Bidding tips by Andrea Stern
Bidding a project correctly is one of the most crucial parts of getting awarded a job. The way you bid CAN ultimately get you in or lose the job. As much as every bid depends on the situation, there are also some standards and rules that you can educate yourself about and utilize to your benefit.
Here are a handful of tips to help you become an even more successful bidder.
1: Creative Fees + Usage:
Trust me, always have a signed estimate that clearly describes what the bid is based on and what the licensed usage is. Be sure all costs are agreed on before beginning the job
The bidding horror stories I’ve heard have mostly been about the client not understanding what the estimate entailed.
I know it’s all done in a rush and communication is limited sometimes but it is our responsibility
to clearly spell out what our numbers cover and don’t cover.
I use the top of the estimate for this, and call it “description”. Always define the amount of shots
and what they are. Is retouching included? How many hours is crew covered for? Who is
supplying the products, and how far outside of your city does the bid cover for travel?
Remember to define the shot list and if it’s a library shoot, or how the bid does not include
variations, added shots, or different angles. Mostly, this section is how you protect yourself.
I like to incorporate the usage into the creative fee (or day rate) so if the shot list changes it’s
easier to negotiate added fees. Usage is a large topic and the truth is that we often need to
educate our clients about it to protect our rights. The more educational back up you can use to
quote or copy and paste, the better.
Utilize all of your supportive resources, like APA, to help you put license agreements together
and to help explain usage to your clients.
A great line I like to use after the usage is: image rights granted with full payment.
One of the most forgotten topics on a bid is the overtime. Make sure it is clear on your estimate
that the shoot day is covered for the standard 10 hour day, anything over that will incur an
overtime of rate/hour + ½ for crew. If you expect a job to be over 10 hours, either mention it in
the description or pre-emptively add in the overtime to your estimate. This is one part of the bid I
would even repeat and say directly in the email when sending in the bid.
As you can see, I keep using the words “bid” and “estimate”. It does make sense legally that a
bid is an absolute amount you would be paid, and an estimate is the approximate amount. Even
though that makes total sense I’ve never seen that happen. That is why I use those words
If you feel like you would do better if you had help with your bid, then hire the right person like a
rep, producer or consultant. So many of us are out there who enjoy this type of negotiation. It
could be well worth that commission fee if getting help will in the end leave you with a much
larger rate than you would have gotten on your own.
Clients can't usually give you numbers, you have to throw tnumbers out thers for them to bring you up or down.
Everyone has their own style of negotiation. If negotiating is not your strong suite, I always
recommend hiring someone who can help. If you cannot afford to hire someone, here are
some helpful hints that have helped me over the years. Great negotiating is about instinct
and intuition and while I do believe some people have a negotiating gene in them, I also
think it’s a skill that can be cultivated.
- Tip #1: Clients are usually not comfortable revealing their budget so it’s easier if you say a
range of numbers to get more of a sense of what they have. That “range” of numbers has
been my favorite negotiating tool. It seems easier for clients to respond to a range v.s. an
Always start with a higher amount and hope they say you are too high. You don’t want to be
- Tip #2: The best tool I can suggest is to listen. Get a sense of the person you are
negotiating with and use that to guide you how to respond.
Use questions about the details of the job to get a sense of each client. Find out as many
specifics about their past jobs so you can tell the type of production quality they are used to.
Have your list of keyword topics, like dig tech, retouching, location scout, permitting,
catering, motorhome ready to go to help you dig more info out of your client. Really listen. I
have found that people want to tell us a lot more inside information than we give them the
time or opportunity to reveal.
#3: On Advances, Expenses + Payment:
Always get a 50% advance for a photoshoot
Congrats! Once you have official approval that you were awarded a job, it’s now time to get your
advance invoice in for half of the total. (The advance percentage does change depending on the
To get this advance invoice in, you need to have their purchase order (PO) # on your invoice or
at least have a signed estimate. As soon as that happens you can officially begin to start
spending money; officially booking crew, renting gear, permitting locations, etc.
Be careful though, you know there are a lot of scams out there. If this is not for a major
advertising agency or a client you know, wait until you have been wired the advance invoice and
it clears at the bank before you spend ANY money for a job.
The advance can be used to pay any talent or crew that needs immediate payment and all the
other costs you need covered right away.
If any changes occur before or during the shoot you need to request an “overage” (send in an
overage estimate) and when that is approved you can spend more $. Do not go over this total
which you’ve been approved for, or you will not be able to charge for it.
Invoicing for an advertising job after it is finished requires backup of all receipts. This should be
done correctly and I’d recommend getting a producer’s help and/or a bookkeeper who knows
the business. Expect to be paid 30 – 60 days after the client receives your final invoice.
#4 CREATIVITY: (in all ways and all places, even *bidding*!)
Think outside the box
Before you say “no it’s not possible” think creatively. I always approach our business with
the attitude that if a door closes, I find the window.
Just like a good producer responds with options in a tough scenario, be your own innovative
Sometimes bids come in last minute, the parameters are challenging, and maybe the
budget is tight- but if you want the job - do whatever it takes to trim costs by trying
something new. Are there any alternatives or opportunities to bring certain costs down to
meet a client’s budget?
Getting creative seems to be my response for all that is happening in our business right
now. The entire industry is changing, so go with the flow of it and find your way. New ideas
are needed right now so be that professional that finds new ways to offer solutions.
Stay young in your thinking. Don’t let years of experience slow down your career. Of course
use your experience wisely, but don’t let what you’ve done in the past limit or define you.
Step outside your own thinking sometimes and see where you have created a box and
where it no longer serves you. Think young.
If you are in this business that means you are creative, so step it up and be creative.
Bidding by Andrea Stern of SternRep | www.SternRep.com