Working for free

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    • #43330

      I’ve just moved to a large metro area and have networked with several groups, mainly artists and performers, that have opened up a great number of opportunities for video work for me. I’m a film student right now, but I’ve been doing video for around 7 years now. My dilemma is that a lot of people come to me asking me to help them out by producing a video on the grounds that it’d be good experience, build my resume, spread my name…ect. I realize that to a degree situations like that are true. I just don’t know at what point I can say “Ok, but you have to pay me.” I want to build resume and all that, but honestly I’m afraid of becoming the guy that works for free.

      Any advice.

    • #181782

      Tim, probably just about everybody on this forumhas struggled with this. You will have to gain enough confidence in yourself and your abilities as a videographer, producer etc. to feel comfortable actuallycharging for your work. This confidence may only come withsome amount of ‘free’ work. Maybe the best way to make this transition is to set some goals for yourself. Tell yourself that you will shoot ‘x’ amount of interviews or events or video resumes for actor etc.before you begin to charge for this work. Stick to your schedule and announce when you reach ‘x + 1’ that your schedule has become crowded and you can only fit paying gigs in. As you gain experience from these freebies, make sure that you get in writing that you retain rights to your work so you can use it for your video resume that you will use to promote yourself. Keep shooting.

    • #181783

       Its not just in video, its in every walk of life. Not only is there a sucker born every minute but ten of those looking to take advantage of each of those suckers.

      It may seem easy to get caught up in the trap of doing “Pro Bono” work to build a portfolio and get some references that will sing your praises but more like giving into the easy way that never seems to work out. Once you start working for someone for free or even at the “Best Buddy” cut rate, they won’t ever be able to understand the full rate or your real worth.

      It may seem like a longer road but don’t cut yourself short. If you take care of yourself first you can take care of a family and then any charity you wish but if you let the charity work run the show you’ll never get anywhere.

      There are some cases where it wouldn’t hurt to help someone out but IMHO you don’t ever want it to lead to “Go talk to this guy, he’s cheap”.


    • #181784
      AvatarGrinner Hester

      Nobody should work for free unless they are passionate about the charity. That said, we’ve all done gigs for no currency…. in trade for the other benefits involved, be in contacts, reel fodder, or that client’s name on our resume. That’s all you have to weigh… can you afford the time invested knowing it’ll pay no bills that month and how many bills with that pay down the road.

      Free is subjective sometimes too. Even spec gigs will cover expenses sometimes and owning your own gear, of course you have xpenses even if you don’t whoop up a b udget for a shoot. Meaning, you can always counter with, I don’t mind doing a spec gig for you t his time as way of introducing myself, how about a check for 500 to cover my costs then we’ll negotiate pricing on the next one? As you know that paints you in a corner because they’ll ALWAYS expect the same time next time but in their mind you are doing it for nada and possinly in yours you squeezed at least a half day’s pay out of it.

    • #181785


      Grinner called the ball on this one. I’ll add that you’ll also need to keep an eye out for folks who are just trying to hook you in to get free labor. There are dump truck loads of parasites out there like that who prey upon newbies trying to break in. That said, I’ve done in-house gigs where we weren’t paying. However, nobody got paid on those gigs (including me) and I made that plain.

      On the other hand, I made it worth the while for those who worked those gigs with perks on the job and covered their meals, lodging and transportation while they were on location. That and they all got paraphernalia swag associated with the project and a first run pressed copy of the final product. Anyone who works those freebies get first call for crew and such during paying gigs. Most of the people I work with regularly all did a freebie either initially or later on.

      Before hooking up on a freebie, ask around for people who’ve worked with that producer/production company before and see how they are about giving ‘reach arounds’. If they turn out to be a ‘one-way’ outfit (you work one for free then find your way out the door) give them the ‘thanks but no thanks’. Now, if you find a project you’re enthused about just make sure whoever you work with is good about giving what was promised. Credits and Reel fodder (as Grinner called it) are only good if you actually get them.

      Hard truth is; when you’re just a student or an otherwise newb trying to break in, you’re going to have to do some freebies. Just pick and choose when and how many you do wisely. In the meantime, network with the people you work with as more often than not, newb’s get picked up for crews because somebody knows them because they worked them before.

    • #181786

      Great advice. Thank you guys. It’s tough having bills and live and still keep at it. You’ve bee a big help though. If’ve any of you are in Dallas drop me a message. I’m open to work on whatever’s going on. Thanks again.

    • #181787
      Luis Maymi LopezLuis Maymi Lopez

      Aaaaa…working for free, been there, done that. I worked for free initially to gain some experience, but later on you really need to say, “okay, no more free gigs from me”. Like Composite mentioned, “keep an eye out for folks who are just trying to hook you in to get free labor”, those people are everywhere in the world, you just need to be firm when is time to ask for money. At first is a little scary, but if you don’t learn how to do this, the “parasites” will eat you. What I do is start with a high price and keep negotiating until me and the client agree on the price.

      One thing I do for free is church and family members social activities. I get some income by selling DVD and the good thing is that church and family members market your product, increasing the chances of selling DVD. A family member of mine manage to get me 25 DVD to sell at $15 each. I’m editing a church activity and they are making a list of people interested in buying DVD (around 10 people right now). For the church the DVD is $20, but I’m donating $5 for each DVD I sell to the church. This is a good strategy because people could buy the DVD to make a donation to their church and preserve and amazing DVD.

      You are going to learn many things along the way, just don’t stop learning. If you are going to work for free be sure to do gigs in which you can learn more than you already know.

    • #181788

       If you believe you have enough work under your belt so you have good sample footage of your work, and your now confident/know the ropes. Then yes start charging. “Yeah i can edit this film for you, i’m going to have to charge a fee though” Work out a deal, if they insist on not paying say your going to have to pass then.

    • #181789

      WOW! What a great topic to just stumble upon. I am at this stage right now. I decided to go back to school last Fall (2010), and during that time, I did not mind working for free, I was gaining experience shooting all sorts of different video, and recently did a job for a charity that turned out to be the most professional thing I have done.

      I am currently finishing up my last 2 weeks of schools, and I have two more obligations to do for free and I have decided that at the beginning of the new year I am no longer working for free.

      The other question I have is I have no idea what one would charge per day. It seems on here $500 is considered a 1/2 day of expenses. Does that mean that most Videographers are charging $1K/day? I find it hard to believe that there are that many people out there charging $1K/day.

      What about editing, I am also positioning myself to edit the content as well. That is a separate fee, what do people charge for editing? That of course is in many ways more time consuming than shooting.


    • #181790

      Running into you a lot tonight, well wee hours of a Sunday morning for me … sleepless in Southern California. R U any relation to Stone Cold Steve Austin? Just kidding …

      A day rate is good to have, depending on what you’re working/bidding. So is a half-day rate. NOTE: half day rate is usually higher, on average, for 4-6 hours, than a day rate for 8-12 hours, sort of develops an incentive for the client to go with the DAY rate, as it saves them some money in the event production goes south and can’t wrap in half-a-day.

      I keep my math simple and try to average a $70 per hour rate (used to have two, one for shooting, one for editing, but …) and occasionally do better than that, but sometimes do worse. I usually use my target hourly fee as the basis for flat fee or turnkey estimates … not always a win-win, especially if you’re a bit too optimistic on how quickly you can get the work done.

    • #181791

      Earl –

      yes I do most of y forum searching at night, when the kids are asleep. And when I came up with this handle, I was a big wrestling fan. I am all over the internet as stonecoldmark, so I just keep running with it. It’s not often someone calls me out on it.

      I am just starting to get my feet wet with the marketing. However I did run into a problem with a video company already having a name that me and my brother in law picked out. So we are going back to the drawing board. I’ve tried contacting a few of the places you recommend for video work, but so far nothing. but I am going to be working on getting my website, facebook and twitter all situated for all things dealing with Videography. I am also looking into the direct mailing that you speak of. I have made a list of 10+ places so far and plan on keeping a running log that I am eventually going to enter into a database and print off labels. I’m also going to be putting a reel together to show the different things I have recorded for people over this past year. It’s quite diverse.

      Love the tips, keep ’em coming!

    • #181792

       Mark, you might start your search for a name for your company at your state’s attorney general’s office. My state has a fictious name registry. You decide on a name and check with them about it’s use. Your state may be different but worth looking into. In my state the fee for name registry is nominal and is good for a number of years and easy to renew.

    • #181793

      Me no expert but you need to do some projects for free for confidence and respect, only you can decide when you start charging people for your work. You dont have to be scared if you ask money for your work its how business works.

    • #181794

      Also, if you believe it’s a good project with decent money making potential, you can ask to be given a percentage ownership of the final product in lieu of payment or for a reduced rate.

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