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Good amount to charge for in-service instruction?

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W. ThomasGood amount to charge for in-service instruction?
by on Sep 3, 2005 at 6:22:29 pm

Hi all,
I am just starting to get jobs, so am new to charging REAL money for my services. I have been asked by a professor at a local university to provide a few workshops on their production software for other faculty members. He asked what I charged and I didn't know what to tell him! My mother said to have a fee for just showing up and doing a set amount of instruction -- after that, charge a certain amount per hour. What do you think? What's the best way to go about this and what is a proper amount to charge? Thanks so much for the advice!

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Mark SuszkoRe: Good amount to charge for in-service instruction?
by on Sep 4, 2005 at 4:22:14 am

Hm, sounds like they want to pay you to teach them so they can do it themselves and never pay you again;-)

How many sessions? How basic/detailed? Are you expected to generate a syllabus, or is this more 1-on-1 walking them thru a hands-on session of the editing application? I am skeptical that you can do this all in one half-day session, unless the standards are pretty low.

What is it you can teach them more efficiently than just going thru the manual and the accompanying tutorials? Wait, they're men, we don't READ manuals;-) Seriously though, I'm guessing they want a very scaled-down introduction to how to edit or whatever. The problem with that as you can imagine is you can teach a few keystrokes in 20 minutes, but the thinking *behind* them takes much longer. Frankly, I think you're asking for way more trouble than the money's worth. You might offer one of these strategies:

"sit-in": You still edit everything, but they ride "shotgun" with you, watching and shadowing your moves as you make them. You explain what you're doing as you do it, and why. I like this kind of learning where I have to physically do something as I'm listening to the reasons for why I'm doing it this way. You start the project doing everything yourself, but every little while, you turn over yet another function to the student, until by the end, they are doing everything and you are just commenting where they make an error. Requires motivated student, the ones that just sit passively at lectures won't like this.

"custom tutorial": Generate an actual project like what they will typically be doing, run thru all the pre thru post production steps. Their notes become the manual. Only as good as the questions they ask you.

My experience has been that folks who do something else for a living and who suddenly want to do this video kind of thing as part of work are not fully aware of the scope of what they are getting into. They uniformly hate the results they get from trying to short-cut another discipline from the one they've mastered. In this context, you can look forward to many, many sessions until they are up to speed, and extra charges to "fix" the stuff they did on their own, so I would bill by the hour instead of a flat rate, or you will be earning less than minimum wage.

Your mom is right as usual, a base flat rate just to charge them for disrupting your life is necessary. Because of the disparity in age and staus, you NEED to generate some mental *space* to define the teacher-student relationship and give you the respect you need and deserve. People give respect when they sense what they are getting has a cost, that's not always right, but it's true... You don't want them to take advantage of you, and a base fee defines the business relationship like nothing else does. It also gives you an escape if they start to press for too much: "I can do that too, but it's going to be an additional charge". Your finances and proficiency level , what else you could be doing instead, and how bad you want this dictate the rates you set.

Since you're young, start with minimum wage. If you were earning this amount flipping burgers to make extra side money, would you be ok with that pay level? No? Now teaching editing: is this more "fun" for you? Less drudgery anyway? Maybe you charge less if it feels like recreation to you?

How much time will these proffs save with you giving them a flying start? Compute it that way: assuming their hourly salary, if learning this this saves them x hours, why not charge them a large portion of that savings? Could you wangle a discount on tuition off of this? Pro editors in a very broad sense could be charging from $50 an hour to five figures an hour. You are delivering "value": saving their expensive time and money. Set the value appropriate to the level of service you can provide and their expectations.

Expectations: this is usually a big problem area, you gotta define them up front or somebody will end up unhappy. List what they will be able to DO or UNDERSTAND once you have run them thru your course. Ask them to tell you if they can, what they want to get out of this. Don't accept vague generalizations, you need concrete feature sets. Objective goals. Like:

"After the course, user can:
create a new master project file
Input standard settings and presets for typical project
Correctly calibrate footage for input(reading bars on scopes and audio on VU meters)
Successfully digitize and log footage
Manage a resource bin of footage (naming, arranging, etc.)
Sequence clips on a timeline to tell their story or message
Use audio tools to improve sound
Use graphics tools to create simple title overlays
Properly save a project, archive it and output it to tape or DVD or etc."

This makes no promises as to the aesthetics of their output, merely that it is technically meeting a minimum standard, with No Proff Left Behind;-) Aesthetic and design "counseling" or "Consulting" is something you should charge separately for, it's the meat of what we do, and you charge whatever the market will bear.

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W. ThomasRe: Good amount to charge for in-service instruction?
by on Sep 9, 2005 at 6:29:46 pm

Hi Mark,
Thanks so much for the terrific advice! Your perspective really helps me see all the parameters involved in this situation -- sort of resembles a swamp with a lot of quicksand... I think I'm more ready to talk to this prof when he calls back to firm things up. I'll make sure to let you know how it all turns out.
Thanks again,

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