Do you charge for a test?

I’m watching the Renderdome 2 (under an overcast sky, Rain by the Seatbelts is playing; a crow pecks at my shoulder) and felt like bringing the topic of “Do you charge for a test?” to the forum.

For me, I don’t generally charge for them, but I’m also unlikely to do them unless some combination of the following is true:
–I like the idea
–I like the client
–I have a high amount of confidence that the test will turn into a job

in that order.


An old LA shop called Sight FX used to have a policy that “doing a test is doing the work” that I kind of admired. They went out of business, though that’s probably not why.

But I think your criteria for doing tests is/are solid. I haven’t had to do one in a while, but it always struck me as being made to do the “how the fuck” R&D part for free, and then only getting paid for the drudgery of execution, which is kind of a bummer.

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Please can you make a fully functioning electric car as a test?
Please can you make a fully functioning nuclear power plant as a test?
Please can you make a cheese sandwich as a test?

Come on andy?
Tell your nice people to show you some respect.

In the old days we did lots of Animatics / stealomatics and was always promised we will get the job if they did. We never got a job we did an animatic on even when the agency won the job from the animatic.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been burned by “help us win the account amd you’ll get all the business”.

When I mentioned doing a test during RD2 I meant for myself or internally, to get a more accurate idea of how long to bid for a shot/job.

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Charlex would do that and it got them a LOT of jobs.

I explicitly lost a project from a longterm cllient to a cross-town competitor (morphing a slender actor into a hulked-out dude) because we did a proof-of-concept test and they did a much more fleshed-out test. Was probably a $200K job. I don’t think we’d do tests for rando first-time clients, but for established ones that ask, I now take it much, much more seriously.

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Hahaha. I’m Rodney Dangerfield: I get no respect.

I’ve done one unpaid test in the last two years, for a friend.

As @andymilkis said, we’re all familiar with the “do this one favor and we will give you more work” lie/wish, so that is baked into my equation.

Whenever I’m asked to do a test, I always ask the following…

  1. What is your schedule?
  2. What is your budget for a test?
  3. What does success look like?
  4. Who else are you bidding with?
  5. Here is how much this bid is costing me and I’ll be adding this to my bid for the job.

If I don’t get these questions answered well, I probably won’t entertain a test.