View Full Version : 'Nother Freelance question

11-16-2007, 05:57 AM
Hypothetical here...you have a cool idea to pitch to the CEO of a company that you were affiliated with...involving some CG work. If all the stars are aligned just right and he gives you the green light to do the work...do you have the audacity to ask for an upfront fee (25-30% of the estimate)?

Or do you not push your luck, and avoid the "perception" that you are just trying to get your hands on his wallet straight away?

11-16-2007, 06:06 AM
Especially with new clients and bigger/longer projects I've taken upfront fee of 25%-50%. It gives me financial freedom to concentrate on the project and naturally reduces my risks in the project. You could also tie those fees to some kind of milestones as the project advances.

11-16-2007, 11:07 AM
You will look much more professional asking for a fee up front. It seems to be an issue of mutual trust.
As well, if he SAYS yes to the idea, he will eventually make the good idea his own. ;) So, it won't matter that you are trying to get your hand on his wallet; it is, afterall, his idea he is paying for. ;)

It also clarifies ownership as to who the material belongs to. If they give you nothing up front, have you work for a month or two and then cancel the job, you have all that material to use for a demo reel but no bills can be paid for it. Not the best of situations.

(I'm rambling on because this has always been a trouble zone for me. Until I started demanding partial payment before I'll start, I often was 'negotiated' with or jobs cancelled. I'm not wishing that on anyone...)

11-19-2007, 01:07 AM
Thanks guys. I certainly agree with the need to secure something upfront. Lawyers do it. I'd say mechanics would do it if they didn't have your vehicle to keep until you paid your bill.
I just felt that it might seem odd to someone who didn't approach you for the job, but the other way around. Definitely want to tread gingerly, while at the same time try and avoid getting screwed.

Mr Rid
11-19-2007, 02:03 AM
I would say it depends greatly on if you have just a concept in your head versus an actual, well constructed script or at least a treatment. I wouldnt pitch any scriptless ideas since anyone you tell them to can just borrow your concept and do as they please with it including claiming it was never yours to begin with. And the CEO should also be cautious about hearing unsolicited ideas since he may be currently or in future developing a similar idea and can get sued even though he never really stole your idea. Studios have writers sign an agreement in this regard.

But I would not take anyone too seriously that didnt have a solid script. If you are not a writer then someone else will have to re-write, improve upon and maybe totally change and add ideas. In which case I wouldnt consider a vague concept worth 30% of the profits. A hard script is a different matter.

There are a million ways for them to say no- 'its too this, or too that' or 'we love it, but its just not the right time for a killer mutant tuna movie' or 'our demographic isnt into science-fiction' or whatever- while there is only one way for them to say yes.

I found that it doesnt matter so much how 'great' the idea is. They are usually waiting to hear ideas that already happen to reflect their own sensibilities or that sound similar to the kind of concept they already consider profitable to produce, even if the script is mediocre.

The first time I walked into a meeting with an excellent script (someone else wrote) under my arm, the story happened to be set in the arctic. They genuinely loved the script but the company had just finished producing another arctic movie (turned out to be Shackleton) and didnt want to do another 'ice movie.' "What else have you got?" ... uh... They were taking me seriously on the strength of the script I walked in with, I had a captive audience that I may never get again, and they were wide open to hear ideas... but the meeting was over in seconds becasue I only had the one. So the more ideas you have, the more chances you have for one of them to stick. You may also be taken more seriously as a source of viable ideas. Big studios often option scripts and you may make a little money in the mean time. Studios may also buy story rights just to keep them in a vault for future.

I have two friends who are professional screenwriters and most of what they put their sweat and tears into, may get sold but will never be produced.

It may also turn out that a producer is intrigued by your idea, but may be 'on the fence' about it. In which case it helps to have researched some data demographics (know your intended audience) on what makes your idea appealing or profitable to help convince them. A writer friend of mine went into a meeting where he found himself in a position to pitch one of my scripts instead because it sounded more like the kind of thing they were interested in (as I mentioned above). They were interested in 'sci-fi' but were unsure about a story involving robots. They were asking him questions but naturally he didnt have persuasive arguments. If I had been there, they might have been more interested because I had gathered info and projections on profitability and target audience that they were wondering about. We couldnt get another meeting. If only one of us had been there with a more prepared case.

11-19-2007, 02:33 PM
I have three types of clients.

1) Regulars who I've been doing work with for a long time, some 10+ years. Half of them have standard contracts and before we begin work all fees are agreed to and many of those have half-way-point payouts. The others pay on final (and usually + 30 days).

2) Regulars who have annual 'agreements' and we don't even discuss money until the project is done and then we talk about what it took. Sounds odd, but the reason they're regulars is that I've never been disappointed (so I take their projects again) and they keep calling (thus, they're happy too). I would NEVER do this with a new client.

3) New clients. Signed contracts required and work begins shortly after (and not a second before) a check for 50% shows up.

Have you given an estimate on the project, or are you just kicking the idea with them? If you haven't talked money yet, then certainly, you're not out of line to ask for either an initial payment or a half-way payment. It should be part of your estimate. :thumbsup:

11-19-2007, 10:33 PM
I have generally asked for 33% up front [payment in thirds] for newer clients. Although some that I've known for years will pay 50% up front. This has worked good for me for many years.

11-20-2007, 06:49 AM
I typically ask 25% at the contract signing, with the remaining 75% spread out at milestones in the project development cycle. Not had anybody have a problem with it yet...

11-20-2007, 07:52 AM
25% up front upon sign off of script or specification before full production starts. You can find yourself doing a lot of work (to get work) that may come to nothing such as storyboarding, concepts and script development, but this is mainly with new clients. Established clients trust you more. Just make sure you get a NDA and ownership of IP drawn up to stop potential clients going to another supplier with your ideas.

ben martin
11-20-2007, 08:04 AM
If you don't ask minimum 20% you won't secure the client and are in risk of do some work to him that latter-on if he quit you won't receive a dime!

20% is something like a hook (not hands on wallet)... but honestly, you and he should know beter that you are interested in to get money from your work!

Once, I was involved on a small $6500 project and had done a lot of development (even wrote a screenplay), visited places to get an idea how to film it (all using my car and gas) and after 1 month of work the client simply quitted.

I did not ask for any upfront and I didn't get any cent.

Clear enough?

11-20-2007, 02:46 PM
With new customers, especially on large projects, I ask for 50% up front and justify it to them by saying it's good for both of us.

As others have said, I can focus on their project and will decline other work while I'm working on this. In addition, because they have something invested in the project already, it keeps them focused on me and not pulling the work for some or no reason at all, putting me in a bind.

I've not had any issues with this from my customers, either. Be professional and they'll treat you as such.

11-20-2007, 08:40 PM
I guess that's it, then. I'll simply place it in the contract and the terms will be spelled out clearly above the signature box in a larger font size than the body text. "By signing you agree to...."
Thanks for the advice again gentlemen...helps reinforce the issue, so I don't get slack and wind up leaving myself vulnerable to a last minute pullout.

It's one thing to try and drum up new work by leaving prospective clients and agencies with a copy of your demo reel, asking to be placed on their freelance list, but submitting a project idea to a prospective client is new territory.
By the way, Mr Rid, thanks for the heads up on the need to have a script ready, instead of just providing a concept. Normally, I wouldn't do jack up front, but in this isolated case, I took it upon myself (knowing that I may get nothing out of it), to put together an animatic, and have some footage prepared to show the prospective client a kind of story board along the timeline in my NLE. Never thought about how a script could keep them from snatching your ideas...very clever.