LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed

Taking Control of Your Billings

From The Creative COW Magazine


Creative COW Magazine presents Taking Control of Your Billings



Mark SuszkoMark Suszko
Springfield Illinois, USA

©2007 Mark Suszko and CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.

Article Focus:
5 rules for getting paid for your creativity. The relationship between client and professional is wrought with pitfalls, frustrations and miscommunications. Save yourself from many common business problems by taking these five rules and putting them in your arsenal of business wisdom from Bessie and Mark Suszko.



It's not always hard. I get assignments where the clients just give me a cursory brief and then turn me loose. Sometimes it's because we have such a well-established working relationship and mutual trust, they say, "I know you can handle this. Just use your own judgment and call me when you get to the approval stage."

Other times, it's a very inexperienced client with no clue at all. I prefer in those cases that they pretty much abandon the work in my lap and leave things up to me.

If you come across a client like that, you know that they're looking for outside stimulation. Actually, I find it quite exciting working this way if the stakes aren't too high. I usually come back at them with rough comp pitches for 2-3 ways I'd like to go, and let them pick from those.

If they like some design of yours, they'll likely as not wag the dog to make it conform to the tail you've shown them. Whatever direction you inspire in them can only help.

As for trying to drag clients into more professional creative behavior, well, some folks you can educate, and some you can't. Don't beat yourself up over the ones that just don't "get it." Save your energy and best efforts for the ones that make the work worth it.


GET PAID

"Worth it" assumes that you're going to get paid. I recently got a question about pricing a spot for a local car dealership, which brought up a number of issues around creativity and getting paid.

First, I'm shocked that this guy had a chance to work for "Faustian Motors, Home of Hellishly Good Dealz" at all. Usually the local cable company grinds spots out at a shockingly low fee nobody else can match, maybe even free if the customer agree to buy the ad package from the cable company.

The good news for you is that their "free" productions usually look like what they cost. Now the customer comes to you, ready to pay, as long as you follow some simple rules.


RULE 1: NEVER do the job for a flat fee, ever.

You can charge a day rate, but don't charge halfdays. In practice, a half day is never half a day, so it's virtually impossible to do two half-day shoots in a single day.

Hourly rates are critical because completion times are always an estimate. As in car repair, it may take longer, and you'll have to charge accordingly if it does.

Always get at least a partial deposit in advance. Many folks like working in thirds: a third up front, a third after the shoot or first rough cut screening, and the final third paid in full upon delivery of the approved final master. Pay your own expenses and any rentals or crew costs out of the up-front money. Adjust the amount of the first "third" to make sure this can happen.

And don't start a second project for a client before the first one is all paid for. Set this in stone and tell the client in advance. You're not a finance company! Send them to a bank if they want to work with the interest from somebody else's money,


RULE 2: Discounts never die.

Never believe the proposition that if you do the one or two, or however many projects, at a discount, you'll get a lot more future business at a higher rate.

My own personal rule is to walk away from clients that ever mention this proposition. Any time they suggest a price "adjustment" for volume, suggest they have it happen on the "back end." That is, no, you won't drop your rate on these first spots, but if "we" establish a good working relationship now, you'll start cutting them a volume deal on spot number five and after that.

Repeat this mantra: "I am not a finance company."


RULE 3: Get it in writing.

Spell it all out: what you're doing, at what rate. Specify the deadlines for your work and the client's payments. What happens if the deal is canceled? What format and how many copies are you responsible for delivering?

Who owns the tapes that were shot and the shots once done? Will you be able to include these spots in a demo reel? Will the client provide any stock footage, logos, or other elements?

All these agreements need to be in writing, or they never happened.

Don't forget to write out who pays for errors and changes. How many changes are allowed before a new deal must be arranged? My rule of thumb is, one set of free changes after the rough cut screening or the first time they see the edited master. I interpret this pretty liberally as long as the changes don't require new elements. Mistakes they make, like spelling, they pay for; mistakes I make, I eat.

After a second screening, any more changes are billed as a new job.


RULE 4: It costs what it costs.

The original question was about pricing a spot for a car dealer, so here's the answer in terms they can understand. If they complain about the extra charge for undercoating the back side of all your luma keys, tell them they do that at the factory and you can't take that off -- but you'll go talk to your manager and see if you can make an "adjustment."

Seriously, build a reasonable profit into your rate. Only you know what that means. Divide the time you spend, into the money you hope to make after expenses. Otherwise, you risk working for a wage that qualifies you for your own plastic name tag and spatula.

So work out your true costs of doing business and your profit. Then add some margin on top for safety. See if you're somewhere at least in the upper middle range of competitor's rates for similar work, then reevaluate after the first job.

While it's right to pay attention to what others charge, don't let that figure rule you: they can be lowballing, or have some other reason they can afford to charge too low. If you lowball the first time out, it's hell trying to raise your rate later when it becomes apparent to you that you haven't been charging enough.

And never agree to work at a too-low rate because it's "good for your portfolio/demo reel." Charge business clients a business rate. If you need "free" work for your reel, do pro bono work for your favorite charity instead. It saves you from the pain of trying to raise your rates to the proper level later, and it's better karmically.


RULE 5: Run it by Bessie.

Visit Creative Cow's Business & Marketing forum any time your spider-sense starts tingling or if you just don't know for sure. These guys are very smart and eager to let you benefit from their vast experience and help you avoid mistakes they've made. You have a huge resource and support team here working for you: use it!


It's not just about getting paid

You got into this business to be creative. So what do you when the juices just aren't flowing?

Spend 30 minutes trying to make as many different things with a can of playdough or stack of sugar cubes as possible. Take out a box of crayons or colored pencils and try to sketch something.

Go to the magazine rack in a Barnes & Noble or Borders. Grab a huge stack of magazines you've never read before, particularly in the arts section, but really any genre. Flip through them rapidly, getting fast little impressions. Do the same thing as you wander through library stacks: pull out random things and flip through them.

Go to a museum, any museum, but an art exhibit is particularly good.

Do random Google image searches using obscure and esoteric keyword combinations.

Play some music you haven't listened to for years. Find new music using some of the "if you like this, you might also like" features at iTunes, emusic, Amazon, etc.

Take a walk downtown and look at random things using a little cardboard frame or a 35mm slide frame. Or walk downtown with a digital camera and a fat, empty memory card, and randomly hit the shutter on the beat while listening to some music on headphones, without ever looking in the viewfinder. Examine the results later.

Take the five best shots into Photoshop and start randomly applying every filter you've got to them. Keep a notepad or save out occasional serendipitous results.

Take your public transportation bus line or train all the way to the end of some line and back. Take it someplace new, and get out and walk around.

Browse an ethic food store to find things you've never seen before.

Sit in some public place like a park or terminal. Spend an hour watching the people and making up their life stories in your head based just on what you see.

In other words, play with chaos every once in a while.



Mark SuszkoMark Suszko
Springfield, Illinois USA

Mark Suszko has close to 30 years of experience as a writer/producer/director/editor/anything else, most of it working in government video production for the State of Illinois, as well as a private freelance production and teleprompter rental business. Mark has long history in the Creative COW website and is one of the most prolific posters and contributors in the COW's Business & Marketing forum.



Find more great Creative COW Magazine articles by signing up for the complimentary Creative COW Magazine.


Related Articles / Tutorials:
Business & Marketing
Seven Ways to Make Your Own Luck in The Film Industry

Seven Ways to Make Your Own Luck in The Film Industry

HBO Director of Workflow, post-house founder, owner of the first two RED cameras, founder and developer of Endcrawl, technologist, futurist, educator, and more: John 'Pliny' Eremic, is regularly asked for career advice in the field of filmmaking. Step One, he says, is to consider a new job. There's much more of course, delivered with Pliny's peerless wit, directness, and insight. Whether you're just starting in the business, or looking to break through to the next level, you won't want to miss this guide to making your own luck.

Feature
John 'Pliny' Eremic
Business & Marketing
Creative COW Turns 15! A Celebration of Being Uncool

Creative COW Turns 15! A Celebration of Being Uncool

15 years is a long time on the internet! Travel back with us to the days before YouTube, social media, digital cinema, smartphones, iPods and all the rest, back to the founding of Creative COW by Ronald & Kathlyn Lindeboom in April 2001. Join us for an insider's look at the earliest days of the professional digital video revolution, all the way through the events that have shaped the world's largest community of media professionals, right here at Creative COW.

Editorial, Feature
Tim Wilson
Business & Marketing
7 Customer Service Rules for Better Post Production

7 Customer Service Rules for Better Post Production

Dealing with people is industry-agnostic, but in an industry as competitive as ours, repeat business is everything -- and your clients are more likely to return to you if your customer service skills are great. Here are some customer service tips that are especially helpful for post production.

Feature
Kylee Peña
Business & Marketing
An Odd Delight: A Corporate Editor's Leap Into Broadcast

An Odd Delight: A Corporate Editor's Leap Into Broadcast

Creative COW Contributing Editor Kylee Wall moved from Indianapolis to Atlanta as part of a move from corporate video into broadcast. Sure, some things stayed the same, but so much more was so different -- a new place to live, a new kind of workspace, new kinds of projects, AND TAPE -- that transitioning to a new NLE in Adobe Premiere Creative Cloud was the least of it. Certainly nothing compared to a fever of 104 that took her out for most of her first week. It's a remarkable tale that Kylee tells as only she can.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Kylee Peña
Business & Marketing
Women In Post Join Forces

Women In Post Join Forces

Women in Post is a new HPA (Hollywood Post Alliance) committee formed by and for a decidedly minority group in the world of film/TV high technology. After three meetings -- two of them successful round table discussions, featuring accomplished women in the industry -- the group is expanding its plans to offer networking, mentoring and camaraderie and more.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Debra Kaufman
Business & Marketing
Suck It Up, Buttercup

Suck It Up, Buttercup

The Best Excuses from New or Underemployed Filmmakers and Freelancers: "You've really really got to stop being lazy and making excuses for not getting what you want," says Creative COW Contributing Editor Kylee Wall. "Seriously. It's sad and it makes me sad for you. So sad in fact, that I've created this BEST OF compilation of stupid excuses. It's perhaps a little more brash than my usual fare. Don't mistake this for arrogance. I'm young and stupid too, but I'm still allowed to almost rant. Pseudo-rant. Pretend I made you cookies and you're eating them as you read this."

Editorial, Feature
Kylee Peña
Business & Marketing
Get Hired! Be Professional and Pay Attention to Detail

Get Hired! Be Professional and Pay Attention to Detail

"As technology gets better, communications skills seem to get worse." So says Creative COW leader and Contributing Editor Walter Biscardi, one of the industry's most respected business owners. "The same talented people who can create amazing things on screen have absolutely no idea how to represent themselves via a resume or online demo. Most of what I'm about to say seems to be common sense, but apparently it isn't." You definitely don't want to miss this potentially career-changing advice from an industry luminary!

Editorial, Feature
Walter Biscardi
Business & Marketing
The Heroism of Joyful Creativity

The Heroism of Joyful Creativity

I'm constantly inspired by the pleasure and the pride that the people in Creative COW Magazine take in doing the right things the right way, in always trying to improve, and always keeping their eyes peeled for new possibilities. I aspire to do my own work as creatively and joyfully as they do.

Editorial
Tim Wilson
Business & Marketing
Promote Your Company Worldwide, FREE.

Promote Your Company Worldwide, FREE.

Creative COW's Services Offered Directory is a Powerful Free Resource for Your Business.

Editorial
Ronald Lindeboom
Business & Marketing
The Back Forty: The Real Truth Of How Creative Cow Magazine Did Not Win An Award

The Back Forty: The Real Truth Of How Creative Cow Magazine Did Not Win An Award

Tim Wilson takes over the Back Forty for this issue to say, "Allow me to interrupt our regularly scheduled Back Forty to tell you what happened when our publisher Ronald Lindeboom called me one morning in April, saying, 'You're not going to believe this, Creative COW Magazine finally won an award!'"

Editorial
Tim Wilson
MORE
© 2016 CreativeCOW.net All Rights Reserved
[TOP]