What Does Barb Sanson Want You to Know about Estimating?

On the heels of Colleen Dean, Spencer BagleyAmy Rivera, and Emily Hoskins;  Barb Sanson, Art and CGI Supervisor at Innocean, shares her valuable insights and experiences with the photography bidding process.

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

  • For one of our clients triple bidding is mandatory, unless under a certain dollar amount.  I am probably one of the few art producers who like the triple bid process.  It allows me to see a lot of different approaches to jobs.  Also it shows me what photographer/producers put thought into the project or if they just put numbers on paper for the sake a of bid.
  • Since the client has the final say on the photographer, I will let the photographer know they are our reco, but I would never promise anything.  We all know our projects can change at any moment, so until the estimate is signed it’s not a done deal.
  • If I am working with one of our clients that do not have a triple bid process, I don’t share that they are single bid unless we are pressed for time and money.

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 can only speak from my personal experience.  In my junior years as an art producer, the thought of having to call someone to say, “sorry you didn’t get the job” was the most uncomfortable thing about my job.  Over the years though, as you develop relationships with photographers and reps you begin to understand its just part of the business.  Everyone deserves the phone call or email letting him or her know the outcome of the job.

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?

  • How a photographer comes across on a creative call holds a lot of weight when considering which photographer to recommend for the project.  From their work you know they are incredibly talented, but if they come off shy or distant on the phone call it makes the creative second guess if they want to work with them.  First impressions really do matter.

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? 

Thankfully I don’t run into this very often.  We have an established process of a pre-bid call to discuss the project overall and the budget.  Then once the bids are in and I am comfortable with them we have an award call with the client.  On this call we discuss all three photographers and present our reco.  We don’t always go with the low bid, so this gives us the opportunity to present our rationale for our 1st choice photographer.  Of course budget is a huge topic of discussion, but since we have talked in detail prior to the award call to our client regarding the project they are not shocked or surprised once we present numbers to them.  I am also a firm believer on providing an upfront ballpark to the client even before we have the pre-bid call.  This allows me to manage the client’s expectations on what the shoot will cost.

Clients are always looking to have efficiencies on our shoots, so from time to time they will hold up an approval if they are foreseeing a need for additional shots to be added.  Other than that scenario, I haven’t run into this in my career.

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?

  • In my position I am not in the position to sell in a project, but I do like to bring new talent to the table.   When I have a new job come up, even if I know our client won’t go down the path of bidding someone brand new, I like to put their name in the mix and by doing this our client will start to see their work and eventually be comfortable to say yes to them on a future job.

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

  • For one of our clients it’s in our guidelines that budgets cannot be shared.  When reps/photographers are approaching jobs they should always be competitive without compromising the creative integrity.  The purpose of the triple bid helps to keep costs in line.  If one photographer is super expensive and another is quoting the job ridiculously low, then there are conversations to be had with both to ensure the project is estimated properly.  I am always willing to fight for an estimate that is on the high side, but if an estimate is quoted to low I don’t trust the production.  I have worked on the production side, so I use that to my advantage when reviewing jobs.

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? 

Each agency I have worked at has been different.  Typically the advance is 50% of the production expenses and it takes anywhere from 10 -15 business days for the advance to be sent out.  The delay in payment is because the agency’s finance department must bill to the client for the advance amount, funds are then received and paid out.  Not all agencies work this way, but a majority of them don’t have the cash flow to front the advances or final payments for that matter.  Once a job is approved it’s the art producer’s responsibility to issue the PO to the vendor as quick as possible.  On the photographer’s end they need to submit the proper paperwork as soon as possible.  Any delay on their end, only delays the payment into their account.

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

We all know it’s a very competitive time and our industry moves so quickly, I like when photographers/producer send me a buttoned up, tight estimate initially.  I don’t usually have time for rounds and rounds of revisions on estimates, so it goes a long way with me to receive a tentative product calendar and a solid estimate.  I know most people pad their estimates to account for costs consultants, but honestly the cost consultants look at bids all the time and they approve the final amounts so why play the game?  Thankfully at Innocean we have a great relationship with our cost consultants and if an estimate comes in buttoned up, it makes the process go so much smoother.

3 thoughts on “What Does Barb Sanson Want You to Know about Estimating?

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