Shedding Light on the Bidding Process with Colleen Dean of Integer in Dallas

After the success of our previous posts about the bidding process, I reached out to a number of art buyers to gauge their interest in submitting responses.  Colleen Dean, an art buyer at Interger in Dallas was so gracious and replied right away.  I love that when searching for photographers, she ” looks for the most elegant, simple, and openly transparent solutions.”   And, knowing that her husband is a photographer, makes her that much more understanding of this crazy business!

Here were the questions she answered.

1)  How often are you asked to triple bid a project?  And, is there ever is a clear first choice, do you let that person know they are the recommend?

We triple bid as a practice so that we stay in-tune with industry standards and present fair cost choices to the client. Its policy, but of course when the client knows who they want in a photographer, we can bid directly. I like to triple-bid because it helps me improve my craft as an agency producer  – hearing new terms, different practices, and learning when costs are rising or falling, pricing out costs in new markets, etc. teaches me constantly.

I feel like there isn’t a clear first choice most of the time, as I will have done research and hope to bring equitable talent to the table – although if someone’s bid comes in exorbitantly high (that is not often), it makes his or her bid less desirable for sure. Also, if they have been difficult or slow to work with, then it makes me more hesitant to offer them as my reco. I hope to allow my team to make their own determinations for what would be best for the client brand – I just provide choices.

We usually try to showcase three photographers who will contribute creatively, and also be a great benefit for the client’s brand oeuvre and their bottom line. It comes down to the right creative fit.

I let them know that we are triple-bidding – I hope to always approach our vendors with respect in that regard. I want them to give me their best estimate, but also offer their appropriate effort for the job.

2)  Sometimes after a photographer bids a job, they will not hear back in regards to the outcome.  Can you shed some light on why that may be?  

I assume its because people get busy? I think that’s a lame excuse though! I hope I get back to everyone.   I try to do my due diligence by giving people an answer and the reasons why, when it can help them out.  I’m also married to a photographer so I know what it takes to be out there working, and what it means for them to hear back on a job. Nudging me for answers is never rude if you feel like you need some answers from me. I want them to be able to free up schedules for them and for any stylists or assistants on hold, as well.

3)  We all know there are many reasons for a photographer not getting a project.  Besides the obvious of price or creative, can you share some other reasons that they may not be awarded a project?

We do research in presenting photographers who will be an asset to the client’s needs, and I trust my intuition. The final decision can be a matrix of smaller decisions. Whom the client likes creatively might not be a consensus. They might go or not go for a photographer based on their previous work with them, just to try to change or evolve. It may be that they like the photographer, and want to try a new direction. Or, they might not want to step out of their comfort zone and choose someone they’ve used before. Either way, again I don’t feel like a photographer should think they are vastly off the mark – because usually they were presented in the first place because we believe in them as a solid choice. Also, price isn’t as critical these days – when people were sucking it up because of the economy it was, but now it’s more about who is the best for the job. Its not always the lowest bid that wins.

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4) What sort of things are you dealing with on your end to get an estimate approved?  We all know it is not always as easy as presenting a photo estimate for approval.  What other things could your client be considering at the same time that could hold up the process?

I feel like I do a lot of consulting within the agency.  Hopefully I can show my team the reasons WHY of an estimate – and then we can present as an educated, solid voice to the client. Which means that we respect the craft of photography and illustration, and we help the client understand the ROI they get – because it is a great reward for their costs! Behind the scenes, I have come to know a bunch of really kickass people in the industry! You know who you are, and I’m sending out my love to you!! I try to listen and learn from photographers and producers (also account services and accounting). Photographers are valuable contributors to the project. I hope to facilitate in all of the channels – produce good results for creatives, the vendors, the client, accounting, and account services. I pass on questions and info all day long, and I push for answers. A Schedule is central to my work. It allows everyone to be empowered in the process and stay invested. Clients have their industry constraints to deal with. Sometimes they have hard deadlines, but sometimes their industry is very fluid and ever changing, affecting all projects.

5)  What sort of things are you doing behind the scenes that you would like photographers to know you are doing to sell in the project to a client?

“I love to give talented folks a chance to make some money and do great work! I understand what it means, and I want you to have the job!” I try to be a consultant for all of my team – both in artistic consultation and discerning client’s needs. Before I even work on projects, I share with the creative team interesting and beautiful things that I see. I want them to stay interested – to be always seeking, to enrich their creativity and hone it so that they are more expert in their choices. I also hope I can teach account services the importance, and the worth of photography costs. There is usually just an education process that needs to happen with the client. Also, I hope to provide transparency for my team. I’m always on the hunt for the most elegant, simple, and openly transparent solutions – this means documents and processes that keep it simple and answer questions rather than creating questions! I learn all the time. It’s amazing how much people will share knowledge with you when you present yourself openly and honestly to them.

6)  Do you share budgets when they are available?  Why or why not?

It depends on what I need. If I want to see what a photographer thinks a fair budget would be (a new kind of project or market for me, for instance), I usually want them to give me what they believe the work to be worth. However if it makes sense to come from a budget-based viewpoint, then I like to not waste anybody’s time and get it out. Then they can decide how to cut corners if it’s a low budget, or acknowledge if it’s worth their time. It depends on if I have it up-front. But, we want to show the client what the real costs for the project will cost them.

 7) What is your client’s/agency’s policy surrounding advances on projects?  What do you do as an art producer to help facilitate that process?  And, what can a photographer do to help it along as well?

We bill for 50% of production costs and 100% of talent fees up front, to keep production moving along. If I need to then I will walk all of the paperwork – client-signed estimate, signed PO, client invoice, vendor invoice, etc – from department to department moving it through. I’m pretty sure there are a few enchilada lunches I owe to people, but it’s really my job. I am asking a lot of people to step out of their comfort zone by doing things that they don’t normally do, but that’s ok because that is the nature of original photography.

 8)  What misperception about the estimating process from your end would you like photographers to have an clearer understanding of based on your experiences?

*look deeply into the photographer/rep/producer’s big eyes* “I am always on your side. I love photography! I love the craft, and have so much respect for each person that makes the production happen. I want to help everyone out. I don’t have control over how a client pays, but I will tell you how they pay if you ask. Some clients don’t pay fast, and we can’t pay that final bill until they do. I’m not ignoring you and email me or text me anytime you need me”.

Sigh. And I have developed some really great friendships and relationships out there. I love working as an Agency Art Producer, it suits my personality so well. I’ve learned so much from some very wonderful people, and had great times at it too.

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3 thoughts on “Shedding Light on the Bidding Process with Colleen Dean of Integer in Dallas

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