As a part of this series I’m describing a few of my early client journeys in time-condensed form. Clients arrive at your doorstep in different ways—and when you’re just starting out, that’s give you time to develop your approach, and hone your skills.
Day 40: I responded to a Craigslist ad for a videographer and script doctor. Craigslist isn’t the best place to look for clients (they’re typically below market jobs), but I do keep my eye on the listings. Craigslist moves quickly, so after a couple of days I figured they’d gone with another company.
Day 128: My Craigslist poster responded… 88 days later. He’d had a death in the family and was just returning to the project. Which just goes to show you never really know what’s going on for others, so it’s never productive to get frustrated when things don’t go your way. Concentrate on making good products, and don’t fret when things go South financially.
I immediately responded and we set up a meeting.
Day 134: I met with the water massage client. His place is pretty impressive: large pool, cozy decor, lots of Eastern influences. The client was more grounded and laid-back than I expected. He wants two short videos that show off his individual and couples sessions, both in the water and on the table. It’s an exciting opportunity to be visually creative, to try and visually capture the calming sensuality of the experience. He mentioned that he had a web designer who also did video editing and owed him some hours; he also had a friend that was a writer that he figured could help him with the copy. He wanted to see a quote both with and without the editing and script doctoring. He was clear about not wanting a lowball quote-- that I should charge something fair-- but also that he was watching the budget.
I opted for a reasonably low-ball budget. I short-changed the script writing hours (he thought we could bang it out in under 2 hours, which was unrealistic anyway); didn’t include the set-up time for the filming; and likely chopped 30% off the editing time. Then I offered 25% off the pre and post production elements he was considering outsourcing to others. While it would be edited as two separate videos, it would really be scripted and shot as one 6-minute piece. We wouldn’t do two different interviews, for example, but rather one longer interview. Realistically, the filming would be two 8-hour days, for a total cost of $800. The all-inclusive package (script review and editing) would be $1200 with the discount. Where I live, that’s the cheap end of professional. Given my skimpy portfolio, it felt like a solid ask.
Day 135: My massage client let me know that he has family in town this week, and won’t have time to review it until they’ve left. Not the end of the world, since I’m leaving for a few days to visit family myself. But disappointing. In the meantime I fret about whether I can actually hammer out a living in media production.
Day 140: At close to midnight last night an email came in from my water massage pitch. He thought that while it would be best to have me both shoot and edit the video, his finances were difficult at the moment. He wanted to pay me $100 as a deposit towards doing just the filming, sometime in the future. If he never got around to it I could keep the deposit. It was a very generous offer and only a fool would say no. So of course I countered his offer with another idea (actually, I accepted and then said I had another thought as well): I would do the first video for $400 (roughly the cost of just videotaping the first video); if he liked he could hire me to do the second one for $800. Together, the two would be equal to my quote. But if for any reason he wanted his own (free) editor to do the second, I would shoot it at my hourly rate, and the total would be the same as his offer. Essentially, I offered to edit the first video for free, but the second at double the price. I was a bit reluctant to make this offer, mostly because I didn’t want to appear pushy.
Day 150: Thai Water Massage bit. We’re going to produce the first video and see how it does. His preference was to simply spit the costs into two equal parts-- $600 for the first and $600 for the second. This is an exciting project-- from script development to final edit. We plan on meeting in a week to begin the conceptualization process.
Day 162: We filmed today. The traditional massage portion of the video went well—good conditions for a sensual, artistic approach, but time as limited and I wasn’t able to capture some of the details/close-ups that I had planned. The water portion was more difficult. The setting just didn’t have much “texture.” It was too large to light with character, and the frame of the pool was somewhat industrial. The difficulty of the pool paled in comparison to the talking head pitch. Coming from theatre, I’ve never worked with such an anxious, uncomfortable speaker. And being the camera operator, sound op, and key grip doesn’t leave a lot of bandwidth for the “director” to help coach the client. It’s something I’ll need to work on.
Day 168: Delivered the draft edit to the client. He was extremely pleased with only a couple of minor edits. I was extremely relieved that his anxious performance on camera didn’t upset him; even if I saw the tension, he outperformed his own expectations. In all, the turn-around time on the project was over five months… something to keep in mind. What did I learn? Be patient. Don’t be afraid to make a pitch. Schedule more time for filming. Remember that the client’s performance is the most important aspect of the film.