How the fine print protects you and your client by setting expectations

From Contact Form To Contract: Read The Fine Print

Read the fine print

I asked for a signature on my terms and conditions and a deposit check.

“We don’t have the money.”

I got an email from this client yesterday late night, saying that they were not able to pull together funding for the shoot.

Sticking to the fine print helped avert a disaster.

Had I taken this job, I would have spend over $10,000 to shoot the job and I have a feeling I would have been chasing that money for a long time. Last time I checked, I was not an investor in their company or a bank.

Truthfully I’m happy to find out before (and not after)

In truth I would much rather get this email 48 hours before the job, than 48 hours after the job. I had already put the brakes on everything, which means reserving hotel rooms and rental cars that had a no cancellation policy; ordering – but not shipping rental gear; letting the crew know that there was a chance that this job was maybe not happening; having insurance riders ready to go – but not issued.

I scouted the site (6 hour drive round trip), discussed the lighting plot with my gaffer, planned the interview questions with my director, discussed camera angles and shot concepts with my camera man, found a caterer, got a liability insurance certificate for the location, discussed access with the owner, …

Turning this job down was not easy, but it was necessary.

Invest your time (it’s necessary), but not your money.

I’m happy to spend significant amounts of time to bid on a job, plan it, scout locations, hire crew, ect., but I had a feeling about this one (I guess doing any thing for 20 years+ years has it’s benefits) and did not spend any money on this production. I had sent the client my line item estimate with the terms to review and had gotten verbal assurances that I was booked on the job and that the deposit checks were ready 2 weeks ago. All in all I have about 4 days of work into this job (before you get upset at me I understand that my time is valuable, but I am willing to and it is necessary to invest your time to bid on a job – bigger jobs just require more time).

Moral of the story:

• Do NOT start spending your money (in this case I would have had to pay around $10K in order to get the job going – that’s travel, hotel, car rentals, insurance riders, rental equipment, meals, …).

• Always get a signed contract and a deposit, before starting a job.

• Stand firm on your policies (you have those right?).

Today, I’m no worse for the wear than 2 weeks ago, when this job popped up on my radar. True, I would have liked to shoot these videos and make the money for doing a job, but honestly I much rather work with clients that are excited about my work and that are chomping on the bit to work together, than to deal with those that are dragging their feet all the way.

Where to go from here?

Truthfully, I’m happy this job did not come through. At the end the client wasn’t telling me what’s going on until the very last minute (and then it wasn’t the person I had been dealing with, but his CFO). I could tell there was a bad taste in his mouth and I had to ask myself: Is that really the kind of foundation I want the shoot to be build on? Probably not.

I’d much rather prefer the new client I met last week. She is so excited about working with me and was bummed to find out that I do video as well, because she had just contracted out a 5 figure video job to someone else. “I’m going to show him your work and tell him to make his look and sound like yours” she told me as she handed me my deposit check for our upcoming photography series. “Oh, and you’re doing our next video.” [As an aside, this is the client I wrote about in “Don’t sign that contract!” Saying ‘No’ does not mean you’re going to loose the job.]

I’d rather work with the still life client I shot for last week. “We love the pictures and we need more.” they emailed me “when can you go on shooting for us?” It’s a lot easier to produce beautiful and creative work, if you have clients who appreciate the work and love working together. In these cases the fine print defined what I was responsible for delivering and what I expected from the client.

Wanna learn some more?

If you’re not sure if you should sign a contract check out “Don’t sign that contract! You have the power to change it!

Sometimes you just gotta turn bad work down (I just turned down a 5 figure job last week). Find out when saying no is sometimes a good option.

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Mark Gilvey - 3 years ago Reply

I hear you loud and clear!

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