Seeking Battle Tested Videographers For Advice

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    • #71105680

      Hi there… I’m a new member. Hope I’m in the right thread for this. I’m starting my own video production business. I wanted to reach out to those of you who have been in this game for a while, and learned some life lessons along the way. I’m hoping you won’t mind taking a few minutes to share those lessons so that maybe I can avoid some of the same pitfalls you may have encountered when first starting out. If you’re cool with that, I’d like to start off with this first question: What do you personally consider to be the most essential details that EVERY videographer should include in his/her client contract? Just want to make sure I have all the bases covered. Thanks in advance guys. πŸ™‚

    • #72002688

      Videowarrior, I own my own Utah video production company. It is called Savvy Productions. Feel free to ask me any questions. As for a contract. You are in luck. Read this Videomaker article on contracts. Best of luck.

    • #72002691

      Thank you so much UVP! It’s been a while since I posted this, so I do appreciate your response and offer. Just curious, how many pages does the contract you use for clients have? I found a company in San Diego – TAR PRODUCTIONS, that open sources their contract as a template. It seems they have EVERYTHING covered, but there are ALOT of pages. I think there’s 12. (I downloaded it but can’t seem to find it at the moment) But I wonder if 12 pages would scare away a lot of clients. What do you think?

    • #72002703

      I can’t imagine the hassles I’d get attempting to be that prescriptive. I appreciate the content, but unless the contract was for substantial amounts – and I think I’m talking about ten grand amounts plus, where the money is high enough to warrant extra protection, then it’s a bit over the top for me.

      For the sorts of claim values we’d take to our UK country court system, then in general the contract needs to simply detail what both parties will do, and what the remuneration will be – including time for settlement etc. I cannot imagine any of my regular clients signing something like that without wanting to run it past their own solicitor, as it’s complex.

    • #72002704

      Thanks for the input paulears. Yes, that was my concern. Apparently this particular company went through some unexpected legal problems with clients and as a result, made every attempt to cover all the bases. I’ve been trying to whittle away a few of the clauses and only keep the most important ones for someone like myself – a small video production solopreneur. But I tend to agree with your sentiments.

    • #72002717

      The best advice a friend gave me was to limit your potential loss. What is the worst thing that can happen? Spend your money doing something then not get paid. So what will doing the job really cost? Fuel, food, possibly accommodation? If the job is easy distance, so you don’t need hotels and food, then the real cost of shooting is very little. Memory cards are not like shooting on tape – where you could spend lots of money on things you won’t use again. Time? Did you turn away other work, losing the money on that job to do this one? My time on paper is valuable. However – if I had a diary hole, then my real earning potential for the time taken to do the job was zero. Then I look at the probable maximum invoice value. If the income from the job is going to be higher than the personal limit I set, then I get more detailed in my contracts. To be honest, for many of my clients I do not do a formal, written contract that they sign. Repeat reliable clients I don’t do, unless I am going to have to spend a lot of real cash to do the project, like hiring equipment, venues and other people. I tend to set out things in emails, as questions that need responses, but create a record of things agreed, just in case we do end up in a legal situation. I will put the details in an email like this.

      “Hi John, all set for the Tuesday shoot at the Marina. As we discussed I’ve based the Β£1400+VAT cost on us finishing by 13:00, but if we need to change this to 15:00 it does have an impact on the price, increasing the cost to Β£1700+VAT. Do you think this is likely, as I need to make sure the venue are OK with the extra two hours”

      Phrasing this as a question brings back a response
      “Thanks Paul, but I’m sure we can be out by 13:00”. To be honest, I don’t really care, but the response would satisfy the small claims court here in the UK. An offer, and acceptance, with the sums clearly detailed.

      Of course I could have wrapped this in a multi-page, legal document that mentions all the things that can go wrong. I think the invoice going into 5 figures would lead me towards something more formal. Most of my work is in theatres – musical theatre, show reels for performers, that kind of stuff, and for many of these, price is paramount as they do not have any money. So lots of people want to edit themselves, so I will do a two hour job, charge say Β£140 but KEEP the memory card. I put up half of maybe three contrasting songs onto Vimeo with a password so they can see it. Once they pay by bank transfer, they get the memory card, or if they want a download. If, as happens from time to time, they realise their singing was horrible, or they look fat – they won’t pay, and go very quiet. In my area, this means I lost an evening, and maybe 20 miles of fuel. They also get the clips for free, on youtube, free to watch, and a facebook post thanking them, with the link. Did a nice shoot last week at XXXX for Jane Smith (with her facebook link) then post the clip. Works pretty well. Lots of work comes via facebook friends, so this punishment usually works 50% of the time. I get the money and remove the video. I realise this is very much because of the nature of my work and won’t work for normal people. My actual bad debits are pretty low, and the occasional one I can live with. Frankly – for a couple of hours work, I’m OK with it. Especially as doing the shoot often produces requests for others at the same place.

      One VERY important thing for me is ownership of the material. Despite rarely being of use in the future, I do not sell the footage, I give them unlimited use of it, but the ownership stays with me. If they can use the material for any purpose and make money from it, I’m cool with that, so they get a licence to use the material in perpetuity, in any territory. “The price I’ve quoted (Β£XXXXX) also includes the rights for you to use this material any territory, in perpetuity – which means wherever and forever, which covers everything I think – although you will need to think about the rights on the soundtrack, but I’m sure the tracks you used on the night were cleared for performance, so you’d just need to look into this if you do something public with the material on the night – I could probably sort this out for you if you wish, let me know if you need me to do this”
      That also goes in one of the emails, which again would show that I tried. This in the UK is not is not so cut and dried, but I’d take my chances on that one – the court would see I did at least try, and offered.

      I’m absolutely certain legal professionals would laugh at my ‘system’ but it seems to work for me and is nice and friendly – If I gave that multi page document to a singer in a venue they’d run a mile. Worst case is you don’t get paid. I never look at it like I just lost Β£2000, I really lost Β£50 in real costs, and the pleasure of the other Β£1950.

      • #72002745

        Thank you guys for such detailed and valuable information! I agree, this contract is overwhelming to say the least. However, since my nature tends to lean more toward the cautious side, I do feel more comfortable to have some things in writing and signed by both parties.

        I am going through the pages now, trying to figure out which parts are not really necessary for someone like myself. Not exactly sure yet… Would like to whittle it down to 3-4 pages – tops. Definitely makes me bleary eyed!

        I have heard people say that they get a 50% deposit down upon sighing; 25% down on first day of production; and 25% for the final product.

      • #72002757

        It is better to play it safe. Best of luck. Any other questions?

        Utah Video Productions

    • #72002722

      That is a crazy long contract. This may get me in trouble but we don’t use contracts. I would rather go through life believing people are good and will honor their commitments. This is the same business philosophy as Marcus Lemonis. Owner of Camping World and a bunch of other companies. I think the best way to prevent problems is to manage client expectations and make sure what you create is what your client wants.

      Utah Video Productions

    • #72002723

      I forgot to mention. When we have a new client we have never worked with or a job that requires a big expense up front such as actors, rentals or travel we require a % of the job payment up front. This protects you in case they end up not paying the full amount and can cover the expenses as well.

      Utah Video Productions

    • #72002779

      Yes, thanks for asking UVP!

      What are some of the backup precautions you take during a shoot to make sure the client’s video was recorded properly and that it’s safely backed up during the entire production and post production process.


      • #72002781

        By recorded properly do you mean make sure it is recorded the way the client likes it so you don’t have to go back and film it? Or just how do you make sure it is recorded right so it looks good in post? As for backup. After a day of filming, I promptly move my footage off my cards and onto my computer. I have a server that is set up as a raid so if 1 or 2 drives fail I don’t lose anything and can swap out the drives. If you don’t have a Raid I would recommend looking into one. I think we have all had a situation where we have had a drive fail.

        Utah Video Production

    • #72002823

      Sorry I should have clarified, so that you don’t have to go back and film it. Do you bring a lap top with you? Looks like you have a pretty good back up system. Yes, I will def have to look into that. Thanks.

      • #72002867

        When filming locally I don’t bring a laptop. It is go, go, go and I don’t have time. I have enough cards I can hold everything on them for the day. When I’m done I always back up the card to our server. When I travel I have extra drives I transfer the footage to. I have a main drive and a back up just in case. Don’t want to look like an idiot who lost a days worth of footage.

        Utah Video Production

    • #72002937

      Exactly. That’s why I was wondering what the pros do. Thanks! πŸ™‚

    • #72003027

      You’ve been AWESOME UVP! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to help me. Can’t think of anything at the moment, but when I do, I’ll reach out again. It’s been very much appreciated! πŸ™‚

    • #72003041

      Right on. Best of luck!

      Utah Video Production

    • #72003232

      Hey UVP, I’m back sooner than I thought ! would be! lol.

      If you still have the time, something came up recently and I’d like your feedback please.

      Not sure if I mentioned this but, I have switched toward being a producer and started hiring freelancers. Although I love to edit and shoot, I felt that as a beginner, it was going to take me too long to get up to speed to start my own business. (I’m a slow learner) So I’m going to be producing for small businesses, and then hopefully have the freedom and $$$ to film and edit my own projects on the side.

      With that being said, How do you pay your shooter and editor? Do you have a preference for how you pay them? Hourly? Or flat fee? The first guy I had, agreed to my rates of $50 per/hr for shooting and $30 per/hr.for editing. But it turns out he was unreliable. So I found someone else but she wants to get paid by a flat fee.

      It kind of threw me, because even though I have no experience knowing whether one way is better over another, I sort of had my mind set on paying her by an hourly rate.

      She wants to know if I can renegotiate this with her. But before I do, I wanted to be prepared. If you don’t mind, what do you typically pay your videographers and editors? Do you have a preference in how you pay them? If so why?

      Thanks again! πŸ™‚

    • #72003233

      That’s a good question. I do hire freelancers when things get busy for us and we just can’t handle everything on our own. Since I run a Utah Video Production company in Utah I only have experience with Utah freelance editors and DPs. Camera people charge a half day or a full day rate and most editors charge an hourly rate. The half-day full day rate for camera operators is because if someone wants them for an hour and everyone else wants them for 4 hours then they will lose out on 3 hours of work. The only thing they can sell is their time and when it is booked they can’t bail on you so the half day full day deal protects them. Editors can edit through the night if they need to so they have a lot more flexibility in selling their time. Heads up a typical full day is 10 hours.

      When it comes to editing I prefer to be paid at a flat fee instead of hourly. Hourly doesn’t reward editors who are fast and efficient. I know you can argue that you can just raise your hourly rate but you do hit a point where your rates are just too high and when someone compares you and you are charging triple the other person they have a tendency to think you charge too much. A flat rate to me helps make it more of an apple to apple comparison.

      The reason I hated flat rates starting out is because I didn’t know how long something would take to do. So hourly protected me when it took much longer then I thought. Now that I’ve been doing this professionally full time for over 15 year I have a really good sense of how long something will take.

      Bottom line, the freelancer gets to set their rate and how they get paid. You can either go with it or negotiate.

      I recommend you make sure to pay your freelancers as soon as possible or they won’t want to work with you again. Having been around the block I can afford to pay my freelancers the week of work and wait 30 + days to get paid by might client.

      Hope this helps. If not let me know.

    • #72003324

      Yes, thank you! It helps very much! The reason why I asked is because I had a disappointing experience with someone I hired a few weeks back as my first freelancer. I offered to pay him hourly for both the shoot and edit. He agreed, but as time went on he apparently was taking on too much and had to drop out. So he passed my contact info to someone else. But I was thrown a little off guard because she prefers to get paid with a flat rate.

      Since I am just starting out, I was unsure which payment system would be best for me to adopt. Obviously, I want my freelancer to perform efficiently but at the same time, as a producer/director I want to make sure I get a good percentage out of the sale as well.

      So right now I’m just trying to figure everything out. Most likely I’ll have to make adjustments as I go along. It’s all a learning experience.

      Thanks for the tip on paying them first. Hope I’ll be able to do that. Also, I don’t want these freelancers to feel like outside contractors. I want them to genuinely feel a part of my team of creatives, and buy into the vision I have for my business, which is to allow them to fully utilize their skills/passion to help purpose driven business owners tell their story and create meaningful connections with people.

      I’m trying to set up a meeting with the new person and hopefully, FINALLY get my business up and running. Thanks again UVP! πŸ™‚

      • #72003327

        The nice thing with a flat fee for an editor is you know exactly how much you are going to pay them. Whereas hourly could cost more then what they originally thought. The flat fee can help protect you so you don’t lose the margins you where planning on. Best of luck.

        Utah video production

    • #72003335

      Makes perfect sense. So maybe the change between videographers was a blessing in disguise. Thanks again!

    • #72003336

      A couple of things in this thread that I disagree with fairly strongly. For me, not having a well thought-out and articulated contract is suicidal. A contract is a communication tool: “Here’s what you want done, here’s what I will do for you. It will cost you this much, etc., etc.”

      Things you may take for granted — e.g., getting access to the venue, getting a lunch break, having a place to park, cancellation if it pours rain on the you are scheduled for an outdoor shoot, who pays for the time taken for drug testing for you and your crew, etc. –may be quite different from what your client takes for granted. You need to come to an understanding and that’s what the contract helps do.

      When we started our business more than 20 years ago I drew up a contract and took it to my attorney. The question I put to him: “Can you go into court and defend our company with this contract in hand.” He made quite a few changes and we’ve used the document ever since. It’s only three pages long but it’s designed to cover most contingencies. It can be supplemented if necessary.

      As far as how to pay sub contractors: we pay hourly for anyone on a shoot, with a four-hour minimum (half-day.) I don’t know many editors who will work for a flat rate. There’s no such thing as an “easy” edit, no way to guess how long it will take to edit a piece. Clients — especially commercial clients — often want extensive changes as they see what’s possible, and a simple question like “Can we change this” can involve hours of additional work.

      You can tell a client “I think this will take about 10 hours — $800 — but it could go over this. I’ll let you know when we approach that mark and you can see where you want to go from there.”

    • #72003341

      Thanks so much for your feedback Jack. I’m more of a “better be safe than sorry” kind of person so you’ll hear no arguments from me about having something written down and being specific.

      The problem is that I was following the template offered by TAR Productions and I just can’t hand a 12 page contract (or whatever it was) to a client. Three sounds about good.

      Can’t afford an attorney right now so I’m sort of whittling the bigger contract down to something more digestible. But for someone like myself who is very detailed oriented, this has been a nightmare! lol. They seemed to have covered every minute detail that I am still hung up on which terms would be the most pertinent ones to include in my own agreement, which is for a much smaller business.

      And I agree about the editing. The client should be told that it’s an estimate of time.


    • #72003349

      I’ll be happy to share our contract with you if you like. You can reach me through our website.

    • #72003392

      That is so nice of you to offer Jack! I may actually take you up on it since I’m just spinning my wheels trying to get mine together. Thanks again. πŸ™‚

    • #72003395

      Thanks for sharing this valuable information to our vision. You have posted a trust worthy blog keep sharing.

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