How To Manage Client Expectations In Post Production

by Trenton Massey


Posted on May 5, 2020 12:45:00 PM


Ah, the wonderful world of post production. Where all of the magic happens and terabytes worth of footage captured during production is organized and woven into an intricate story. Many say this is the most important stage in a video’s lifeline. Let’s face it, they’re all equally as important, but it’s definitely the lengthiest phase.

A good portion of that lengthy time is spent implementing revisions. We’ve all been there —  implementing round after round of revisions with no end in sight. That can be frustrating for both parties. But there’s ways to avoid headaches like this.

Whether you’re a producer or an editor -- When a client approaches you for a project, saying that their expectations are only a little too high would be an understatement, am I right?

Managing a client’s expectations is not always the easiest thing to do, but if you consider the tips I’m about to lay down, then you have the potential to save yourself time, hassle, money, and…

FRUSTRATION!

Alright, let’s get into it!

PRODUCER

If you’re a producer, you always have to walk a tightrope in post. A lot of producers inevitably misquote in this category and there never seems to be enough money to finish the project the way we all wish we could. This budget pinch in post is not on the producers though. Typically a producer is getting a lot of pressure from the client to deliver filet mignon with a hotdog budget.

And a lot of time producers get stuck putting up their own money unbeknownst to the client to finish a project correctly simply because it’s not best practice to hit the client with surprise invoices. Most producers want to maintain a working relationship with their clients for as long as possible if it’s an ideal situation.

Now if you’re looking to avoid this post pitfall, then start with this simple advice…

How To Manage Client Expectations In Post Production

Be Up Front!

Be realistic when you send them your initial proposal. Don’t second guess what you deserve to charge and if you don’t know what to charge, you’re probably charging too much or too little. There’s always going to be a little haggling going on — that’s part of the game. But don’t sell yourself or your post team short. And clients appreciate you being honest about the price. That way they can work it out before production begins and adjust their vision to expect what they can afford. There’s nothing they hate more than surprise charges. 

I’m willing to bet some of you are thinking — “Well I don’t want to quote too high and miss out on the opportunity altogether!” This is a valid concern when you have to pay your rent or mortgage. But if you’re dealing with a professional company, brand or what have you, they’re going to expect to pay the standard price and you can charge what you need to. You have to just trust your integrity, hold your ground, and kindly pass on projects if they don’t value your process. 

If they do choose to use your services and you have the budget you need to execute then...

 

Get On The Same Page!

Sometimes you have to pull teeth to get a good perspective on a client’s expectations, but even if you don’t have to —  don’t ever start down a road without the client’s approval of the vision first. Discuss all of the details up front, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Leaving your client in the dark is a bad move. Yes, they’re coming to you to lead the direction of the vision, but they need to approve the ideas. And what does it hurt? Client’s love feeling like they’re contributing creatively.

When creating your agreement, be sure to include the number of revision rounds and be specific. Let them know where they’re at along the way. Don’t ever just start a revision and charge later. Give them a heads up and let them know that they’re approaching they’re last round of revisions and that you’ll have to charge beyond that. This will typically give the client the motivation they need to hone in on their desired changes and cut back on the amount of errors that should have been found the first time around.

You’ll also want to set aside a certain amount of money in the proposal that goes toward contingency costs, VFX assets, and stock imagery/music. Don’t pay for these things out of pocket. Figure out the vision, acquire the cashflow upfront for things you know you’ll need to finalize the edit.

How To Manage Client Expectations In Post Production

EDITOR - VFX ARTIST

This is a tricky position to be in. Without question, an editor will always put in more hours than they’re charging for. That’s why they charge so much an hour. Rendering is another factor that adds to this loss of time. That’s why it’s good practice to get with your producer and discuss…

 

Realistic Timelines!

Don’t ever lean on optimism when coordinating a timeline of execution for a project. Never adjust the number of hours to suit the client’s pocket book. This will only result in an unmotivated deliverable that breeds resentment. Always give yourself a little cushion when determining a deadline and if someone wants to rush, charge a fee for that.

If you miss your deadline, that’s on you. Avoid this at all costs. A couple days might be forgivable and understandable with some situations, but anything over that and you could get yourself in some hot water depending on the contract signed. Speaking of trouble…

 

Don’t promise what you can’t deliver!

It’s not uncommon for some editors to use an opportunity to push the limitations of their skill. Don’t be this guy. If you haven’t practiced with a certain technique or approach, don’t claim that you can achieve it. Using a client’s budget to widen your wheelhouse is not a good idea. You never want to practice with other people’s money. Part of managing your client’s expectations is being honest with them about the length of your abilities and if you’re a good fit for what they’re looking for. Make sure they have a clear understanding of the editing approach, whether that be through a series of examples from you or someone else. Make sure it’s a good representation of your creative ability.

That brings us to my last point…

 

Don’t Waste Time With Revisions!

Like I mentioned previously, when gathering revisions, it’s easy to waste time going back and forth. You need to insist that the producer communicate to the client the need to gather their team together as a unit and collectively decide on their list of revisions — and make sure they’ve covered everything! There’s nothing worse than wasting rounds of revisions on things that could have been addressed in the first round. A little more focus up front saves everyone time, hassle and money in the long run.


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