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Phillip W

What to charge?

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Well it happened, got my first customer to ask about maybe decorating her yard for xmas. And what a prime spot she has, major street corner near the beach and close to downtown naples, very rich area. shes thinking something simple, maybe a stand alone box with 16 chans. im thinking how many cops do i need and are permits required? a low key display will bring hundreds, you cant get out of down town with out driving right past her house. im so excited about the idea of maybe opening this up for more customers that i can only see the dread of it all, let alone figure out what to charge for such a thing. Any help? Thanks.

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Rather than trying to estimate what the costs would be and then trying to calculate a fixed price for the customer, if I were doing this, I would try to get the customer to agree to purchase all of the needed items up front with her money, and then a flat hourly rate for your services with reasonable expectations on her part that it will take a lot of hours.

Maybe even have her give you some labor money up front as a deposit so you're not left holding the bag if she flakes out after you do the work.

Will you still be doing a home display or will this take the place of that?

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I just learned that in my neighborhood last year, one resident paid a professional $7,000 just to put up his lights for him. It wasn't that much to start with but kept adding more and more. None of this was sequenced or controlled in any way, just static lights. I'll be the first one here to do the controlled lights this year and there's only one other house in the near area for a good 25 miles that does this.

My son in law and I were talking yesterday about this subject that its possible that I could get approached about a controlled display in the future for someone else, so the thought was the same, how much would be charged? We even discussed owning the controllers and renting them for a season and provide the sequencing as opposed to the homeowner buying all the equipment themselves and we do the sequencing and installation. Either way, its a lot of work as everyone here understands and financial compensation must be reasonable. Going back to a homeowner renting the controllers from us or them owning them, the difference is for theft, damage or vandelization and lets not forget, possibly injury when putting up someone else's lights. My roof line is a 30 deg pitch but there are a couple in here that are a 45 deg pitch...pretty but requires mechanical equipment to do it such as a lift-a-loft, scaffolding or whatever.

Obviously there's no one set number per hour, string, controller, house-type or whatever to charge to do the job. I'll not have a clue till I get my first show off the ground and running this coming season other than I've done static displays my first two last years here. Took me three days to put it all up. I'm planning on two weeks to a month to do this first ever controlled display but only in that I'll be making SPT-1 cords that I can't do in advance and routing to the controllers.

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Funtobewith11 wrote:

Yes, first year for LOR. I did have 15,000 lights last year but not synced. This year I have 25,000 and already have my 9 controllers and all the goodies. I have a very unusual place, actually a one of a kind with the largest Mysore Fig tree in the USA in the front yard. I am working on my third song now. Please keep in touch.

Have to ask, why is your fig tree sore? Did you beat it or something??

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why is your fig tree sore? Did you beat it or something??

They really ask you that a lot? Wow..:shock:

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Phillip W wrote:

Well it happened, got my first customer to ask about maybe decorating her yard for xmas.



im so excited about the idea of maybe opening this up for more customers that i can only see the dread of it all, let alone figure out what to charge for such a thing. Any help? Thanks.


Not a direct answer to your questions, but a few things to consider:

How much will your business license cost?

Will any temporary wire you install be required to have a permit pulled and inspected? At what cost?

Will you only be using UL Listed (or equivalent) controllers, wires and devices?

How much will "bunches" of liability insurance cost, just in case anything should happen? (The insurance company will need the answers and compliance with the above before issuing coverage)

The answers to these questions should help you determine how much "fixed overhead" your business will have, then you can add in some more for your "profit".

(Just my opinion, but in todays law suit crazy world, there is no way in the world I would even think about charging someone to put up lights without going through all of the above steps. For free, no problem, but charging, no way)

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So I guess I would ask the more honest question, based on a comment in the OP's profile:

I have the software but just cant seem to get over the hump to get even 1 song done.

So you are (considering) offering your services to do displays for others...and you haven't, as far as I can read, ever done a full musical display at your own residence? Struggling to fully sequence your first song?

So being brutally honest, (which may have Dan all pissed again, but oh well), is this something that really makes sense for you to be considering?

Once you offer services and take money from others, its whole new ballgame...

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DonFL wrote:

So I guess I would ask the more honest question, based on a comment in the OP's profile:

I have the software but just cant seem to get over the hump to get even 1 song done.

So you are (considering) offering your services to do displays for others...and you haven't, as far as I can read, ever done a full musical display at your own residence? Struggling to fully sequence your first song?

So being brutally honest, (which may have Dan all pissed again, but oh well), is this something that really makes sense for you to be considering?

Once you offer services and take money from others, its whole new ballgame...

I don't think you'll [Foul Language Used] off anyone with that post, DonFL.

What I will mention is something that has already been mentioned. Insurance. It's quite important to have that squared away or you are asking for trouble.

I'm not going to talk anyone out of making a business out of this. What I will mention though, just like any business, it takes away from your free time. (Unless you decide to make it a full time job. Then again, you'll have no free time. :) )

DonFL brings up a good point, though. If you are struggling with the programming, and that's a service you are going to offer, well, if it's me, I'd reconsider. It can be very time consuming.

You are, of course, free to make your own decision. However, I would strongly recommend researching the insurance and time factors.

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That's a good idea, setting up for people to sit and watch but as you said, climate might be a concern if its too cold and so on. Security, we all live in different places of the country/world so each of us has different issues to deal with. Where I am, this is more exclusive community and so far, crime isn't a problem.
For this year's first ever controlled display for me, my most important concern will be insuring no one goes walking out onto the lawn as there'll be wires all over the place. My intention for the moment, will be to purchase small pre-made plastic fencing that I can stake into the front yard at the curb edge. Hopefully that'll be enough.
As to what to charge for setting up someone's display, the business license, electrical inspections/requirements and insurance are a serious concern that I had not thought about and everyone here is correct as those need to be addressed in the cost. Good info and thanks.

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I thought about putting a static string(s) along the front lawn edge in hopes that would be enough as I really didn't want to hang signs. Not really sure what works and doesn't work. Your idea sounds interesting as well. Any other's in here offering advice from experience in keeping people off the lawns during the shows?

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dgrant wrote:

I thought about putting a static string(s) along the front lawn edge in hopes that would be enough as I really didn't want to hang signs. Not really sure what works and doesn't work. Your idea sounds interesting as well. Any other's in here offering advice from experience in keeping people off the lawns during the shows?


I bought some plastic fencing material from Lowes and long wooden stakes {4' - 5' tall}to create a temporary fence to keep folks out of the display area. If you watch closely where the skeleton torso is in the black cage and the strobe goes off, you can just make out the fencing.

Here's a link, and was the only one I could find where the fencing somewhat showed up when the strobe behind the skeleton torso in the cage went off.

https://vimeo.com/groups/109696/videos/29943799

It's gray in color and didn't detract from the display at all.

Unfortunately where I am now, can't put up any type of fencing over 1' to 1-1/2' tall, so I'm going to cut down the stakes to about 2', maybe 3' tall and put eye hooks screwed into the top, add the chains and lights, secured with black zip ties, and hope that deters anyone from entering the display area for Halloween and then do the same for Christmas this year.

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In the past I have used driveway markers and strung lights from one to the next with zipties to hold the lights to the markers to make a fence. Two years ago I just used one strand towards the top, and last year I used a top and a bottom strand to make a better fence. It worked much better the second year.



As for what to charge I would start by adding up all the costs of your display then try to decide on a hourly rate.

Good Luck!

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Randy wrote:

Rather than trying to estimate what the costs would be and then trying to calculate a fixed price for the customer, if I were doing this, I would try to get the customer to agree to purchase all of the needed items up front with her money, and then a flat hourly rate for your services with reasonable expectations on her part that it will take a lot of hours.

Maybe even have her give you some labor money up front as a deposit so you're not left holding the bag if she flakes out after you do the work.

Will you still be doing a home display or will this take the place of that?

ill still be doing a home display on top of that. great idea though, but i think i would let her buy the lights, i'd charge her some money based on new lor eq i would need, like maybe 1 box and a stand alone machine to play the sequences on, (name of it escapes me right now ;) ) and then charge her labor with a contract so if she flakes, ill have my deposit, a signed contract stating the lor is only rented so tyhen i could sue for any balance plus the lor eq if she doesnt return it. depending on how much she would want, im guessing first year only 16 channels, or thats what i'd pitch. $100 to rent the lor eq (figuring if i use it 3 times it will be paid for) figure about 6-8 hrs for labor at about $100, now she buys lights, and extension cords we are looking at an other $200 at minimum. were if i use some of my extra lights and cords i might be able to charge her $300 total, so her cost is not high enough to make her back out. or am i way off on my thinking?

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Since you are charging, you may still need a business license and electrical permits/inspections and of course a "bunch" of liability insurance.

If not, your "contract" may not be enforceable if she defaults.

After all, you will be acting like a business, and therefore must follow all the "business" rules to the letter.

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Jeff Millard wrote:

dgrant wrote:
Any other's in here offering advice from experience in keeping people off the lawns during the shows?



thats awesome as i play paintball so this sounds great. lol but i put static lights across the front. i actually go get a 1 x 2 which is like a dollar for a 8' piece. i cut them up into stakes about 18" long, paint them black or candy striped white/red, i put a 3" drywall screw at the top that i separate the wires to wrap around it. makes nice rope off areas very cheap.

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Phillip W wrote:

Randy wrote:
Rather than trying to estimate what the costs would be and then trying to calculate a fixed price for the customer, if I were doing this, I would try to get the customer to agree to purchase all of the needed items up front with her money, and then a flat hourly rate for your services with reasonable expectations on her part that it will take a lot of hours.

Maybe even have her give you some labor money up front as a deposit so you're not left holding the bag if she flakes out after you do the work.

Will you still be doing a home display or will this take the place of that?

ill still be doing a home display on top of that. great idea though, but i think i would let her buy the lights, i'd charge her some money based on new lor eq i would need, like maybe 1 box and a stand alone machine to play the sequences on, (name of it escapes me right now ;) ) and then charge her labor with a contract so if she flakes, ill have my deposit, a signed contract stating the lor is only rented so tyhen i could sue for any balance plus the lor eq if she doesnt return it. depending on how much she would want, im guessing first year only 16 channels, or thats what i'd pitch. $100 to rent the lor eq (figuring if i use it 3 times it will be paid for) figure about 6-8 hrs for labor at about $100, now she buys lights, and extension cords we are looking at an other $200 at minimum. were if i use some of my extra lights and cords i might be able to charge her $300 total, so her cost is not high enough to make her back out. or am i way off on my thinking?


My questions remain (see earlier reply re-posted below)...point being, this sounds very fun to do in May when there is no pressure, we've all envisioned doing the "light up the neighbors for money" gig at some point, but I really have to ask...are you really prepared for this?

Not trying to rain on your parade, but you do need to be honest with yourself, and your capabilities.

***

So I guess I would ask the more honest question, based on a comment in the OP's profile:

I have the software but just cant seem to get over the hump to get even 1 song done.

So you are (considering) offering your services to do displays for others...and you haven't, as far as I can read, ever done a full musical display at your own residence? Struggling to fully sequence your first song?

So being brutally honest, (which may have Dan all pissed again, but oh well), is this something that really makes sense for you to be considering?

Once you offer services and take money from others, its whole new ballgame...

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Phillip W wrote:

i'd charge her some money based on new lor eq i would need, like maybe 1 box and a stand alone machine to play the sequences on, (name of it escapes me right now :P ) and then charge her labor with a contract so if she flakes, ill have my deposit, a signed contract stating the lor is only rented so tyhen i could sue for any balance plus the lor eq if she doesnt return it. depending on how much she would want, im guessing first year only 16 channels, or thats what i'd pitch. $100 to rent the lor eq (figuring if i use it 3 times it will be paid for) figure about 6-8 hrs for labor at about $100, now she buys lights, and extension cords we are looking at an other $200 at minimum. were if i use some of my extra lights and cords i might be able to charge her $300 total, so her cost is not high enough to make her back out. or am i way off on my thinking?


Are you referring to the DC-MP3 Showtime Director that has the internal clock with battery back up, so it's completely stand alone to control everything or the other one, the Mini-Director that doesn't have the internal clock and would require an external timer?

I use the DC-MP3 Showtime Director that gets its power from the controller via the cat5 that goes to a powered controller. I just like{and prefer} the fact it has it's own internal clock which makes wiring and turning on / off my display a lot easier than fooling with an external timer that would require another power outlet, so the DC-MP3 Showtime Director saves me from using any additional outlets to power it, although it can be powered externally with the 12VDC Wal-Wart LOR sells for it, if really needed.

I took that option instead of the card reader/writer when I bought mine as I already had 2 card reader/writers, and not really realizing the controller would actually power the DC-MP3 Showtime Directo. And I've never really had to use the adapter, so I use it to power low voltage items I may add to the display.

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My questions remain (see earlier reply re-posted below)...point being, this sounds very fun to do in May when there is no pressure, we've all envisioned doing the "light up the neighbors for money" gig at some point, but I really have to ask...are you really prepared for this?

Not trying to rain on your parade, but you do need to be honest with yourself, and your capabilities.

***

So I guess  I would ask the more honest question, based on a comment in the OP's profile:

I have the software but just cant seem to get over the hump to get even 1 song done.

So you are (considering) offering your services to do displays for others...and you haven't, as far as I can read, ever done a full musical display at your own residence? Struggling to fully sequence your first song?

So being brutally honest, (which may have Dan all pissed again, but oh well), is this something that really makes sense for you to be considering?

Once you offer services and take money from others, its whole new ballgame...

the hump was getting animated lightings software to even get one song done, actually have like 5 songs done for lor although im trying to find an easier way, as i tend to make every note pop with some action, so it takes me a while, ive seen nice displays done with just random countless lighting that dont seem to hold any beat with the song, i dont ever want to see my shows like that. ive ran my own mobile DJ service since 1975. just trying to get a feel for mixing both loves......

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