Can we all agree on an estimate form?

Estimates: You can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them. They’re a bear to assemble and often just as complicated to parse if you’re the one doing the hiring. And the fact that everyone uses their own form/format only adds a layer of headache-inducing complexity.

That, at least, is roughly how Allegra Wilde describes why she decided to spearhead an effort to establish an industry-standard estimate form, which she’s calling the Universal Bid Form. Allegra is a longtime branding and creative consultant, a former director of talent and agent branding at The Workbook, and the owner/moderator of two online industry forums: Art + Photo Agents Forum for commercial artists’ representatives and Art Producers Forum for ad-agency art buyers and photo editors.

I’d heard that she’d hosted a lunch meeting a couple of weeks ago for art and photo agents to discuss the progress of the Universal Bid Form, and at PhotoPlus, I asked her about how it went. Ultimately, I decided the simplest way to pass that info along to you was to ask Allegra to explain it in her own words via an email Q&A. And she kindly obliged:

Briefly explain the genesis of the Universal Bid Form—what it is and why it’s necessary.
In the last year, members of both of [my] forums have expressed an interest in creating an industry standard form to be used in the estimating of assignment photography jobs in advertising and editorial.  My interest was to be able to create a dialogue between the two groups on an issue that not only they both could agree on the resolution of, but working together could set a precedent going forward on collaboration when it came to attacking larger, more complex issues in the marketplace.  On it’s face, creating a Universal Bid Form does not exactly seem to be a simple undertaking, however, we are not addressing the “back of the bill” here quite yet, or business practices per se.  We are attempting to standardize the language, category names, and visual execution of the form, in an effort to create an easier interface for comparison by the buyer, and an even playing field for the seller.

We have several live meetings to discuss the Universal Bid Form, and regular discussions both on and off the forums.  Recently, we were introduced to Lou Lesko of BlinkBid, who agreed to put together a template example for us, and has also agreed to give up a proprietary position, vis a vis his competition, by making any eventual form available to anyone in our industry for free, (including his competitors) and available as an open-source document.

[Note: I spoke with Lou yesterday and have sent him some follow-up questions. I’ll post his answers next week.]

Give a few specific examples of things that people have said about wanting the form.
This Universal Bid Form idea has been floating around the print industry as long as I can remember.  The AICP had successfully created one for the commercial film industry more than 20 years ago, I believe, and there was always frustration on our side because it was very difficult to rally our non-union community in such a way to make this happen.    For many years, Art Buyers,  Photo Editors and others on the buying side have been lamenting the difficulties in comparing one photographer’s (or agent’s) bid to another. This was because the category names and usage descriptions were not consistent from bid to bid, the forms all had the categories in different places, and they all “looked different” than each other graphically.

The Agents interest in the form lies in the above mentioned “even playing field” aspect I mentioned above, i.e. that all reps were at least speaking the same language, and there was no advantage to any job bid participant because of layout or language of the form itself.  It is also logical, that the process of awarding a job would go faster, it would be easier to clarify one photographers production approach to another, and in the best case, would render the creation of a second estimate on the buyer’s (ad agency) internal form – unnecessary.

How far along is it?
We have begun the process by creating a simple production category list for both groups to review.  The idea is to ascribe code numbers for these categories, so that for example: if the code number for a Stylist Assistant is 4400 across the board, and everyone is using that number, that regardless of either where it appears on the estimate or what language it is written in, it is exactly comparable for the buyer.  The expectation is that for the most part, the Art Producers, and Buyers will be looking at these online, and be able to highlight the specific category on all of the estimates in play, at once, and be able to compare “apples to apples”.

We are getting feedback from both sides now with respect to the category names, additions, clarifications, and omissions. The next steps would be to address usage terms, the technological possiblities and how the form gets into the regular workflow of our members, and hopefully, the entire industry.

What issues remain contentious and what are the arguments on both sides (or all sides, as the case may be)?
None yet.

How can people find out more and/or join your groups?
For more information on joining Allegra’s Forums or if you have questions about the Universal Bid Form ,  please contact Allegra :


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