Have your rates gone up or down over the last 10 years?
This question is for those of you who have a minimum of 15 years in the biz. As the years have gone by in your careers, and you get more knowledgable and experienced, have you increased your rates accordingly because you feel you are worth more than editors that are just starting out in the biz? Or do you find that dispite your increased experience, not to mention your expanded equipment and software skills sets, you are working for the same rate or less than you used to command? Do you think that the budgets for the same projects that you used to do 5-10 years ago have gone down? If so why? Do you think it's because the costs of the equipment you use has gone down so now you can't charge for the equipment above and beyond the cost for your time and expertise, and your expertise is not considered as valuable because the software you use is less expensive and you are working on the same computer that everybody has in their homes? Should the old pros be working for the same rate as the new kid on the block or for the the same or less than they did when they were the new kid on the block?
The simplest way I can answer is I started Television at the rate of $1.35 an hour. I certainly don't work for that now.
Yes Charlie, but that was more than 10 years ago. I suspect you weren't working for $1.35/hr. 10 years ago.
I' on salary, so it's gone up almost 100% in the past ten years..... I also have increased my freelance rate.
yes it has increased. but more importantly the quality of my projects have increased. if you work on quality projects, the money will follow. when i say quality, i mean overall. not just what you put in. but what the director puts in, the dp, the producer, etc. if your focus is money in this very competitive crazy industry, then you most likely will have stressful times, and you will quickly grow bitter. i've seen this happen to many.
10 years ago, I was a senior editor in small post-production facility in Dallas. I was at 8 bucks an hour and tickled pink to be getting it. Tickled because I was making much less than that at my last editing job and $3.35 an hour when I started. I got the job by sneaking off the job site of a construction company and editing for them for free until they either hired me or told me to piss off.
Kids have a way of makin a brutha have to double his salary so I did a few times, moving from post house to post house, state to state. Long story short, I charge $225 per hour now, knowing I would someday while pushin buttons back then for nada. I didn't se it as an investment as much as an initiation process.
Nobody gets into this business for the money, thats the honest to God truth. This is an industry not a single one of us here could avoid. It's a love thang; The inability to punch a clock for a hourly wage in a field unlrelated to our passion, which just feels like a waist of time.
Simply put, If you truely love editing, you will be wonderful at it and people will want to pay you alot of money to do it for them. If the love isn't there, there are certainly easier ways to make a dolla.
I sense your frustration. I think I know why. Well, you outlined it pretty good.
You're feeling like your experience and talent are being taken for granted because the gear had become cheaper and more ubiquitous. Every yahoo and joe schmoe has iMovie on their laptop now, and thinks that they can do what you do. This takes a lot of the mystique and the sorcery out of editing. Now that everyone thinks they can do it, too, it cheapens what you bring to the table in their eyes and they are less willing to pay you for your experience and talent.
I, too, have felt that from certain clients. I don't work with those people any more.
It's really that simple. I carefully chose my client-base to be only people who respect what I do and know that I bring my 13 years professional experience to the table. ( I hope that being 2 years under your requested experience level is acceptable. I've been editing for 19 years. The first six years were volunteering at the local cable access in high school and then in college. I've been officially a pro since '92)
Yes, project budgets have dropped. But I find that many big projects have turned into several smaller projects. For example, big corporate clients aren't doing quarterly reports on video any more. Now we do the equivalent during the quarter for web distribution. It's 5 or 6 little videos. The person who's feeling the pain on that one is the quarterly report on-camera host. I'm still making more or less the same amount. It's spread over a larger time frame, though. I like it. Keeps me at a constant state of busy instead of one big mad rush at the end of the quarter! I don't get to charge as much overtime, but not having 16 hour days is worth it!
I was on staff at a bigger facility before I started my on business. This is my 6th year on my own. I've raised my rates twice. The first time was the second year I was freelance. I started out with a slightly lower-than-the-going rate when I started to encourage clients to try me out. After that year, I raised my rates to be more in-line with the other freelancers in my market. I kept my rates where they were through the little recession we experienced, and now that things are improving for my business, I've slightly raised my rates for new clients only. I'm getting a little bit of negative feedback on the slightly higher rates, to be honest. My old rate is smack-dab in the middle of the range of the other local guys and gals, but raising it puts me on the top end. My average new prospective client may be of too "average" budget to sustain the raise. Time will tell. Other editors in my area have mentioned needing to raise rates, too. So the average in the market may go up, anyhow. I just may be on the leading cusp of that wave.
Without going too much into financial detail, let me give you an outline. I was being paid by the hour, plus overtime over 40 hours a week when I was on staff. OT gave me between 15-25% extra every year. My first year freelance, I invoiced slightly more than my wages+OT. Granted, my expenses went way up, what with having to pay my own insurance, Social Security tax, and all those things an employer pays for...so I didn't have as much money that first year. The second year I invoiced about 12% more. The third year was the bad year for my business, but I still invoiced almost exactly what my wages would have been at my hourly rate. It was a tight year. The fourth year was better, but not quite as good as the second year by about 10%
The fifth year, last year, is when everything changed. I invoiced 2.3 times what I invoiced the previous year. This current year, I've already been paid more than I earned last year in it's entirety, and I still have a few invoices out that haven't been paid yet, and several projects that haven't started yet. I'm poised to invoice 18-20% more this year than last. What it boils down to is this year I will invoice 206% more than what I earned my best year on staff. Also, I have in on authority that at the place I used to work had a round of layoffs and pay cuts and pay freezes since I left. I certainly wouldn't have made much of that up in raises in the past 6 years.
Granted, a large part of this big jump is that I invested in my company and built my own FCP system. I charge 40% more a day on my system for full-service editing than I do for going to someone else's office and editing on their Avid or FCP systems. That 40% doesn't account for my entire increase in earnings, but it certainly helped. I'm still at about 50% of my time spent on other people's systems, 50% of my time working on mine. The bigger reason my business grew was by actively building my client-base during the previous four years. My name is out there. Other editors refer their clients to me when they are booked, and in return, I don't steal those clients.
Another reason my business grows every year because I walk away from potential clients that want me to drop my rates. I have the "well, if that's all you are willing to spend, get a kid fresh out of college who knows how to push the buttons in the right order, and usually you'll get what you pay for" mentality, and I move on. Yes, there are a few exceptional fresh-out-of-college kids who do better than average work, but they are rare. I hold out for good clients who respect what I do and they in return pay me well for my experience, my talent, and my loyalty.
I've even had a few come back to me after a $25/hr kid bailed on them, or left them with such a mess that it took days to get back to something that was useable, and they thanked me for my talent and experience after their very painful experience with "you get what you pay for". One of my biggest clients came to me that way. He dismissed my right away because he could get someone else for about half my rate. When I ended up re-editing that piece in front of him, he learned the value of experience. Watching the half-rate person edit was like "constantly cutting the vilest onion for three straight weeks without ever having your senses adapt to it", he told me. Now I'm his first and usually only call. If I can't do the project in his office, he takes it to a local facility, where several of the editors I trained under now have their own Avids. He doesn't have anyone but me edit on his Avid anymore.
So, the moral to my story, Chaz...be more picky!! Be willing to walk away from the people who don't give you the respect that your experience should afford you. I can almost guarantee you that better clients are out there, you just have to go looking for them. You'll have a harder time finding them if you're mired in lower-paying gigs just to have something to do. Also, find some other local freelance editors and get a good working relationship with them. If you can trust them not to steal your clients, and they can trust you not to steal theirs, then you can work out a very beneficial situation that's good for them, good for you, and what's most important, really good for the client!
debe, thank you for taking the time to write your very long, thorough and satisfying response. I truly appreciate it.
Has some great points.
My rate has steadly gone up over the years. I also work for people I enjoy working with now, as opposed to whom ever will pay me something for my talent.