Posts Tagged ‘creative industry’

Make Sure You’re Covered

Friday, January 8th, 2010

I’ve been drafting contracts recently for some new projects, and it got me thinking not only about the importance of having a contract, but the value in having the right content written up in your contract. You need to make sure that your contract covers any possible variable, so that if conflicts arise, you and your business will be covered. Of course, knowing exactly what to include can be difficult. After all, we that work in the production industry are creative folks, so the administrative tasks of running a business can be a challenge. Based on my experiences, here are a few guidelines on drafting a contract.

  1. Describe the scope of the project. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s very important. You need to make sure that both you and your client are clear on the project as a whole. What is this video for? What are the goals? What will the video hope to achieve?
  2. Based on the scope of the project, define the specific services you will perform so that the project responsibilities are fulfilled. Make sure you spell out exactly what you will be doing over the course of the production. Also spell out what you need from your client. Sometimes, in order to complete a video, I need my clients to provide me with still images, company logos, backgrounds, fonts, etc. In any contract, both parties should be clear on what their individual responsibilities are.
  3. Specify the video project’s budget. Verbage is important here. Don’t say, “the budget for the video production services described herein are estimated at…” Never estimate in your contract. Be specific. Just write in what the budget will be.
  4. Specify how much time you will be investing in the video. Every budget I draft is based on a number of factors, including the amount of time I plan on spending in pre-production, production, and post-production. Place these figures in your contract somewhere. It can read something like this, “The above budget includes X hours of pre-production, X hours of production, and X hours in post-production.  Should Client request changes to the project and Company’s time exceeds the budgeted time, Client agrees to pay Company its standard rate of X in order to complete the changes.” This particular clause covers you in case you get into production and your client starts making a lot of unexpected changes. If you aren’t covered in this way, you may find that you’re spending a lot of extra time on the video and not getting paid for it.
  5. Define the payment schedule. I always ask my clients for a deposit before I start work on any video project. This money helps to offset initial time invested in the pre-production phase. I also make sure to specify in my contracts that deposits paid are non-refundable. This covers me in the event that a client pulls the plug on the video. In addition to the deposit, you need to specify project milestones at which time additional payments are due. For example, I usually ask my clients for a second payment after the video shoot, with final payment due after the video is approved.
  6. Insert a clause to cover late payments. To help my cash flow, all of my invoices are net-15. However, net-30 is more realistic. Clients will often push that to net-45 or even net-60. To ensure that you receive payment from your clients in a timely fashion, insert a clause indicating that a late fee will be applied to any balance that is more than 30 days overdue. This will protect you in case your client is negligent about making payments.
  7. Specify the delivery date. Make sure both parties understand when project milestones are supposed to take place, including delivery of the final video. Now, look back to #3 on this list. It’s important to remind the client (within the context of the contract) that any delay on their part in getting necessary materials to you will delay the completion of the video. You don’t want to be locked in to a deadline on the 10th of the month when you’re in your office on the 8th still waiting for your client to send photos, logos, fonts, etc.
  8. Be sure to retain certain rights to the video. Every video completed is an addition to your demo reel that can possibly help you land the next job. So, in your contracts, specify that you retain the right to use the final video for display, publication, exhibition, awards, etc. for your own promotional purposes. I have never had a client that had a problem with this and it grants me the permission to show my work to other potential clients.

Working in video production as an independent professional or business owner can be a trial-and-error existence. Mistakes will be made and hopefully, lessons will be learned. The way I write my contracts is based on my experiences as a professional producer/director and business owner. Hopefully, these insights will help you in your own ventures.

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I Hate It

Friday, October 9th, 2009

We all take pride in the work we do, but our self-confidence can be shaken in a heartbeat when someone responds negatively to a project that we’ve devoted so much time and attention to. The creative world is a subjective one. Someone might look at a video and deem it a masterpiece. Someone else might look at the same video and ridicule it. Criticism hurts, but its affect on our future work can be either positive or negative, depending on how we respond.

  • Some clients will always be deconstructive. There might be some clients out there who will never be happy, regardless of what you present to them. If you find that a client is constantly tearing your work apart, without offering any suggestions for improvement, it might be time to end the relationship. Perhaps there is a personality conflict. Perhaps your style doesn’t mesh with their vision. Whatever the reason, it might be time to refer them to someone else.
  • Criticism can help you improve. Some clients genuinely want to offer up their opinions to help you create the best work possible. Early in my career I had a client that took a chance on me. He saw my potential and hired me. I was excited to work on the project, but when I submitted a rough cut, I received a call from my client who said he hated it. I instantly felt sick to my stomach. The following weeks were difficult for me as I tried re-cut after re-cut. He responded to each version with a long list of changes. Although the project was frustrating and stressful, I can confidently say that the client helped me improve the quality of my work. Today, my clients are incredibly pleased with the videos I deliver.

Receiving criticism is never fun, regardless of the spirit in which it is given. But we need to use criticism in a positive way. Let it motivate you to view your own work from a different perspective. Let it encourage you to try new things. Let it challenge you to better yourself.

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Wanting More For Less

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

budget-cutsMoney, money, money. This is the one thing that most potential clients are concerned about when deciding whether or not to push forward with a marketing campaign. If you work in video production, web design, graphic design… well, just about any creative field, it can be frustrating when clients want more for less money. Somewhere along the way the true value of what we provide hasn’t been communicated. Maybe the fault lies not with the client, but with ourselves.

Let me explain. In a post last year I discussed the importance of knowing what you’re worth. As a freelancer and small business owner you need to be confident in the quality of your work and the value of your time. Your rates should reflect this view. However, during leaner times we sometimes find ourselves desperate to land the next job. And what do we do? We “low-ball” our bids in an effort to beat out our competitors. Over time, this approach has two effects.

  • The marketplace is cheapened.
  • The bar is lowered for everyone, creating a new price standard by which all other creative services are gauged.

Before you bid on a job, you have to decide what your ultimate goal is. If you simply want the job, so you can get something on your reel or in your portfolio, then you will probably try to undercut the competition. Keep in mind that if you cut your rates just to land the job, the client will expect more of the same from you down the road. They will continue to up the work load while trying to talk you down on price.

The alternative strategy is to let the quality of your work speak for itself. Communicate the value of what you will deliver. Tell your client that you want to provide them with the most competitive product, not a quick fix. Reinforce the idea that compromises both financial and creatively will ultimately compromise the end product. And if the client continues to balk at your bid, don’t be afraid to walk away. If the client’s entire focus is on money, then the relationship might not be a good fit for you.

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Keep That Business Card in Your Pocket

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Getting started as a freelancer or small business owner in the creative field is definitely exciting. Whether you are in video production, graphic design, photography, web design, etc. emotions become a mixture of anticipation and anxiety. As you grow your business, you will always be on the lookout for new relationships and new opportunities. But as you promote your busines, it’s important to keep some ethical guidelines in mind.

At some point in your career, you will be hired out as a sub-contractor for another company. You may be hired to go out and shoot some b-roll footage or you might be asked to shoot some stills of a particular event. During these jobs, you are representing some one else – not your own business. You should never use it as an opportunity to hand out your own business cards and gain clients for yourself. This can be difficult to do, especially if you are first starting out and the client is pleased with your work. Remember, how would you feel if you had an established relationship with a client and a freelancer you hired was on location promoting himself and not your business?

In other situations you might be brought in on a project because you have a specific skill set. For example, let’s say a marketing project manager has a client who requests video production work in addition to the website that’s already being designed. The project manager might pull you in to handle that aspect of the job. In this particular scenario you should try and meet with the client only when the project manager is present. Remember, it’s the project manager’s client, not yours, and he/she should definitely stay in the loop. If you have to email the client directly for any reason, always Cc: the project manager. There are two more things to keep in mind with this particular arrangement:

  1. Never discuss payment terms with the client. That’s between you and the project manager. Remember, you are a vendor.
  2. Never accept payment directly from the client, unless you have permission from the project manager. Usually a project manager will include a markup into the budget to cover his/her time and overhead. Never give the impression that you are trying to conduct business behind the project manager’s back.

I know that as a freelancer or small business owner, it’s important to be zealous in your marketing efforts. But what’s more important is that you remain ethical.

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