How much should i Charge

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    • #50708



      I'm Starting my own business in video production. My Market is Syracuse NY, which is known for not having very good producers for video. I am gonna use a Sony NEX VG20, priemier, after effects.


      The top production house in syracuse is solon quinn studios, there is one other production house, ottvon media, both of these firms are actually good, In terms of talent, i have an equal amount of talent in each area of production as each of solon quinns team members (4 people). i watched everything they produced, and concluded that with similiar resources i can easily produce the same or better quality by myself. both these studios are known to charge 10,000 for at the most 5:00 of video.


      I am currently making my own website which will look pretty good, by the time i fully launch i will have about 10 projects on my website in my portfolio, that i will certainly make them to the same quality found in solonquinn studios portfolio.


      since i am just starting, what do you guys think would be a reasonable charge rate for a :30 spot, 1:00 spot, 1:30 spot, and a long form video of 5:00, considering this, i can shoot and edit top quality :30 spot in about 10 hours including high quality motion graphics, 1:00 being about 15 hours of work for real good quality, and 1:30 should take me about 20 hours max for top quality, long form it depends on the travel time, but for a really well produced 5:00 – 8:00 video it takes a good 10 hours to edit with good motion graphics


      my second question is, eventually im gonna run into situation where i need actors, i cant find a actors guild in syracuse NY, so what methods do you guys have for finding actors for videos and how much should i pay them.


      here is a longform video i produced for boces, i did this for free to get a portfolio project, but they are going to pay me to do  3 other projects after seeing what i did, they didnt plan on paying anyone to do those projects at all till i did this free project for them. this was my first professional project with decent equipment after i finished my degree, ive done more since then but i havent uploaded them onto youtube yet.


    • #204116

      The question of what to charge comes up quite often on the forum. The answers really should be a stickey item, one that's permanently on the board. The basis for what to charge is your operating cost, otherwise you're just making up numbers. You might find my article at to be of value in thinking this through.


      In my experience, charging by the finished minute is a mistake. It's almost impossible to determine beforehand how much time will be involved in a shoot and post production. Our company has worked on 60 second projects that took as little as an hour of shooting and a couple of hours of editing and 60 second projects that took two 8 hour days of shooting and a couple of weeks to edit. Working with a client on nuances of voice-over, for example, or on color correction, can add hours of time you haven't expected to spend and have no means of billing.


      You're much better off, from a business view point, charging by the hour, half-day or day for pre- production consultation, scripting, casting and shooting and charging hourly for editing. Discuss budget, then give your client a best guess estimate, making it clear that you'll keep them posted as to where your work is relative to that budget.


      I wouldn't worry too much about finding actors for your production work. Syracuse University's College of Visual and Performing Arts should have a substantial pool of trained semi-professional actors — talk to the head of the Acting Program to identify the best and brightest– and you're not very far from NYC and its huge pool of professional actors. Contact Actor's Equity and SAG for a list of local professionals, too.


      Good luck,



    • #204119

      Quite a lot of the footage is very shaky, as I am sure you're aware. Apparently this client is happy with your work but it is something that you are going to have to keep an eye on in your future business endeavours. I know some of it is supposed to be 'follow shot' etc but you would not be able to command the fees you are talking about here in Ontario with jittery footage.


      I am not trying to be unkind – just a note for your book.


      Good luck to you.

    • #204124

      Yep its shaky, I did that project for free. I had 30 minutes to interview 2 people then get Broll at each video site, on top of this boces wanted me to shoot it all in one day, boces wanted me to only use up 30 minutes of time of each of the Student intern hosts. I was using a dslr so to get it done fast I went hand held.


      I just learned recently how to stabilize any hand held footage in after effects with 2d tracking. so I'll probably stabilize it and give that version to them with absolutely no shaking.


      as for charging per hour, i  just dont like the idea of the price being blown way up cause the client wants alot of changes. instead I would like to set a good quote with a little overlay, then make something that blows them away the first time and not have to go back and change it. If i need to change it, then the price wont go up, cause if its not the quality im charging for the first time, then it should be before the price rises.


      I am Kind of thinking that to start with the first like 10 projects people pay me for, I'll charge around $1500 – $2000, after the ball gets rolling I'll charge around 3-4k once I establish my repetuation in this market. If solon Quin is charging 10k for a commercial, once i get some resources and more equipement i may charge 5-7k, but even when i exceed solon quinns quality of productions, i still wouldnt charge 10k, that just seems way to high for me to charge for something so easy for me to do.


      I am dedicated to excellence though, if someone is going to pay, wether i spend more hours then what the pay was equilavelent to, im gonna make sure it is absolute quality, and that it exceeds there expectations. I think that will make me successful


      I have another question, do you guys have legal contracts with the customers drawn up, that they sign disclosing payment information. If so did you get a lawyer to draw up or write it out yourself.



    • #204128

      If you are charging over 3K, then you NEED contracts. You really need to be able to project a businesslike front – and your spelling is pretty dreadful. You also can't use buzzwords like dedicated to excellence when you have small slips in the stuff you show us. 


      One tip. If you charge $1500, then don't expect that client to pay $3000 for the next one. 


      Let's be honest. You mentioned the people who you consider the best. How long did it take to get that reputation? You are new, and still pretty green, so there is no way you will be able to command top dollar ….. yet. To expect it is unreasonable. You may get known for being reliable and cheap, while somebody else is know for style, quality and talent. It's very difficult to move up without the experience and background. 



      ps what is disclosing payment information? Do you mean a gagging clause preventing them telling anyone how much you charged? If so – I doubt many people will agree to this one!


    • #204130

      With regard to a contract, drawn up by a lawyer: you don't have to be charging $1500 for this to be necessary. Charging ANYTHING requires a contract. A contract tells the videographer what's expected of him or her and tells the client what you're going to do. It established all the parameters of the project and what each will cost, what the terms of payment are and what you can expect to get paid for your time involved should the project be cancelled.


      When we first started our company I drew up a contract, took it to an attorney and said "Please look this over and make whatever changes are necessary for you to be able to defend me in court should the occasion arise." We've used this, with modifications, ever since.


      On another part of your post you choose not to charge by the hour. But consider this: you have nothing in life to sell but your time and talent. You say:


      "i  just dont like the idea of the price being blown way up cause the client wants alot of changes. instead I would like to set a good quote with a little overlay, then make something that blows them away the first time and not have to go back and change it."


      But that's not how the corporate/business world works with video. Change is an integral part of the creative process. You can knock yourself out and produce the best piece of work you'll ever do, as far as you're concerned, only to have somebody from the client's marketing office decide they don't like beat edits and someone from sales object to the color scheme and you're suddenly faced with hours of additional work. Work for which, in your scheme, you're not going to get paid.


      It's not a question of "the price being blown way up because the client want a lot of changes" but a question of being paid for what you do. Wouldn't you expect to pay more if you order a hamburger, then decided to add a shrimp cocktail, a gooy desert and a glass of wine to your order? It's no different with a client who starts making changes. 


      I agree that what will make you successful, as you suggest, is doing excellent work. But if you're not getting paid for the time and talent you expend to create this excellent work you're measuring "success" by a standard which doesn't have much to do with business.



    • #204132

      Well, honestly I didn't spell anything incorrectly; it was a matter of poor grammar. When it comes to the subject of using proper grammar on a forum, I don't consider it an important matter simply because I don't feel I need prove myself on a forum where you cannot link my username to my real identity.


      SolonQuinnStudios, Has been doing video production in Syracuse since 2006. They currently charge $10,000 or more for production of commercials. I can produce the exact same quality and talented work as them; honestly my work will have a greater marketing edge and better motion graphics.


      That point aside, Based on the said information above being considered as true, do you think it is an acceptable price to charge $3,000, for what will be undeniably the same quality as the top production studio that charges $10,000. My barrier to competing with them comes down to two things, the simple statement that I am inexpirenced having only been in business for one month as of yet, and that I am only twenty years old. Another point to consider is that I do not as of yet have my own studio space. I use room in my house to edit and do voice over, but no commercial space to offer customers for staged shots. I don't think this is necessary to produce amazing content, I can certainly come up with amazing quality commercials on site, or in local commercial area's.


      I guess I am sold pricing on an hourly rate, if that is what everyone is doing then it should not bother customers who are accustomed to professional production firms.


      You seem think that expirence trumps talent, In a some areas of work, and parts of life this is true in a sense. But in a field where Talent is so clearly revered, it is only logical that in video production Talent Far exceeds expirence. To defend this point I will say that a talented individual will gain more expirence in a field that requires talent in some shape or form in the same time as an individual who has less talent. In other words on the base level the talented person will grow faster and exceed the more expirenced individual because they learn and grow at a faster rate.


      Thank you for giving me helpful information and insight guys!


    • #204134

      Freelancers in general are an independent bunch-no groupthink for us! No matter how long and hard full-time freelancers beg their part-time and beginning counterparts to not write for free or for cheap-freelance writers and editors do what they've always done about rates. They charge whatever they please. They guess what the market will bear. Sometimes they get the rate they want, sometimes not, but decisions on rates are made individually.

    • #204135

      I'm really not trying to antagonise you, but you've fell into the trap so many young people make in thinking that the way you communicate depends on the medium, and not who you're talking to. What I mean is that first impressions do matter and they last. So your emails and letter to your clients will be one standard and your net chat at a different level. The danger is when you mix them up. 

      [quote]i have an equal amount of talent in each area of production as each of solon quinns team members (4 people). i watched everything they produced, and concluded that with similiar resources i can easily produce the same or better quality by myself. both these studios are known to charge 10,000 for at the most 5:00 of video.[/quote]

      Are you really saying that from watching them work, you have determined you have an equal amount of talent?  Perfectly possible, but what actual experience do you have to be able to modify your work processes to cope with unexpected events. Indeed, you could get into serious trouble by underquoting because some standard practices may yet be totally unknown to you.


      You've already demonstrated your lack of experience by your misunderstanding of stabilisation. It's a repair tool, not a production one. Stabilisation has a detrimental impact on image quality, and also invariably narrows the angle of view, depending on how bad the wobbles are.


      Nothing wrong with being on the bottom rung of the ladder – we all were at one time, but consider how potential clients will view you?


      Are they dealing with a business with staff, premises, studio facilities and stock/plant or are they dealing with a bedroom business operating from their parent's home, or other residential accommodation?


      When they telephone, they expect a land-line, not a mobile – they perhaps expect the phone to be answered by a person who will route their call to the person they want to speak to. They appreciate the legitimacy of the operation in terms of scale, and subconsciously form an opinion.


      The last paragraph sounds like a university paper conclusion – but I did note this bit.

      [quote]In other words on the base level the talented person will grow faster and exceed the more expirenced individual because they learn and grow at a faster rate.[quote]

      Maybe – over how many years?  At what point are you able to convince the bank manager to invest in you? You have no track record, you have next to no experience (yet) and you have a very high opinion of your skill level – which does seem to have holes, just from one post. I'm certain you have vision, you have ideas and you believe in yourself – yet after your years at university, you have little idea of commercial reality. Let's say I need a video product making. Do I go to the top production houses where I know from their client base and past projects, that I'm going to be looked after – or do I go to a complete newcomer who tells me he can do the same job for less, but has no track record? If cost was a serious consideration, and he's willing to do the job cheaply – would I give him a try? For 50% of the other quote I might. As soon as the small firm charges the same as the established bigger firm, no way. I pay for delivery, not promises and ideas – and this is business, not a hobby.

      I found out a few days ago from a couple of colleagues that a job I just finished successfully had really been researched by the client – unknown to me. He'd contacted many of the people I've worked for before and got from them detailed info on me. Including things like extra charges for extras, changes and hidden hire charges. He'd asked them if I was reliable – how many people actually turned up for the shoots, and how good my interpersonal skills were – and most importantly, he asked personal things about me – how old I was, what kind of vehicle I drove. I knew nothing of this, but from his perspective he was paying me around $6K, and he wanted to know more about me before he committed. I suspect he probably also searched my business history to see if I'd had financial issuesin the past. I do understand you feel you are already equiped to do the job – but ask yourself why the two businesses you mention are considered the best – because there are lots more within travelling distance – that you can be certain of. Google produces hundreds – and all these, not just the two you mentioned are your competition. In fact – there do seem a huge number, and looking at the Solon Quinn business – I'm amazed you can consider yourself their equal as a one-man band. To be very honest, I'd find it difficult to visualise you in the same league, when you've had no history.


      Sorry – but I just can't see it happening.


    • #204138

      Paul, I really do appreciate your comments, they are balanced and a good factor to my developing perspective.


      When I say Talent, I mean the vision, creativity, artistry, and everything that determines what the final product will be, before production starts.


      WARNING: large block of information only written for response, feel free to skip


      Motion Graphics: I definetly feel I am more talented then their motion graphics artist. In four of their long form videos the motion graphics and effects they used, created a 1990's documentary feel, not a 2012 documentary feel, this was clearly a blunder in my opinion. They could have done much much better with many of the introductions on the longform video's they produced. also they don't end alot of their commercial products with a proper motion graphics finish. Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Raymor and Flannigan, Nike, you name it, they all end the video with a motion graphic sequence that is well done and ends with their logo to tie in the branding effort they just made. Some times Solon Quinn is good at making a clear branded message but they don't always tie it in at the end.


      Cinematography: They have one person for each job, one graphics designer, one cinematography specialist. I annalyzed everything they did, and how each shot will be seen by different people and the feel it should invoke. The cinematography sometimes presents a feeling that is more local then national. One of my teacher's once said that if you do your job nobody should notice. I think many times they shoot things with too much stuff in the front view they have put out of focus, it creates a feeling that your watching people secretly, they do it in almost every project, it looks good in some circumstances but not every one. Many times I felt they used shots that were too empty, should be more people in many shots, but there cinematography is good.


      Sound: The sound editing is fine, there were about five times where I felt the song they used was not right. Several times the choice of back track could have been way better, way better. Sound is another major tool to invoke emotion, but some emotions should not be invoked by a commercial cause it does not sell the brand but distract the audience. For example they backtracked a downtown syracuse holidays ad with an old hymm. To me that was a clear mistake, if your trying to get old ladies who are seventy two to go shopping downtown, then use that song. The rest of their audience is not gonna relate to an old hymm, and any of those people out there who grudge religon will instantly be turned off by the ad. I believe you can simultaneously reach the whole audience and should try to


      Directing/Producing: They direct good, certainly get good things out of the actors. I have no expirence in directing actors at commercial productions compared to them so I cannot validly judge this and will not. But the producing I can, some of their Idea's are for the commercials are good, nothing I could'nt come up with in less then ten minutes. But some I don't think are the best marketing approach.


      I didn't go into full detail of my analysis of their work, but when I say I think I can do better, I watched every video they had on their site including music videos. I read every page they had about themselves. I know they have more resource and expirence then I do. But I believe I will catch them in a few years.


      Please do not think I am prideful, I am confident in myself. The difference between that and being prideful is the way I act everyday with people. I know some prideful young men who act like they are better then everyone cause they had a semi successful youtube venture, I know I can do much better then there youtube venture, but I don't want to do youtube ventures. I never like hotshots like they do, I treat people with equality and never act or think I am better then someone so I do not believe I am prideful, maybe inexpirence, maybe over confident.

    • #204139

      Ok, that aside there are some more questions I would like to probe you guys of, I only went to a two year college for tv/video production.


      so I didn't learn anything about freelance business or commercial production business from them.

      Everything I have learned about it i Learned from the internet. I didn't Learn any motion graphics or good camera techincal specs at this college either. I researched for probably a good 30+ hours camera specs, full frame vs aps-c, lenses, rigs, stablization systems, lighting systems. Also I have watched alot of tutorials on after effects and teaching myself alot about it. Also photoshop and illustrator I am very good with both.


      A few questions


      are there any things in the business that I would not know about, that would be very help that if I knew about now that you guys can tell me. From your expirence can you give me a heads up to anything you think I might not have encoutered yet, procedures or clients expectations, things they will want. Please share your expirence with me.

    • #204472

      You say that they made mistakes by using shots that are not full enough, not enough people, the wrong song, etc but you are forgetting that the spot has to be approved by their client (McDOnalds, etc). What you think is great, they might hate. You might not like the hym, buit the 58 year old guy in charge of advertising might cringe when you play him some crappy Lady GaGa song. Perhaps, they couldnt get licensing for the song they wanted or it cost too much. You sound like you have a talent but you also sound like you think you know it all. You say you could do better than anything they did. I say, I could copy everything they did and do it well. But, copying and coming up with the concept are two different things. I could play most of the Beatles songs on guitar, but I, nor anyone else, could have ever came up with the stuff they did, as simple as it sounds.


      I used to do weddings. I would charge from $495 – $2000. I used to hate when the couple would go for the basic package tht had none of the frills. But that is the tape they showed their friends. No opening baby pics, no re-cap, etc. So, all of their friends thought that was all I could do but I gave them what they paid for. Same goes for your competition. They may have had better ideas but might have been shot down from the only person that matters… the guy with the checkbook.


      Stand back…. do some side work and get some experience. I have a feeling that if you do work with the competition's clients, they arent going to want to work with you because you think you know more than they do and in this business, everyone has an ego and the man with the money wins.


      Just some friendly advice. Good luck

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