10 Things You Are Probably Forgetting From Your Videography Quotes

10 Things You Are Probably Forgetting From Your Videography Quotes

Pricing your work as a small-scale filmmaker or videographer is not that straight-forward, because it has many nuances that are specific to the type of work, style of work, and type of client. Here are my 10 suggestions for items you may probably miss from your estimate.

We all know that we need to include day rate, rented gear, travel costs, a fee for post processing, and licensing. Based on my current experience I am adding a few more.

Time for Packing and Unpacking Gear

That's time and hard labor. Especially with those heavy hard cases designed to keep your precious items safe, it's usually a very physical job to move gear to the car or the truck, from the vehicle to the client's location and then back to the vehicle and back to your studio or your home.

Amount of Gear and Size of Team You Will Use on the Job

You have to charge by the piece of gear you're using on the job, because it's the same like renting it from a third party company. It's a one thing to agree you're going to film it with a camera on a tripod and a reflector. It's a totally different thing if you need to carry a slider, a small jib, a few lights, light stands, and let's not forget about sandbags. Remember to always give a quote for the gear you can do a decent job with. It's not about being cheap, but about having a great result at a fair price. The same goes for the extra people you may need to add to the team.

BTS from a recent filming

Render Time

Most of the video editors are usually taking up the majority of your computing resources not only during editing, but especially at the rendering phase. While a project is rendered you may be able to work on something else, but you'll probably not be able to render or make anything that demands more computer power at that time. Usually it takes at least several renders for even a simple project, because you always find something to tweak after you watch the finished result or the client does (if they get a chance to see a draft version). This is especially valid if your project requires VFX work or 3D where render time can grow exponentially. Remember the fate of Rhythm and Hues where because of working on fixed-price contracts (demanded by the production studios) all "last minute changes" reflected on the time it took for changing and re-rendering VFX scenes without any extra compensation for the VFX company.

Extra Changes Required By The Client

This is a tricky one. If you're working with a commercial client it's more likely for you to send them draft versions which in turn may result into more changes than your usual post-processing time. For that reason, I would add a fee that would cover small tweaks, but will make it clear in the contract that there will be an extra fee will be applied over considerable changes the parties haven't agreed upon yet. This can include small motion graphics, captions, different animations in the beginning and ending screens, VFX shots like removal of items from the shot or more complex items. Sometimes these changes will require extra meetings or online screen-sharing with the client. Such gatherings can take hours for tweaks that seem trivial.

Storage Space

Today's cameras are very disk space-hungry and this must be an asset you ought to consider. The file format you are going to be shooting at will dictate the amount of storage the project will take. Will you need a 4K ProRes HQ for a seven-day documentary film, or 1080p AVCHD will be good enough? Will this project expire (will be deleted from your archives after some time) or you have to keep the unprocessed footage indefinitely? Don't forget to at least double that space (depending on your storage facility, RAID level, etc.), because you are determined to keep a back-up as well.

Organizing the Footage in Your Brain

That's probably the most important part before starting any cutting. You need to get everything organized by folders, which, I think, everyone does. Then comes the part with watching the footage you're about to cut so you can pick the good portions of it and keep it all in your brain. If you switch projects at that time you will easily forget what you've been watching so far. For that reason you need time to focus back on that project, "upload" the footage in your brain "RAM," and continue cutting. This requires time, because your brain can't simply switch to another task immediately.

Synchronizing Audio and Video

There are automated ways to do that, but it depends on your workflow and the software and hardware you're using. Timecode is great, but it will bump up your gear expenses and client's invoice. On the other hand you will have to rely on plugins or in the worst case - manual synchronization.

Color Grading

A few years ago I thought color grading is just for films, while on small projects you just put a layer on all the similar shots and you're done. I wish it was that simple. Sometimes you need to grade a clip technically wrong to make it feel right with the clip that's before it. For that purpose you need to carefully process every single clip and re-watch it with the previous and the next one.

Organized media, color grading

Reserve Time For a Second Look

Try to never deliver the project right after you've rendered it for the first time even if you think it's perfect. Take some time away from the computer screen, or better, wait for the next day and re-watch your masterpiece. More often than not it won't look as a precious gem on the next day. Add at least an extra day in your delivery period for that purpose.

Food and Beverages

As trivial as it may sound, if you're spending a day at the client's place, you need some time to feed yourself and your team and get refreshed with beverages. If you decide not to eat during the day, the day for filming will be shorter, but at your health's expense. You better include that in your quote both as time and expenses.

What Would You Add?

All those above are based on my personal experience and workflow. Do you think there are other important items that you include in your estimates? Such may be helpful to me too. Let me know your opinion in the comments below.

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19 Comments

Johnny Rico's picture

I'm going to have to stop you at the first one, "Time for Packing and Unpacking Gear", do people really charge for that? I've always assumed that's part of the reason why my day rate/creative fee is able to be so high, to cover/include un-billable things such as this. Then the time unloading and loading on location falls under a pre production day or a full day.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Thanks for stopping by.

This article would probably be better titled "Things videographers forget when calculating their Cost of Doing Business". This is a great list of those types of items, but I can't imagine putting any of these items on an estimate. It should all be part of our day rate or part of the editing costs.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

It doesn't really matter if you tell those to the client or you include them into an item with a broader meaning. It's just a reminder to keep these in mind too.

Johnny Rico's picture

I mean, I don't get the snark Tihomir, it was an honest question if others are really doing this. To me opens up the appearance of trying to nickle and dime a client.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Do not look at it like squeezing a dime here and there. Think about your "emails and phone calls" time. Isn't that falling into the same realm as packing and unpacking gear? You put "emails and phone calls" into your cost, don't you? What's the problem with packing and unpacking. What about storage archival space? Disk space is cheap, but having 10 projects with hours of 4K ProRes HQ footage with one-minute results will quickly fill up hard drives (in RAID).

Does the client think about your packing and unpacking time? No. Do you include it in your calculation? Yes.

Does the client think about your emailing and phone calls time? No. Do you include it in your final price? Yes.

Does the client think about your archival storage space their project takes? No, absolutely not. But you include it in your calculation.

All those above have the same theme in common: they are things the client doesn't even think of, but they are an expense of yours. The client only knows that you will film them for 1 hour for an interview, you will give them a one-minute clip and you'll charge them for usage. That's why it's not a "nickle and dime" thing, but "everything else" (of course you can add more things to these 10) that you have to add.

Remember that these articles are read by people who are going to enter the video realm and have no idea what's going on, especially photographers trying a fusion business model. There are also clients of yours that may potentially read those and get an idea what happens behind the [scenes] estimate.

Ryan Sauve's picture

Off the top of my head, travel time and gas (if an out of town shoot) to shooting location, parking, per diem if it's an out of town film shoot, production insurance, client hard drive if you've arranged to provide them a copy of the footage, offloading footage time.

I just wrap it up into pre-production, production, and post-production items on the estimate/invoice. If clients want an itemized estimate/invoice, I always have one ready and only been asked for it once. I charge for every little thing and clients don't seem to balk at my prices.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Offloading time and client hard drive are great additions to my personal reminder list. Thanks.

In 2019, you cannot charge for any of this, nor for your time if you want to make real money. None of this is of any interest to a client. Each line item is an opportunity for them to nickel dime you.

Want to make money: you need to charge for the value the client gets. Ask them to describe their future state if your project is a success. Both in terms of accomplishments and in financial figures. (I.e. expecting a benefit of xxxx $ over x months) and agree to be paid part of that.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

That pretty much sounds like "what is your budget?", which is not the way to go for many clients in 2019.

This is why you have a licensing fee. Everything else is technical work that can be well estimated + creative fee which is whatever you like (relative to the quality of your portfolio).

Aaaaabsolutely NOT the same !!
If I ask you : "what is your budget ?" WIll you answer me ? 99% chances you won't cause you will feel my intention is to suck it until your last dime.

On the other hand is I ask you questions like :
Why do you need your project to be done?
What are you really trying to accomplish ?
By digging deeper YOU will help me diagnosing your real problems we need to solve. (Spoiler: most of the time they're about business).

Then when for example, suppose the real objective is you need to increase your market share and hope to do it by increasing visibility.

I can then ask questions about quantities : How will you measure the success ?
The logical answer here is "we hope to increase the market share by x%"

Then ask : and what would that mean for your business such an increase of the market share ?
Then logical answer here is an amount in $ : "that would mean we will increase our revenue by xxx $". (And if they do not understand, ask them point blank : what would that mean in terms of revenue).

Then ask : to increase you revenue by that amount, what would be a reasonable amount of money to do so ? They will probably tell you a higher number than you thought of asking for your services. If they don't, ask them if they think it's reasonable to invest 500 $ and hope to make 500 000 $ with it. It's delusional. Often they will correct themselves and see it's more in line to invest 10-20% of the money you hope to make.

The client will answer those questions cause he will feel I am trying to help him solve problems and make more money, not feel I am trying to suck his budget till it's last dime (even tough he might end paying more than that)

That's how you talk about money and how you get some.

And that has NOTHING to do with the COST of YOUR project, but the VALUE you create for your client (i.e. the money THEY will make with your help).

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I see you point.

It's about trying to prove them investing in you is good for your business. That's fine if they haven't seen your portfolio or if your portfolio doesn't have something similar to what they want or you are contacting them trying to make them a client of yours.

Most clients I work with work with me because of what they see in my portfolio. I am asking them for the scope of the project and give them a rough estimate so that they have an idea for a price range. My personal approach (the last several years) have never been proving myself to them, because I left that task to my portfolio. To me this is like going to a store where you want a certain product X, because you like the other products from that brand. You don't need a salesman to make you buy it, because you like it and you want to buy it. If the price of the product is too high for you that doesn't make you dislike the product. It's just a price you can't afford. If you really really like it, you will find a way to get money to pay for it.

On the other hand, if you go to a store where you don't know what brand to buy, you need a salesman to tell you what they offer and what the product can do for you.

In my business experience I've found that if the portfolio doesn't speak well enough, it's useless to me to try to convince them I can do something for them. I've always worked with clients who wanted to work with me, because of my work, not because of the way I convinced them. But, again, that's my way of doing business.

Tihomir Lazarov read this book. https://www.amazon.com/Win-Without-Pitching-Manifesto/dp/1605440043
It's going to surprise me VERY VERY VERY VERY MUCH if you don't get an epiphany about what I'm telling you after that. It's the best investment you will make for your business.
Talk to you after ;-)

Oh and by the way. Don't stress about your portfolio. If you got a meeting with a customer who already saw it online, that means it qualifies. You need to differentiate on other stuff to make the sale. Namely : solving real problems for the client and let him imagine a life with a solution to those. That's when they FEEL (it's based on emotions, not rational decisions) compelled to give you the money.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Exactly. I don't meet with clients talking about my portfolio, but talking about how I understand the problem I have to solve with the work I'm about to do. This is why meeting face to face is important. People judge by your smile, by your shirt, by your voice timbre, and sometimes by the way you write your blog :) Price is irrelevant in these cases. I've been working on jobs where my price was the highest from the competitors who also gave estimates. It's not about price here. It's mostly two things, as you've said: the portfolio qualifies you for the run, and your attitude on a face-to-face meeting wins their hearts (although it sounds poetically).

Also, keep in mind there is a common ground for all clients, but there's a "periphery" that many of these books teach that is not applicable to different cultures and markets. Many of the psychological trickery in the business books by US authors simply doesn't work in Europe. I'm not saying all such authors talk about trickery, but there's quite a lot that I see many people around me try to apply, but the people and culture are different and it simply doesn't work. Keeping it down to the common ground is the best and universal recipe: simple business relationships with honesty and transparency.

I'm from Europe, it's the same here. And all over the world.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I'm working with all kinds of people and they are different when it comes to the "trickery" reaction. The rest is the same, because it's the core of the authentic business relationships.

At the beginning of last year I started charging a fee for my time prepping for shoots, doing emails, calls, etc and just put it in under pre-production. If I need to source VO artists, stock, etc it's more but I've never had a client push back on it, not even returning clients who I'd had it rolled into shoot day/editing costs for in the past.

When I upgraded to a higher priced NAS, I added a line item for "Digital Archiving" and again... no push back. If they do push back on that one I'll just let them know that I'll only store their project for 30 days and if they want to have a copy, I can provide them that but then they'll have to pay for my time to transfer, pay for the hard drive, pay for shipping, etc which will add up to more than the minimal amount I charge them to have their project on hand. I have a lot of clients who say "remember that video we did a year or two ago, we want to update that" and if I don't have those files stored then they wouldn't be able to do that.

The best thing I ever did, I did when I started which was including 3 or 5 rounds of revisions in the estimates. It works best for motivating agencies who would just sit and nit pick things. I'm able to say "I'm cool with sitting here and doing this all day, but after the next version you'll start incurring a fee of X per round, even if it's swapping a couple images." That motivates them to combine feedback and think about the changes vs thinking it's just a free run on my time. They know I'm here to do the updates, but not an unlimited amount for free.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

That's a great contribution. Thanks!