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Proposal for 3 year long project

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Greg BallProposal for 3 year long project
by on Jan 31, 2010 at 2:59:23 am

I'm working on a proposal for a project that involves shooting and editing 40 instructional videos over a
3-year period (13 videos per year). I'm not really sure how to go about securing deposit amounts and writing up a contract for this.

First these videos are to be be used by local College School of Education students as supplemental learning material as “best practices” by existing master teachers. They will consist of 20 to 45 minutes
of instruction, shot live in classroom settings with two HD cameras. It's impossible to know exactly what the content will be. For example, will there be any complex graphics?

Since I don't own HD cameras, my thought is that this would be a perfect project to purchase two Sony EX1R camera packages. This way I can hire freelance shooters for their daily rates and pay for these cameras out of this project as well as other projects. Purchasing cameras, sticks, cases, cards, and car readers and some additional lighting instruments would probably cast about $20K.

Let's say I charge $2K per shoot and $2,100 per edit. That would be $180,000 for three years. $60K per year. My thought is that unless a school has a budget for this they won't pay this much. I also feel that there are local production companies with young kids just out of school on staff who pay their guys close to minimum wage. They make dubs and shoot when necessary The quality isn't very good, but the price would be less than mine.

So here's the questions.

1. How would you charge for this?
2. How would you contract this job?
3. What kind of deposit would you request?
4. Would there be any penalty if the school decided to stop after the first year?
5. Would you include a contingency amount to cover videos that are more complex? if so, how much?
5. Is this a waste of time?

Thanks for reading this rather long post. You guys are always very helpful.

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Nick GriffinRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Jan 31, 2010 at 1:51:10 pm

I think your best defense against lower cost newbies and the best way for both you and the school to match the need to the end product is to produce a pilot. Get them to make a minimal commitment, hopefully more than enough to cover the costs of your X1 rentals and second shooter, and produce a finished show.

Then have a screening of the finished product and use it as an educational opportunity for your prospective client to get an idea of why the second camera is needed, what the lights do, why the wireless lav is needed (pull out a short segment using just the cam mic if you really want to make a point), and so on. Talk through the aspects of what you have done and, wherever possible offer them options so they become part of the process of deciding what they actually want and are willing to pay for. Position yourself as helping them rather than selling them.

Now here's the second part of why you have a screening. So you DON'T have to leave them the finished program. Not even a window burn or some other un-useable version. That just gives them the power to shop it around to the cheap guys who will no doubt say, "Sure, we can do that," WHILE they're learning your techniques and methodology.

If some key decision maker who must see the video can't attend the screening, offer to schedule another one just for him or her.

This may seem like a lot to go through, but if the stakes are as high as you say they are, discounting the shooting and giving away some post production should be worth it. With the kinds of interaction and conversations it will stimulate, it's also going to be the simplest way to get to an actual, approved budget that will let you have a full definition of your costs and expectations.

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grinner hesterRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Jan 31, 2010 at 3:42:27 pm

$2k a shoot may be fine but it doesn't sound like you get these edited in the day or two you've budgeted for. I think you need to iron out exactly what each video will require before bidding at all... have no questions about anything, especially graphics.
Based on what you have said, I'd say a flat 200k with stipulated restrictions on the videos would be fair. I mention that because in cases like this, a company often says ok to the original deal, then starts adding to production and post on ya as they brain storm in real time. Iron that out up front. Don't paint yourself into a corner by under-cutting yourself, commiting and losing out on a lot of potential business over the next two years. Don't worry about their budget. Let em know what you can do it for based on what they have said. If they can't afford that, tell them what you can do for the budget they have. It may end up being you in a classroom with a handicam and a same day edit.

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Greg BallRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Jan 31, 2010 at 6:40:35 pm

Thanks Nick and Grinner. Unfortunately, they can't really tell me EXACTLY what the videos will require, since much will depend on the instructor and subject matter. I figure that if I purchase two camera packages, I can farm out the shoots and possibly the edits, so it won't impact my other potential business.

Nick they have specifically asked for two cameras, wireless lav, and room mike, and bounced lighting. Because these will be actual classes, here wouldn't be any opportunity to see a sample shoot/edit. I certainly have ample samples they can see of two camera shoots with keynote speakers.

So the question is Grinner, they are bidding this out, so I can't give them a price beyond their budget. How can I find out their budget? What kind of wording can I use for a cntigence plan?

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Ned MillerRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Jan 31, 2010 at 7:39:05 pm

Here's my 2 cents having done a 3 year project on an EPA grant. I also have a banking client in which each job takes practically a year.

• Musical clients: Over a 3 year period there is a good likelihood of the people who are your contacts may transfer, quit or just up and die. A lot of what we negotiate is verbally based so be sure on such a long project that everything down to the last detail is laid out in a contract or at least memos. I had some problems where the new folks taking over were not up to speed, and certain issues that fall into grey areas, like revisions and cancellations, those things may cause arguments and delay of payment.

• Revisions in Post: This job seems to have straight forward shooting, almost formulaic once you have a few done. The danger of a project like this is in the post, lots of revisions. You are dealing with a non-profit which I have found are not as decisive as the business crowd, no one has the cahoneays to make a decision so everything will be decided by committee. They'll hit you with revisions. Post is the danger in going over budget with a project like this. I would ask about graphics, powerpoint and text that must be added. If there is some, I'd avoid bidding since they have no details.

• Do not bill in halves, thirds or quarters. With really long projects you may want eights! Or even quarterly for three years. Otherwise you will have to dip into your own cash flow, especially to pay for freelancers and outsourcers, so then you're running a negative cash flow until their next payment. Also, the definition of "done" is often open to interpretation, meaning it sits waiting for a committee to pass approval for weeks, yet you need the money now.

• Bid high, very high. There are so many unknowns you can not predict. This could be a miserable albatross if you win the bid then have to figure out for 3 years how to squeeze every last nickel out of everyone involved so you at least break even, hopefully don't lose money. You have no idea as to how the editing will go. If you bid low and then win the bid it could be a depressing situation that won't go away for 3 years. So make sure there will be some good profit in it.

• Try to find out how many other companies you are bidding against, it is OK to ask and they should tell you. If it's more than 3 or 4, forget it. The odds of there being a low baller are too high and you've wasted your time, unless you're certain they are not going with the lowest bidder (find that out). Sometimes, the person may have loose lips and will tell you the names of who you're bidding against, which they should not, but if they do that is powerful business intelligence and will let you know where your bid should come in.

Let us know what happened.

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer

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Nick GriffinRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Jan 31, 2010 at 8:02:36 pm


You're still in the position (in their minds) of trying to sell them something rather than help them get it for the best value. Granted it's seldom easy to make this work, but it's the best approach when you can do it.

I've written about this here before many times in the past. So often when people are shopping our services they are treating what we do as a commodity -- like something being purchased of the shelf or out of inventory. You have to break that mentality and get them to view you as their partner, someone who is helping them pull the parts together on a complex and custom project.

Ask a LOT of questions. Ask them if they can point to any examples of things they like, ideally something on your reel or another program of yours that they've seen. Get them talking and talking a lot. I also agree with Ned. If they're asking for more than 4 other bids your chances go down excrementally (pun intended).

Here's where I disagree with the others. If your best protection is to "bid high, very high" it may not even be worth your time to bid in the first place. Why spend the time putting together an involved bid if there's little chance of getting the gig? It all comes down to how much they are relating to you and therefore communicating with you. There's an old truism of competitive selling that comes into play here: If you don't know who's going to get the order, it's not you.

Here's an entirely different idea. Assuming you can build a solid rapport with your prospect and you can see that they are going with the dramatically cheaper "kid" alternative, let it be known that you could be available to serve as an outside producer to make sure that their final product comes in as expected. That has worked well for me in the past because it helps draw the attention away from how much per hour to where it should be: how the project will turn out.

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grinner hesterRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Jan 31, 2010 at 9:39:47 pm

You can come right out and ask em, man. That's usually my first question after a client calls with their big vision. We can alter the vision accordingly after that. In some cases, their budget winds up being much more than what I would have charged to achive their initial vision and I am able to add capabilities and options instead of reducing them. On the other hand, they may come back with "oh we have 900 dollars and a case of number two pencils." You can save a lot of time by asking the right questions... in this case "what's the budget?" is a dang good idea.
You'd be surprised.
I once invoiced for a consulting job for a college and they called asking if I could double it. No more work was done... they just needed to go through more budget so they could be approved for the same the next year.

oooooh kay.
I aims to please.

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Ned MillerRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Jan 31, 2010 at 11:21:09 pm

• I often ask, "What range were you wanting the budget to come in at?" Smart business types will say they don't know but I bet the people at an educational institution kicked some numbers around and your contact may blurt them out if your lucky.

• Also, since this project is being made with public funds beware that captioning may be necessary.

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer

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Mike CohenRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Jan 31, 2010 at 11:57:25 pm

I think the sample project is a great idea. $2000 to edit anything is not a lot of money so make sure you know what you are potentially getting into.

Likewise, when you put together a proposal, make sure you account for your own costs and build in some profit margin, otherwise you are doing a lot of work with no net gain for yourself.

Mike Cohen

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Richard HerdRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Feb 3, 2010 at 11:54:46 pm

I have made a some money with the following work flow (which isn't cinematic). Think cable access TV, 3 people around a table discussing politics.

-- Cameras were JVC mini DV, forgot the model number, but decent SD cameras, with Fujinon lens, image quality was excellent. Camera price was very affordable and the camera size felt professional to the client

-- Tripods were mounted on "cheesy" dolly things so the camera could dolly slightly if someone shifted in his or her seat

-- a thin rubber mat on the ground so the dolly wouldn't make much sound

-- Signal out into a switcher that recorded to miniDV deck

-- That miniDV tape was the master

-- The title graphics were preproduced and flown in on the switcher as needed

-- At the end of the show, miniDV was burned to DVD, while the talent and other folks shmoozed

-- They left with a final DVD, and the miniDV master was archived

-- Lav mics

Don't forget headsets for the director in the booth and the two camera ops: "Cam A, Get me a close up of Johnny" then you switch the feed. Say "Cam B, matching single of Janey" then you switch feeds. Think Radio Shack quality here, not Motorola

I would definitely definitely definitely avoid a "cinema" style shoot-followed-by-editing work flow, and find a cable access work flow. And by work flow, I mean routing signal in such a way that the show is taped live in front of a studio audience. From a client pitching point of view, they will not have to wait for the deliverable and that (hopefully) means you will not have to wait for the check.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Feb 4, 2010 at 5:56:32 am

"So the question is Grinner, they are bidding this out, so I can't give them a price beyond their budget. "

Yes. Yes you sure can.

There is no law of physics that says their first idea of a budget is right or even sane. Why do you feel compelled to bid under that, no matter what it is? You're looking thru the wrong end of the telescope there, friend. Decide what is a fair rate for you to do this work, with a reasonable profit, for YOU. Bid that, and let the chips fall where they may. If you bid less, you're losing time and money.

Forget how many people you are bidding against; for one thing, the lowest bidder doesn't ALWAYS win, not if they are perceived to have made an unrealistic bid.

When they come back and say: "your bid sounds great but is over our limit" is when you know you have them. At that point you can say something like: "The numbers are what they are, but they were predicated on certain assumptions; if we revise some of the assumptions, I can shave some costs here and there while keeping quality high, because I know multiple ways to get a job done."

Two rules, always:
The guy who says an actual number first, loses.
They have to believe that you are ready to walk away if you don't like the deal, and that you will.

Your attitude in these negotiations should be one of consultant, not supplicant. You are not there to beg for fish like a trained seal; you are a communications problem-solver, offering to help, in consideration for a fair payment. In this way you control the direction of the negotiation along the lines of skills used and techniques applied, not in terms of commodities. What you are doing is not the same as them buying pallets of copier paper and toner for the university book store, and shopping for the best bulk price on ink jet cartridges. You are more like a contractor called in to build a wing onto the student union. A dozen or more wings, in fact. Approach it by saying that there is more than one way to build a building, that the cost is a reflection of the level of detail and craft applied. Do they want a tar paper shack or a Frank Lloyd Wright? Or something in between?

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Ned MillerRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Feb 4, 2010 at 3:44:20 pm

I agree with Mark IF this was a bid for a corporation. Companies have ways of borrowing from other budgets, or departments or shoving our costs into next year's budget, etc. But what I have found when dealing with "institutions" like a school, is that a board or committee determines a budget and there is no wiggle room. That's why I try, try, try to find out what their number is, so I don't waste my time.

I usually don't bid on institutional projects anymore because often someone has the "inside track". I also ask: "Is anyone else bidding who has done video for you before?" If there's a long pause followed by an "ummm..." I send in a cursory estimate or don't follow up. Institutions usually have to collect a certain amount of bids.

One time the giant Navy base near me said they wanted to use me but had to get three bids. They asked how they could tailor the specs so I would look the best and come in the least! So I had them solicit bids from the most expensive production companies I could think of. As for the corrupt state of Illinois' videos, I stopped bidding on them because the lowest bidder had an inside track, would come in lowest, and then when they are awarded the bid they lay on the add ons, like open captioning, etc.

So, in sum, I wouldn't bid on something with so few specifics because the outfit who will win probably already has all the specs, that would be their way of getting the producer they prefer. But if you do bid please let us know what happened.

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer

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Mark SuszkoRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Feb 4, 2010 at 6:30:59 pm

As a guy that makes some of those videos for the "Corrupt state of Illinois" as my living, I take a little umbrage at your dig, friendo. (raises eyebrow)

BTW, closed-captioning is not a "gimmick" on state projects; it's required by the feds any time their money is part of the project, which is often the case in things done for our various social services agencies. And I'm going to stop there, because I don't speak for my employers. Just don't be so sure you know all the reasons your bids failed. State bidding is a very Byzantine process from any perspective. Your bid can fail for any of a hundred reasons.

I have worked with educational setups before, and they know the same tricks as big business when it comes to stashing funds here and there, functionally they operate pretty similarly in many cases. I would stand by my earlier assertion that you should not chase a phantom target by conforming your bid to their budget. rather, make the best, most sensible bid you can, one that works for YOU, THEN work on getting it accepted. To do otherwise starts a progression that ends up with you wearing a plastic name badge and hair net.

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Nick GriffinRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Feb 4, 2010 at 7:43:59 pm

[Mark Suszko] "As a guy that makes some of those videos for the "Corrupt state of Illinois" as my living, I take a little umbrage at your dig, friendo."

Oh, boy!! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! (We need a good one about now.)

Ned, are you going to let Mark say that about your looks?

Mark, are you going to just sit by and let Ned imply that about your profession?

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Mark SuszkoRe: Proposal for 3 year long project
by on Feb 4, 2010 at 9:30:08 pm

I say we take dis guy Griffin down over by dere and give him a tune-up for being nobody that anybody sent fer dis situation.

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Greg BallThanks guys.
by on Feb 4, 2010 at 10:05:05 pm

Well I submitted my bid and we'll see what happens. BTW I asked the client via email if he could give me an idea of their budget. His answer was "This question is not relevant".

Thanks for all of your advice. Have a good one!

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Nick GriffinRe: Thanks guys.
by on Feb 4, 2010 at 10:14:12 pm

[Greg Ball] "His answer was "This question is not relevant"."

Oh. One of those. That sounds like someone who truly is holding you at arms length and treating you as just another "vendor."

(Maybe Suszko and and a few of his boys could pay him a visit.)

Let us know how it turns out anyway.

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Ned MillerRe: Thanks guys.
by on Feb 4, 2010 at 10:59:00 pm

In the event you do not get this bid, and the school in question is a public institution supported by your taxes, if it was me I would.....

Out of curiosity and to better my bidding for the future, I would call the local newspaper and talk with the reporter for the "education beat". This reporter knows the ins and outs of ferreting out financial information regarding the schools. Without mentioning your failed video bid, ask the reporter if bidding information is a matter of public record. This reporter would know. There may be a cut off, like under $100,000, is not in the record, or all bids may be a matter of public record and you could go down to the district's office and ask to see the "winning" bid.

Being extremely curious, and somewhat vengeful, I would like to see if the winning bid had great detail that I was not privy to. I would imagine so. In which case I could assume my bid was what is known as a "check bid".

Or...if you DO win the bid it may be interesting to see what your competitors put in and use those tid bits of information to help set a course for the next three years. Let us know.

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer

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Mark SuszkoRe: Thanks guys.
by on Feb 5, 2010 at 2:17:34 am

No need for such cloak and dagger, Ned; the state procurement system is already online with free access to anybody that registers; you can search its database and even set it to alert you regarding particular types of contracts going out to bid, who bid, and you can have details on any winning bid, by law. State schools are part of the same system. At least they are in Illinois, your mileage may vary.

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grinner hesterRe: Thanks guys.
by on Feb 14, 2010 at 4:15:23 pm

ahhhhh. So he just wants free consultation.
Be sure to not include details on the bid. It's irrelevant, afterall. Just put a bigass price on it.

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