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Bidding Process

Strategic Category Padding To Deal With Bidding With Larger Clients

Bidding with larger clients usually means dealing with cost consultants asking us to reduce their selected costs. The better we prepare with strategic category padding, the more we can keep in our budget and respond with reasoning explanations of why costs need to stay the same. 

When bidding for a job with larger clients, it is common for clients to hire cost consultants to review and fine-tune the bid. The cost consultants’ job is to reduce prices, so it is expected that some areas will be padded. This can include crew size, producer time, equipment rental, and even meals. To prepare for cost consultants, it is recommended to pad some areas knowing they will be reduced. For example, inflating prices a little bit or bringing up prep days with the expectation of being asked to reduce them. It is important to adjust for cost consultants on the client side to secure the job.

Our Bid Is Our Last Chance Of Having Any Control Over Getting The Job

Our bid is our last chance of having any control over getting the job. We may assume our numbers will be similar to other bidders, but I’m telling you those bid facts are often different for each bidder. Clients move quickly, speaking to each photographer/rep, sometimes unable to closely monitor the specifics of our bids. It’s our responsibility to call out the details of our pricing, making the particulars crystal clear and spelling out any potentially blurred categories. Don’t leave it to chance!

It is significant to include all essential information in a bid to prevent costly mistakes. Clients know their budget and don’t always share this information and they encourage bidders to provide comprehensive details in job descriptions. This includes mentioning props, stylists, and locations, rather than assuming the client will handle it. Take control of the bidding process as it may be the last chance to have any control over obtaining the job.

Requests For Day Rates

Requests for nondescript day rate fees from unknown clients can be tricky. We don’t want to waste our time, but of course, we don’t want to push away potential clients. 

My fast and easy way of handling this is to give them an immediate minimum to maximum price range, clarifying this is often our day rate range depending on shot count, usage, and types of shots. 

This rate spectrum allows them to continue the conversation if their budget is close to our prices. 

Raising Prices

Q:

I’m raising my prices for the upcoming year. Should the increase be the same for all clients, so everyone pays the same? Or should the old client’s loyalty be taken into consideration? What about clients who just became clients this year?

A:

Sustaining an ongoing business depends on constant reevaluation matching our financial intake to the reality of the cost of living. Times change, so we business owners have to change with it. Mostly, we need to stay aware of the cost of living and the current rates for our expenses. Mileage rates, meals, and electricity bills all affect our business costs. What are rental studios charging for equipment? What are assistant rates and Digi Tech’s capture package costs now? Old or new client budgets may affect bidding situations, but overall we should be charging what we need to run a solid long-term business. 

Legal Obligations to a Bid

Q:

When you submit a bid – are you legally locked into it?

A:

My answer to this is not from a lawyer but my own rep opinion: Why submit a bid if you don’t want to be locked into it? Perhaps you get busy and are offered a higher-paid job? Whatever the reason is, you would probably lose that client in the future if your availability changes after providing them the 1st hold. I say be honest and give them a 2nd hold if this is the issue. Be upfront if this is a client you want to keep. Once either of you signs a contract, you may have legal issues, so you can protect yourself by including the term – “Estimate is valid for 14 days from the date of issue.”

Bidding A Job Means Accurate Prices

Bidding a job means accurate prices, but who is to say what is accurate?

Numbers are only accurate if both parties understand the basis of each cost. If one item’s price depends on another item’s cost or a specific aspect of the shoot is changed, make it clear before it screws up your pricing. 

Remember, expect clients to make changes after you submit your bid. Define each line item’s price clearly as an estimate cannot have too much information. Cover yourself!

Bidding and Negotiating is an Opportunity

You are up for a job. Bidding and negotiating is the open door opportunity to get the client to understand how you are best for this project based on your approach. Our challenge is to align our ideas to match what they are going for. I see it like a maze of gated doorways as we look to follow the one that opens. Throw out your ideas and see what sticks with a question format allowing them a chance to redirect your ideas toward their goal. 

Bid Requests Asking for Our Price

When we get bid requests asking for our price, but they don’t have the project information, I hear, “I don’t do this often, I don’t know how this works, and I expect you to do most of our job – so inform us what our $500-$3000 budget will get us.”

Four ways I respond:

  1. I cannot give a cost without more information. 
  2. It sounds like this will end up being between 10k-30k, give or take some, depending on your job specifics. 
  3. This may be at least 10k, so we can discuss this to get more exact if that is near your budget. 
  4. I am available to help create this job for you, and here are my option ideas to git within the 3-8k budget or the 10-12k budget range. 

Bids vs Estimates

Q:

How often are people submitting bids vs estimates? You mentioned not being able to “change” the bid in a post. Why even submit a hard bid if you don’t have all the info?

A:

The title BID or ESTIMATE are interchangeable in our industry. The terms we include state how the bid or estimate “is based on information provided, any changes may incur overages.” Stating this term covers us to make changes, but legally it may be safer to call it an estimate. If a client does not know what they want, we should not submit a bid or estimate as we need to base our numbers on the practical costs of the production. 

Knowing the Client’s Budget

Knowing the client’s budget, I like to sneak in $500 more to get as much as possible without my response risk being too high. My response is to stay within their playing field but still do my job to get us paid as much as possible.