Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Proposals, Scope of Work, Delivery

Writing up a proposal for work is somewhat straight forward. You write a proposal about the project that you expect to perform after learning more details about it. The rough scope and pricing is included and gets delivered to the client for consideration. Once said client approves the proposal and options (I love to put options to show what is possible and the cost associated with the decision) you proceed with a formal contract spelling out each detail and project milestones (if applicable), collect a retainer fee and complete the project in a timely fashion. Get paid and everyone walks away happy.

I mention this because many people who start out in this business do so as freelance artists. You want to learn more and what better way to learn than to get paid for it by freelancing. How do you get the jobs you ask? Beating the bushes to find out about work and writing good proposals. It is often said that beauty is in the details, this is true in your proposals as well. If you do not have good writing skills but you are a great renderer you may wish to find a standard job form document that outlines the type of work you perform. This can be modified to suit your client/job needs, but should cover the general outline of the work you expect to perform.

You will also notice that I put in the project delivery a small step called "retainer fee". I am sure you know what this is, but may be afraid to ask for this when performing rendering work. A wise man once told me "make sure to get a fee upfront", what did he know? Answer human dynamics. If you do not put a fee associated for your time and work on a project upfront your value becomes less. Sure not all companies want to pay a portion of the project fee upfront, but consider why they do not want to do this. Could it be they have little to no money to offer for it. If you wait until the project delivery to bill, are you sure you will get paid?

Let's give a hypothetical story. Our friend M. had quite a bit of work on another project and was not able to finish up a job for a client. Delivery date 1 week late and no project to show. M. suggested that we take over the project and it would pay $xxxx for the whole job and to talk to the president of the company. We leave messages and no return calls from the president. Few days later the project manager calls us to talk about the job and the deliverables. We have a quick meeting to discuss their needs and that it was a rush priority. We mentioned payment and the PM said the boss would take care of that.

Start the project, no contract, no retainer fee and a rush priority so the client can get paid for this work we are doing. See a problem here? Work proceeds for a week and a half, leave a few more messages for the president and get the project ready for review. At this point we submit a fee proposal and payment for one half to total cost to continue. We all like helping others, but there a bills to pay and we need to eat too. Final comments come back and a check for half the fee we asked for (25% of the total). The PM said this was because the boss was out of town and he was not authorized to write a check for more than this and he would have the boss take care of the rest when he returns.

We completed the work and hand deliver it to the PM with a final bill and we notice the boss is in. We are always friendly so we take a moment to peek our head in to introduce ourselves and he apologizes for not calling sooner. A few more pleasantries exchanged and he asks where we are on this. Project complete and bill submitted to the PM. He said he had not seen the bill yet. We being prepared for this just happened to have a copy of all items we submitted. President opens the letter and his jaw hits the floor. He said M. would never have charged this amount and he will only pay half at the most. Now what would have helped in this situation besides not getting involved in a rush job with an unknown client?

If you said contract you were correct. A well written contact spelling out the scope and project milestones is a needed option as it covers the client, and you, should their be any issue. In my experience reputable clients will not be upset with a retainer fee as they should understand that your time is worth something. Just so you know the story above was not really hypothetical, this happened a few years back and M. told me later they like the work I submitted and wanted to give me more. I am not going to tell you the whole ending as I hope you learned from this that it can avoided with a simple contract.

Happy Rendering...

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