Posts Tagged ‘jobs’

Ethics Question – Producing Video For a Client’s Competitor

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Video production is an industry full of variety. In my career, I have covered several different businesses, topics, people, and places. Browse through any video director’s client list and you will no doubt see a broad spectrum of projects. However, there may come a point when you are approached by one of your client’s direct competitors to produce video content. Should you take the job or should you politely refuse because of your existing relationship?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors – most importantly, the nature of the relationship with your existing client. Here are some things to consider:

  • If you signed a non-disclosure agreement with your client, then legally, you might not be able to accept a job from a competitor.
  • If you signed some kind of non-compete clause, then you probably won’t be able to take the competitor’s job.
  • Let’s suppose you produce a lot of content for your client on a regular basis. And let’s suppose each video requires you to be out on location meeting with your client’s vendors and other people your client does business with. Over time, these vendors might come to think of you as part of your client’s business (even though you, in fact, are an independent contractor). If those same vendors see you representing a competing company, they may take offense and the credibility of your first client could be shaken.
  • If your client considers you as their “go-to” guy/gal for production work, they may get their feelings hurt if they realize that you are doing work for their competitor. In which case, they may not want to hire you for their next project. Be careful not to burn any bridges.

Ultimately, the choice you make should be handled on a case-by-case basis, because every situation is different. Obviously, if you have only produced one video for a client, and that project is now five years old, it’s probably okay to accept a job from a competitor.

It also might be helpful to address these concerns with a new client before the first project gets underway. If the new client is looking for a long-term relationship, then you probably need to discuss any non-compete policies the company may have. I know it’s tempting to jump at a good offer when it comes your way, but more important than new jobs are the relationships you have established with your existing clientele.

So now I’ll open the floor for discussion. What would you do in a situation like this? Do you agree or disagree with the considerations mentioned in this post?

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Creative Projects on the Shelf

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

The office phone rings. You pick it up and on the other end is someone interested in hiring you for their services. You grab a nearby notebook and pen and start jotting down notes as he/sh discuss what their company needs. As the conversation continues, you start to realize that this will be a very exciting and very profitable project. It’s a great moment for a small business owner or freelancer, but sometimes even quality leads can fizzle. It’s the nature of the business. Projects get put on hold for various reasons – no money, new CEO, a new board rotates on, the committee can’t agree on details, your contact gets distracted, etc. Once I was very close to signing a contract with a potential client, but the project was shelved when the company started dealing with some major internal issues. Some leads are extremely courteous and will let you know what’s going on. Others simply drop off the face of the earth. What can you do as a small business owner or freelancer when projects get put on hold?

  1. It’s Out of Your Control – The first and most important thing to remember is that you can’t force your contact to sign the contract and send in a deposit. It can be horribly disappointing when you are on the verge of landing a big job, but sometimes you simply have to shrug your shoulders and move on. It’s out of your hands.
  2. Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket – Just because that golden carrot is dangling out there in front of you, don’t neglect your other marketing efforts. Do all that you can to develop new business. Don’t count on that one project to sustain you, because it might not be there when you need it the most.
  3. Fix a Limit on Your Bids – When submitting a budget to a potential client, I always insert a note that says something to the effect of, “Bid valid for up to ninety days beyond the submission date.” Over time, both the market and your rates will change. The budget you submit should reflect current conditions so that you can earn what is fair. This clause protects you if a project is shelved for many months or even years.
  4. Keep Your Name at the Forefront – If you’re contact is MIA, don’t be afraid to keep your name in front of them, but this must be done in a very subtle manner. You never want to appear desperate for the job. The best way to do this is to sign your contact up for your free monthly newsletter. It lets your contact know that you’re still out there by keeping your name in front of them.
  5. Check In Via Email – Don’t do this often, because (as stated in #3 above) it makes you look desperate. Usually if the contact needs your services, he/she will let you know. However, it’s okay to check in via email every few months, just to check on the status of the project. If there’s no news after three follow-ups, I wouldn’t contact the company any more regarding that particular job. I would, however, write to them if you have a new demo reel or portfolio available, or if you have some announcement related to your business.

Projects are often shelved because marketing and advertising is the first thing on the choppping block for many businesses. Try not to let it discourage you. You never know when that job might re-surface.

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Take It or Leave It

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Part of being a successful freelancer or small business owner is having a specific vision for the type of work you want to go after. Early in your career, however, you might have to take jobs you wouldn’t ordinarily accept. But what happens when you are a few years into your career and a job is offered to you that doesn’t exactly fit with your vision? When should you take it and when should you pass?

  1. Consider the Contact – the job itself might not be attractive, but if the individual offering you the job is someone who can offer bigger and better jobs in the future, it might be wise to take it. Do what you can to establish that relationship. If he or she is pleased with your work on the smaller jobs, they’ll be more inclined to come back to you later.
  2. Consider Your Finances – Keeping an eye on your cash flow is important. If the three-month outlook isn’t where it needs to be, consider taking those smaller jobs to make ends meet.
  3. Consider the Timeframe – How soon does the prospective client need the final product? If you can come through in a pinch with a quality product, your client will see you as a reliable resource and will be eager to hire you again.

Always consider the kind of reputation you are building. Evaluate it and make sure it’s a reputation that fits in with your goals.

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Never Say ‘Never’ Again

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

When I first started in my business, one of the biggest things I worried about was the caliber of my work. After landing work with those early clients, I was afraid that they would hate the final product once it was delivered. I was unsure of my abilities. I was faced with a lot of doubt early on. Although I had plenty of production experience as a college student and as a freelancer, I knew that there was a lot yet to be learned. And I knew that working for someone else on a particular shoot is a lot different than running your own business.

Perhaps you are currently facing a similar situation. You’re passionate about your creative work – whether it be video production, writing, graphic design, web design, etc. – but you’re just getting started and don’t yet have a strong reel or portfolio. You want to make it on your own, but struggle with self confidence. If you’re in this situation, remember the adage, “Never let them see you sweat.”

It may be simplistic to say this, but despite your own fears, you have to maintain a self-assured appearance. Always portray confidence, no matter what. A potential client can pick up on self-doubt from the moment of the first hand shake. Here are a few reminders:

  1. KNOW YOUR STUFF – When a potential client starts asking you questions about your particular field and what you have to offer, you have to respond in a clear, confident, knowledgeable manner. Read books if you feel as though you need a little more education. Get out there and practice your craft, even if it’s on your own time. Talk to more experienced people in your field and ask them questions about their particular style.
  2. GET SOME BUSINESS CARDS – It’s professional and it provides your potential client with all pertinent contact information. And if you can, get rid of that email address from your high school years – the one that says “” You don’t have to have a business domain, but everything about you should be professional.
  3. GET A REEL – If you haven’t edited a demo reel, do it. Even if all you have are some short films from college, it will give a potential client an idea of your particular style of writing, cinematography, editing, etc. Believe me, in three years you will look back on that first reel and gag with horror as you see the quality of your work, so that’s why it’s crucial that you keep the reel up to date. And always put your contact info on the reel and on the disc label.
  4. NEVER SAY NO – Some people debate this point, but I think it’s important when you’re first starting out to accept any job, even if you feel as though you don’t have the resources. Go ahead and take the job, then hire others to come on board to help in areas that might be beyond your level of expertise. You can build their cost into the budget, then mark that up 15% as a commission for yourself (after all, it’s your client). There are always a number of available freelancers out there. You just have to know where to look. And working with people more experienced than you will only help you to learn more about your field.
  5. FREELANCE FOR OTHERS – I did this a lot when I was first starting out. Landing my own clients was a rare occurrence in the early days, so I would jump on board with any other production company hiring freelancers. I worked as a PA, cable wrangler, camera assistant, camera operator, etc. just to fill in the gaps. Once you have built up your own client base, you can slowly cut back on how much you have to work for others.

Remember, the more confidence you demonstrate to your leads, the more inclined they will be to hire you. It won’t be easy. It will be slow and sometimes it will be very discouraging. But don’t let those slow periods drain you of your own self-worth. If you’re passionate enough about what you do, it will pay off.

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