As a cornerstone of any client-vendor relationship, bids are the ingredients to every successful VFX scene – they bring ideas to life while also placing boundaries around them. Knowing how to manage VFX bids and budgeting can help keep your studio from flying way over budget, as well as from damaging relationships with your clients when you can’t meet expectations. Here’s some insight into bidding, with takeaways from Pixomondo Executive Producer, Natasha Francis.
Details, details, details!
When it comes to putting together your bid, the more details, the better. Bids shouldn’t be left open to the client’s interpretation – you want to make sure they know exactly, or at least roughly, what to expect. Make sure they’re as detailed as possible without going over the top.
It’s also important that bids fit the right length in relation to the cost. Focus on key points and information that’s comprehensive and useful for the client to know. Filling up your bid with jargon while keeping explanations vague will often leave you with an unhappy client. Aim for an appropriately-sized bid in relation to the amount of work involved.
Keep timelines in mind
Creating mind-blowing VFX shots takes time, and (usually) your clients will understand that. In general, make sure to provide as accurate an estimate of timeline as possible, but don’t undershoot. A best practice might be to add some light padding to delivery deadlines, to leave room for last-minute requests from the client. This is an especially important step for clients that are known to change their mind or who frequently change directions.
Avoid padding – most of the time
Bids should be straightforward. They can be refined later but shouldn’t require a total re-write. When you pad your budget, you run the risk of losing work to a competitive company, one that might be more transparent about their pricing. Too much padding can leave room for confusion – and you’ll suffer the consequences of reassessments later. To keep things running smoothly, you want to avoid making changes and modifications down the road whenever possible.
There’s, of course, an exception here – as most rules go: only pad when there is a high probability of the client purposely leaving things out of the bid to avoid paying for it, only to ask for it later. This is something you might run into as a seasoned studio with returning (and predictable) clients.
Keep communication open and honest
Clearly communicate all your plans from the start. This is a great way to start off a relationship with new clients in a positive way. They’ll appreciate your honesty and investment in their project. On that note, you’ll also want to communicate what processes they’ll be needed for and what they must be involved in, such as approval of shots, and so forth.
Education can be an effective tool for managing bids. Clients might not always understand the cost and time for the type and quality of CG shots being asked for. Informing them on the realities around VFX work can help them understand future bids, while ensuring that they send you appropriate bids in return.
Keeping the flow of information open and honest so everyone stays on the same page is the best way to have a successful exchange when bidding for VFX projects.