I have a question about consulting fees. Although I am currently not working in the video biz, I have 15 years of experience. This leads to others wanting to "pick my brain" for what I do know. I don't mind, but lately I've been asked how much I charge for this consulting work. Usually, I do not charge and do it as a favor, but I feel this makes me seem unprepared and unprofessional. Since I am not actually doing any work, I don't know what to charge. Could any of you help me with some guidelines or suggestions on consulting fees?
The work usually consists of determining what equipment they should buy, what works with the equipment they do have, and some general ideas on how to accomplish their project. I consider myself a "facilitator" of sorts. As such, I know these people have great project ideas, but I feel they don't know how to accomplish them. That's where I come in. Since the work is strictly consultation related, I don't know how much to charge without taking advantage of them. (Many times, I know they are on a budget.)
Any help would be appreciated.
1) If you are going to be doing actual consulting then there is an expectation that you are very familiar with today's tools, at least the ones in use by the people to whom you are offering advice in exchange for money.
2) 15 years away is a LONG time in the "dog years" of technology. For example, saying, "Well in the old days we'd build a four way split screen on our multichannel ADO…" is NOT cool, let alone worth paying for. Versus, "Bring in a kicker light to hit the side of your subject's face to further pull them out of the background and for a friendlier look make sure the key to fill ratio is between a half to even as low as a quarter stop of difference." The former is radically outdated knowledge, even if still done some places. The later, on the other hand, has changed little in 15 years. (Oh, except now they might be lighting using LED and Flo instruments.)
3) Charge a reasonable but not inexpensive price to start out. $60, $75, maybe $100 an hour depending on your market and how valuable the information you have to impart. But then be prepared to no-charge parts of your time if you feel that you're not adding much or are unfamiliar with the tools and solutions. Your clients will respect you when you say you don't know something and appreciate you more when you do.
4) Which gets to, get your butt in gear and learn everything you can or stick strictly to the areas where you have expertise.
5) It's a pain, but good consultants write reports and especially prepare written recommended expenditure budgets. Do it. It makes you a pro, not just another schmo.
6) The budget that your consulting clients have, or don't have, is NOT your problem. Tell them up front what your time costs and lay it onto them to figure out how much of you they can afford. Get used to saying things like, "Gee you say you only have $750 yet this is going to take a lot more than 10 hours. How do see us solving this problem?"
Best of luck. Hope this helps some and it works out for you.
Thank you, Nick. I appreciate the points you made in your response. Just to clarify, though, I am one year removed from the TV biz (but your point is still right on the money.) I will definitely look into creating documentation on what my rates will be and present them when the opportunities come around again. You're right. A lot of times I want to help out, but in the end, I'm the one spending time and effort into something that I am not getting paid for. The point you made in #6 is something I really have to work at.
I appreciate your expertise and knowledge on the matter. Thank you.