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How much is enough?

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ixthus27How much is enough?
by on Sep 5, 2007 at 12:32:39 pm

I have a salary related question. I have been doing video post-production work as a freelancer for about 4 years. I have recently been offered a position with a large production company. The company produces two television nationally broadcast programs that are the number one rated show on their respective channels. They produce DVD's that generate large sales for the company.

They have offered me a position to edit a new show that is going to air nationally on a major cable channel next fall. The job requires me to edit using FCP, create animated graphics for show openers, master DVD's using Studio Pro, and create graphics with Photoshop.

They are offering me $45k salary along side an insurance/401(k)/profit sharing benefits package. Because I have been doing work freelance, I do not have a frame of reference to compare the offer. What do you think? Is this a fair offer? Is it low-ball?

Thanks for your input.



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walter biscardiRe: How much is enough?
by on Sep 5, 2007 at 1:15:28 pm

That's tough to say without knowing your resume. 4 years is really not all that long in the business honestly, so we really don't know your production history.

Benefits packages are costly for companies so keep in mind that the $45k salary may cost the company $70k in total dollars to bring you on board.

And just because a show is Number 1 on a respective cable network, keep in mind that cable networks pay $15,000 on up for the production of episodes. Even major networks start out as low as $20,000 per episode for total production costs, so while it's nice to say they have the Number 1 show on a network, that does not necessarily mean they're getting true "Number 1 money." They are probably making more on the DVD sales than the production.

Without knowing your production history, it sounds like a rather fair offer, especially with the benefits included.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
http://www.biscardicreative.com
HD Editorial & Animation for Broadcast and independent productions.

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David Roth WeissRe: How much is enough?
by on Sep 5, 2007 at 3:03:26 pm

To know if the $45K is worth your time you can't compare it to what others "might" be making for a similar job, you need to compare it to what you're doing now. In other words, how does $45K with benefits and job security honestly compare to what you're making right now as a freelancer? Can you afford to take he job, or can you afford not to take it? What do you have to lose or to gain? And, does it provide a living wage?

Even more important, at this stage of your career you need to be thinking about your resume. What is the long term value of this national cable credit? Is there long term value to having a full-time job on your resume? These intangibles can be worth more to you over time than a little extra cash.


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Don GreeningRe: How much is enough?
by on Sep 5, 2007 at 5:45:59 pm

Well said, David. As usual, you're looking at the bigger picture.

- Don


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David Roth WeissRe: How much is enough?
by on Sep 6, 2007 at 12:57:24 am

[Don Greening] "As usual, you're looking at the bigger picture."

Thanks Don. You should see me in the editing room, I'm like a pit bull. I always have to know, "what's the objective, what's the big picture?" Directors hate it when I ask 'em that stuff.

David


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ArniepixRe: How much is enough?
by on Sep 7, 2007 at 4:01:45 pm

[David Roth Weiss] " always have to know, "what's the objective, what's the big picture?" Directors hate it when I ask 'em that stuff."

I'm always annoying my clients by asking "What's the story?" or "What's this scene about? Is it about the star of the movie, or is it about the cool visual effect that you want in the background?" Pi$$es them off to no end.


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ixthus27Re: How much is enough?
by on Sep 5, 2007 at 6:22:59 pm

Thanks for your input thus far. I agree that the intangibles of resume development and long term benefits are extremely valuable. My issue lies with leaving money on the table. If this is there initial offer, I'm assuming that there is more money available to negotiate. I know that two of the editors doing the same work that I will be doing are making $65+ plus a benefits package. They have about 6 years with the company, which is significant, I know.


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Mike_SRe: How much is enough?
by on Sep 6, 2007 at 7:23:46 am

So your question is perhaps more about negotiating styles.

Some folks in salary negotiations will go for the offer-counterbid approach you seem to think your employer may be using here.

Others will take a different approach, make a full and generous first offer to try to establish a good, collaborative working relationship, and won't be thrilled if you take a hard-ball approach.

You are in the best position to "read" the people you are working for, how they like to do things, and whether they've held a little back and want to go through a haggle.

Either way, if you decide to negotiate for more I guess you'd want to do it "nice" - you really love the place and work, would like the gig, but the stress on your mortgage / the bill or comparators to other staff suggest more is needed ... can they stretch?




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Steve WargoRe: How much is enough?
by on Sep 7, 2007 at 2:08:41 am

You may want to negotiate a progressive pay scale. Let them know where you need to be tomorrow, in six months, a year and on from there. I'm sure that as you work the job, you'll get a lot more done in less time and your value goes up with each season. But, don't price yourself out of the market either. $65K a year with bennies is a decent pay level unless you're trying to put 4 kids through college.

Make sure that the wife works two jobs. Keeps 'em busy.


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ArniepixRe: How much is enough?
by on Sep 7, 2007 at 4:06:42 pm

[ixthus27] "I know that two of the editors doing the same work that I will be doing are making $65+ plus a benefits package. They have about 6 years with the company, which is significant, I know. "

Plus how many years of experience before that? I doubt they walked in there with no prior experience in the field.

Also, what happens if the show doesn't get picked up for a 2nd season? Will you be 1st in line for the next show they pitch?


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Bob ColeRe: How much is enough?
by on Sep 6, 2007 at 2:48:04 pm

Congrats on the offer. More factors to consider, all in the category of "What are you giving up?"

Do you own equipment now? Can you sell it? If you return to freelancing in two years, will it still be worth anything?

Do you have other clients whom you will lose by taking this job? It takes time to regain clients. You can't just switch a freelance career on and off and on.

Do you like being a freelancer? Freedom to choose projects is pretty nice. (otoh, I can't recall turning anything down lately.)

What's your main concern? Leaving money on the table? You may not have the proper servile attitude to be an employee.



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Mark SuszkoRe: How much is enough?
by on Sep 6, 2007 at 3:43:32 pm

I think you should turn it down and volunteer ME for it:-)

Seriously, I think it's a great offer for someone with such a short amount of experience; you must command some pretty impressive skills to be considered for this gig. I don't see a down side, particularly if your weekends remain your own to work on "outside" projects if you like. I think you should go for it, the credits and resume material will be good, the pay sounds reasonable to me when coupled with the benefits and the fact you don't have to beat the bushes for work for at least as long as these shows are running. If it feels too "constrained" for you somehow, being 9-5 and regular eating and all, well, you could always go "commando" on casual fridays and not tell anyone, let your independent freak flag fly that way:-)

Take the offer, ask for something in writing regarding your rights to use excerpts of the work in your demo reel and promo materials.

Another negotiation tactic is to not ask for more money but rather, if they will pay for additional training or materials when you need it. This demonstrates a few things: commitment and team spirit among them. It can also be a write-off for them while it builds your skills and keeps you marketable.



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walter biscardiRe: How much is enough?
by on Sep 6, 2007 at 3:45:45 pm

[Mark Suszko] "
Take the offer, ask for something in writing regarding your rights to use excerpts of the work in your demo reel and promo materials."


If this is a broadcast show, those rights will have to come from the network unless the production company itself owns the show outright. That's a rare situation.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
http://www.biscardicreative.com
HD Editorial & Animation for Broadcast and independent productions.

All Things Apple Podcast! http://cowcast.creativecow.net/all_things_apple/index.html

Read my blog! http://blogs.creativecow.net/WalterBiscardi


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Mike CohenRe: How much is enough?
by on Sep 9, 2007 at 6:15:32 pm

Does the offer seem appropriate for where you live? That is, is $45K in New York or LA = $45K in Arkansas or Des Moines? Presumably not due to cost of living etc.
How does the salary compare with what you can make freelance given the ideal situation of consistent gigs 52 weeks/year.
As others have pointed out, benefits can be worth a lot. If you are freelance and do not get health insurance from your spouse or union, there is a lot of value in group benefits.
Finally, if 4 years of work experience has given you the skills to impress a company to offer you a job cutting a network show, and cutting network shows is where you want to be going, then this sounds like a great opportunity. The experience to develop your skills is also worth something.
So let's say the value of the job is:
1. Actual salary = $45,000
2. health benefits = $5,000 - $10,000
3. 401K, if matching contributions = $1000+, not to mention tax advantage
4. Paid experience developing your skills (vs. paying for training given a lack of freelance work, or for that matter taking the time un-paid to develop skills without doing it on company time or freelance gig time) = $could be a lot
5. Not having to support your own gear could equal $10,000 per year if you can earn money without buying things like computers, software upgrades, cameras, tape stock etc.

Also consider the negatives. If you work at home, are you prepared for a 9-5 gig with drive time, office politics, being low man on the totem pole? Make sure there is room for advancement and you won't have to wait for the senior editor to die before you can make more money. Also what about vacation time. Having to wait 5 years to get 2 or 3 weeks can be a drag. Perhaps an extra week of vacation up front can offset your perceived lower pay.

Consider the big picture. Good luck.

Mike Cohen


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grinnerRe: How much is enough?
by on Sep 14, 2007 at 1:47:27 pm

Only you can answer this question. While you will always get paid less than you are worth, only you know how much you need to make ends meet. I cant make em meet for 45k anymore so I simply have to pass on every gig under that magical number that'll pay all my bills. This is a math thing more than a pride thing. Never take the first offer though. It aint as if they ever pay what is first requested.




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