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How do I pick a rate for myself?

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Ben Weinberg
How do I pick a rate for myself?
on Sep 9, 2010 at 9:39:47 pm


I have been teaching very basic video editing to some people for pay, which has been fine. One of them asked me if I could be his go-to video editor for some of his more complex video jobs. Of ocurse I said yes, because it'd be the first time really working for myself. He told me to think of a good rate, and not to be humble about it. Humble or not, I have no idea what a good rate is.

I asked somebody I know in the region what a good rate for me in the location I'm in would be and he gave me a very broad range. $75 to $200 an hour. That range is enormous to me.

I know the rate would probably be adjusted based on the type of work, but my skills don't just include editing, but I complement this with skills in After Effects, PhotoShop, and Audio Editing.

I'd like some advice on how to best make this important decision.

Thanks in advance.

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Mark Suszko
Re: How do I pick a rate for myself?
on Sep 9, 2010 at 10:32:15 pm

If I had a nickel for every time this was discussed at length in the Buisness and Marketing Forum, I could afford a trip to NAB. You might try a keyword search in that forum's archive for the keyword "rates".

The short (by my standards) answer is,

Figure ALL your costs, including utilities, insurance, rent, gas, meals, drives and blank media, decks, your internet service, more insurance, equipment maintenance and upgrades, taxes, fedex bills, training, plug-ins, putting a little away towards savings, etc. etc. etc.

Figure what your profit margin, over and above just meeting those costs, should be to keep you doing this and not flipping burgers for less aggravation. What in other words, is your SALARY? The take-home?

Divide it into the number of days a year you want to work, leave out weekends, holidays, vacations, ahandful of sick days and a couple Cubs day games on a Friday. Money divided into available work days. That gets you a monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly "nut" you have to charge, below which, it does not pay to do the job.

Now you have an idea of your minimum day rate and hourly rate, compare it to the rate cards of similar places in your town. (You call them and ask, or check their web sites) If you are somewhere in the middle, fine. If you're the lowest, by a too-significant amount, you can bring your rate up a little, because the demand is there. If your rate is the highest in town, well, live with that, because you just went thru the exercise to see what your minimum HAS to be. You can't go lower and survive. And you don't know that the other guy's with the lower rates are as good as you or how else their income is subsidized. Don't race to the bottom on rates, charge what's fair to THEM and what keeps YOU in business.

And finally: never deal with a person that asks you to drop your rate on the first job in order to get paid more, later, "down the road". Change the word "rate" to "pants" in that last sentence, to get an idea of what they're really trying to do to you.

That's the *short* answer. To Quote Blaise Pascal:
"I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn't have the time".

Go check those archives now, for more detail than you will ever need.

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Chris Tompkins
Re: How do I pick a rate for myself?
on Sep 10, 2010 at 12:33:26 pm

Are you editing on your gear in your edit suite?
Or, are you editing on their gear as a free-lance editor?
Since you don't have a lot of experience you cannot charge top dollar.

Chris Tompkins
Video Atlanta

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John Grote, Jr.
Re: How do I pick a rate for myself?
on Sep 10, 2010 at 11:18:28 pm

Please tell me where I can get $200 an hour because I'll move in a heartbeat.

J. Grote, Jr.

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