I am new to LA and this is a new concept to me. I booked a gig today and they asked to put an additional hold on me for after the project is supposed to end. Positives/negatives in your experience? Do you tier your holds?
I would suggest going with Erin's idea, instead.
The problem with taking your own first hold is that most producers take *very* little stock in a 2nd hold. As they should, because it is meaningless. So I think the best solution is to try and get as much information about a project as you can, and then give out a first hold if it seems rad and something you'd definitely like to do.
Because the thing is: you're going to miss out on opportunities if you overly rely on 2nd holds. Producers will naturally prioritize someone who's a sure bet and has given a 1st hold over someone who's given a 2nd.
Basically: don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Be smart, and be honest. There's way too much professional obfuscation going on in the industry and that benefits those of us who've been in it for years and hurts and allows the exploitation of those who've just graduated school or are switching from other professions.
So interesting reading everyone's takes on holds. I have way too much to say about this, BUT. The TL;DR version is that there is nothing inherently wrong with them. There IS something wrong with how we all communicate sometimes.
Some producers (not the good ones) will habitually send emails to the effect of, "Hi, checking avails starting Monday thru April 2021. Can I get a first hold? Also what programs can you use WHO ARE YOU EVEN?" We can only assume they say this - rather than something of substance about a project with a reasonable timeframe that is a good fit - because they are trying to trick us. Right?
Anyone who has freelanced for more than 3 months "secretly" has their own first hold. Why do we do this? Because everyone wants a bit of leverage make sure they get to do good projects with good people. But we are, in fact, trying to trick them. It is stupid and perpetuates bad producer habits.
So can we all:
1. Stop trying to trick each other? No one is tricked! Everyone knows! Except some poor confused 22 year olds. Think of the children!
2. Agree that second holds mean nothing and stop talking about them?
3. Agree that a first hold DOES mean something? And agree what it actually means? Namely that both parties intend to do the thing if the thing happens? This is starting to sound like affirmative consent...
Producers: don't ask for a 1st hold without actually needing a specific person for a real thing. Freely volunteer the following information: what the project(s) is/are creatively, rough schedule, what role that freelancer will fill, who else might be working on it, how likely it is that it will award and when, etc. If the freelancer is your plan B, say so. Allow them to decide whether they are interested. If they're not, they might have some killer recommendations for someone who will be.
Freelancers: Don't give a first hold unless you feel like you know what you are signing up for. Ask questions. And if you do give one, respect it and communicate! Take one for the team and see a miserable shitshow project through past your original end date once in a while. Etc.
All that said, I still feel like an a-hole every time I tell a producer I no longer take "just" AE animation jobs (or some other variation of I'm available but no thanks). Sigh.
I should mention that I have never demanded a higher rate to honor a hold. More like if I worked with Studio A in 2012, and then I have a hold with Studio B in 2016 after my rate has gone up, when Studio A asks about challenging, it's a good time to mention the new rate, since I can say "well, I have a hold for this amount of time for this amount of money." I agree with Brian that bidding wars aren't the norm.
One last note on the subject of challenges - feel free to give however long you like before you release their hold. BUT, 24hrs is the generally accepted timeframe, and what producers expect. If you go less, power to you -just let them know on your hold confirmation email (that also lists your rate, kill fee etc - right?) so it's not out of the blue.
Picture what usually happens at a mid+ sized studio: The coordinating producer you email your challenge at 3pm needs to talk to the other 2 producers and the director if they can release/book you. It's gonna take time to organize that meeting, but usually it happens in the afternoon or the next morning when they have their regular production meeting... It's a process..
K, that's it, beers and cheers for everyone for tonight :)
Just to add another, perhaps too long to read perspective here as a freelancer and a hirer -
When the project is yours, and the artist booking fees and kill fees are coming out of your business account, please believe me when I say you will be thankful that the hold system exists.
If you're bidding, let alone investing in a pitch, you have to have a team ready to go should the job award. You may or may not win the project and even if you do, and the award/release schedule (and more importantly the contract signing date) usually shifts too.
Each freelancer costs a few grand a week in bookings or potential kill fees. I don't have to break it down to explain how perilous it would be without 1st holds, ready to go, that you can pull the trigger on as soon as it awards and the contracts are signed. Backup holds are in case your 1st hold gets challenged away.
A rebuke could be that "if you can't afford that risk of business then don't do business, or hire more permanent staff, or ..don't book till you're contracted". But, forgetting a tiny independent like me, it's incredibly naive to assume that even mid size+ studios could handle that monetary risk. Esp in the well oiled, competetive agency/studio, client/director system that's been around for decades now.
(Hating on the system where the whole industry needs a revolution to change things to another model is part of a separate discussion imho. By all means, you don't have to be a freelancer in this system if you feel strongly about that.)
Gonna say this now: a majority of the shops in LA/NY (at least) would direly struggle with staffing, projects, and pitches if they stopped using freelancer holds tomorrow. Yep, that means less work, and less freelance work for you.
So it helps the studios and directors bid without going bankrupt, but what's the real downside to it freelancer wise? Why do people hate on it so much when it comes to studio work? Isn't it just about writing a few emails extra and making a calendar schedule for yourself? Doesn't really sound that bad right? Is it just perspective? Is it misinformation? (If you have an idea, please share here btw).
Please remember, you are *not* getting tied down or booked on any project. You're really just giving someone (that you like, or would like to work with) 1st right of refusal for a certain amount of time in case a challenge comes up, and a confident, simple booking if they do confirm. You aren't missing out on any awesome work that comes along since you can always challenge for it. You aren't out of any potential earnings, because again, a paying project could challenge (if you had another client that was ready to book you).
What's the cost to the freelancer who wants to work in this system? You do have to do is be organized and be at least capable of using a calendar app (easy), and writing a few to a couple dozen emails a week (get better at writing short emails if this scares you. It's usually the same 3-4 templates that get sent out though).
I really don't understand how producer abuse could happen unless you're letting producers, that you've never worked with before (and turn out to be jerks), or have worked with (and don't like to email and interact with because they're jerks), take blanket holds on you for months and months at a time.
Would love to hear other's experiences of how it's actually bad, that aren't related to specific producers or freelancers just being jerks?
Love that MP is the place for this sort of discussion to happen properly at least, and bring different views to the table. it's been a long time since mograph.net, and this industry is still young. Maybe some genius (not me) can even bring a different, functioning process to the table.
Practicing 'the hold system' does sound like some after-hours technique involving your significant other tho.
Nic, I wholeheartedly agree with you. I hope I didn’t make you feel like I am calling you a jerk for not giving out holds. Do what works for you and what you feel comfortable doing.
I came into freelancing in 2006 and got the low down from the king of freelancers at the time, Gmunk. I also got background on it from my wife who was producing and knew the game pretty well by the time I went freelance as she dealt with a variety of freelancers on motion and interactive while we both worked at Exopolis. What I gleaned was, holds are lame but it’s the way things are done. My wife actually gave me the idea of giving myself first hold back in 2007 after getting frustrated with the way things were booking. She said a freelancer confessed once to her that is what she was doing in order to filter the work.
This is something that has proven valuable as I never take a booking blind. I always ask to know as much information about a project as I can. I still get the vague emails of “what’s your availability” but that always is followed by a response of “let’s talk about your project first and see if it’s a good fit for us both and then we can talk availability.”
I like to take a creative partnership stance rather than a temporary contractor / employee approach. I am fortunate that at this point all of the studios contacting me are doing so because they want a specific thing or have a specific type of project with me in mind. That gives me leverage to do things a little out of the ordinary. I think the take away is once you find what works and doesn’t work for you there are ways to slowly implement strategies in building relationships while also not being too challenging because at the end of the day a producer is just trying to do their job to the best of their abilities and the hold is just a tool they use much like AE or PS is for us.
Nic, I actually think you and I should do an episode because we have 2 different POVs that could make for an interesting conversation. Let’s find a good time to chat on mic : )
Again, agree with Dan here. I think most people enjoy those who are accommodating. And if all else fails, give first hold to yourself : )
Wow, totally agree. Great work Will!
yeah same, I always finish the job unless it's unrealistically extending until forever. If it means I have to double dip for a few days, thats fine.
In most cases I would just try to push back my next assignment but I'm also pretty good at always keeping 1-2 weeks between projects. For unexpected extensions like this, but also for sanity :)
Arrogant or not. I don't think I'm stretching the truth by saying that most abuse that system which in most cases, end up being disrespectful TO US. Arrogance and entitlement goes both ways, I find THEM arrogant to think we're disposable just like that.
I will burn as many bridges as I have to if I feel like I'm being taken advantage of, no shame. I'm running a business, not looking for nice guy award. - If you don't like me because I won't hold for you, I probably don't want to work with you anyway. Plenty of fish in the sea :D
@brian(see thats why I can't do podcasts, lol)
Yes, there are exceptions, I will give benefit of doubt to agencies i have a good relationship with or a producer is my friend, I just don't call it "hold" – it's Trust. but to your point, I think there are ways to explain to people why you can't agree to half-commitment like that without sounding like a complete asshole :P
I think that makes sense. I don't want to leave a project mid-way through. that isn't fair to anyone.
Seems like a good system
Right now I'd say give it to them. You want to give them more reasons to book you. You probably want to see the project through as well.
This was pretty much exactly what I mentioned to the team that booked me. I was like I am brand new here and am trying to network. I just don't want to come across as arrogant.
I went out to dinner with a producer last night and she was talking about this hold system and how it makes her life hell at times. It basically came down to people who don't use holds come across as arrogant, so this keeping your first hold is probably the way to go. Thanks Brian.
Check out Will's reel, if anyone can get away with leveraging holds for higher rates its him. incredible.
What if you get booked and they want to add an extra week or two hold on the end of the project?
100% agree, but in Zach's case I think he should play the game while he is new, and show some loyalty while forming relationships. Once he has more experience he can say "thanks but no thanks".
No holds. no exceptions.
holds are just producers jamming the entire system holding 4-5 designers "just in case" and pull out at the last minute with apologies. Done with this, zero tolerance on this bullshit.
Book me or don't. I understand you might need a few days to commit but if something else comes up in the meantime, too bad, you missed out.
I had not until now! Thanks for sharing.
Zach, have you seen Eric Alba's post on mograph.net?
Zach, it’s rare to have a challenge auction for hire rates. The rule I work by is, if I do actually give a Company A a first hold and Company B challenges they have to challenge for a set amount of time booked. Then Company A has to match that time booked or better. I have never asked either company to pay a higher rate. Seems a bit opportunistic and shady to me, but that’s just me.
I will also add I only tier my holds when I give myself the first hold, which is 99% of the time. That way I can make it look as if I am doing the company with a second hold a favor. When I first started I had no idea how it worked and at one point I have a fifth or sixth hold going. That obviously made it very confusing for me so if you do go tiered keep it 2 holds at the max.
Also, what is generally never discussed is the window of time for a challenge. I generally give 4 hours (half a day) for a company to react to a challenge if you actually gave another company your first hold. Sometimes, I may give a full day turn around but that it very generous in my eyes given how quickly most bookings come in and need to get rolling. If you give yourself first hold always make sure to take the 4 hour rule to heart so that the company that is challenging does in fact think you have given your first hold to another company. It keeps up the appearance.
Give yourself first hold and always give yourself first hold.
The only way I’d say to give a studio a first hold is if they provide at least 50% of your net income over a given year. That to me earns a studio a first hold opportunity. If they fail to book within 3 months of having a first hold, go back to giving yourself a first hold.
Also, just fyi, you don’t have to reveal who has your holds.
Bottom line Zach, the holds really benefit the producers of a studio and just make their job a bit easier. It’s carry over from film and live action commercial production models. Much the same as day rates vs. flat rates for projects.
I know some freelancers have been very vocal about NOT giving out holds but I’ll retort by saying don’t go that route. You’ll piss people off as it is seen as arrogant. Don’t try to change the way things work, just bend the rules to make them work to your advantage. The “giving yourself” first hold tactic is the unspoken way of not giving holds. Do that and you’ll always have the upper hand while also not looking like a jerk store.
I have never really heard of anyone saying "the other company has a longer job so will you match the rate I would be getting there?" but its interesting and kinda makes sense cause you want the longer job. I usually put people on 2nd pencil(hold) if I have a pencil and usually one of them falls through anyway. So don't have to do the challenge thing too much. Sometimes I do give myself the first hold if I'm unsure about the job. Then if something better comes up I can take it.
They aren't always ideal, because sometimes it can be a bit of a hassle - especially if another studio wants to book you because then you have to get permission from the studio that has the hold on you. Sometimes I've been on hold for several weeks without being brought in for work also, which can be frustrating.
Overall though, I haven't had too many major issues with them, it's just how some studios prefer to do business I guess. If you are just starting out in a new city (like I was/am still) it is nice in a way because then at least you know you are in a studio's group of people to contact. Hopefully that's helpful! haha
Lately I've tried to be a lot more proactive and go after bookings while I'm in the middle of my next gig — the big frustration for me has been getting extended endlessly but never having a firm commitment on a hold from the studio I'm currently working at.
I haven't done more than a first-hold-and-challenge approach, but I have tiered who and when I reach out for bookings. It's resulted in a lot less of the taking the "first hold that hits me up in crisis mode" type of situtations and a lot more of working on projects that I'm looking forward to.
Pretty much everyone I know has played with the idea of giving themselves a first hold to protect who they work with — which sometimes prevents the "I just took a booking to fill up my dates but got hit up with a better/longer gig a day later" situations.
It's not my favorite system, but it's never actually caused me a problem. If you're completely new to it, it just means that before I accept another job, I should check with the company that had the hold. The new company will challenge the hold if they want to hire me, and at that point the holding co has to hire me or let me go. Also, if the new opportunity will pay more, either because of a better rate or longer time working, then the company with the hold has to match it or let me go. It was all really informal and mostly just keeps people from being surprised. In the end it meant I had to do a few more emails than I would have otherwise, but like I said, it never actually hurt me.
I also never teired holds. I just had 1st and anyone else had to challenge. I have heard that some freelancers are starting to decline holds, and just ask to be hired or not, but I haven't talked to anyone taking that tack themselves.
Hope that's helpful.