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Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?

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Evan John
Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 13, 2009 at 12:08:39 am

About an hour before an edit session I was scheduled for, the client cancelled. They still have me booked for tomorrow. Typically I will charge my date rate for a cancellation that is not given with 24 hours advanced notice, but right now I am undecided about implementing the "kill fee" because:

1) This is the first session I am having with this client.

2) They are a big name, and it would do leaps and bounds for my career if I have an ongoing relationship with them. I don't want to risk spoiling a good business relationship.

These are new waters for me. I do want to assert myself and make sure my client knows that my time is important, on the other hand I'm not sure if I am being too inflexible in this situation.

So veterans of the industry, do you have any words of advice?

Thank you.

- Evan


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grinner hester
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 13, 2009 at 12:43:26 am

The answer is it depends on your relationship witht hat client. It is quite the norm to charge a half day. I can't see anyone getting bent out of shape over that. Charge a full day and you are dancin'...again depending on the relationship.



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Evan John
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 13, 2009 at 12:55:11 am

Thanks Grinner. Charging a half-day's rate sounds right in this situation.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 13, 2009 at 12:59:06 am

Evan,

There is no perfect answer for independents and freelancers. You have to make a judgement call, plain and simple. It happens to all of us at one time or another, and it's never easy to figure out what the right answer is. If you're working for a big post house or if you're a union shop, it's a no-brainer, but for the rest of us, unless there was a preexisting agreement agreement in place, there's just no telling how the client will react.

The best solution is, very early in your session tomorrow, to simply mention that standard policy in our business dictates that you charge a kill fee. Then, ask what their company policy is on such matters. Make it dispassionate, unemotional, and all business, and if you're lucky, you should be able to get a simple dispassionate response from your client.

Good luck...

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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Gav Bott
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 13, 2009 at 2:10:37 am

Yeah talk to the client.

I might let them off the first time if they looked like life could be good if they used me a lot.

Could invoice them for the kill fee, then discount it off the bottom line as "one time free kill" - reminds them not to do it again and get all grindy on you.

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


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cowcowcowcowcow
Tim Wilson
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 13, 2009 at 4:58:54 am

I'll offer some alternative perspectives. None of this is intended as scolding, or any suggestion that you're doing the wrong thing. You're doing the best possible thing by asking.

I just don't know that I'm the one to give you an answer that you....or anyone else here....might have any use for. :-)

Having a client big enough to create their own weather systems, their own centers of gravity, means they got to write their own rules. I had one like this, who did indeed make a huge difference to me.

First, a general principle that applies no matter what size the client:

If you haven't told 'em up front that you'll charge them if they hold you up, and they haven't agreed to it in advance, in writing, you're stuck.

Put it this way. If a client tried to throw up a new rule that you hadn't agreed to in advance, you'd be on this forum SCREAMING....and you'd be right.

Not that you can't mention it, but frankly, I wouldn't. In similar situations, I didn't. If they really are big, and you really do hope to work for them for a long time, take the money, and get used to be being pushed around. It stinks, but this is why they call it work.

Look, I know that we're all about the "treat me like I'm a professional" thing here....but seriously, one of the things that professionals do is suck it up in front of the client, then come here to rant. We start businesses because we want to be our own bosses, which hides a couple of hard truths:

--We are not our own bosses. Every monkey with a checkbook is our boss.

--We don't like taking orders, which makes us absolutely useless for "real" jobs. When you get a client capable of paying you as if you had a real job, act like you have one. They call it WORK, because it ain't easy.


Now, here's the other side of this. Sometimes they kept me waiting for forever. They canceled on short notice, WANTED me on short notice, had me work with contacts in the organization who hated me...well, that's strong language. They held out on me, obstructed me, and didn't respect me.

So what did I do? I did my job. I smiled like a monkey. I gave them more than what they paid for.

What did I get for my trouble? They came to support me in every aspect of my work. They gave me more and more creative freedom. They paid.

They became dear friends - not just the big client, but also people like the "gatekeeper" who banged on the table and said they'd make sure the client never approved the first deal. I can't begin to express how bad it was, and how good it got.

Seriously, we got a LOT of advice to steer clear of this deal, and some of those people respected us a lot less because of how well it worked out for us.

Here became the "hardest" part of the job: the client had hotels, restaurants, boats. Sometimes they wanted us to go out with them when we really wanted to take a nap. Or, to be less flippant, when it meant we'd have to stay up all night to finish another client's work.

I'm going on at way too much length, but my experience is that there can be plenty of upside to playing along. Taking money for work you enjoy, and enjoying the people you work for - anybody here have a problem with rearranging your schedule for that?

If it works out, you'll find them apologizing for things like standing you up. If it doesn't, well, you'll fire them and that will be that. But my own first step would be to let this one go, and never mention it.

It worked for me. Made all the difference in the rest of my career. Your mileage will vary.







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Zane Barker
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 13, 2009 at 6:42:55 am

[Tim Wilson] "If you haven't told 'em up front that you'll charge them if they hold you up, and they haven't agreed to it in advance, in writing, you're stuck. "

BINGO

Always set expectations up front.

When a client books you always let them know of ANY potential fees. Simply explain that because you are setting aside your time for them, time that could be spent making money working for other clients that you need to be compensated appropriately.

[Evan John] "kill fee"

I would always refer to it as a "cancelation fee" to the client. Phrasing it like like you have could potentially confuse a client.



There are no "technical solutions" to your "artistic problems".
Don't let technology get in the way of your creativity!



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Steve Wargo
Well...
on Oct 13, 2009 at 10:48:36 am

Went out for wings last week and my sissy little self ordered plain wings with a side of medium sauce. On the bill was a charge for $ .50 for the side of sauce, which would have been all over the wings if I'd ordered them that way. When I asked the waiter why, he said that they put butter on the plain wings so the sauce is now a "side order". I asked why he didn't tell me when I ordered it, he said "It's only fifty cents" in a kind of a smart ass way. No problem.

I did not tip him.
I will never return to that restaurant.
It was his duty to tell me about the charge when he took the order.

And, it's not about 50 lousy cents. It's about them thinking that it was OK to do what they did.

And, I will tell everyone who cares that I won't return to that establishment, ever. And remember, it was only fifty cents. By the way, I've been eating there for 30 years.

Do you get my point?


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

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Evan John
Re: Well...
on Oct 13, 2009 at 12:36:00 pm

Point well taken Steve. Considering I don't want to chance screwing up a possibly great relationship, I will email the client stating there is 24 hours notice to avoid this problem in the in the future.

Typically I don't run into these issues because 99% of my work comes from different cable networks, but they are all under the same media conglomerate, hence the same cancellation policy, which was explicit from the start. This is all new to me, so thanks everyone for their .02


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 13, 2009 at 4:33:26 pm

[Tim Wilson] "If you haven't told 'em up front that you'll charge them if they hold you up, and they haven't agreed to it in advance, in writing, you're stuck."

In a recent recording session that I had booked at a friend's studio, the artist I was going to work with called me a couple of days before the date and canceled due to illness. I then called the studio and told him that I was going to cancel the date and that I knew it was late enough that I doubted he could reschedule anyone at so close a time, that I would send him $200 for the cancellation. He thanked me and I kept the goodwill that I have earned with him over the years.

He would have likely let me go without a charge but it is important to be to be one of his good clients, not one of the ones that he can't rely on.

Ron Lindeboom


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walter biscardi
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 13, 2009 at 12:40:33 pm

[Gav Bott] "Could invoice them for the kill fee, then discount it off the bottom line as "one time free kill" - reminds them not to do it again and get all grindy on you. "

That's a good way to approach this for a "first time offense." Show the fee to remind them that you are running a business and there will be fees for cancellations, but then discount the fee off for a good faith move on your part.



Walter Biscardi, Jr.
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Ron Lindeboom
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 13, 2009 at 4:14:51 pm

This is also the way I handle discounts, if any are given. I write the invoice at full amount and then add a line item that specifies the discount, the reason why, and then I deduct that amount from the total.

That way, they know that this is not the price but that I am acknowledging a reason for a discount, one that they cannot try to impose every time they do business with us.

Using the invoice as a "smoke signal" to send up a notice that they have committed a Bozo No-No and it will cost them if they do it again, is a nice way to let them know that you are indeed a business and not their patsy.

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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David Roth Weiss
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 13, 2009 at 5:22:02 pm

If this new client is truly the "big name" that Evan mentioned in the original post, they probably expect to be charged. However, human nature being what it is, you just never know how people are going to respond where money is concerned.

However, as I mentioned in the initial response above in this thread, there are ways of asking a client face to face without incurring any ill will -- it's all in the delivery, and eventually everyone in this business needs to learn to how to be very direct without pushing any buttons. However, if you feel you can't deliver the line in a way guarantees a positive outcome, then by all means, either follow Tim's advice or the advice of others who suggest that you include it on your invoice, but with a big N/C (that's no charge) on that line.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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Mike Cohen
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 14, 2009 at 11:37:41 am

This comes down to how you do business. This has been discussed countless times here. Do you charge by the hour, by the day or by the project? That determines everything. If you book your time as a button pusher then an hour spent not working is not billing and you get more stress than you really need. If you charge by the project, you charge enough that the client can work on their schedule and you are compensated enough to not worry about cancellations. If a client cancels on me, I get to spend that time doing something for myself (learning), for my business (marketing) or for another customer who will be happy to see their next deliverable a day sooner.
If you are charging enough for your work, nickel and diming does not come into the picture. If clients nickel and dime you that's another story.
Mike Cohen


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Tim Wilson
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 14, 2009 at 2:34:34 pm

[Mike Cohen] "If you charge by the project, you charge enough that the client can work on their schedule and you are compensated enough to not worry about cancellations.

If a client cancels on me, I get to spend that time doing something for myself (learning), for my business (marketing) or for another customer who will be happy to see their next deliverable a day sooner."


I added some boldface to Mike's quote because it nailed my own view on this.


1) The only clients of mine who charged hourly were lawyers, and they KNEW they were constantly angling. Talking on the phone while driving allowed them to charge twice for the same minutes. Their clients might not have witnessed this double billing, but every one of them understood that incremental billing always worked in the lawyer's favor.

Other than them, none of my clients earned their own livings hourly. None of their secretaries got paid hourly. Their electricians and dock hands were all on salary. Even waiters worked on tips, not unlike the commission that their salespeople worked on. The only people in their sphere who worked hourly were the cleaning staff and temps.

Shifting away from hourly billing completely changed the dynamic of my client relationships. It established that I wasn't a hireling. Working as one professional to another, I found that the client tried harder to keep up their end of the deal. Work got done more quickly, with fewer hassles.

b) I thought of cancellations kind of like snow days. You still have to go to school for the same number of days, but an unexpected cancellation FEELS like a vacation....even if there's a ton of stuff to do.

My top things to do during cancellations, in order: banking/post office/shopping; chatting up/buying lunch for prospects; working on my tan. Downtime can be your friend.

Third, no first-time clients got any grief for me for anything. We have no relationship yet. The project hadn't begun.

And once the relationship/project got started, there was no upside in being the one to turn the thing into a line-item hassle.

Why? Because once you start line-iteming, incrementalizing, minutely detailing your billing, you give them permission to do the exact same thing back to you.

In other words, the level of detail of your billing is directly proportional to the number of things they get to argue with you about.

Don't open this door if you don't want to go allllll the way through it.


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Ed Cilley
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 14, 2009 at 7:07:08 pm

Tons of great posts here.

Evan, I know your gig has since past and you have dealt with the situation as you saw fit. The thing that really sucks about your situation is the fact that they called an hour before the edit.

When a new client calls about a freelance edit job, I send them my rate card which gives them an idea of what to expect, including my cancellation fee. I would (and have) broken this rule for new clients. If an existing customer cancels with short notice and wants me to wave the fee we negotiate. I understand they have budgets to deal with, and am willing to give them a pass for another edit in the next week or two.

Most people are very understanding - cancellation fees are a common industry practice. How you handle them decides how your long-term relationship develops. I have worked with some of the same people and companies for over 15 years and each understands how the money works.

[Tim Wilson] "no first-time clients got any grief from me for anything. We have no relationship yet. The project hadn't begun."

Tim, totally agree, but...

[Tim Wilson] “Not that you can't mention it, but frankly, I wouldn't. In similar situations, I didn't. If they really are big, and you really do hope to work for them for a long time, take the money, and get used to be being pushed around. It stinks, but this is why they call it work.”

...I totally disagree. Just because a company is big doesn't mean they have ANY right to push me around. If the people who are hiring me want to work that way, forget it. My time is better spent elsewhere, no matter how big they are. (And I work with many of these Fortune 50 companies.)

If you "get used to be being pushed around" now, that is how they will always view you. Let them know your policies and expectations. You'll be expected to fulfill their company expectations, they should do the same for you and your company.

Ed


Avid and FCP Preditor
_________________________________________________
Anything worth doing at all, is worth doing well.
- Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield


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Evan John
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 14, 2009 at 8:54:07 pm

Final update: I waived the fee, and stated I need 24 hours advanced notice for a booking going forward. If I'm put on hold, there is no fee if the client releases me.

This thread has been very insightful to say the least. It's great to get many perspectives on this matter, and see what works for some folks and why it doesn't for others, and see what I can apply to my business. Thanks all.


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Dan Schanler
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 15, 2009 at 4:52:12 am

Out of curiosity -

Does anyone have a policy that if you, as the editor, has to cancel on the client an hour before the edit session, you'd make up the time for them? (explicitly stated or as goodwill)

Is the same argument made for giving them a freebie session?

D

Dan Schanler
NYC


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Bob Cole
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 19, 2009 at 8:20:15 pm

Great question. "Turnabout is fair play," I guess.

When a client cancels late on me, I do not charge a cancellation fee if it's an "act of God," or even a human slip-up, in part because of the situation that Dan describes: what if I couldn't fulfill an obligation due to circumstances beyond my control?

If a client develops a regular habit (due to something other than acts of God) of booking a Wednesday, and not really being ready until Friday, then it's time for Plan B. Explain to the client the difference between ink and pencil, i.e. a firm booking vs. a tentative one. If Client 1 asks you to "pencil them in," that means that if Client 2 offers you a job, you can call Client 1, let them know you have a firm offer from another client, and give Client 1 a choice: either release you from the session OR "ink them in," meaning that they must pay for the day, whether they show up or not. I think that makes it more understandable to the client, that if they reserve the time and deprive you of the opportunity to do another job, you must be compensated for the loss. In time, that tends to make clients more responsible about their bookings.

Plan B is more of an educational tool than a money-maker. In fact, as a revenue-producer, it is a loser. I have raised the CONCEPT of Plan B quite often, giving Client 1 the chance to reschedule or book firmly, but only once have enforced it when Client 1 couldn't make the date (losing Client 1 in the process). But I got paid, and it was one of the happiest working days of my life.

Bob C


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Bill Davis
Re: Should I still charge a kill fee in this instance?
on Oct 16, 2009 at 11:10:09 pm

- In other words, the level of detail of your billing is directly proportional to the number of things they get to argue with you about.-


Yet another Tim Wilson quote that deserves a place in bronze.



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