Progress Billing for Creative Projects

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Billing is one of those subjects that can often be an uncomfortable conversation. While you may not be comfortable talking about money, your client will be a lot happier if there are clear expectations that define the business terms. Every video or photo project should be split into progress payments.

The benefits of progress payments are many. First, it gives your client confidence that you have motivation to complete the work and show progress. Second, by splitting the financial payments across progress you ensure protection for your financial security.

Typically, I recommend the use up to five, equal payments. If a project has an extremely short timeline or does not involve a full-service production (such as shooting only) then adjust your payment schedule. This helps you by keeping your work funded and ensures that the client knows what’s going on financially.

  • Project Initiation — Once the project scope and budget is agreed upon, a deposit for 20% of the project should be submitted.
  • Preproduction — This stage encompasses the bulk of project planning. Tie a progress payment to the deliver of the script or other relevant preproduction tasks. Issue a progress payment upon delivery of final preproduction items to the client.
  • Production — I recommend the submittal of an invoice once shooting begins. This is typically the most expensive stage of a project. Be sure that you have received some form of payment before production begins. Do not hand off project footage until at least 50% of a project’s budget is in hand.
  • Postproduction — Once editing begins, another progress payment should be issued. Some choose to watermark projects until at least 66% of a project’s budget is received.
  • Closeout — A final bill that reflects any change orders should be generated at the completion of a project. Be sure that your agreement states that you retain certain rights to a production until payment is received in full.