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Taking Care of Business
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Old November 25th, 2008, 12:04 PM   #16
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i agree.

believe me, having been an underground and club DJ for a while on top of being in bands, I've been through that whole mess already. Everyone is your friend when you have something to offer for barely anything.
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Old November 25th, 2008, 07:32 PM   #17
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a. A promoter in the city has approached me about shooting their new years event at a downtown hotel. I will be bringing a canon XH-A1 and my canon video light with shotgun microphone to the event.
I will then be taking the footage and editing it into a 1:30 to 2:00 piece that I will then have to convert twice and throw up on the internet with their approval.
What is a reasonable rate to ask for this service?
I'd recommend to see what other people in your area are charging. See if there are other video production companies or even freelancers that have websites with some pricing information. It doesn't hurt to call and ask either, especially since I find nearly everyone in this industry to be shrouded in secrecy when it comes to rates. If it was in my area, I'd probably ball-park figure it to be roughly $100 per hour of work. However, southcentral Alaska and downtown Chicago are drastically different markets. You might be able to charge a little more because you're in a big city, or you might have to charge less because you have a TON of competition to deal with in that big city!

Someone else had mentioned to ask what your responsibilities are. That's good advice, because it can affect your rates. Whenever I meet with a client, I ask as many questions as possible so I can get a clear picture of what they want and what I have to do. Also, I ask if they have a budget planned for this, and if there's a certain amount they want to set a limit at. That's something that I feel should be discussed early on in the meeting to give you and the client some boundaries. That way, you're not sitting there talking about the sun, moon, and stars when the client can only afford a lite-brite. I do things this way now because I've burned myself by it in the past.

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b. What is a fair rate to charge a struggling indie band for a music video? Let's assume the video is shot at a venue with lights (so, not renting or bringing extra lights outside of maybe some soft boxes for closeups). These bands are generally on local labels and so they are on their own to finance the video. This would be shot on the Canon as well
Even though they might not have a lot of money, I think you should still ask them to create a budget of some kind. Sit down with them and explain that you can provide x,y, and z for XXX dollars, but you can cut out z and most of y and only charge X dollars. If you want to go as far as writing up a fancier contract, you could talk about making monthly payments instead of one giant sum. Some clients I've worked with tend to find it easier to pay say, $250 per month for 6 months instead of coming up with $1500 in one lump sum. Then the trick is making sure they pay up every month! Another option would be to set up a pay-as-you-go system. Break down a quote and tell them it will cost $x just to shoot the video. You can shoot the video for them, they pay you, and then when they have the next installment, you can start editing. We've done work for several clients in this way, and while it does take considerably longer, they're usually still happy that work is being done.

In the end though, its totally up to you if you want to do the work for severely reduced rates- or for free. Just be mindful that doing too many freebies or reduced rate projects might hamper your ambitions in the future. Word of mouth can and does travel FAST. Best of luck to you though, and keep us posted!
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 11:25 AM   #18
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thanks a lot

I will let you know what I end up doing. The economy is not helping, but hopefully people will recognize that I am trying to deliver a decent product.
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Old December 4th, 2008, 05:09 PM   #19
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My only advice comes from 25 years of making a living at it.
The price you charge first, is the price you will always be paid. That is unless the client
asks for a discount the second time they try to hire you.

J.
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Old December 4th, 2008, 10:02 PM   #20
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Jacques is so right on this.

After spending many years working for facilities eventually being both a senior editor and video engineer, I started my own business.

I didn't quite have the experience as a shooter so I started with low rates thinking I'd bring in the clients and increase my rates as time went on.

BIG MISTAKE!

The clients liked my work for sure. Word of mouth was working. All at my low rates. The clients recommended to me wanted the same rates they heard from their associates. What I eventually did is got new clients at a higher rate. I pushed out my first round of clients or they left because they didn't want to pay more. Additionally I started booting clients because the lower rate work actually took away time I wanted to use for marketing for new clients.

My current advice is that you MUST have a rate that can pay all your business bills and personal survival based on about 20-25 paid hours a week. That'll give you time to do all the unpaid work such as marketing, maintenance, training, etc.

As you develop more repeat clients and word of mouth brings in more clients at your rate, you can cut back some on the marketing but don't ever let that dwindle because you need to keep pulling in enough to cover some client turnover.

You can certainly raise rates as your skills improve (some clients will notice and pay for it and some wont but that's not a bad thing if you've planed well). Clients will pay more as you get better equipment or offer new or improved services (and some wont but again the more dollars from the others should cover that). You'll inevitably have to raise rates as some of your life expenses go up too.

___________
Never forget that you should actually be able to make increasingly more money beyond your expenses (called increasing PROFIT) so your quality of life gets better.

Never forget that your business model should NOT but you in a situation where you have to work more than 20-25 PAID hours (they'll be plenty of unpaid work you'll need to do as a manager).

Start with rate that covers ALL your life expenses! It can take a long time to heal your business if you don't.

It's a real struggle to keep a business going but tying a boat anchor around your neck at the start is the surest way to struggle to stay a float in a sync or swim world.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacques Mersereau View Post
My only advice comes from 25 years of making a living at it.
The price you charge first, is the price you will always be paid. That is unless the client
asks for a discount the second time they try to hire you.

J.
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Old December 5th, 2008, 10:26 AM   #21
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so...

I am guessing that is accounting for the 1/3 of each check I lose to the government as well? Still, how do you know what to charge? What if I am asking way to much at some point? What projects should I charge more on?
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Old December 5th, 2008, 11:11 AM   #22
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How much do you need to make a month to cover bills and life expenses?
How many hours do you think it will take to do the project?
Add any additional costs (plus a markup) such as hiring people, rentals, tapes, transportation expenses.

x$ times 25 hours a week = or better than your monthly expenses is what you need to survive. If the job will take you 50 hours it must be 1/2 month expenses or more. Based on that you need to work 100 hours a month. If the job takes 10 then it's 1/10 of your monthly expense or more.

Don't charge flat rates (EVERN IMHO). If the client has a budget then work within that but that means a finite number of hours including revisions.

You charge base on how long the project will likely take. Be clear to your client how many hours or days you're offering. Sometimes one can increase the rate due to complexity because you're using more advanced skills or gear.

If you're having a problem trying to estimate either due to lack of experience, the client isn't specific enough, possible variables, give an hourly or daily (based on hours) rate. This way if the client starts asking for more, you charge them more.

EVERYTHING must be accounted for. If you can't pay your rent or buy food there's no point. You charge based on what YOU need to survive. If the client can't pay it then you're better off spending the time pursuing other clients that working on a job that looses money.

If you need $40/hr at 25 hours a week to live, then working for $30/hr will leave you in debt, hungry, homeless for example.

Payment depending on job: Partial payment up front. Deposit if a booked date in advance means you now can no longer do work on that date. Final payment always BEFORE delivery. Otherwise get paid at then end of each day. Do NOT invoice a client unless and until they develop a good payment history and even then clients can suddenly go bad.

NOBODY gets camera masters until the shoot is paid in full. NOBODY gets an edit master until editing is paid in full.

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Originally Posted by William Holland View Post
I am guessing that is accounting for the 1/3 of each check I lose to the government as well? Still, how do you know what to charge? What if I am asking way to much at some point? What projects should I charge more on?
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Old December 7th, 2008, 11:26 PM   #23
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having been around NYC in the 90's doing low budget music videos, everyone did the same thing. tried to shoot something for $10k that looked like $50k because then some rec co exec would notice and send some work you way. well back then, shooting on 16mm, $10k was not much for film, processiing, transfer, offline editing on tape, inline editing.

thing was, the rec co's knew there was this army of up and comers and wannabe's. they took total advantage of the situation and used it to get cheap videos done. rarely did anyone ever go anywhere from this. 99% just got screwed. welcome to life and not much has changed.

back to your original post. its new years eve ? charge double. its a holiday, and my personal favorite night out. who wants to work then ? editing at 1:30 am ? thats blood money time !

also those rates on the website were really on the low side. as a camera op, $350/8 is about as low as I'll go, typically getting $450-$500 just to operate, no gear. perhaps my skill level lets me get that. even so, everytime you go out for too cheap, all you do is convince your client your value is lower then what it is. laywer's, doctors, plumber's, electricians, ect don't offer the types of discounts like production people seem will to do. get paid what your worth, get extra for holiday pay, or don't do it. yes I know, easy words when things are busy, but not when then are slow :(
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Old December 8th, 2008, 10:48 AM   #24
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of course, but...

How to know what the rates are supposed to be? What if i'm charging way more than other independent shooters with the same camera? I mean, obviously they are going to be more expensive in chicago than say...western michigan, because my cost of living is higher. Isn't there such a thing as "paying your dues" though? I'm 26, and I present myself in a professional and competent manner. I feel weird charging 500/day when I am this green in the industry (granted, i've been shooting on pro gear since I was 15- SVHS and Betacam) without a camera. I could see with camera, but right now my with-camera rate is around 350 for 8 hours. Is it different for each client, or the same rates for everyone? Where's the scale to know? Is there a resource in Chicago for this (perhaps the film office)?

One thing I have noticed is that companies that do business dealings on a very professional level (medical, pharmaceutical, etc.) tend to not flinch when you quote what your think you are worth.

thank you for the input, because I'm trying to really figure this all out.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 11:24 AM   #25
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You'll know you're rates are too high when you start losing business because you're charging more than the client feels you're worth. Until that point, you're worth every dollar they're willing to give you.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 11:35 AM   #26
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and the problem is client's feel you are worth less because too many people are willing to work too cheaply. so the problem feeds in on itself.

cheap gear doesn't help, despiite what you think. in the days of a $50k-$80K betaSP camera, your price was driven in part due to that camera and its cost. now a $5k camera can look every bit as good, but you should NOT cut your rate just because the gear got smaller / cheaper / lighter. it should mean you actually make some more money because now you aren't pulling $200-$500 from your day rate to pay for the camera.

$350/day with gear is way too low, even with a DVX100. if you have real lights & audio gear, ect, its even more too low
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Old December 8th, 2008, 12:40 PM   #27
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William,
first off in the greater Chicagoland area and in most other areas that I know off, a day rate is based on 10 hours not 8. When I do AV work, TV work or any other kind of work regardless of whether I'm suppplying gear or not it's based on 10 hours.
As for a rate, I agree your rate is too low for an operator and gear. What I've found is in our area the rate per hour generally starts at about $30 and goes up from there (non-union) Adding in gear will generally double the rate. Of course it depends on the gear, but for instance, take the starting labor rate of $30 per hour. Add 1 camera (SD type) on board light, tripod and 1 wired or wireless mic either HH or lav and double the rate. So now the rate is $600 for a 10 hour day. OK now the client wants a light kit added. Well you add for that, perhaps 2 or 3 hundred depending on the size and complexity of the kit. The client needs a 2nd or 3rd or 4th mic. Gotta add for that and a mixer. Maybe a sound person to run it. Need a 2nd camera? Got to add for the gear and the operator.
If the day isn't goning to run 10 hours, then you need a 1/2 day rate which IMO should be slightly higher than 1/2 of the full day rate. Hourly, take the day rate and divide it by 10 then raise the hourly by 5 or 10 per hour. You want to hire me for 1 hour (BTW my minimum is 2 hours then it goes to 1/2 day-otherwise you are in a postion of getting a bunch of 1 and 2 hour jobs and that doesn't pay the bills) This way the clients is more prone to hiring you for the 1/2 or full day and doing in 1 day instead of 4 or 5 1 or 2 hour stints spread over a bunch of days which could cost you a bigger job or 2.
The first thing you need to do is to establish your hourly rate, then the 1/2 day and full day rates then the add on gear. That's not to say you can't give someone a deal if they need to hire you for 3 or 4 days in a row. A package deal so to speak.
Age has nothing to do with rate (up to a point-obviously an 18 year old kid just getting started isn't going to command what someone older and with the experience is going to get.
Write it all out, see if it makes sense and if it's a livable wage then put your rate sheet together.
People that use our services know the rates, believe me. They will ljust as likely pass on someone whose rates are too low as someone whose rates are way too high.

Don
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Old December 8th, 2008, 01:27 PM   #28
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thank you

Don,

Excellent. That all seems to make sense, and I really appreciate your input.

-Bill
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Old December 9th, 2008, 12:10 AM   #29
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Isn't there such a thing as "paying your dues" though? I'm 26, and I present myself in a professional and competent manner. I feel weird charging 500/day when I am this green in the industry
This an important point for me.

I believe you should charge what You think your experience level warrants.

Only you know this.

Put yourself in a consumer's shoes. Would you want to pay a professional rate for a camera owner?

What I call a "shingle hanger". One who hangs out a shingle and decides that is what they do from that point on.

I am all for charging decent rates, but I am also all against charging high rates just because somebody stated on the internet that video people should charge x amount, irregardless of experience or talent.

You mention chops. I played music professionally for 20+ years. When I was in college the amount of time "jamming" for free was staggering.

But I learned a ton and built up an intimacy with how to play music.

If I had had a "not touchin' the instrument unless I am getting paid" attitude, I would have missed all of that knowledge.

It is a fine line. Money, Experience, Time, Talent. None of it comes easy.

Just do what you think is right based upon the knowledge of what is around you.

Depending upon what you do, at some point you have to look somebody in the eye and tell them what you are going to charge them. Are you worth it?
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Old December 9th, 2008, 11:10 AM   #30
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Tim, the problem is many potential clients don't know the difference between a shingle hanger and experience. They price shop, not because they're cheap, because they don't know better.

Even a newbie has a right to pay the bills. That's the base rate. Profit increases as skills and quality of gear increases. If your business isn't going to tank you must be able to pay the bills both business and personal.

Paying dues can be done through internships, creating or working on "demo" projects,etc. NEVER give away your work if someone else will profit from it. You don't start a business until you believe you have a base level of competency. If you need projects to learn with one might consider donate time to do video projects for a not for profit for example, making sure you get credited. Their donors and the staff my become paying clients for projects outside the non for profit.

If you start with a paying rate for "for profit" clients that's too low, you'll cripple your business growth. If you're good, you'll word of mouth work at a rate so low it'll bankrupt you. You'll encourage bottom feeders who will continue to look for talented newbies who have no idea what your worth. Stick to a base rate to cover your bills and you can grow from there. NEVER charge Less. Only pay your dues on projects where the good will can be repaid in kind.
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