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"Constipated Pipeline" (projects that linger)

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Daniel Stone"Constipated Pipeline" (projects that linger)
by on Jul 6, 2011 at 3:46:44 pm

Hey guys,

I did a search and even found an excellent podcast on doing business but I wanted to pick your brains a bit more on how production companies out there are doing business and managing their clients

What are you guys doing to expedite projects and ensure that they don't linger in the pipeline?

We're a small shop (2 edit bays) and have about 5-8 projects going on at one time. The problem is that we'll do a first edit, send to the client (or let them take it back with them) and then it'll be 2-3 weeks before we get any changes back. We make revisions, send to the client and wait another 2-3 weeks.

Do you typically charge for time spent waiting for changes? I've considered this but feel strange because we do work on other projects while we wait.

Thank you ahead of time (so much) for your input!

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Nick GriffinRe: "Constipated Pipeline" (projects that linger)
by on Jul 6, 2011 at 5:13:18 pm

I don't think you should charge for time spent waiting, especially while you're doing other jobs in the meantime. That said I know all too well of the situation you're describing.

What you might consider is explaining that jobs which go beyond, say a week, incur the cost of the external drive you'll need to offload the project from your editing bays to allow other work to keep going on. You might also have a charge for the time it takes to do this and do the restore.

Now it may or may not be the case that your RAID or other space is limited, but it's the kind of explanation that at least makes some sense to a client who otherwise sees no consequences to his or her inaction.

Last time I checked two Terabyte bare drives were selling for around $100. Use two, just to be safe and price the drive/service around $300.

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Mark SuszkoRe: "Constipated Pipeline" (projects that linger)
by on Jul 8, 2011 at 4:38:00 pm

The real issue for you is not when they are done, but when you get paid. By dragging out the approval cycle, they are delaying your payment.

Hopefully, you're using a multi-step payment process: a down payment to start the work, a progress payment at the mid-point, say the first rough cut, and a final payment for completed master with all changes since the rough cut. This means that you're getting paid timely, for all work completed up to that point, and they are not paying for work that is not yet done. So you can tell them that it protects both parties. If they should decide to cancel at any stage of the project, everybody walks away more or less "even".

If these guys are in the habit of doing this, I would consider billing them at the point of the rough cut, with a down payment and a payment due at delivery of the window-burned approval copy. And then treating the revisions as a separate contract/deal. Get paid for what you've already done, before you agree to do more. This is your only leverage.

Your only other option that comes to mind is to have a tab with the bank for a credit line of working capital to draw against with proof in hand of billed jobs. But your shop sounds too small for this to be easy or profitable to do, and you'd spend all your time chasing collections to balance things with the bank. So I think your only real option is cash in advance, 25% of the estimated cost of the job, the next 50% when they show up to review the first rough draft, and that should cover your expenses at least. The final 25% on delivery is your profit.

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Kai CheongRe: "Constipated Pipeline" (projects that linger)
by on Jul 10, 2011 at 10:07:39 am

Our longest-running project was offloaded after... 3 years. It was pretty insane, because there would be lulls of months in between as clients flip-flop on decisions.

Thankfully, most of our other projects wrap within a few months. Not sure how the situation is like over at your side, but I would say 2-3 weeks between previews (assuming you don't have more than 3-4 previews) is probably expected, especially if it's a big company with many approval layers to clear.

We try to avoid epic-length projects by finding out at the pitching stage whether the client has a definite deadline to meet, or it's just one of those 'there's leftover budget therefore we'll do something' projects. The other thing we try to do is have our producers prod the clients for their response, largely with the explanation that if they miss our original production schedule, we cannot guarantee we can turnaround their requests quickly schedule priority would have been shifted to incoming projects.

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Mark RaudonisRe: "Constipated Pipeline" (projects that linger)
by on Jul 10, 2011 at 10:44:18 pm

There's nothing like an "airdate" to move the process along! I assume that you're talking about projects with "soft deadlines". My suggestion is to put it in writing!

Many contracts specify a timeframe for responding. For example, if you turn in a cut (delivered electronically or on DVD) the client has 48hrs in which to respond. A delayed response can
move the final delivery date later, and therefore trigger "cost overages" for which the client would be

Frankly, if the client can't/won't respond in two days, you know you're in for problems. If they won't agree to this in advance, you've been warned, and should adjust your bid accordingly.

With NO penalty for slow response, the burden is on YOU. That's just dumb. Spell it out in advance. The time frame for response, and the NUMBER of passes the client gets. This forum is filled with horror stories of the client from hell demanding dozens of passes.
Good luck.

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