How to Quote for Video Production Work
Applying the same due diligence to your ‘back of house’ finances as to your craft as a videographer is vital to maintaining an efficiently run business. The biggest plus to putting in the hard work at the start of any project is that it will make the admin side of things much easier. The invoicing process starts before you’ve been awarded the contract – it starts with the quote.
Do I need to quote?
It is always good practice to send a quote to a potential client. Even if you have regular clients that know your pricing, and may not need a quote, you certainly do. It may take a little time to get right, but there are several reasons as to why you should quote for everything, which we will discuss later.
What should be in my quote?
When submitting a quote, it is essential that you have discussed with the client the project scope, and agreed on milestones for deliverables, including when you can get paid. A quote might also be called a ‘Draft Estimate’ this is because both you and your client understand that the costs involved might change as the project requirements evolve. Your quote should be your best estimate at what the invoice will look like based on the details provided by the client.
Your quote should include;
A full breakdown of all the services you are providing, how much each services costs and how long the duration of the service they are receiving, for example, four days of offline editing at £300+vat per day
- Deliverables list – let the client know exactly what they will be getting e.g. 1 x 2 minute video and 2 x 30 second videos.
- The date the quote was sent.
- The date the quote expires – you don’t want clients coming back after a year and holding you to your old pricing.
- Your contact information – name/business, phone number, address, email.
- Clients contact information – name/business, phone number, address, email.
- Your registered company number
- Your VAT number
- Payment terms – If you use project milestones to receive payment throughout the contract duration or if you need a deposit before starting the work (e.g 50%).
What should a quote look like?
You can create your own quoting system, and most document software (word, pages etc.) will have a quote and invoice template included. You can take a look at a range of free to download templates here.
Alternatively, software such as QuickBooks or Xero will have a full quoting function that will ensure you are not missing vital information and can speed up the process by pre-filling set information boxes such as your address.
It is possible that after you have sent your initial quote, the client may query or try to negotiate the cost. Don’t panic, this is a standard part of doing business with anyone; they will always want to get the best possible price. You may think ‘I’ll take a cut in the price to ensure I get the work’ which is admirable if a little naive. Remember you are breaking down your costs to daily or hourly services. It is worth noting that the client is paying for your professionalism and the years of honing your craft, don’t be too eager to sell yourself short. Compromise is a part of doing business, but make sure you’re getting a price that is fair (the client will respect you for it).
Here are some simple ways you can reduce the cost without setting yourself a lower hourly/daily rate.
- What can the client do? It is entirely possible you have quoted for services that the client can do for themselves. For example, if you have included the cost of sourcing and booking a location for the shoot, you can remove this cost if the client agrees to source this themselves.
- Reduce the time/scope of the project. Most of the time, the client won’t know how long a project will take to film or edit. You might quote for a day filming, but the client only believes you need half a day. More often than not this is an attempt to reduce the price. If the client asks you to reduce the amount of time suggested for part of the production, you can do this so long as you make clear that any additional time will be charged for.
- First-time discount. It is usually first time clients that will negotiate cost hardest; sometimes you can satisfy them by offering a first time discount on the entire quote. Make sure you add any discounts to the total sum, so they can still see your full rate individual services. They will be grateful for you helping them out but understand further services will be charged at the full rate.
Sending the quote
Once you have sent a quote, it is still important that you receive written confirmation from the client that they accept the estimate before you begin any work. Once a quote is accepted it can act as proof that your client knew the work was taking place and understood the cost implications.
If you use Accounting software, the client will receive an ‘Accept this quote’ button within the quote email, allowing them to accept it with one click of a button.
Before you quote initially, the client will give you a brief; this might be a fully written brief or just a quick call/email to discuss their requirements. When you quote, you are telling the client how much it will cost to achieve the brief.
Occasionally, the client might change the brief after the costing has been agreed. If this is the case, you have every right to re-quote the client based on their changes. There are some rules to this, however;
- Always inform your client as soon as you are aware a cost might change.
- Send an amended quote showing the changes in cost.
- Don’t do any of the extra elements until the client has confirmed they accept the additional cost.
Communication is vital throughout the process, and while you may not like discussing money with your clients, it is important to be upfront about these things to protect both yourself and your client. If you just send an invoice at the end of the project with unexpected costs in, you may upset the client, or they may refuse to pay altogether, even if the additional costs are a result of their changes to the brief.
So, you’ve finished a project, the client has signed off, and you are ready to get paid. If you have done the quoting correctly the invoicing part will be easy. Your invoice should include all of the same information as the quote, and in some cases, the only thing that will change between the two is the title of the document.
Include your project code, the due date, and itemise the invoice to include every billable element that has gone into the film. If you use accountancy software, you can turn your quote into an invoice with the click of a button.
Getting Paid On Time
The vast majority of clients I’ve worked with over the last 15 years have no problem settling invoices on time; the standard is 30 days. However, every once in a while you’re going to have to deal with a late-paying client. Usually, this can be resolved amicably by talking with the client to reach a solution, but that isn’t always possible.
If you’ve gone the sensible route and got an agreement signed, then you’ve already outlined the next steps which may include adding interest to the invoice and legal action. Most videographers have terms and conditions that include a copyright notice; this will enable you to request that Youtube remove the content. It can take a little while to go through Youtube’ process, but this can be an effective method to get that problematic client to pay.
I recently encountered a problem with a client that was nearly a year overdue on a modestly sized invoice. They had signed two separate payment agreements which didn’t yield any results. After resolving it without a solicitor’s help became untenable, we sought legal assistance. Only one of three payments were received, and then they stopped communicating altogether. In cases like these you have three options;
- Get A CCJ (County Court Judgement) and go through the courts to retrieve your money; getting the CCJ is relatively inexpensive, but should you go to court this can prove to be costly, so you’ll need to consider if the sum your chasing is worth the expense. To get a CCJ, you will need to provide evidence that the money is owed. This is where your organised paper trail of briefs, quotes, confirmation emails and invoices becomes invaluable.
- If you have a late invoice, there are debt collection companies that you can go to for help; most operate on a no win no fee basis. Sometimes a letter from a debt recovery company is enough of a fright to get the client to get back in touch. Again, you will need to be able to prove that the money is owed, good job you are prepared.
- Give up; it is a sad reality of our industry that sometimes you just don’t get the money you’re owed. It hasn’t happened often, but on two occasions over the last 15 years a client has folded their respective companies, and I was too far down on a long list of people who were owed money.
In all likelihood, involving lawyers, making copyright claims or going to court isn’t something you’ll encounter often, but it is advisable to be prepared for that eventuality should it arise.
Quoting and invoicing are two sides of the same coin, and it is essential that both sides work harmoniously to give the client an easy experience working with you. So there you have it, everything you need to know about getting the basics of quoting and invoicing locked down so you can get on with what you do best.