Revisiting Strategies For Getting Paid

February 12, 2019

Getting paid quickly is a key part to running your own business. In this Mailbag we discuss strategies for getting paid on-time.


From The MailBag Episode 66

Discussing Getting Paid. Again!

We know.  This is not the first time we’ve discussed the topic of getting paid in a Mailbag or Insight. 

The fact of the matter is that 30% of the questions we get have nothing to do with the technical aspects of grading or creative approaches to color correction.

So what’s the biggest topic we get questions about? Getting Paid.

Honestly, it’s shocking so many colorists & finishing editors are having problems getting paid. A few weeks ago, while on a company conference call, Dan lamented about this problem and then, literally while we were on Skype, an email came in from Mixing Light member Seth:

Hey guys – thanks for all the help on both the creative front and business front. I do a lot of work with DOP & Director friends and while for the most part the projects/transactions have gone well, I’m worried about getting burned one of these days especially as I (hopefully) expand my roster of clients.  Interested to hear your thoughts on contracts for a young freelancer and strategies for getting paid quickly.  Thanks!

If we’ve heard it once then we’ve heard it a million times.

Get Some Protection – Terms & Conditions And Agreements

It’s a no brainer: If you do any sort of professional work and provide professional services then you need an agreement with your clients. The agreement documents your work, deliverables, schedule, and your overall Terms & Conditions. At the start of this podcast, we all agree with this principle. But Robbie tosses out the idea that simply having an agreement and T & Cs doesn’t really mean anything (other than making you feel good) if clients don’t accept and sign those documents!

Recently, Robbie’s been using to capture signatures and store agreements while Patrick continues to use Harvest to deliver documents for client approval. No matter the service you use, it is definitely important to capture a client signature/approval on a project – in this way you can prove to them they agreed to the scope and terms of the project.

As Dan brings up, details up front – before the job begins – make a big difference. And details don’t just include project details – it also means contact details.  You shouldn’t wait until the end of a project to figure out who you’re billing and how you’re doing it!

Defining Terms In An Agreement

As we continue the discussion, we talk about things to include an agreement. Some topics include:

  • Deliverables
  • Schedule
  • Round of changes
  • Who approves the project
  • Hourly or Flat (project)
  • Hourly budget, hourly rate
  • Length of the work week, work day
  • Overtime rates
  • Milestones
  • Payment schedule
  • Payment types accepted
  • Late payment definition
  • Payment milestones
  • And more!

In addition to these things, we revisit credit card payments, ACH transfers and how to absorb project payment fees.

Do You Want Team Mixing Light To Answer A Question?

Remember, if you have questions that you’d like to get an opinion on please use the contact form.

Your questions can be aesthetic, technical or even client related. We’d love to hear from you, and your question might make future episodes of From The MailBag.

Enjoy the MailBag!


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Homepage Forums Revisiting Strategies For Getting Paid

  • Evan A

    As always a great insight. I use FreshBooks. It has proposals that will get a signature/estimates that can be converted to invoices. Time tracking and expenses tracking. It has worked well for me the last 3+ years. And yes taking CC was a great addition I added. I just got paid on a gig 7min after sending the invoice! That is worth the fee.

  • Marc Wielage

    I think it’d be an interesting discussion to post some general guidelines for a working agreement with post clients, specifically outlining what work is going to be done, what the delivery schedule will be, and what payments are required. For large projects, we generally require a 1/3 payment upfront, 1/3 at a given date (roughly halfway through), and then the final payment upon delivery of the final files, with stipulations on total hours and pro-rating additional time. What’s tough in the indie film business is when you run into people who want to give you “profit points” in the film, but our standard line is, “we’re just technicians — we’re not investors for any film.” The Association of Independent Commercial Producers has some great free resources & documents at, and we used those as a model for our post contracts.

  • Pat Inhofer

    I had high hopes that CSI would move in the direction of the AICP to standardize documents and resources for colorists. Unfortunately, I’ve not seen them move in that direction.

    For projects that are going to take more than two weeks, I like using the milestones, like you say… either dates or (since dates can flex due to unforeseen circumstances) project milestones (such as ‘due after 1st client review’). On series, the natural milestones are file deliveries of graded footage every X episodes.

    Marc, I really like your answer for turning down points. It’s a tough one for clients to argue against.

  • Dario Bigi

    Hey Pat, I was trying to implement that “contract project” for CSI. Life and work got in the way. I also (personally) found it not useful for the majority of my clients because they are bigger and deal memos of their own. By me giving a contract to them slows/hinders the booking/hiring process. When I was researching this, the Freelancers Union in conjunction with And Co. have an interesting online customizable contract creator (for a fee). Considering all the variables one would need due to project differences, this would be the way to go but I don’t know how CSI would implement it without having to reinvent the wheel/interface. In the end (to the readers out there) communication is key, in an email thread, if you’re not going with a physical contract, for those smaller, daily/weekly gigs. All the other wise advice above and below should be incorporated into your billing protocols.

  • Seth Goldin

    Perfect! Thank you so much! Detailing out exactly what items to include in the contract was exactly what I was after. Tons of great advice here.

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