As you’re honing your skills with video, you may, at some point, be asked to do freelance video work for someone else. You know as well as anyone that video production is a skill that has value, so when you’re asked what your rates are, you’ll want to be ready with a number.
All too often, new videographers are eager to work for free in order to build their demo reel. Don’t do it! Unless it’s for friends or family, your potential client is surely expecting your services to cost something.
How to calculate your rate
Videomaker has put together a video production rate calculator to help you determine what to charge. The Videomaker Rate Calculator is designed for individuals who plan to do freelance work as their main source of income, but even if you only plan on doing video once in a while on the side, there are a few takeaways here.
Even if you’re okay with not charging for your time and labor, your camera and editing system are necessary pieces of gear you need to protect in order to work.
The main one is that you should charge for your equipment. Even if you’re okay with not charging for your time and labor, your camera and editing system are necessary pieces of gear you need to protect in order to work. Being able to pay your credit card bills or business loans ensures that you’ll still have your gear the next time you want to shoot. Our rate calculator not only covers how much your personal time is worth on an hourly basis, it also takes into account special charges that may only apply to a single project. For example, if you need a cherry picker for a high angle shot in your next music video, the rate calculator will take that into account.
Now, this calculator is cool for getting the basics set up, but pay attention to what you would call billable hours. Your billable hours can vary tremendously. For instance, are you going to charge the client for the time you are getting your gear set up, or just the shoot itself? You also might charge a higher rate for shooting, which takes more physical work and gear usage, and charge less for editing the video, which usually requires many more hours of work than shooting. And we all know how much behind the scenes work there is involved in a shoot – many a shooter has lamented the fact that they spent more hours discussing how the shoot was going to take place rather than the shooting experience itself due to a new or uninformed client who needed to be walked through every step. Try to remember to track the administrative and project management time; even if you write “No charge” on the invoice your client needs to know that it’s not all magic, there’s lots of your hands-on involvement in every project. If you do charge for this, use a lower rate and they should understand. Let them know the facts up front, so you aren’t left holding the bag with no pay, and the client isn’t blindsided without an understanding of what a video project involves and costs.
Will work for free
We often hear from readers who do many videos for companies for free – for the love of shooting video – and they don’t want to be bothered with trying to manage paperwork from invoices to taxes. Many others say they charge a minimal amount for services to justify paying for their gear.
So let’s assume you’re not still paying off your camera, you really love doing video, and you have all the time in the world. You really should charge something reasonable anyway. The reason why charging for your work is important is because every time someone does video work for free they are devaluing the market. Think of the producer that was passed over because the client was sure they could get someone new to videography to do it for free. You might be in their position some day. This kind of thing happens all the time with video, graphic design, and art. It’s a side effect of these very fun fields to work in!
Mike Wilhelm is a Videomaker executive editor.