Showing up When It Counts: Estimating
Say an art buyer contacts you with a brief. You suspect that you're one of the artists that they are considering hiring. But first, they need an estimate from you to cement the decision. What's the best way to get started to maximize your chances of landing the job?
Start by asking about their budget. If your client is at the stage where they are sourcing creative visionaries, they likely have a budget range in mind that is informed by their past experiences conducting projects and their budget restrictions. If they have a budget that they're willing to share, it'll be a lot easier to assess whether the job is right for you and maintain expectations in the estimate that you return to them.
If your client doesn't have a budget in mind or isn't willing to share, consider every element you need to pull off the client brief successfully. Let the client know whether you're open and ready to negotiate rates and resources based on their needs; most estimates need negotiating before finalizing. If you know estimating & negotiating isn't one of your strengths, consider enlisting the help of a friend with up-to-date industry experience, a producer, or an artist rep.
If you feel that negotiating is a breeze for you, our one bit of advice is: don't aim high with the expectation that you'll have to lower your rates to get what you feel you're truly worth. Also, don't lowball to get the bid, only to feel strapped for resources once the project is produced. It's better to get the costs as close to reality as is possible.
Throughout the estimating and negotiating process:
- Demonstrate a willingness to receive feedback.
- Exercise your problem-solving abilities in achieving the goals of the campaign if budget restrictions are in place.
- Provide a mood board or a treatment to provide context for what you can bring to the project. Consider lighting; the emotion conveyed, model look and energy, locations, styling, etc.
- Ask as many questions as necessary to fully grasp the client's vision and needs accurately. Take the time to try to think through everything and find answers for anything you can on your own. One email to a client loaded up with questions only they know the answer to is better than twenty emails back and forth.
- Source feedback from others with experience, as experience breeds wisdom. A trusted producer will see problems coming from a mile away and save both you and the client the agitation of needing to solve something preventable.
- Show your excitement for the project. It may sound like a no-brainer, but clients will get a bad taste if you're only in it for the money or exposure.
- Consider elements like final usage, distribution, and the period of the license, in addition to all the specific production requirements.
If you're concerned about providing an estimate that follows industry-accepted standards and guidelines, consider a service like BlinkBid to create an estimate that includes a summary of the project, line-item costs, and standard usage terms and conditions.
Once your estimate is submitted, ask when they're going to make their decision. If there is no deadline, a week is acceptable to check-in. Graciousness is always appreciated, so if your bid ends up getting rejected, leave the door open for possible calibration in the future. Best of luck estimating away!
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