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When You Give Too Much (Fool on the Hill)

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Patrick OrtmanWhen You Give Too Much (Fool on the Hill)
by on Jan 18, 2011 at 5:09:09 pm

This is a followup to my earlier post about an agency client that insisted on having the raw footage for a project we did, in addition to what was in the contract- namely, our cut of a video promo.

Yes, you can be too nice, and give far too much. Along with the raw footage, the client asked for multiple edited versions of their video. I knew it wouldn't take too long to make these edits, so we did them at no charge and sent them along with the raw footage, in the interests of client relations and exceeding expectations, and with a mental note to add a clause specifically about raw footage in our next contract.

Now, they have demanded changes to these free edit versions. When I told them we'd be fine making their changes, but that we needed to get paid for our time to do so, they started getting all evil about things, saying that since we gave them those first free versions we're obligated to give them additional edits at no cost to "make them right".

Yeah, I feel stupid. We treated them like we treat our good clients, the ones that come back to us year after year, but they turned out to be a grinder.

I don't know if it's the times or what, but I am finding that there does seem to be a larger proportion of these "stealth grinders" than in the past. We're usually pretty good at weeding out the bad ones.

So it goes, just another day in Hollywood... gotta keep developing those early warning systems and rhino skin.

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


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Mark SuszkoRe: When You Give Too Much (Fool on the Hill)
by on Jan 18, 2011 at 8:27:46 pm

Ouch.

Well, on the bright side, you could enjoy "firing" them. And the knowledge that folks like that can't operate that way for very long without going out of business themselves, or having to move stakes to a new town where nobody knows their act yet. You emerge from this wiser than they. Long term, survival is more on your side than theirs.

A guy I admire had a saying:

"With the right kind of people, a written contract is completely unnecessary. With the wrong kind of people, it isn't nearly enough".


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Bob ZelinRe: When You Give Too Much (Fool on the Hill)
by on Jan 18, 2011 at 10:27:54 pm

I am going to talk like a "big shot " here, but I get into the same boat you do with grinders some times.

They said "you are obligated to make "things right" because you did it for free the first time around". Since you no longer really care about this client, it will give you a good feeling to call back and say "let me explain what is going to happen - I am going to recut your video with your changes, and you are going to pay me for this - do you understand". What's the worst thing they can do - say 4 letter words to you ?

With that said, I have one grinder client, who I ultimately always wind up going back to - because they eventually pay, and ultimately I want the money. But they follow the model that Ron Lindeboom has outlined in his article, and I always say "never again" - 9 months pass, they call, and I go back for more punishment - why ? Because they always wind up paying me, so I go back for more abuse.

Bob Zelin



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Mark SuszkoRe: When You Give Too Much (Fool on the Hill)
by on Jan 18, 2011 at 10:52:40 pm

John Mellencamp?

"Hurts so good".


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Patrick OrtmanRe: When You Give Too Much (Fool on the Hill)
by on Jan 18, 2011 at 11:36:51 pm

Thanks, guys- yeah, actually it ended up kinda going down ala Bob's scenario this afternoon, except via email. Maybe I should have called him on the phone, though. Anyway, no reply. That's OK by me.

Contracts: I like having a simple one, in most cases, just to let everyone know what's expected, but yeah the good ones don't really need it and the bad ones will be bad regardless.

I have one client who's not on contract right now- he and I have an understanding that we'll do great work and make his marketing rock, and he'll pay us every two weeks. Sometimes he needs estimates, and sometimes I need deposits. But mainly, we trust each other. The rest, even if they're friends, get contracts.

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


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Chris BlairRe: When You Give Too Much (Fool on the Hill)
by on Jan 19, 2011 at 1:45:45 am

I agree with Bob. I'm not one who subscribes to the whole "grinder" theory. There are difficult clients everywhere. There are a few great clients here and there. There are a few clients that are a nightmare. If you're business is so well thought of and you're so busy that you can turn away the nightmare clients....(especially the ones who pay you and most especially those who pay on-time), just because they're difficult and demanding of your time, then you're indeed a rare company.

There are precious few companies or individuals whose work is in such demand, whose skills are so well thought of, that they can call the shots on who they work for and when. And even the folks who ARE in that position, usually don't stay in that position for their entire careers. Most will have small windows of time where the work they produce and the influence they wield is so high, that they can turn away what they deem undesirable clients.


Like Bob, we've had clients we've worked for who we say..."never again." But when they call with another project, just like Bob, we take them on because we cannot logically see turning down work that we're pretty darn sure we're going to get paid for, even though working with them is unpleasant.

And on the subject of contracts...we use them, but if you have a client who truly doesn't want to pay you, believe me, they can get away with NOT paying you even if you sue in Civil Court and they lose in an uncontested judgement! How can this be so? Because in our country, civil courts only hand down judgements. They DO NOT enforce that judgement. It's up to you and your attorney to collect on the judgement. How do I know this? Because we experienced it with a large, well-known company that went from "well-known" to bankrupt in a matter of months....despite the fact that their owner is well-known and still extremely wealthy. He's Mark Cuban rich...having owned an NBA franchise for 15 years (can you say Philadephia 76's from 1981 to 1996!)

They didn't even challenge the lawsuit, but once the decision was hnded down in our favor, their attorneys filed motion after motion after motion after motion, until our attorney bill exceeded $10,000 and we gave up on collection (at the recommendation of our attorney I might add, who admitted we'd NEVER collect from someone with this individual's means). This man had at least 6 other lawsuits from other former vendors.... each well over 6 figures.... that he was doing the same thing with in terms avoiding payment. This guy was sued by the state of Oregon and the state of New York for advertising fraud....lost...and NEVER paid the fine...and NOTHING was ever done to him.

Anyway...you work for the people that will pay you...unless you're so good and in such high demand that you have the luxury of turning away the clients you dislike or who make your worklife difficult. I simply believe that in these economic times...few of the people on these forums are in a position to do that.

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


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Patrick OrtmanRe: When You Give Too Much (Fool on the Hill)
by on Jan 19, 2011 at 2:10:12 am

On Lawsuits...
Man you are so right. I'm in LA, but the same thing you talk about applies to Canada- we had a "music producer" who ripped us off bigtime up there and then turned around and sued us! It was bizarre, he was involved in all sorts of unsavory activities, stalking young women, drugs, and so forth. He screwed up by messing with us, though. We did eventually win in court rather than settle with him, and our PR skills got the thug on the cover of the Toronto Star looking like a felon. Even though we won and he owes us a lot of money he's vowed to never pay. Enforcement is a bitch. Still, seeing his mugshot on a national newspaper was priceless.

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


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David Roth WeissRe: When You Give Too Much (Fool on the Hill)
by on Jan 19, 2011 at 5:27:46 am

Patrick,

Where I come from (Earth), those who receive a favor are obligated to those who extend the favor, not the other way around. Are you certain your client isn't from some other planet?

David

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles
http://www.drwfilms.com

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


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


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Patrick OrtmanRe: When You Give Too Much (Fool on the Hill)
by on Jan 19, 2011 at 5:41:55 am

Exactly! Although didn't Ben Franklin have a strategy where he got people to do him a small favor, thus entrapping them into feeling a responsibility to help him out on a bigger need later because they feel invested?

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


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Herb SevushRe: When You Give Too Much (Fool on the Hill)
by on Jan 19, 2011 at 5:03:09 pm

Like I always tell my son -

"no good deed goes unpunished."

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions


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Brendan CootsRe: When You Give Too Much (Fool on the Hill)
by on Jan 19, 2011 at 11:32:30 pm

Hi David,

Man, it's been a long time since I've posted here! Anyway, You're spot on but this whole topic highlights what I've come to see as the single biggest problem in our industry.

Most 'normal' businesses offer a service, and the customer pays for the service. It is just assumed that you get only what you pay for, and the provider is not being unreasonable to expect payment for changes i.e. a new or different product. Somewhere along the line, video producers got all touchy-feely with clients and sent a message that we're different - totally willing to bend over backwards, take huge losses and STILL get treated like garbage for our efforts.

The solution isn't to stop trying to please our clients, we all just need to set hard, unwavering boundaries of what is and isn't acceptable, and codify those boundaries in our contracts. When a client oversteps the boundary, especially in a manner that shows utter disrespect and contempt like the OP's story, they are no longer a client worth keeping and should be fired. I know that's not easy (especially in this economy), but the alternative is to spend your life serving clients that will walk all over you at every opportunity. Life's too short for that.

Brendan Coots
Creative Director
Animatik Creative


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Ty FordRe: When You Give Too Much (Fool on the Hill)
by on Jan 29, 2011 at 3:04:02 pm

they started getting all evil about things, saying that since we gave them those first free versions we're obligated to give them additional edits at no cost to "make them right".

I don't think so. This issue is about borders. They crossed the border by expecting that you "fix" something you did for free. Walk away from it and, as you figured out, don't let it happen again.

Don't beat all your future clients with the rod of what's right (or wrong) in what you have learned here. Not everyone is as unappreciative as your current client.

-Ty Ford

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





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