In the UK, the advice for a

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In the UK, the advice for a self-employed freelancer is to NEVER charge by the hour. A number of reasons, but our current tax system – run my Her Majesties Revenue and Customs, uses hourly pay as an indication that you are NOT self-employed and it really impacts on your tax liability. So here, hourly pay for the creative industries is a no no.

However – for me, there is also a better reason. Clients have NO understanding of how much things cost, or the time taken to do it. Let’s say your project involves the modest request of ten DVDs. I’ve got a number of duplicators here, but printing for me means one at a time, so I tend to do it when I’m in the edit suite working on something, and can reload a blank ever minute or so. To duplicate that ten DVDs could take quite a while if you have to fire up photoshop design the DVD and then print it – so how much is an hour of sheer boredom and little technical input worth? If you load up the vehicle, go off to shoot, then you should be thinking about the job, not clock watching and recording the times. I charge by the day. I occasionally charge for a half day, but most half days take a day start to finish, and you cannot do anything else. I have a day rate, a long day rate and a VERY long day rate. In UK money – my cheapest day rate is £140. A long day rate is £180 and a very long day £240. I decide and do not publicise where the break between day and long day comes. The reality is that a 10am start and 4pm finish is a full day – which is usually 5 hours with time off for eating. I’ll move to the long day if the start gets brought forward or the end moved later. Clients understand the concept of days but they don’t know how long things take – so I’ll give them the rates and then an estimate of time – shooting is likely to be 2 days for two people, and then three days editing – depending on the project. I don’t detail the hours. If the shoot is disorganised on the clients behalf, as so many are, then the 2 days for 2 people is going to be at the higher rate. If on the other hand we turn up shoot and are out early each day, I’ll charge them the lower rate. Hours only come into it when using certain union people where their agreed pay rates are based on X hours minimum call – so they might be 4 hour blocks and we go into the next one, then stop one hour in – I get billed for 8 hours. My billing needs to take this into account for bumping up a bit and passing on. I don’t mark up much – if I am going to charge £240 – then I’ll usually pay out about £200 to whoever I use, the extra covers waiting 30-60 days for payment.

This also makes it work better when a client sits in on the edit. Pressing a button and doing a render looks like you are doing nothing – so wandering off for a coffee appears to be you taking a long break and charging for it. I realise it’s probably different in other countries, but this is how I do it here.

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