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Old July 1st, 2006, 11:47 PM   #1
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Clarification of Video Editing Rates?

Hi, I'm an up and coming video editor. I've been editing on NLE systems for the past six years as a hobby, taken university film and digital video courses, and recently graduated with the hope to turn my former hobby into a profession. I've already done a few jobs, but I ran into a snag that I couldn't find an answer for after skimming the FAQ and putting in a few search keywoards.

I looked through this forum to get an idea of what going rates are for video editing projects and I've gotten the general impression that at entry level freelance editors make around $40 an hour ($20 as a base multiplied by two to cover nonbillable hours) with significantly more room for advancement as you establish yourself, you buy your own equipment, and you take on higher profile jobs. Please do correct me if I've misunderstood this.

Now, I know rates vary from market to market and one type of work to another, but I've been looking around in my area and I'm finding people don't seem to be willing to pay more than twenty an hour. I don't mind starting at the bottom rung and working my way up, but between the nonbillable hours that come from organizing these jobs and the general expenses associated with freelance (buying your own insurance, no benefits of any other kind, tax doom, etc.) I just don't see how anyone survives long enough to get higher on the ladder. Granted, I'm sure once you've done enough projects to properly manage your time you get less non-billable and more pay hours in than I am (lots of dead time for me as I build a social network), but none the less I'm finding it kind of difficult to get going in this profession.

So I guess my question is, is the $40 an hour that I've surmised based on various threads here an L.A. standard that is inflated higher than most other markets or am I just shortselling myself and being taken advantage of by people far more experienced in this business than a fresh out of college editor?

Thanks for reading what's probably a fairly commonly asked question and thanks in advance for any answers you've got to give. I'm making good headway in the actual production aspect of this field, but the business aspect is beyond me for the moment.
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Old July 2nd, 2006, 02:37 AM   #2
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400 day better gets me a editor that has done more then a few jobs ...
40hr in LA area gets me very good editors with allot of experience ..
40hr in SF area gets me a ok editor with about 50% of the experience of LA editors ... IMO if this SF editor was in LA they would be making 20hr !!
40hr in grass valley area = nobody charges 40 hr there ...
40hr in portland gets me any of their top editors ...if i need a 800 day editor in portland - i fly one up from LA ....
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Old July 3rd, 2006, 09:42 PM   #3
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Rates in a given area are indirectly tied to budgets.

If you can't find gigs for better than $20/hr (whether you're considered for it or not), then that speaks of the budgets in your market.

On the other hand, remember that employers/producers are going to be reluctant to even mention rates to you that they feel are not at your level. In other words, there might be higher rates avail in your area, you're just going to have to work up to the highest level in your market to enter into discussions like that.

Don't be discouraged. Just realize that freelancing in the production business takes a few years to get into. There's always more people willing to do the work than there is available work.
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Old July 6th, 2006, 10:56 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Bloodworth
I don't mind starting at the bottom rung and working my way up, but between the nonbillable hours that come from organizing these jobs and the general expenses associated with freelance (buying your own insurance, no benefits of any other kind, tax doom, etc.) I just don't see how anyone survives long enough to get higher on the ladder. Granted, I'm sure once you've done enough projects to properly manage your time you get less non-billable and more pay hours in than I am (lots of dead time for me as I build a social network), but none the less I'm finding it kind of difficult to get going in this profession.
This is part of the weed out factor. Pretty much anyone who wants to get into this field is dirt poor/deep in debt for a number of years before they've established themselves. People who want it enough are willing to sacrifice and take the risk and people who are good enough (as well as persistent enough) are able to eventually climb out of their financial gutter.


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Old August 17th, 2006, 11:25 AM   #5
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William, just read through the post and noticed you are in Raleigh. I am an editor in Charlotte and do freelance on occasion. There are several factors in rates: 1] being your experience level which everyone has touched on 2] is the system you are editing on. Editors on different systems demand different money. Most Avid editors will charge more than a Final Cut editor. And 3] is market rates.

In Charlotte, a standard rate for a good Avid editor is $50 an hour.

My suggestion for starting out is to take a full time job somewhere before you go freelance. One problem you will face starting out freelance is, if you start out at $20 an hour, how are you going to raise your rate? The minute you double your rate, you will loose most of your business.

Get your experience and reel and then start out at a good edit rate. Otherwise it will take you 10 years to incrementally raise your day rate as to not alienate your clients.
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Old August 17th, 2006, 08:47 PM   #6
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LOTS of factors here... there is no standard. If you are editing freelance on your own stuff, you get more. $40 seems pretty high depending on the project. I pay $1500 a week for most decent editors with quite a bit of experience. It is more $20 - $25 for younger guys with little experience...


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Old August 22nd, 2006, 01:36 PM   #7
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In the same vein

A local ad showed up for an editor here in town, part or full time for $10/hr. Seems to be on or off-site (whichever is prefered by the applicant i guess). I can see $10/hr for someone who has no experiance, is in school for film but perhaps just started. But I emailed the poster and he wanted to see a demo reel. It seems to me that if i had a nice demo real (meaning experiance), I wouldn't be applying to a $10/hr editing job.

Am I crazy here?
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Old August 22nd, 2006, 02:16 PM   #8
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Lisa, you're right if you have the experience, you wont be applying for $10/hr jobs. That is very entry level pay. Everyone is right it's based on experience, market, your equipment or theirs and so on. You should use theses factors to determine the best rate for you to make money based on the job.
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Old August 23rd, 2006, 12:41 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisa Shofner
It seems to me that if i had a nice demo real (meaning experiance), I wouldn't be applying to a $10/hr editing job.
Please tell me that you e-mailed the guy back w/that. :)


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Old August 23rd, 2006, 05:15 PM   #10
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It's the math...

Simple math, really:
At 40 hours a week, X 50 weeks a year, (gotta have 2 weeks for vacation, don't you?) you've got 2000 working hours in a year.
Therefore:
$20/Hour = $40,000 a year
$25/Hour = $50,000 a year
and, of course...
$50/hour = $100,000 a year.

That's assuming you can work & bill the full 2000 hours, which isn't giving you a lot of time for those hours you will spend finding the customers in the first place.
And, then you add the little extras, like insurance, self-employment taxes, and on and on...it makes the $1500 a week price ($37.50/hr) quite a bargain...
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Old August 23rd, 2006, 09:22 PM   #11
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It's typical to assume 20-25 billable hours a week. Not only will you be spending the rest of the time seeking clients, marketing, but all sorts of other little things like learning new hardware/software, trouble shooting your gear when you have problems, etc.

Keep in mind you need to cover ALL your living expenses from food to rent/mortgage to health, utilities, use of car if needed, cost of consumables, equipment maintanence, money to buy new gear, software, upgrade your computer, etc.

This means at $50/hr you're really grossing $50,000. Once you've subtracted all your expenses, depending on cost of living and things related, you may have very little money to invest in your business or spend on that vacation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Zens
Simple math, really:
At 40 hours a week, X 50 weeks a year, (gotta have 2 weeks for vacation, don't you?) you've got 2000 working hours in a year.
Therefore:
$20/Hour = $40,000 a year
$25/Hour = $50,000 a year
and, of course...
$50/hour = $100,000 a year.

That's assuming you can work & bill the full 2000 hours, which isn't giving you a lot of time for those hours you will spend finding the customers in the first place.
And, then you add the little extras, like insurance, self-employment taxes, and on and on...it makes the $1500 a week price ($37.50/hr) quite a bargain...
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Old August 24th, 2006, 05:09 AM   #12
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And don't forget a freelancer has to pay out of pocket a lot of things the employer pays when you're an employee. Things like employer contribution to social insurance, unemployment and workmen's comp, health plan premiiums, retirement plan/401K, etc etc. When figuring hourly equivalents for billing purposes you need to add about 20% to 30% to your comparison employee's base salary to cover the costs of usual bennies and employer-paid contributions that don't show up as dollars on his paystub but you'll now need to pay out of pocket.
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Old August 24th, 2006, 11:10 AM   #13
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What I did

Well, in my case - i am a contracter (computers) and already get almost no benefits. So I don't count much on that side. I would need to calculate for utilities that are paid at work, upgrading software, etc that the company handles - general office stuff. Health, 401k, all that fun stuff - stays the same as now. Either way, it would be impossible for me to support myself on 10/hr - especially if it wasn't full time.

What I did on that 10/hr job was tell the guy I don't have a reel but would be willing to cut a 3 minute sample from his video. He seemed to like that idea, but he is kinda slow in responding to emails. Just starting out sure is annoying - catch22 stuff. You need a reel to get a job, need a job to build a reel. Haha.
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Old August 24th, 2006, 11:28 PM   #14
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i do very little to no editing, but when i do edit, my charge is $ 65 per hour.

the main reason i don't get editing projects could be the price...or my bad quality <G>

greetings
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Old August 25th, 2006, 11:08 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisa Shofner
Well, in my case - i am a contracter (computers) and already get almost no benefits. So I don't count much on that side. I would need to calculate for utilities that are paid at work, upgrading software, etc that the company handles - general office stuff. Health, 401k, all that fun stuff - stays the same as now. Either way, it would be impossible for me to support myself on 10/hr - especially if it wasn't full time.
...
We're in the same boat - computer application training here! What I meant was, if a regular employee doing X gets paid, let's say, $50 per hour base salary, a contractor doing the exactly the same job needs to bill on the order of $65 an hour just to break even with him, even before taking into account any costs of doing business like computers, supplies, utilities, office expenses, repairs, etc that would be normally born by one's employer but now come out of pocket.
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