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Quoting based on a very brief Brief

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John Murphy
Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 7, 2009 at 12:53:11 am

Hi all, my first post here.

We are relatively new to the video production business, yet in the last twelve months have managed to make some very good contacts and prospects, two of them being the two local council bodies that govern the region. Finally, we have received an opportunity to quote.

This morning we received a request for a preliminary quotation on the production of a 30-minute DVD that will include coverage of a major water pipeline being built in the area over the next two years. Each stage is to be documented and the production will include a variety of location shots, interviews and etc. during the time the pipeline is started, right through to completion and the "turning on" of the service in 2011.

The letter that was sent through included a construction time-line on a month-by-month basis and what they wanted to cover in each month, but of course no detailed information on how long any of it should take to cover, or how long they wanted us on site, how many hours or days each part of the shoot should take.

My question is this:

How do you quote on something like this when, obviously, we would be competing with others.

There is no knowledge of how much time would be spent on-location.

Do you quote on a "finished minutes" rule for the DVD, or do you put in a preliminary quote with points stating that until further detailed information is obtained, this is an estimate of costs? Do you quote with periods of review at each stage?

We have found it reasonably easy to quote on general corporate videos where time is a known quantity, but for something like this, it is so open-ended, we are really struggling to get our heads around it.

The cost of the DVD will be shared between two councils, by the way.

Would certainly appreciate any advice on this.

Thank you in advance,

JM



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John Murphy
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 7, 2009 at 10:31:43 am

Actually his has turned into an interesting one.

I requested a more detailed explanation of the different on-location shoots; there are various days, some with one shoot and others with multiple shoots, but they can't clarify how long each will take or whether the shoots will all be on one day or split over several days.

Very hard to quote when there are so many unknown variables.

JM


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walter biscardi
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 7, 2009 at 12:15:55 pm

You will have to quote to the best of your abilities to guess how long each part of the shoot might take based on your previous experience.

The quote should very clearly lay out that "based on the information provided at the time of this quote, we estimate it will cost $X to produce this video." And then you lay out what's included in the quote including how many days of shooting it will take, when you anticipate shooting based on the construction schedule, etc....

Obviously you also include that anything required beyond the original information will be billed at additional costs, etc.....

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

Biscardi Creative Media

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

Read my Blog!

Twitter!


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Ned Miller
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 7, 2009 at 3:15:15 pm

About ten years ago I produced a similar project over a two year period on an EPA grant, and a couple others similar, having to go in flexibly every month, or when called, and shoot documentary style with a smattering of interviews. It is dangerous to quote these types of projects because when you are dealing with a quasi-governmental body it is near impossible to go back for budget revisions since your contact is powerless to get you more money. At least in a corporate project, when the parameters expand, you can make noise for an increase in budget. On these types of jobs you are just a line item in a very big project...So whatever figure is arrived at assume you will have to live with it.

First I'd say try to find out how many other companies they sent the brief to. If in your opinion it's too many, then save yourself hours of cost estimating. My threshold is three or four. Make sure you aren't a "check bid". Often they know who they want to go to but must get several bids for legal dressing.

Make sure you can bill in thirds or quarters since these kinds of gigs drag on forever, and the definition of "done" is open to interpretation. This is like dealing with a non-profit in that all approvals have to be "committee".

The estimating is simple NOT INCLUDING GRAPHICS. I would estimate the total amount of shoot days PLUS, put in the cost of hiring freelancers to sub for you, in case you are on another job when they need you to come out and shoot. I make window dubs and have them choose footage and interview bites, thus saving me post time. After all, this is not sample reel building material.

Here's a good tactic: I knew graphics would be expensive because these kind of jobs want the viewer to have an overview, so I suggested we get maps made in a video friendly style at Kinkos and periodically have the engineers involved explain at an easel what was progressing. They LOVED that idea, saved thousands, brought my estimate down.

Regarding contracts, they will have one that your lawyer really can't mark up, but it is pointless in that there is no way to successfully sue an entity like this. Ask any local lawyer, it would take years. So consider a contract to be more of a Letter of Agreement in terms of understanding who does what. Make sure you deal with several contacts in case one or two leave their employment during the course of such a long gig. It has happened to me and can get confusing, possibly ugly.

BTW, I got the big EPA progress job because I was the closest videographer/producer and since I owned gear I said I would also shoot half days, they loved that since they knew some shoots would only be an hour. I presented myself as a "Fireman" although I knew I may need to send substitutes. Make sure in your bid you cover yourself that way, they understand you may not show up.

Lastly, on these kind of gigs there is a great networking opportunity in that you will meet powerful local movers and shakers, usually in the construction and real estate industry. Plus have early opportunities for future projects and become their "Go To Guy" on non-bid jobs.

Good Luck,

Ned

P.S. Remember the CHinese proverb, "Be careful what you wish for..."


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grinner hester
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 7, 2009 at 2:46:04 pm

Quoting finished minutes went out in the 80s when finished minutes changed to such a broad spectrum. You'll quote according to the time you put into it. In this case, you'll add some because of how the time is spread out so... and you'll get half down to ensure it doesn't just go away on ya and there is a much better chance of that happening in this case for obvious reasons.
Iron out those key shoot times so you really know what you are looking at. Know those dates will surely change on you but file the number of shoots away for this quote.




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Chris Blair
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 7, 2009 at 3:14:04 pm

I'll add that once you nail down the different things you have to shoot, base your estimate on either a half-day or full-day of shooting for each shoot day. On the parts of the project where it says there will be just one thing shot, quote a half-day, on the ones where there are multiple things shot, quote a full-day.

Chances are you won't be able to shoot or bill for much else on those days anyway, so you deserve to be paid for reserving those half-days or full-days for this project.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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walter biscardi
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 7, 2009 at 4:08:35 pm

[Chris Blair] "I'll add that once you nail down the different things you have to shoot, base your estimate on either a half-day or full-day of shooting for each shoot day"

We do not quote 1/2 days anymore as none of our shooters will quote 1/2 day anymore either. By the time you head to the shoot, shoot, head back home, you've lost an entire day. It's not like they can book two shoots back to back. So just schedule all full days.



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

Biscardi Creative Media

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

Read my Blog!

Twitter!


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Rich Rubasch
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 7, 2009 at 4:44:50 pm

Although we don't create estimates based solely on length of finished video, we can better estimate, based on years and years of projects and the type of project, how much it might cost. For post only we have a range from $400-$1000 per finished minute for post only projects and from $2000-$5000 per finished minute including production depending on the scope of the project.

After almost every project we take the final billables and divide it by the length of the final video(s) to get cost per finished minute. After you do fifty of these or so, you will have a pretty good idea of how much to estimate for a given project.

So although we don't simply estimate on length we do use it in "crafting" our estimates to the client. It also helps us to articulate to them that if the length changes during the project it will certainly affect the final cost. We have found that you can bank on it....if the length changes, so does the cost.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media
Editor, Designer, Compositor, Writer, Producer, Compressionist, Business Owner, Photographer, Duplicator, COW Contributor

Multiple winner of WAVE Awards, ADDY Awards, Telly Awards, Pele Awards, Auroroa Awards, and many, many more.

http://www.tiltmedia.com



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John Murphy
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 7, 2009 at 10:16:17 pm

Thanks folks, this is our first "Tendering" quote, so the whole process is quite alien to us.

Another thing they said to us which was strange (or it might be common, don't know) was that the budget would be revealed to the successful bidder.

What does this mean? Does it mean that, if you come in under budget and are the successful bidder, that you will be able to charge the budgeted amount, or does it mean you get the "boy, you really could have charged more than that" comment?

The cloak-and-dagger stuff is really quite off-putting, but obviously something we will have to get used to if dealing with councils.

JM


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 7, 2009 at 10:29:23 pm

[John Murphy] "The cloak-and-dagger stuff is really quite off-putting, but obviously something we will have to get used to if dealing with councils."

Or not.

We never play with the cloak-and-dagger guys. (Though I will admit that it made for a dandy song on the 1984 CAMEL album "Stationary Traveler.")

After enough years of filling out proposals and bids and watching most all of them be awarded to low-ballers whose bids were so ridiculous that we couldn't even break-even at those kinds of rates, we gave up on trying to win that kind of business. It is so hit-and-miss as to be one of the most ineffective uses of our time when we measured it.

Ron Lindeboom


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walter biscardi
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 8, 2009 at 12:52:59 am

[John Murphy] "Another thing they said to us which was strange (or it might be common, don't know) was that the budget would be revealed to the successful bidder.

What does this mean? Does it mean that, if you come in under budget and are the successful bidder, that you will be able to charge the budgeted amount, or does it mean you get the "boy, you really could have charged more than that" comment? "


For most companies, If they have 25,000 in the budget and you have the winning bid of 15,000, guess what, you do the job for 15,000 and they save 10,000. They will tell you they have "about $15,000 in our budget so your bid is just great."

Long story short, don't spend a whole lot of time on this as they are just trying to get the lowest priced budget. I spend about 10 minutes on a bid like this......



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

Biscardi Creative Media

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

Read my Blog!

Twitter!


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 8, 2009 at 1:24:26 am

[walter biscardi] "Long story short, don't spend a whole lot of time on this as they are just trying to get the lowest priced budget. I spend about 10 minutes on a bid like this......"

I couldn't agree more, Walter. I don't waste my time on stuff like this anymore.

Once, I had the absolute delight of having a company come back to me with a pile of crap that they got from the person they hired with their low-ball bid.

"Can you fix it?" they asked.

"No," I told them.

"Why not?" they asked incredulously.

"Because I would start from scratch and charge you what my original proposal said," I said rather matter-of-factly.

"That's going to end up costing us way more than either of the bids because we have already paid them some of the money," they said.

"You can get your car fixed at the garage for a cheaper price when you drive it in," I said, adding, "but when I have to drive out and tow it in and figure out where the last mechanic botched the repair, that is going to cost you a LOT more."


To be honest, I can't stand low-ballers, grinders, and those that want something for nothing.

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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John Murphy
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 8, 2009 at 1:39:56 am

Yeah, I agree with your recommendations, however I guess if you want to tie-up the local area's big players such as Councils and the likes, you have to play the game (as long as it is worth your while, that is of course!!).

Is this the normal way organisations such as this request quotes? I thought it was a little old-fashioned.

Ron, if you steer clear of these kinds of people, wouldn't you be (possibly) missing out on work (that is if large-ish organisations do indeed use this method regularly of requesting quotes these days)?

But no doubt playing the cloak-and-dagger method adds to the mystery of it all and assists in getting the vendors to cut to the bone as much as possible.

Cheers,

JM


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 8, 2009 at 2:10:47 am

[John Murphy] "Ron, if you steer clear of these kinds of people, wouldn't you be (possibly) missing out on work (that is if large-ish organisations do indeed use this method regularly of requesting quotes these days)?"


BUSY does not mean profitable.

Profits mean being profitable.

Chasing a bunch of low-ball contracts may make you feel like you are in business and going and growing...

BUT

...as many here have said, these kinds of bids are RARELY ever profitable. They are resume filler at best.


[John Murphy] "...if you want to tie-up the local area's big players such as Councils and the likes, you have to play the game (as long as it is worth your while, that is of course!!)."

This presumes that A.) these players really are the area's big players -- and they usually are NOT -- and that B.) it is worth while. This too, is usually suspect.

Our area's Chamber, Ad Council, etc., etc., are always making noise as if they are important. They rarely are. I used to belong to all these things, now I don't bother. I have made way more money from working with the people that I know here in the COW than I ever have from Chambers, Councils, etc.

Usually, these organizations are made up of people that are just as broke as the people who attend the mixers and functions, trying to pass out business cards and get a "love connection." In the many Chamber, Council, Rotary, and other meetings I ever attended, I spent far more money than I ever made from the connections I made there. Me, I don't even bother with it anymore. And I sure don't fall for their line that they are Big & Important.

These are the same people who, for the most part, are the target of the cable company's free production ad services department; the people that make the local ads that in most areas are so bad that they make the audience wish they had the power to incinerate them and the deck or drive they are playing on.

If that's your business focus, then you are likely going to be very busy and very unprofitable. That was my experience.

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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Tim Wilson
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 8, 2009 at 3:24:00 am

[John Murphy] "If you steer clear of these kinds of people, wouldn't you be (possibly) missing out on work (that is if large-ish organisations do indeed use this method regularly of requesting quotes these days)?"

Yes, that's exactly what it means. And yes, they do require this method of bidding.

I know that many of you on this thread find this kind of bid offensive, but my business was largely government-oriented, and bidding was exclusively this kind of process. It's called an RFP (Request for Proposal), a common TLA (Three Letter Acronym). You make a pitch with a number on the bottom line. They take it or don't, so make your pitch a good one.

These were what's called "blind RFPs," and are mandated. The rules also mandated that only the winner can see the other numbers, and only at the discretion of the agency. They awarders aren't being grinders. They're following the law.

It turned out that I never came in at the bottom or the top of the range of pitches. I made a persuasive case that I could deliver the quality they wanted at the price I claimed, had some good work to show, good word of mouth, and won. Big. Seriously, six figures, for multiple jobs. Every single one of them came from bids like this.

Why go through this? Because the budget for the branch I worked for was a line item in the federal budget. The particular office I worked for was funded by state government as well as fed. There were two other federal agencies involved in funding. The office for two of them was a three hour drive apart. The third was a three hour plane ride away. Every one of them had to justify the project to their bosses all the way up the chain. I was in Florida, and was paid out of the federal payroll center in Lawrenceville Kansas.

Lots of paperwork, friends. Lots of people looking at that paperwork. But I never saw it as red tape. I saw it as three people in different agencies who WANTED to work with me. But every one of us owed it to every one of YOU as taxpayers to make sure that everything was accounted for.

Here's the deal, though. Part of what I did in my bid -- and what I found out later my competitors did too -- was to state very clearly what was entailed. For example, they wanted run-and-gun for Friday. I said that that meant Monday morning shoots. Your mileage may vary, but the point is, I made them partners in meeting the terms of the deal.

They dictated the terms of the bid, and I dictated the terms of what the terms meant. We worked something out, and became partners in it. It was incredibly rewarding, and remains one of the great joys of my professional life.

Grinders? Heavens no! Absolutely not.

The best part? They paid. In full. On time. Every time.

Did I mention NOT grinders?

Can you imagine? Production partners, real partners, across YEARS of working together, with incredible creative freedom, virtually unlimited human support for what I needed to succeed, two-way trust, and flawless payment.

In exchange for a headache-inducing bid that took a couple of days of my time to put together. Are you kidding me? You may never get an offer this good again.

Don't want to work for grinder rates? Don't bid grinder rates. You want big jobs? This is what it takes. There are fewer and fewer big jobs. You're going to have to work for them. This is what work looks like.

Good luck! And don't forget, the creative partnership rewards can be the best part of the deal.


Tim Wilson
Creative Cow Magazine!

My Blog: "Is this thing on? Oh it's on!"

Don't forget to rate your favorite posts!


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 8, 2009 at 3:44:36 am

[Tim Wilson] "They awarders aren't being grinders. They're following the law."

As I always say, Tim: you are nicer than me.

Jobs that require this kind of blind bidding and that take the lowest bidder are repugnant to me.

You know quite well, Tim, that I have done many RFPs over the years. RFPs are not my problem.

RFPs that require a blind bid and that take the lowest bidder are my issue.

From what the poster, John Murphy, states: these bids are from ad councils if my graying cranium remembers the start of all this.

;o)

Ad councils, etc., are hardly line items in Federal Budgets and if my understanding of what he was asking is clear, these bids are the kinds of things that many municipal groups use just to GRIND.

Did I mention, GRIND?

Seen it far too much, did it for the County of San Luis Obispo, for the City of Atascadero, etc., etc., and while I learned plenty from the jobs, I would never want another one, thank you.

You may have had far better experience than mine, I was working with local organizations, as John Murphy mentions -- not with the Feds that you got to work with.

I don't doubt that you had better results than I did, as you and I have discussed this many times and your experience was fun and profitable. Ours was anything but...and though we didn't lose money, we weren't living in a condo on Isla Mirada in the Florida Keys either.

You go ahead and bid, Timmie. Me, I am going to go build the record company site -- I know that will be a heck of a lot more fun and profitable than dealing with the cable company local ads target group. (Which as I understand John, are the people that I think he's referring to.)

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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Tim Wilson
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 8, 2009 at 5:57:49 am

[Ron Lindeboom] "RFPs that require a blind bid and that take the lowest bidder are my issue."

I just don't think that lowest bids winning jobs is necessarily the rule. I know that I was never even close to the lowest bid, even for the local jobs that made up about half of my work. Before the gubmint contract, it was 100% of my work.

These jobs were typically for a few thousand dollars at a time, for non-profits and chambers of commerce in towns with less than 10,000 people. Evaluators were typically business people who didn't trust their own colleagues who bid under them, and weren't looking for this from contractors, either.

Regardless, grinders have many approaches to hiring. In every case, bid exactly what you want to make, and be ready to say no if they try to grind you...

...a point that you, Ron, have made eloquently in "Clients or Grinders," one of the most popular articles ever written in the Cow.

This is also why I advise never letting the client have the last word on the terms of the contract. As John is doing, bidders should push back to make sure that you're getting the rate you want for the actual work that you based your bid on, and walk -- nay, RUN -- away if you don't get it.

I'm happy to let anyone else have the last word on this, but I think that always rejecting bid processes like this can be bad business. It's critical for longterm success in changing markets to be ready for any kind of application process...and to not yield on price.


PS. The condo in the Keys was in a town of 7000 people, in a development about 20% full. It was on the lower floor in an older cinder block building, quite nice, but hardly the Ritz. The gubmint contracts were largely gone by then, and I was a scrambling freelancer again. As others have observed both here and in the Cow Magazine, the toughest markets can provide the best buying opportunities. I might - MIGHT - have been able to afford a tent there once the cycle turned back upward. :-)

Tim Wilson
Creative Cow Magazine!

My Blog: "Is this thing on? Oh it's on!"

Don't forget to rate your favorite posts!


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Ned Miller
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 8, 2009 at 1:03:47 pm

Hi John,

I have been freelance for thirty-three years, producing for the last ten, and what I have done is taken the best techniques and tricks from the most successful producers I have worked for. So I don't consider this my advice per se but a tool kit of tactics:

I re-read your posts and I don't see anywhere the mention that it will go to the lowest bidder, often they are afraid of the lowest bidder. I also don't see where they are being "grinders", they probably know nothing of video production (yet). From your post it sounds like they are a semi-government agency?

From reading the responses you wouldn't think there's a recession going on. Am I the only person in this biz with two kids in college and married to a low paid schoolteacher? I have done two projects similar (construction docs for quasi-govt) if you want to private message me. I would say spend just an hour figuring out your production costs, basic editing excluding graphics, add a Murphy's Law factor plus perhaps a 15% producing fee. It's that easy.

Throw in every sample you can showing construction and on site interviews since these types of clients have no imagination: they must see exactly what they have in mind. This job if you win it will be dirty, muddy, some underground, so show similar samples if possible. List every item in your estimate because that is the way they receive non-video production bids and will relate to detailed itemization (C47s). Don't use the word Profit anywhere, couch it. Impress them by putting in a couple of cherry picker rentals for aerial shots, after all it will be a giant water pipe construction scene.

When I started in the mid 70s there was a finished minute rule of thumb. No more. Talking heads, heavy graphics, layering, compression, etc. make such a yardstick obsolete. Perhaps people specializing in post can use a formula but production is similar to construction: how many yards of cement, nails and workers per day... This is not one guy sitting in a chair in front of a computer, it's hard costs that are easy to predict if you have the experience.

You will have to show you have great insurance, probably need to show a Certificate. Since it will be heavy, dangerous construction you may want to up it before sending freelancers into the muddy holes. If you already have great coverage be sure to mention it in your bid. Cheaper competitors may have no insurance, which will make your bid look much better!

Lastly, a poster said there's no such thing as Half Days. I have been a freelance DP for 33 years, there was a time when I wouldn't do Half Days. My solution: call them Short Days and bill 2/3rds. Offering a discounted day will put you at a competitive advantage: clients NEVER understand how one interview for an hour should cost a full day. Offer your favorite shooter a deal: Good News- I can give you 12 full days over the next two years, Bad News- need you to agree to 3 short days. Any DP with kids in college will take it believe me! I offer my clients short days so a competitor won't get a foot in the door, as a favor for giving me lots of work and also the theory that something on a slow day is better than nothing. This is usually 4 hours portal to portal though. On a project like this there will be days when they want just one shot.

So good luck, I wish I could bid on it, this is the worst I have seen this biz since 1976! And budgets were going downhill fast before the economic meltdown due to many factors. Let me know how it ends up.

Best regards,

Ned Miller.com





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Mark Suszko
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 8, 2009 at 2:04:42 pm

The "blind" part of the bidding shouldn't matter to you when crafting the bid. You work your numbers and you bid a price that's fair to yourself and makes a worth-while profit and is competitive with your rivals. Then you get it or you don't. Either way, when you find out the pool of money for the job was larger than your bid later, I don't see what the problem is.

Goes back to that bible parable about the vinyard owner hiring extra help, and the helpers who worked all day complained about the last-minute add-on staff that came in and only worked an hour, but got paid the same as the all-day workers. Vinyard owner asks the complainers "did you or did you not get exactly what we contracted for?" "Well, yes, but..." says the all-day gang.
"none of your business" Says the Owner. "My money, my right to do what I want."

See, I see worrying about money you left on the table is more about greed than fairness. If you made a good, fair bid, whatever extra money there was that you didn't know about is none of your business. Nobody else got it, either. Maybe that makes me a poor businessman/capitalist. I'll live with it.

I can sympathize very much with those of you that don't want to bother with the byzantine and roccoco intricasies of government contracting and billing. It can be a huge pain. But the blind bid thing, specifically, I don't have any sympathy about. It is a protection against being taken to the cleaners. As a taxpayer, I want bidders to bid what the job is worth, not just asking for every dime that's available, regardless of relevance to the job.


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Chris Blair
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 8, 2009 at 11:23:48 pm

I have to disagree with the notion of lumping all RFPs into one basket and judging them a waste of time. I have a friend that runs a business for the storage of arms and ammo. His clients are government and law enforement agencies. They started as a family machine shop that made one small portable armory for the military in 1969 and today they're a $50 million a year company and growing by 20% annually.

Their military and law enforcement clients make them bid on projects using RFPs. They're typically the high bidder on every project. They're also the leader in manufacturing and delivery of these niche devices, so much so their called by this company's name (like Kleenex or Xerox).

My buddy (President of this company) said their cliets NEVER take the low-bid on jobs, mainly because they figure those folks have underbid it.

So I agree with those who advise that you estimate what it takes for you to do the job (and make a nice profit), and do the estimate right or don't do it all. Why spend 10 minutes on something and assure that you won't get it, when you could spend a couple hours and give yourself a chance at possibly a lucrative project.

If marketing, advertising and production are your primary business, you cannot treat RFPs this way or you will certainly miss out on some potentially lucrative work.

This same company that makes the military storage units, by virtue of how they have to bid on projects, also asks their vendors to bid this way. They recently did just that on a project we bid for doing a re-branding of their company.

They got at least 4 other bids. Ours was the 2nd most expensive, and the two high bids were almost double the next tier of bids. They too would not give anyone budgets and told everyone the budget would be revealed when the project was awarded. We lost the project (even though the president of the company was the best man at my wedding), and it went to the high bidder. Their budget was in reality non-existent. They were willing to pay up to a certain amount (way over what anyone bid) to do the work.

So while certainly some companies are looking for the lowest price, many are not. They're looking for the bid that makes the most sense and won't end up in a "do-over" down the line.

Assuming all RFPs are a waste is like shooing away the lady that calls you to do a photo montage for her anniversay party because it's a "waste of time," then finding out she's the wife of the CEO of your city's biggest company. You never know what's at the end of ANY request for information or any estimate and in my book, all those people are deserving of a fair shake.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 9, 2009 at 1:53:52 am

For my part, I do not believe that ALL RFPs are a waste of time. We deal with them here all the time and MANY of our biggest clients use them.

What I DO take issue with are the RFPs that are issued -- as in the recent case here which I personally wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole (you are welcome to use the pole if you disagree) -- that give you little-to-no chance of making any real money.

As I have said in this thread and elsewhere: busy ain't profit. Profits are profits and back when I worked with the local banks around these parts sitting on panels that decided the fate of companies and what the banks were going to do with them, I saw the outcome of not understanding this principle, quite first-hand.

I know the way that Tim Wilson worked his RFPs and bids was quite successful. I knew him well back then and I knew how well it worked in his case.

But I have also seen RFPs not work at all well here in central California. I have seen civic and non-profit organizations use them to get the desperate to bid one against another in a race to reach the lowest figure, and that sometimes some organizations would have just forgotten the whole process and just used our No Pay jobs board if they could have gotten away with it.

Again, I am not talking about Tim's experience or even our own good clientele that use RFPs.

What I am saying is that there are schmucks out there, kiddies. And to quote the sergeant on the old Hill Street Blues TV show: Be careful out there.

Ron Lindeboom


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Bill Davis
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 9, 2009 at 4:44:21 am


Much of the important stuff has been covered.

But one thing hasn't.

When it comes to big government projects, there's often a big old above the line budget. XX millions. Then there's language somewhere in the details that indicates that they want the "documentary" video of the process. And often, there's a PERCENTAGE of the sub-budget of the sub-budget that they set aside when developing the overall budget FOR THE VIDEO COVERAGE that let them generate the original overall budget number in the first place.

SOMEBODY knows that number. The original contractor. The local council. Maybe just the poor secretary who had to input the original documents into the system.

I'm NOT saying you should try to obtain any insider information or information you're not legally entitled to. Bad ethics is a slippery slope and once you're in the mud, you'll never, ever get clean.

But quite often, that information is NOT insider - but rather PUBLISHED PUBLIC INFO as a part of the open bidding process. Imagine they set asside .001% of the contract budget for the video. Do you own calculator?

Would that help you bid this? Ya think?

If this is what you want do for a living, take it seriously. LEARN about this organization. Learn who knows these numbers. Don't break the rules, but if there's critical information that you can secure WITHIN the rules, why in gods name wouldn't you want that? Would a polite phone call to their offices to ask if there's a BUDGET in any PUBLIC DOCUMENTATION relating to this gig?,

Hell, you want to play at the executive level, understand there's nothing illegal about learning where these office folks drink and getting to know some of the people in the front office personally. That's what lobbyists do every day. And perhaps cultivating a personal relationship with the people you'll be working with means they'll watch out of beneficial public information that could assist you. Again, as long as they're not providing you with something that someone else can find out, you're playing scrupulously fair.

Let's see, on page 1090 of the original TUNNEL THROUGH RED ROCK design contract it specifies that they're to spend "NOT OVER $50,000 in creating a video record of their lovely $13.6 millions dollar project.

Bingo,

My bid: $49.999.00

If you're gonna play this game. Why not dedicate yourself to learning how to play as well as possible?

Just some random thoughts from another guy who's been there.




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Vladimir Lozinski
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 9, 2009 at 9:34:14 am

Interesting chat. Responsible organizations have their procedures for bids which they are legally obliged to follow. Yes, they can be byzantine ( not so sure about roccoco) but your council probably only have one method of taking bids. Filmmaking is a really tough fit into a template generally used in bids for dams, road repairs, street lighting and car parks.
I do not deal with a double headed hydra such as 2 local councils but I do a lot of work with international organizations. If you finally go ahead with this bid, here are some more issues you may have to grapple with.
The toughest part for me is getting the edit approved. I produce, shoot and edit to a budget, but when more than a small number of people are involved in the final approval it can become messy. Too many people want that little shot fixed or maybe that voice over changed. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said. "It is only a small change". I generally ask for a single person to be the collector of all "fix it "ideas and there is a limited number of reedits before it gets to a fresh day rate. Extra cost tends to focus the client. As the persons involved are generally on separate continents, I generally post the "semi final" edit on a web address. They can download and view it on their computer at their convenience, submit ideas to the collector, who is the only person I talk with. It saves a lot of hassle.
They probably mean well but know nothing about video production.... which is why they are hiring you, but can be dangerous.
Best of luck.
V.L.





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Kai Cheong
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 10, 2009 at 11:54:54 am

We do a lot of work with government agencies & every single one of them has to go through an online tendering system similar to what you've described
here. Often, the exec put in charge of managing the tender has no experience dealing with video projects & not much understanding of the technical specs they sometimes put into the brief. We usually make a phone call & ask all ther pertinent details needed to make sure we can quote reasonably. If there's enough time, we also try to meet the clients face to face - this is where the clients sometimes realize they don't really know what they want and the things they copied & pasted into their brief is probably going to cost more than they have ("Full HD Video In HD DVD").

A company I used to work with many years ago had a construction project of such epic scale... But a non existent project management system. Shoots were not documented & tapes are hastily labelled. There wasn't a dedicated producer on it-whoever was the AP/Producer with the time went for the shoot. I would hate to be the editor & producer doing the edit!

So perhaps that is something you should cost properly for (project management & proper archival) - and highlight it as a USP in your proposal.

Other than that, thanks for the post: Ive learnt some great tips all round. We're trying to add more non-government private clients to our mix but I don't see being able to shift away totally from this
imperfect & sometimes way-too-time-consuming tender process.

Kai
FCP Editor / Producer with Intuitive Films
http://kai-fcp-editor.blogspot.com
--
Now 'LIVE'! Check Out The Intuitive Films Blog @ http://intuitive-films.blogspot.com

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


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Timothy J. Allen
Re: Quoting based on a very brief Brief
on Sep 10, 2009 at 10:23:31 pm

My very survival for the past 10 years has depended on responding honestly and accurately to RFPs by government agencies. Every RFP has had very specific criteria that the award would be based on, and although price is always a criteria, it's very seldom if ever the sole criteria. The point is demonstrating:

A) That you understand the parameters of the job
B) That you are reliable
B) That you will do the job for a fair and reasonable price
C) That the end product you deliver will be useful and of good technical quality

This means that you take a look at those parts of the RFP that aren't clear, and work with the issuing agency to clarify them. If a phrase is ambiguous, we clarify our interpretation of what it means in our proposal. That's where we win. Not by bidding the lowest... by asking the right questions and submitting proposals that give the reviewers confidence in the list above.

Don't underestimate the value of having someone on your team that is really good at estimating production timelines and costing projects accurately. That is just as important to succeeding in this business as it is knowing whether your white levels are too hot. It keeps you and your clients from wasting time and money.

If you are a creative type that has a gifted project manager, a thorough lawyer, a versatile engineer, and a trusting client on your side, life can be pretty sweet... but if you are missing any of those skills on your team, it can flip in a heartbeat.








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