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A difficult client.

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Paul Guarri
A difficult client.
on Nov 4, 2018 at 9:38:15 pm
Last Edited By Paul Guarri on Nov 4, 2018 at 11:02:14 pm

I was asked to work as a finishing editor on some projects. I will work at the client's place. I must be available for about two or three days per project but they don't have a schedule. They told me in those three days they can call me at any time to work for the whole day, or call me for an hour in the morning, then I leave the office but they can call me back again at any time without prior notice to come back on the same day. I usually charge by the day but they seem to expect I will only charge the hours I will spend at their office. What about if in those three days they end up to call me for 1-hours a day? I can't really have some free time or do anything else since they could call me at any time. I think I have to charge a full day since I'm available for the whole day.
They also told me that this job can have very long render times and I can leave the office if I want, monitor the render and come back to work when the rendering is finished. I suspect they also expect me not to charge for render hours both if I'm at their office or not. Should I immediately drop this client?

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Wayne Keyser
Re: A difficult client.
on Nov 5, 2018 at 3:21:15 am

What would make these conditions worth it for you? Quoting them your hoped-for day rate but pretending it's your hourly rate? Or possibly a very VERY generous (to you) hourly rate, hoping that it makes up for the onerous conditions? Or dropping the client and never looking back? Work the possibilities out on paper for yourself.


There is no "way to peace." Peace is the way.

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Steve Kownacki
Re: A difficult client.
on Nov 5, 2018 at 1:15:24 pm

Agree with Wayne - make it work for you.
This guy wants the benefits of an employee, but only willing to pay when you work. Personally, I would walk away unless he can have a mature conversation with you and set parameters.

I have a few guys that do for me what he is requesting - work a few hours here and there, especially once a project is wrapping up and it's minor changes. Unless it's an on-location shoot, the editors set their schedules; if they need to work on my gear, it's on their schedule at their convenience; with that trade they bill me hourly. Setting project rates with a written scope of work that you both develop seems best. But you can't be on-call at his office. It's all about communication and relationships. He doesn't seem to want that.


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Mark Suszko
Re: A difficult client.
on Nov 5, 2018 at 3:39:47 pm

This is a ridiculous ask on the part of the client. Nobody can afford to work like that for more than a week: the client is preventing you from being available to do other jobs. In labor law cases settled by the Supreme Court, this is a case of "being engaged to be waiting", not "Waiting to be engaged" and they need to pay you something for the fact that you are on stand-by to serve them.

If you really want/need to work on this project, at least ask for a retainer. The fee for being on retainer is based on your day rate, discounted over a set amount of time.

Say your hourly rate is 50 bucks and your day rate is 400. A week is then $2,000, without any discounts. A month's work would be $8,000.

It's important to make the distinction that, assuming you can find other gigs and they all pay the same rate, you would be making that 8 grand, not just from one client, but collectively, from several different ones. They are all paying for your time, and eight grand is the max you can make per month.

If the client you mention only actually needs you part-time, but is making it impossible for you to commit to any other work, then they owe you ALL the time, used or not. Let's hope you can find one other client that's willing to work around this ridiculous availability schedule. But if you can't, and they're only paying you half the time, you're losing 50% of your monthly income. And that's a generous estimate; from your description, sounds more like you're only making maybe 25% of that monthly maximum. Right there, the math should tell you, you'd be better off in a job that comes with a plastic name tag and spatula. At least there, the time commitments are something you can schedule around.

So, how much should you demand for a retainer, to keep yourself exclusive to this one client, yet make enough to eat? It's got to be more than fifty percent of your monthly max. That's just survival. I'd opine sixty to seventy percent, to be exclusively "on-call".

Anything less and you are giving it away. There may be cases where you would want to give it away - it's a rare opportunity to work with someone of great stature, for example, or the end product may be something award-worthy that's good for your resume'. Sometimes you do it because you're really into a certain cause, or you're doing it for love. Maybe it's religious material, and you're "editing for Jesus".

But absent those kinds of circumstances, you'd be foolish to keep going the way you have been. It's signalling to the client that you're a chump who can be ripped-off. It's a de facto reduction of your rate. In effect, you've made yourself a bank, lending this client your own money at zero interest. And I will bet you this client eats three squares every day, no problem.

For your long-term financial survival in the business, and for your self-respect, you can't let things continue as they are. Offer them a retainer of at least 60 percent of your max monthly, tell them it reflects a 40 percent discount on your day rate to be "exclusive" to them 24/7, and be ready to walk if they say no. That's the second rule of negotiation: they have to believe you will walk away from a bad deal. If neither of you believes that, they own you. And everybody in that production community will know that they can talk you down from your rate, because you gave in once. This one bad deal could ruin every deal that comes after. You have to think long-term.

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Stephen Smith
Re: A difficult client.
on Nov 12, 2018 at 8:28:55 pm
Last Edited By Stephen Smith on Jan 9, 2019 at 4:39:25 pm

That is crazy! I think the idea of a retainer is a good one. It motivates them to use you instead of not using you. Also, do they really need you to come in? How far away are you from their office? If you are not getting paid to commute to their office and you might have to go there and back multiple times think of all the time you are spending not billing, miles and gas spent. What a bad deal. This is the type of job I would say no to or make it financially worth the hassle. If they say no to a better paid deal it would be no different to you saying no. If you take this deal and then have to turn down a much better client I think you will really get mad. That being said, I've worked the crazy 14 hour days for weeks to keep all of my clients happy. But they are great clients that know what they want up front. Best of luck. Remember, if there is a point where you get mad at this client for the hassle it is because you didn't charge enough.

Stephen Smith

Utah Video Productions

Check out my Vimeo page

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Patrick Ortman
Re: A difficult client.
on Jan 9, 2019 at 4:33:21 pm

We couldn't work like that. Your mileage may vary. But for us, that'd be a "sorry, no" unless they fully covered the employee's wages and overhead and a nice profit for our video agency.

Los Angeles and New York video production for businesses and brands:

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Tom Sefton
Re: A difficult client.
on Jan 11, 2019 at 5:36:09 pm

Drop them like the stinking turd they are.

Co-owner at Pollen Studio

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grinner hester
Re: A difficult client.
on Feb 1, 2019 at 11:43:47 pm

No. But you need to educate this client. Simply explain you are freelance and, unless booked by the, are subject to being booked when they call. They can always offer an on-call fee. As for renders, que em up and set em up to cook overnight... leaving and not returning that day, or build other elements as one cooks at a time and stay on the clock.

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