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Advice on Quoting for Freelance Event

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Dustin MuncyAdvice on Quoting for Freelance Event
by on Jun 3, 2010 at 2:00:39 pm

I was just given an opportunity in July for a great job, and usually it has been easy for my to arrive at a consensus with my client at a pay rate for my freelance work. However, I have not done a job this big or unique yet.

The job is from July 9-14, and I will be shooting two separate motorcycle events (one the first three days, and on the next three days) that include bike shows, racing, swap meets, etc. My client wants to two separate videos for each event, and also wants me to edit these videos. I will be using my own equipment also, and the place is about an hour and a half from where I live.

I have been trying to come up with some method to come up with a somewhat accurate quote for them. The first three days will involve being at the track from anywhere from 28-34 hours, and the next three days involve being at the track anywhere from 20-25 hours. I also will be editing the footage that I shoot; however, the advantage here is that last year I edited the videos of these events for the same client from footage that was shot by someone else. So this year I think I have an advantage of knowing what will or will not work from editing last years.

Anyways, I was wondering if there is a certain way to go about pricing a job such as this so as to come up with an accurate quote that will be fair for me and my client. I have been freelancing for about 10 months since graduating from college and feel that I some decent experience under my belt, and I guess they felt that I could take on this project. Thank you for any advice, and I will be checking back since I need to give them a quote by the end of the weekend.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Advice on Quoting for Freelance Event
by on Jun 3, 2010 at 5:01:22 pm

I would say basically, if you know your hourly rate, and have a good idea of how many hours the job takes, it is rate times hours. (If you don't know your hourly rate, seach the COW Marketing and Business forum archives for many MANY articles about this)

Normally I'd figure in something for the travel, but if you're spending that many hours on the shoot, you might skip it since it is a relatively small thing, or just add a percentage point or two to your rate to cover whatever it is, and reduce the paperwork. OTOH, if you are staying at a motel or renting a trailer so as to be right there the whole 3 days, of course add that cost in, or offer to let them cover it for you in some other way. They may have a discounted block of rooms already for the event staff, for example.

Bid the shoots and the edit as separate jobs. You should get paid for the shoot as soon as it is done, and ask for a 1/3 deposit on the edit job to start it. Second third gets paid at the screening of the rough cut, final third after making any corrections and changes they ask for, payable on delivery.

Bid the edit based on how many hours you took to do this last time, plus a fudge factor of five percent for unexpected things. Tell them to expect a cost of X for X hours, but that it may go higher if more hours are required. Don't ever bid a flat rate, but bid an estimated range with a fixed, known hourly rate. You can promise to call first for authorization if the hours look like they will exceed some agreed threshold.

Get all this in writing, even if only by email. Get paid by check or other verifiable method.

Get a commitment to what the final deliverables are; how many dubs in what format, etc. so you can figure that time and expense for raw materials too.

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Dustin MuncyRe: Advice on Quoting for Freelance Event
by on Jun 3, 2010 at 5:41:25 pm

Thank you for the great advice. That was a lot more than I had anticipated. The only other questions that I would have is what kind of factor should my experience and/or the market for video production in my city play in coming up with a rate? I feel that in some major markets (i.e. LA, Chicago, New York) such services charge a higher rate.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Advice on Quoting for Freelance Event
by on Jun 3, 2010 at 8:18:23 pm

People should charge what they are worth, certainly not less. As a beginner, you just won't be able to command as high a rate as an experienced pro with a great reel and reputation. If someone picks you instead, they are gambling on your ability to some extent.

First, to thine own rate be true: if you can't match someone else's low rate and still make the minimum rate you figured you need to charge to survive, then Don't Take The Gig. Even if it hurts. If the client tries to talk you lower, do not go below the magic number. You just can't.

It is great to have your rate be somewhere in the upper half of the range of what the locals average for what they charge. Making some calls around will help you figure out where in the local food chain you sit, at your relative level of professionalism and cost.

But it is very dangerous to play at matching or under-bidding ("lowballing") other guy's rates, when they might have very different circumstances in how they arrive at the rate. It could be that the other guy's rate is lower because he's living in his mom's basement and not paying rent. Or that his gear is a freebie borrowed from a friend. It could be that he has a big cushion of operating funds in the bank and he is trying to drive competitors out of biz by forcing the rates down temporarily (the Walmart technique). It could be he is insane and doesn't really know what things cost or are worth. Or any combination of these. If you don't keep your rate realistic, you will lose money or at best work a lot harder to make the same kind of money you could make by flipping burgers. You're better than that, I hope.

Figure a proper rate, stick to it, raise it a little bit as your experience and fame grow. Revisit the base calculations from which you derived the rate from time to time; see if any of the underlying assumptions have changed, or if your planning and needs have changed.

BTW, looking at your hours estimate for the upcoming gig, I started to worry a bit about the effects on you of working such long shifts and then trying to drive home 90 minutes in that shape. Besides making your camerawork deteriorate over time, sleep-deprivation and working in a high-noise environent, mixed with Red Bulls to stay jacked, does not confer invincibility. You could easily wrap yourself around a tree during the commutes, going or coming. It makes sense, if you REALLY will be working such long shifts, to have on-site accomodations in a trailer or van or RV, something with a locking door to shelter you and/or the gear while you cat-nap. Client should pay for this. Or, if it will be too noisy to sleep on site, arrange someone better-rested to drive you off-site to a motel to "crash" between shoots and then bring you back for more.

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Dustin MuncyRe: Advice on Quoting for Freelance Event
by on Jun 4, 2010 at 4:22:51 am

Thank you very much for the advice Mark. You're advice was informative, thorough, and blunt which is all someone relatively new to the field can ask for. Finally making some money in this field after four long years of school is rewarding, and I can honestly say I will take all your information and advice into consideration in making my decision for this and future jobs.

I believe that they will be paying for a place for me to stay there since most of the people will be there monitoring the event, so most likely no long drives after working all day. Thanks for taking that into consideration as well. Your advice was invaluable. Thanks!

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