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Carol LaneAwkward
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 5:42:58 pm

I am curious what folks think of this awkward situation:
I currently provide complete video production services to a large educational client. Their communications department head emailed me asking if I could train students to shoot video (I'm fine with that) but also, could I find time to train their staff to shoot video (hence putting myself out of work.) Of course I would be paid to do this training, but it would most certainly cause me a loss of future work. How would you respond? I am at a loss.


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Ron LindeboomRe: Awkward
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 5:53:42 pm

I suspect the following formula is in order in these circumstances:

1. Train them.

2. Put yourself out of work before someone else does.

3. Bill them.

4. Cash the check.

5. Look for other work.

Others may have additional steps but I think points 1 - 5 cover the basics.

Ron Lindeboom



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Walter SoykaRe: Awkward
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 6:07:32 pm

I might add a step 6: continue the relationship.

It takes a long time to get a video department up and running from scratch, and you could transform your training gig into a longer-term consulting relationship.

You may also be able to continue providing video services for overflow work and projects that are beyond their in-house capabilities.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Carol LaneRe: Awkward
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 6:27:43 pm

Thanks Walter for your somewhat more optimistic response. Although I suspect Ron is correct, I also do believe the relationship will indeed continue. My follow up question for you both would be shall I charge three times my normal hourly rate to provide this training?



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Walter SoykaRe: Awkward
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 7:32:31 pm

I didn't mean to come across as overly optimistic; I think that Ron's response is really accurate. I really did intend my comment as a step 6 after the rest to try to change the relationship and preserve part of the billing, versus allowing the relationship to end entirely at the end of the training.

Training is hard, and you'll have to walk a tightrope in managing your client's expectations about what their newly-minted "video professionals" will be able to deliver. You can't transfer years of production experience in a week of training, and the first few in-house productions will show it. That's a testament to the value you were providing as a video production vendor, but it's a challenge to the value you'll provide as a trainer and consultant.

As for billing, what are you expected to deliver -- or what are you trying to sell? Are you showing up and walking them through production? Are you providing written materials (like checklists and standard operating procedures)? Video recordings of your training so they can continue to educate new hires (this might be an opportunity to sell one last production, or to retain the rights and re-sell elsewhere)? What will the client expect after training is done when they have additional questions or run into new problems? What sort of access and availability will they expect?

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Tim WilsonRe: Awkward
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 8:14:38 pm

[Walter Soyka] "I didn't mean to come across as overly optimistic; I think that Ron's response is really accurate. I really did intend my comment as a step 6 after the rest to try to change the relationship and preserve part of the billing, versus allowing the relationship to end entirely at the end of the training."

That's exactly where you need to be looking, Carol.

To take another tack on Ron and Walter's very complementary points -- the world is changing. The notion of what it means to be a video production expert is also changing. Try to keep doing the same thing you have been doing, and you guarantee your own irrelevance.

It is most definitely NOT enough to assume that your expertise is worth a thing to anybody. The whole "it's not the tools, it's the craft" thing is quite obviously going away fast.

You're actually incredibly lucky. The client doesn't need you to do the thing that you were originally hired for, but they have already asked to pay you for what they DO need from you. Now it's time to embrace and extend. Are you ready to train people who are starting from zero?

Once you are, start looking for other *training* opportunities, not just production opportunities. I know a guy who, without a ton of experience of his own, found himself in a position to train high-level broadcast technicians and journalists in video production - they were experts in their own fields, but utter noobs in the basics of cameras and editing.

None of this jobs like this last more than a few days. But he has a lot of 'em.

This may not be a direction that you pursue. Maybe you're not interested, or maybe there are too few opportunities where you live.

The point is that you have been given a gift - a new opportunity, with a check attached. The question that you need to answer is, is this a one-off, or does it offer additional opportunities?

Even if it's a one-off for now, be on the lookout for what comes after. The only guarantee in this business is that you will become obsolete. You're way, way ahead of the game if you can use this to your advantage, by getting paid to replace yourself (sez Ron), and turning that into a new business model for yourself (sez Walter).

As somebody who has spent much of the past 20+ years teaching, I'll end with the trick that most teachers will die before telling you: always remember that somebody in the room will know more than you about something. Just stay about 45 minutes ahead of most of the class, and you'll be golden. Bonus points if you can do that while learning from the kids in the class who know more than you do.


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David Roth WeissRe: Awkward
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 8:25:08 pm

[Carol Lane] "My follow up question for you both would be shall I charge three times my normal hourly rate to provide this training?"

Carol,

We all feel the desire to punish clients who ask us to do nice things for them at the very time they seem to waving goodbye to us. So, I understand your desire to bill them for 3X your normal fee, it's like the "treble damages" that are often part of many lawsuits.

However, rather than punish them, why not use the opportunity to impress them instead. Send a letter to the boss explaining that you will be happy to teach the staff, but let the boss know that you've spent an entire career accumulating the knowledge you bring to the table, and that you want to make it abundantly clear that, without a constant program of long-term training, there is not even a remote chance that anyone will learn enough to do the same kinds of things that you routinely do for them .

Give them specific examples of some of the things in your work that they may have overlooked, and tell them what knowledge and training are required to create those elements. Who knows, maybe training their staff is a lot more lucrative than making their videos?

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

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™

EPK Colorist - UP IN THE AIR - nominated for six academy awards

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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Ron LindeboomRe: Awkward
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 8:30:05 pm

Good points, Mr. Weiss. Very good.

Charge 3x the rate and you will likely be out the door quite quickly. Send David's letter and then train them and you have a great likelihood of getting one of the longest lasting jobs you ever got from them.

And to quote Mr. Wilson: all you have to do is stay about 30 minutes ahead of them, to pull it all off again and again.

Best regards,

Ron Lindeboom


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Carol LaneRe: Awkward
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 8:56:46 pm

David, my question about charging 3x normal rate was somewhat tongue in cheek, but the fear of loss-of-future-work was certainly driving my humor. When I posted this, I could only have hoped for such thoughtful and intelligent responses as I have gotten here. I thank each of you for such concrete and excellent advice. I have much to think about as I proceed forward with this client. Now at least I can think more concretely about how to manage their expectations.

The guy in charge comes from a broadcast background, so do you think I can assume he understands the limitations of a basic training? Or shall I take my usual tack of assuming nothing and clearly stating everything?



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David Roth WeissRe: Awkward
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 9:41:09 pm

[Carol Lane] "The guy in charge comes from a broadcast background, so do you think I can assume he understands the limitations of a basic training? Or shall I take my usual tack of assuming nothing and clearly stating everything? "

Well, it's perfectly clear that trying to read his mind is not working, and assuming anything is usually counterproductive.

So, I think you should try to organize some serious face time with the guy in charge. See if you can learn something from him or possibly teach him a thing or two. In either case, you'll just by trying to setup a meeting you'll learn something, and if the meeting takes place you'll learn even more.

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

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™

EPK Colorist - UP IN THE AIR - nominated for six academy awards

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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Mads Nybo JørgensenRe: Awkward
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 11:46:19 pm

Hey Carol,

Absolutely charge 3 times your normal rate for training - why not? I would and have done.

Like everybody is saying here is to make sure to maintain your relationship with the client, as a part of the process explain why you are three times more expensive than normally:

1) Preparation time for the training
2) The actual training
3) Follow and written feedback on training + direct access by phone for up to 6 months to you personally in case they have a problem.

In addition you will also offer them consultancy on how to implement their strategy in the most cost effective way with the best results.

But do NOT charge the client high to punish them - only if you wish to loose them.

Do CONSIDER this an opportunity where other corporate companies will see how good and how flexible you are - at a price.



All the Best
Mads
London, UK

Latest video to watch here:


Mac Million Ltd. - HD Production & Editing
Blog: http://macmillionltd.blogspot.com


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Steve WargoRe: Awkward
by on Mar 31, 2010 at 6:34:18 am

I had this happen to me last year and the client has been bringing the raw footage to us for editing. After they figured out what it was costing for us to fix their work, the writing was on the wall. We are shooting their next two events next week.

Also, they shot something very expensive and then taped over what they shot with B-Roll.

Expensive lesson.

Always be the hero. We trained them to shoot, just like a surgeon could train you to do heart surgery. One serious mistake and jobs go out the door.

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 .

Ask me how to Market Yourself using Send Out Cards


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John DavidsonRe: Awkward
by on Mar 31, 2010 at 7:21:42 pm

I think the idea that teachers would have any desire to take over the services you provide is laughable. Sure, they'll go in, listen while you show them what you do, and then return to the previous state of being teachers. A wise teacher once told me "If you can't do it, manage it, and if you can't manage it, teach it."

Your client relationship is very safe.


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Timothy J. AllenRe: Awkward
by on Mar 31, 2010 at 8:37:47 pm

I think your client relationship can be safe - but it will be different. Don't sweat the loss of future income for video production services. It doesn't sound like "that" income exists anymore. It's not like they are paying another company to replace the same service that you provided.

Your professionalism in your previous production services role has paid off, as evidenced by the fact that they trust and value your expertise enough to offer you an opportunity in this new role. Even though you may not have proven yourself as an instructor yet, you earned enough professional "capital" that they believe you are the best person for the new role. That's a credit to you. Don't blow it by feeling hurt that the game is changing.

This is a great opportunity to diversify and grow. If you don't like your new role once you try it, you don't have to seek or take on other similar "training" jobs from other customers. But if you do, you already have your first paying customer lined up and probable testimonials and references for similar opportunities.

That's a pretty good deal. Meanwhile, if you really enjoy educational productions like you were doing, it's time to cultivate new clients while you continue to serve the older ones.



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Bob ZelinRe: Awkward
by on Mar 31, 2010 at 10:47:26 pm

what is funny about this post, is that no one has mentioned what the teachers will say "we don't know how to do this, and now they want us to shoot and edit video ON TOP of our normal teaching duties".
Many of the older teachers will refuse to do this, and some who are willing, will let other work slide and things won't get done. Of course, younger more enegetic teachers may "do it all". This is no different than when seasoned editors in our industry said "I don't do audio, I don't do graphics" - they either learned or were replaced by younger, more engegetic talent. This rule did not apply to "closed societies" like the LA production market, but it certainly applied to the rest of our business.

So, you may get this client back, but from NOW ON, there are no more "safe jobs". Everyone is looking to eliminate their expenses, and the # 1 enemy is the employees (they cost so much darn money, and they want health insurance - damn them all !).

If the teachers screw up their "new job", you will be called back. But don't count on it - they can find a new school graduate that will do your job for 1/4 the price.

Bob Zelin




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Bill DavisRe: Awkward
by on Apr 1, 2010 at 2:15:06 am

Bob's got it exactly right.

This is short term corporate thinking and most of us who've been around for a while have seen it before.

Back in the early 1990s here in Phoenix, we used to have the corporate headquarters for Dial Soap. They bought a 20+ story building on Central Avenue. On one of the top floors they built a whole big, beautiful video studio. Top quality everything. They operated it for some months, then shut the whole thing down. For the next few years the thing sat vacant. Then they moved out to Scottsdale, and they literally THREW AWAY most of the big, expensive professional gear they had "invested" in for their fancy "in house" facility.

What companies didn't get then, and STILL don't get now, is that the equipment is always secondary to the people needed to run it. And people are EXPENSIVE. You have to pay the people every two weeks. Whether or not they've done anything productive for you in that time period.

After watching that, I'm NEVER worried about corporate clients taking their work "in house." Because the economics of in-house video make no more sense today then they did back then.

It's NOT "mission critical" spending for anyone other than a video producer. And anyone INSIDE a corporation who invests much in bringing work inside is really just training a few of their people to learn about production - without realizing that if those folks become GOOD - they immediately can LEAVE the company and earn more. Why? Because of the central reality that nobody ever talks about...

VIDEO PRODUCTION EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO DO REALLY WELL.

It requires painstaking attention to detail - while simultaneously keeping your eye on a BIG PICTURE. It requires dozens of "arts" such as writing, lighting, sound recording, and editing - that take a LONG time to learn to do competently. And if you do ANY of them incompetently - it drags down the work of everyone.

The other big truth is that in the corporate setting, video production can NEVER be anything other than an after-thought.

So to the OP. Take a deep breath. Help them to the extent they wish it. Charge what you feel fair. And be understanding when they come back after confronting the fact that there's a WHOLE lot more to getting a good video program built than just pointing a camera at stuff.

FWIW.



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Fernando MolRe: Awkward
by on Apr 1, 2010 at 2:56:00 am

A client just asked me the same a couple of weeks ago. The problem was that the person I used to work was leaving the company and a new guy took the responsibility of the web page.

He was positively sure he can do it all and asked me for quick directions on what I did with their site.

I went to their office and answered all of their questions.

I know how much work it was for me to get that project done. I know doing and maintaining a site is not just about understanding basic HTML. Certainly, they'll be able to update a couple of things, but sooner or later they'll find a dead end. Who'll they gonna call? Not the Ghost Busters.

The best thing I could do was Ron's step number 5.

PS. New great clients arrived a week later.

*Always share a link to your site and rate the posts. This is a free service for you and for us.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Awkward
by on Apr 1, 2010 at 2:43:43 pm

I agree that this may actually work out okay. One thing training the staff will do is raise their appreciation for what it is YOU have been doing.

While it is insulting to have someone ask you to teach them what took you four years of college and decades on the street to learn -in a day or two - there is nothing wrong with enlightening them on some of the inside details of what it takes to do the job well. And now they have handed you the context for that selling job, and are paying you to sell the idea to them. They just don't know that's what they are doing, yet.:-)

If they don't care about doing it well, then you really don't want that work anyhow. If they DO want to do it well, getting a taste of what kind of commitment and effort that takes, plus looking at the time that takes, and the costs of trying and failing, is going to eventually convince most of them to let you take on the big projects with the good margins.

And isn't that what you really wanted to work on anyhow, not the flip cam home movie crap?

Charge a fair rate for the training. Let the dog try to drink from the fire hose. It is fun to watch.


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grinner hesterRe: Awkward
by on Apr 1, 2010 at 8:50:07 pm

If they are a bread and butter client, ask them if they see a long term leadership role for you. They may not even realize they want you to run the entire depertmant yet.
Beyond that, train and train well. Keep yourself in an on-going active role through this process.



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Richard HerdRe: Awkward
by on Apr 2, 2010 at 8:07:25 pm

Lots of assumptions are being made. My question: What is an educational client? A school? A publisher? A university?




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