Your Status as a Hired Professional
There are a variety of ways that businesses go about hiring a creative service professional for for-hire contract work. This chapter describes a typical series of steps that pertain to your hiring status, and then describes a conflict where you must consider the options for responding.
What Do “On Hold” and “Booked” Mean?
The hiring process begins when a client contacts you to say that they want to put you “on hold” to do a job, pending some other scheduling or budgetary decisions. The rules for being put on hold can vary from client to client and from region to region. Different Industries may use different terms, so if you are unsure of the meaning of their particular term, you should ask.
Being put on hold means that the client has the right to reserve your availability to do work for them before anyone else can put you on hold. But you are not officially hired yet!
Once you are placed on hold, you are not officially hired until they confirm that they want to hire you. Once they confirm, you are now “booked.” They are obligated to pay you for the days that they hired you, unless they have articulated an alternative arrangement. Commensurately, it would be unethical for you to book yourself for more than one client for the same time slot.
Some bookings may require you to sign a contract, though some industries simply offer you a verbal commitment. Once you are booked by a client, you must contact any other clients who had previously put you on hold and advise them that you are no longer available.
What is a “Kill Fee”?
A “kill fee” is a fee paid by the client if they reneg on a booking. There are no conventions for the amount a client must pay as a kill fee, which is why this is a topic that must be brought up once a booking has been made. The amount you agree to should take into account the lost opportunity for you, as the media producer, to be hired by another client, but not so high that it compromises goodwill between you and your client. Sometimes situations arise unexpectedly and a mutually agreeable solution should be made.
Client Relations Scenario
A client puts you on hold for five days. Later, a second client asks you if you are available for two of those same days. You tell the second client that you are already on hold for those days with another client, but if they release you, you will contact them as soon as possible.
Later in the week, the second client contacts you and says that they want to book you those two days and request that you contact your first client to see if they can release you from those two days.
You contact your first client and state that you have another client who wants to book you on two of the five days during the week you have been put on hold.
The first client decides they want you for all five days, so they book you for all of them. You then call the second client to explain that the first client has booked all five days and that you are no longer available for the two days they wanted to book.
Later, when the job with the first client begins, they tell you after the third day of work that they do not need you for the last two days of the week, and that you do not have to come in. You explain that they had booked you for five days, which was a financial commitment on their part. The client responds by stating that will not be paying for the remaining two days since they don’t need you for any further work.
You explain to them that you already turned away work from another client for those two days because they booked all five days, not three. Your client simply states that you are released, and that is the end of it. You call your second client and discover that they have booked someone else and you cannot recover the two days that you were booked for by the first client.
In summary, you were booked for five days which caused you to turn away work from another client. Your first client reneged on the five days they committed to hire you. You lost two days of billable work because of this.
How should you respond in this situation? Consider the following:
How do you know whether your client adequately understood the meaning of the terms “on hold” and “booked” when the original booking was made? Who is responsible for affirming this mutual understanding? Who is at fault if this misunderstanding occurs?
In resolving this situation, what are your goals? Keep in mind that they did, in fact, hire you for three days and appear to be satisfied with your work. Is it more important, as a goal, to get paid in full for all five days, or to resolve the issue to sustain the working relationship?
What steps do you propose take to achieve your goal?