a "former" client.

Okay, so a mutual friend hooked me up with a friend of his who was starting an exciting new business. I agreed to help him build the business, with the understanding that when the business grew my sacrifice would be rewarded. So, I cut my rates, donated lots of spare time, and did whatever I could to help. All totaled, I probably edited forty or so different projects for them, and though I always got paid, it was a fraction of my typical rate for similar work.

So, fast forward to now, two and half years later. The business has taken off, they just moved into big new offices, and they hired lots of new employees. Suddenly, last week I received a call from one of their employees who left a message stating that he was their new video guy and that he was trying to track down certain video and graphic elements, and requesting my help. So, it appears our deal is no longer "the deal," and I'm a bit conflicted as to the appropriate message I should send in response.

Before you yell at me for getting involved, please understand, I never do this type of thing normally. This was a something I did this time because a mutual friend promised this guy was for real, and was trustworthy. My instinct told me the the guy was trustworthy, and he was for over two years.

Anyone got any pearls of wisdom for me?


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Todd Terry
Re: client woes here
on Jul 6, 2009 at 6:03:54 pm

Don't get upset... yet.

Are you gonna get screwed? Possibly. Probably, in fact. But you don't know that just yet.

Set up a meeting. Go see this guy, this friend-of-a-friend. Spell out your wants, needs, concerns, and all that jazz... calmly and face to face.

Maybe you'll get what you want and need. Who knows? People are not necessarily unreasonable. You simply won't know until you talk to him.

If that doesn't work out well... at minimum, too bad those "certain video and graphic elements" happen to have gotten lost... because it certainly sounds like you had no actual contract to archive them (or do anything else).

Don't fly off the handle just YET... talk to the guy. THEN depending on the outcome of that, you'll be better prepared to define a course of action.


T2

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






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Bob Zelin
Re: client woes here
on Jul 6, 2009 at 7:23:33 pm

one of the greatest articles ever written was Ron L's article on grinders. Jessie - you are screwed. I get into that situation occationally "if we get the show, we are going to use YOU !" - when you work for "free", you work for free, and the client, who does this to everyone, works very hard at finding "free" labor, and rental equipment, etc. so they can run their business "for free". This is how they become successful.

Sorry buddy - you are screwed. I've been there (and recently).

One of my favorite expressions is "no good deed will go unpunished".

Bob Zelin




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maurice jansen
Re: client woes here
on Jul 6, 2009 at 7:38:24 pm

it's a cliche

but don't get in buisness with friends and family. NEVER EVER
but of coarse this will not help you.
don't let it come in play with your friendship with your mutual friend.
if the guy aint reasonable don't give him the footage.

succes
Maurice


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: client woes here
on Jul 6, 2009 at 7:48:30 pm

The only hope I can see in this one is to see if your friend who introduced you would be willing to attend the meeting that Todd Terry suggested, as that would be the only thing that would give you any power in this face-to-face situation.

If the person who referred you is willing to go with you to meet with the person they referred you to, then the one who stiffed you is likely to get really uncomfortable fast should the three of you be in the meeting together.

If they won't go, then I wouldn't bother asking for a meeting. Instead, I would write an email addressing the history and what was to have been and I would publicly CC your mutual friend on it -- so that the guy that changed the rules knows that his trousers are down around his ankles and that his hind-quarters are bared for all to see.

The point? To let the guy that referred you know that he is referring people to a jerk -- and the jerk knows he's been called on it.

Short of that, I can't think of anything good coming out of this one. But better minds than mine frequent this forum and so I await the verdict of the Body Bovine.

Oh and thank for the kind words, Bob. Coming from you I am highly honored as I think you are one of the smartest minds in the COW.

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom

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

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
- Antoine de Saint Exupéry






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walter biscardi
Re: client woes here
on Jul 6, 2009 at 7:51:57 pm

[Bob Zelin] "one of the greatest articles ever written was Ron L's article on grinders. Jessie - you are screwed. I get into that situation occationally "if we get the show, we are going to use YOU !" - when you work for "free", you work for free, and the client, who does this to everyone, works very hard at finding "free" labor, and rental equipment, etc. so they can run their business "for free". This is how they become successful. "

And unfortunately you can run into very bad situations even with people you've worked with for a long time and built up a professional trust with. You just wonder sometimes what these people are thinking and how they can operate the way they do.



Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author.
Credits include multiple Emmy, Telly, Aurora and Peabody Awards.
Biscardi Creative Media

Creative Cow Forum Host:
Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Apple Color, AJA Kona, Business & Marketing, Maxx Digital.

Read my Blog!


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Jessie David
Re: client woes here
on Jul 6, 2009 at 7:57:38 pm

[walter biscardi] "You just wonder sometimes what these people are thinking and how they can operate the way they do. "

This is precisely what I've been thinking I'd ask in an email. I want to ask him something like, "So, how do you justify this, and what part of this do you not understand as being wrong?"


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: client woes here
on Jul 6, 2009 at 8:40:51 pm

[Jessie David] "I want to ask him something like, 'So, how do you justify this, and what part of this do you not understand as being wrong?'"

Eewww. Good one, Jessie. ;o)

Although I'd vary it a bit and go straight for the jugular with something akin to: "So, how do you justify this, and what part of this do you not understand as breaking the word that you gave me when you needed my help?"

Ron Lindeboom


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Jessie David
Re: client woes here
on Jul 6, 2009 at 8:50:07 pm

[Ron Lindeboom] "go straight for the jugular with something akin to: "So, how do you justify this, and what part of this do you not understand as breaking the word that you gave me when you needed my help?" "

That's much more powerful Ron. Now we're really getting somewhere.

Unless someone else can best that, I will go with Ron's variation on the theme. I'm convinced the message from the new hired gun was a Dear John letter, so I really have do desire to pussyfoot around the issue, there's too much water under the bridge with this fellow.


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Patrick Ortman
Re: client woes here
on Jul 6, 2009 at 10:36:17 pm

Ron's advice is sterling: I've had two occasions like this, where a friend-of-a-friend type client tried to screw me. It's always best to bring in the person who referred you, it ups your chances of being paid about 90%.


---------------------
http://www.patrickortman.com
Web and Video Design


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Steve Wargo
Re: client woes here
on Jul 7, 2009 at 6:40:50 am

And, figure up what it would have cost them if they were paying your rate. Write an invoice for the difference and, if an appropriate time comes, hand one to the new company and one to the go-between. And if they don't pay, sue them both. verbal contracts are completely legit. The go-between will immediately offer to take your side. You got nothin' ta lose.

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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Nick Griffin
Re: client woes here
on Jul 7, 2009 at 1:49:32 pm

I strongly agree with Ron's tactic of making the guy uncomfortable by bringing in the intermediary. I am however doubtful that will work because it will really come down to just how good a friend your friend is and how much he can smell in advance what's coming. There are a million reasons for him to not be able to make the meeting.

Unlike Ron, I would still ask for the meeting. Even if you have to conceal it's true purpose only to get it. The discomfort factor will be a real plus if the intent is to truly screw you. Just remember, the less you say and the more you make the other guy talk the better it will be for you. Wherever possible put everything into a question: "What did you mean when you said...", "And why is that?", "How does that work?", and so on.

It's extremely bold, but you might even hold up a recorder or iPhone and say "Just to make sure there's no confusion in the future, may I record this meeting?" DO NOT RECORD IT WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE, you can without permission, but without knowledge is a crime in too many places. (Plus kind of sleezy when you're taking the position that you're the one in the right.)

[Steve Wargo] "Write an invoice for the difference and, if an appropriate time comes, hand one to the new company..."

Absolutely correct. You need to convert this from a theoretical discussion into one based on hard cold facts and numbers. Frankly I think the "appropriate time" is at that first meeting.

[Steve Wargo] "And if they don't pay, sue them both."

No, no, no. The friend didn't have the verbal contract with Jessie, the friend of the friend did. Litigation is difficult enough without putting up something which can be immediately shot down. And don't sue unless the money is in at least the mid to high five figures and you have the stomach for endless depositions and serious legal bills. That's just reality. (And a pinch of oh too personal experience.)

Just a few of my thoughts on a hazy morning in Paso Robles California after having dinner with a couple of truly amazing friends.


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: client woes here
on Jul 7, 2009 at 4:34:46 pm

[Nick Griffin] "Absolutely correct. You need to convert this from a theoretical discussion into one based on hard cold facts and numbers. Frankly I think the "appropriate time" is at that first meeting."

YOUNG BUSINESS OPERATORS (or those just starting out) TAKE SPECIAL NOTE:
This is something we do here whenever we give a discount on anything for any reason. We write the invoice at full amount, showing no discounts whatsoever on the line item. Then in the lower portion of the invoice we note the reason for the discount and why we are giving it in the description field of the invoice, giving a credit amount in the far right column that subtracts the discount given. That amount adjusts the balance owed at the bottom of the invoice and one of us signs-off on the discount by initialing the reason and we ask that when they remit payment that they please remit a copy of the invoice that they have initialed for our records.

This helps solidify the fact that their now-perceived value is the full amount and not the discounted amount that they would have mentally latched onto had we not taken this extra step.

Discounts are dangerous and you avoid them as much as you can, but when you need to make one for a specific reason that serves your purpose, make sure that you have gotten your client to "take mental ownership" of what the real cost *should* have been -- and by initialing it, they now *know* it and admit it.

This is the only way I have ever found to truly be able to "bump up" a client over the years when you give a discount. There has to be a "reason" for it, note it, initial it and make them sign for it, too.

It's a tiny bit more work but it is something that you will quickly learn to master and benefit from.

Thanks for bringing up the point, Nick.


[Nick Griffin] "Just a few of my thoughts on a hazy morning in Paso Robles California after having dinner with a couple of truly amazing friends."

What a coincidence! We too (two?) were in Paso Robles last night and went to dinner with friends. Small world, eh?

:o)

Oh, and they too (two?) were amazing.

Have a safe trip home, Nick. And give Deb a hug for us -- oh, and keep one for yourself, too.

Ron Lindeboom


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Jessie David
Re: client woes here
on Jul 7, 2009 at 4:53:20 pm

Thanks for all the great ideas guys. What a great forum. I'll definitely come back and report the outcome.


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Robert Morris
Re: client woes here
on Jul 9, 2009 at 6:22:05 am

I've done this exact thing, and found the client to consider me "anal" and "too business oriented". Obviously, these were clients who were looking for that "team player" who was willing to be a "creative collaborator".


Fine Art Drawings | Photography | Compositing | VFX | Titles | Keying | 3D


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Ty Ford
Re: client woes here
on Jul 9, 2009 at 11:47:02 am

"Too business oriented?" snort!

I remember when Flight Three closed it's doors here in Baltimore. Clients wanted their stuff. Flite Three was willing, but at an hourly rate because the archived pieces were serialized onto one main archive and not by client. There was some fuming. Clients thought they should just pick their stuff up for free.

I was somewhere in the middle on this one. The clients should have been happy there were archives. I never found out if Flite Three told its clients that they'd have to pay for retrieval. I'm guessing they just built that into the normal session fees.

Regards,

Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide






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Bob Cole
Now -> Archiving
on Jul 9, 2009 at 12:19:29 pm

Fantastic point, Ty.

Back in the day when video originals and masters were physical pieces of tape, it was easy to handle the issue of ownership-of-media. But now that has changed, for better and for worse.

Clients have the capacity to make perfect copies of their originals before handing them off, and copies of the (often Internet-delivered) masters as well. But most don't. Or, they misplace files.

I've invested in an LTO-3 drive for archiving media, project files, and output. Up to now, I've done this as part of my overhead, as a backup in case of RAID failure.

But Ty's post makes me start to think: my "backup" is probably the only available "original," and the only way a lot of these projects could ever be rebuilt or modified. Shouldn't I be charging? Do you? How do you bill it?

One drawback to billing for archiving is that it might create a legal liability in case a project couldn't be entirely reconstituted due to archive failure, loss, incomplete files, etc.

Bob C


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Ty Ford
Re: Now -> Archiving
on Jul 9, 2009 at 12:50:18 pm

I do some simple DVD-R archiving for small projects, but most of my clients say they don't really care if the original session hangs around.

BZZZT!

Just yesterday a client I shot and edited for two years ago called and wanted to know if we could shorten his piece. Fortunately, I had the session on an old HD I have marked for this sort of storage. I got two hours of business out of the redo and we did need the whole FCP session to do the work properly.

Maybe you draw a line somewhere. Anything over X minutes for long form. Spots can be crazy busy even in 30 seconds. Ask your client what they want you to do. If the job is too big to fit on a 4.7 GB DVD-R, then add in some archiving time and/or materials, or sell them a hard drive. I just did that. A Lacie 1TB HD was about $170.00. Keep it at your place or give it to them.

Bob, you could sell them their own archive tape and some time for the backup.

If they don't want to pay for it, get them to sign a release that says they understand that you are not archiving anything.

Regards,

Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide






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walter biscardi
Re: Now -> Archiving
on Jul 9, 2009 at 1:29:28 pm

[Bob Cole] "But Ty's post makes me start to think: my "backup" is probably the only available "original," and the only way a lot of these projects could ever be rebuilt or modified. Shouldn't I be charging? Do you? How do you bill it?

One drawback to billing for archiving is that it might create a legal liability in case a project couldn't be entirely reconstituted due to archive failure, loss, incomplete files, etc.
"


We recently started doing some heavy duty archiving here now as we're getting more and more projects that are P2 based so digital is the only way to store these files. I considered LTO but then I found the WeibeTech RTX series of trayless enclosures. I picked up the 200 which is a 2 bay SATA enclosure with eSATA connection. They're sweet as you literally just slide a raw drive into the chassis and when you're done, just slide it out.

We run that unit connected to our SAN computer so any workstation in the facility can access the unit. Then either my clients supply raw SATA drives for their own archives, or I pick them up and simply bill the client for the drive. I'm getting 1TB drives as low as $90/each now so the expense is minimal.

The really nice thing about the eSATA connection is that if a client simply wants a dub of something that only exists on that drive, we can lay to tape directly from the RTX unit which is much faster than having to retrieve something off a dedicated archival system.

So that's how we're handling archival now and unlike even just last year when I didn't care about saving the raw files because we could always digitize again, we now archive every project, every piece of media to raw SATA drives.

WeibeTech even has anti-static drive cases too that look just like VHS cases so we don't even need to keep the boxes around or anti static bags around any longer either.



Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author.
Credits include multiple Emmy, Telly, Aurora and Peabody Awards.
Biscardi Creative Media

Creative Cow Forum Host:
Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Apple Color, AJA Kona, Business & Marketing, Maxx Digital.

Read my Blog!


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Bob Cole
Re: Now -> Archiving
on Jul 9, 2009 at 1:38:40 pm

[walter biscardi] " we now archive every project, every piece of media to raw SATA drives. "

I used to do that too, even though I'd read about how inappropriate hard drives are for archiving. Apparently, they don't like NOT being used -- which is exactly how archives are treated.

I ignored the advice and bought drive after drive -- cheap and fast sounded great. But then I had an archive drive fail. So now I use LTO-3. I'll probably have an LTO-3 tape fail too someday. But it does seem to be more of a standard for archiving than hard drives.

Bob C


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Bob Cole
Don't get mad, get money
on Jul 8, 2009 at 2:08:47 am

[Jessie David] "I received a call from one of their employees who left a message stating that he was their new video guy "

From this, I infer that the business is not primarily a video production company, but uses video fairly extensively. The owner must figure that even at your reduced rate, he can get a better value by bringing the video work in house.

This guy has played you for a fool. So why not turn that around on him? I recommend that you play the wide-eyed innocent, who assumes that everyone else is as honorable as you are. If the owner won't meet, write that e-mail, copying your mutual friend. Remind him of the understanding, assure him of your continued interest in working for him, especially since you feel a part of his success, and share with him your confusion about being contacted by his employee who identified himself as a video guy. You're happy for his success, you're enclosing your (full) rate card, and you look forward to working with him in the future.

If he has a guilty conscience, you'll get some money this way. If he doesn't have a guilty conscience, it's hopeless anyway and reaming him out would just feel like a backrub to him.

Don't give up the elements. If you do, you're acquiescing in this act of betrayal. If asked, explain that you're keeping them because you assume that he will honor his commitment, and therefore, you will need them to service his account. If he assures you that he will never hire you again, do that math about the difference in the rates, and offer them for that difference.

While some businessmen value their workers and treat them very well, there are those who tend to ask just a few questions: Does this person help me make money? Can I get his/her services cheaper/better from someone else? The recession isn't bringing out the milk of human kindness in those people on the borderline, either.

Good luck to you. I'm sorry this happened.

Bob C


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