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Going above and beyond... quietly?

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Bob ColeGoing above and beyond... quietly?
by on Jan 15, 2013 at 2:50:39 am

This isn't a crisis, but I'm curious about how you all handle this type of situation - or whether I'm the only one out there who does this.

Every now and then, I steal from myself, by working more hours on a project than I will bill. Usually it's because I'm learning new software or techniques, or have a self-interest like an addition to my reel. Sometimes, it's for the worst possible reason: I simply get wrapped up in the potential of a project. Unless the client has made a change which causes an overage, I don't charge for this extra work.

When it comes time to write the invoice, I often write in the extra work, with a "n/c" to show how generous I have been, and how hard I've worked for the client.

Then, I erase that whole line.

I am not sure why I erase it. Of course, I don't want clients to start expecting service for "n/c", but more importantly, it doesn't feel right.

What do you do?

Just curious.

Bob C

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walter biscardiRe: Going above and beyond... quietly?
by on Jan 15, 2013 at 3:35:18 am

We always show the extra work on the invoice and then put a discount of the same amount below it. This way the client knows when we had to put in extra time.

If I have to do extra work because I did not plan the time accordingly, they don't get charged.

If I have to do extra work because of changes on the client side, they do get charged. Oftentimes not the entire amount.

But by showing extra hours all along, the client can visually see how much more time we have to put in from time to time so there's no shock when THEY make a change that requires extra hours and thus a higher invoice.

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Sareesh SudhakaranRe: Going above and beyond... quietly?
by on Jan 15, 2013 at 9:12:14 am

Great tip, Walter! - Workflow information and support for filmmakers, photographers, audiographers and videographers.

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Nick GriffinRe: Going above and beyond... quietly?
by on Jan 15, 2013 at 2:59:41 pm

I'm like Bob in the respect that if the extra time is something I decided to do or if it's due to a crash or other malfunction, it's not getting billed to the client. If the overage is caused by the client then it's my job to communicate with them and get them to understand that this is something they have caused. This has to start at the earliest possible moment, perhaps even when the potential for there being an overage is recognized. It's also be to present this with the phrase, "What do you think we should do about this problem?"

We also used to show the overage and corresponding discount on all invoices. Now we only do so on a case by case basis because of a weird incident a few years ago with one of our long term clients. He saw the overage and corresponding discount and complained about it stating, "Well why couldn't you have just estimated accurately in the first place?" It took me a few days to get my head around the fact that he just wanted something to whine about and this was the only thing he could find.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Going above and beyond... quietly?
by on Jan 15, 2013 at 8:29:34 pm

I take time off the bill for my honest mistakes and for some of the time I spend exploring creative options that didn't pan out. I think it is important to leave some of that info on the bill and then mark it as comped, because it establishes a better idea of the speed things take to get done, how much effort is being expended, and that this is still a creative business where artists have to spend some time experimenting. If videos never needed trial and error during the edit, editing would have been fully automated ages ago. But these things are wrought, like iron sculptures. Pieces are cut, fitted, removed and re-fitted until everything is perfected. This is not a commodity business assembling identical widgets. This is a craft. The bill should reflect that.

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Bob ColeRe: Going above and beyond... quietly?
by on Jan 16, 2013 at 3:45:10 pm

Thanks all around for these interesting replies.

I like the idea of putting down an actual monetary value, then deleting it on the next line. That may be the solution I'm looking for - although I suspect that it should be a rare event. I don't want to create an expectation of free work - just great work. And as Nick's client's remark shows, people can interpret our generosity and artistic commitment in a very unappreciative way!

Bob C

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Christopher TravisRe: Going above and beyond... quietly?
by on Jan 17, 2013 at 9:25:22 am

I'm not sure showing discounted hours would create an expectation of free work.

Overall I'd say theres a greater risk in NOT showing those hours because it will lead to the client thinking the work takes less time to do to that standard.

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Bob ColeRe: Going above and beyond... quietly?
by on Jan 17, 2013 at 10:06:34 am

Your response made me realize another reason for being very careful with this. Although I agree with you about the expectation issue, I wonder whether there might be another side to it which makes it inadvisable, at least with a new client who doesn't know you all that well.

I think it's fine to write "n/c" if, as Walter said, it was due to your own mistake in estimating the job, and you present it almost as a "mea culpa." But if part of your motivation in writing "n/c" is to make the client like you, or to show how generous YOU are, you may want to think twice. I think there is a strange quirk of psychology which causes the recipient of a benefit (client, in this case) to avoid the beneficiary. I know that on at least one occasion, when I felt that I had gotten too good a deal, it actually didn't make me go back to the deal provider -- there was something off-putting about the whole thing which made me want to avoid the favor-giver.

In fact, asking for a favor can be more effective than giving a favor.

There's a great Benjamin Franklin anecdote about that. (This is my recollection of something I read years ago, so take it with a grain of salt.) When he was a young man, Franklin had a rather menial government job. There was a very powerful official who didn't like him at all, and was likely to block young Ben's progress. To ingratiate himself with this antagonist, Ben went to him, hat in hand, to ask for a favor (the loan of a certain book). He returned the book promptly, thanked his antagonist profusely - and from that point forward, this former enemy became his greatest protector.

If I write a "n/c" line down in future, I think I'll make it clear why it took extra time, that it was a one-time thing, and that I appreciate the client's patience -- rather than leave any impression that I want the client to be grateful for my "generosity."


Bob C

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