Determining how to price out projects at the rate that is suitable for you can be challenging in a business like film & video production. Potential clients are focused on their end goals and if they haven’t had an experience with visual media in the past, they obviously don’t know where to begin.
When the end result is all you’re used to seeing, it isn’t always easy to understand how you get there. On top of that, there is a lot of competition out there, and even more misinformation about costs and expectations.
With ads being posted everywhere with predetermined budgets without a clear understanding of the work and costs involved, it’s clear that we aren’t doing enough as an industry to illustrate the value of the artist over the materials and the process they use.
Chris Do, Founder of ‘The Futur,’ stops by Indy Mogul to discuss his approach and walk you through a mock negotiation with a potential client.
Even if you’re just starting out making videos, you’ve probably seen a myriad of ads all over the internet on craigslist, Facebook, Mandy, or StaffMeUp requesting video production work at some ultra-low rate.
For our purposes, lets assume only half of those postings are from unscrupulous producers who are trying to take advantage of people who are just starting out and not address those. The other half are likely just people who don’t know what they’re getting themselves into, and it just might be worth your time to help them along.
Clients haggle; they’re business people, and business people are always looking at their bottom line. I don’t think it’s incorrect to assume that every working professional filmmaker has been faced with the awful reality of discussing budgets with clients who don’t understand our business, or even worse the ones who know just enough to piecemeal and trivialize what you’ll be doing to lower the price.
Understanding the cost of doing business is just as important as knowing the benefit of your expenses as a businessperson. Filmmakers, videographers, and designers have to sell their creativity and insight above their core abilities, to guide prospective clients toward their goals. Clients know what they want to accomplish, but not how to get there – that’s your job.
Sometimes you just can’t help them, but if you take the time to talk to people to understand their needs, stick to your standards, and remember to stay positive, you’ve already mastered the art of negotiating. Chris Do presents 3 really useful tips to consider when you’re discussing projects with clients:
Tip #1 – Tailor Your Approach
Don’t allow your conversations to get caught up in the thing that you’ll make, the equipment you’ll use, or the time you’ll spend. Move the conversation away from the nitty-gritty, toward the creative, and take time to understand the purpose behind what they want to accomplish. Focus on the results your work will bring to them, in their world, their business.
Tip #2 – Pricing
Most of the ads you see posted for a cameraman with equipment, editor for X hours, for $X, quick project, flat fees, etc are defining what you do in an arbitrary way. Clients who need videos don’t need workers or equipment, they need messaging that identifies their image and their brand to consumers. Be their ally, not their employee.
I’d hate to use this analogy (I honestly use it all the time) but a plumber doesn’t discuss what pipes or tools they’ll use to fix your leaky sink, they just take you to your final goal of not having a leaky sink, and hand you the bill. Homeowners don’t haggle with plumbers much because they understand the benefit their profession brings to them – but you have to help them understand that about you and your work.
Tell them what their project is worth to you, and come at them with your price that is equitable and holds to your standard of business. Don’t get stuck in nickel and diming, your costs are your costs.
Help them to understand that reducing or diminishing your effort is counterintuitive; just as much, if not more, work goes into shorter projects.
Tip # 3 – “Retreat and Follow”
If the price is really all this client cares about, then offer a referral or find them a better value for their money. Maybe this is something they could just shoot for themselves with their iPhone?
Get them to realize the value of you, the artist they are hiring. It’s easy to break work down to a function, but our work is creativity and experience. If they like your work and want your work, this is the process that you use to get there.
You should always be having real discussions and not guarded conversations with clients. This isn’t a negotiation to see who can do the least work for the most money or who can pay the lowest cost for the most content; this isn’t about winning. You are a manufacturer, a business and as such you determine what your products are worth. You should be just as happy with your arrangement as your client is with their results.
If you hate negotiating or prefer to concentrate on other aspects of the work, consider hiring or partnering with someone to make the sales for you. You’ll likely put as much work or more into acquiring the business as you will make the actual product and that isn’t always right for some people.
At the end of the day, if all a client is interested in is a camera to shoot with and a person to hold it then they’ll get what they pay for in quality and value. The work that you do should reflect your creativity and abilities, not the bare minimum request of the highest bidder. That doesn’t benefit either of you.
[source: Indy Mogul]
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