Matthew, Right off the top



Right off the top I can tell you as is you will not be able to attract or charge clients premium prices with what you currently have. Unfortunately, we live in a ‘cosmetic society’ meaning ‘looks are everything’. When you show up to a shoot with pro or pro-looking gear, potential clients recognize right away that you are serious about your work and they will have to pay for your services. Doesn’t mean whether you’re any good or not.

When starting out your best bet is to base your initial pricing on your state’s average hourly wage for your profession. Seriously take into account what your actual overhead costs are and what you need to make on a job to meet those costs per month. Don’t be foolish and not include things like; cellphone, land line, rent (for apartment or house), utilities and so on. All those things are overhead costs when planning what you intend to charge.

Another thing is to setup a budget to ‘accessorize’ your gear properly. When I got started on my own after working for a large production house, I only had a Sony Handycam (High-8!) However, knowing the limitations of the camera I picked up a few accessories like a good tripod with a Lanc-controller, extra lenses (wide and telephoto), plus some basic lens filters and simple mic’s (lavalier and stereo.) My kit was straight consumer-grade, but the way I had it configured it looked much more professional.

My gear didn’t look like I was a hobbyist and I knew exactly what I was talking about when I dealt with clients. Oh yeah, I’ve had lots scoff at cost (even one’s who had the money to pay!) But, you don’t deal with them. They will be a pain and will bitch about the cost and try to whittle you down on everything from start to finish. You have to remember, you’re out to convince a client that you are going to give them a product that’s worth the money they’ll pay.

I constantly get calls for gigs and they ask, ‘Hey we like the quality of the RED camera, do you use that?’ My answer is, ‘Sure can if you’re willing to pay for it.’ When they find out how much it’s really going to cost, those who are willing go forward. Those who aren’t are happy to hear about less costly alternatives.

So you’re using a Rebel T2i which is a consumer-grade rig with a prime and the plastic kit lens that came with it. You also say you have a tripod and a steady rig. With one shotgun mic and a Zoom H1. Do you at least have a Lens Hood for your prime? You also need to get a viewfinder to go on your camera for when you’re shooting video. Zacuto and others make some fine viewfinders that will help you see your image better during the shoot and make your gear look more professional.

Also, you need lens filters to fit both lenses. Tiffen makes some nice and inexpensive Digital Video filter kits with ND’s, UV, Polarizers and others to help you get good images. Then there’s your audio gear. Please tell me you use headphones and not earbuds to listen to your audio going into your H1? I use an H1 in addition to my regular audio gear primarily when I’m shooting video with a handheld point and shoot rig.

Oh and do you use a slate with a clapper during shooting for audio sync? One it helps you sync audio with ease in post and has the added bennie of giving your shoot a more pro feel. Clients get off on seeing the clapper come out and it makes them feel like they’re in a ‘real’ production.

These are just a fraction of the things you’ll need to give yourself a more ‘polished’ look with clients and also make shooting for you much easier. Now, don’t run out and buy the most expensive junk you can find. Don’t get ‘El Cheapo’ but don’t pay through the orifices either for accessories. Remember, if you want people to take you seriously, you have to look pro, sound pro and produce professional looking work even if you didn’t have high-end gear when you did it!

Lastly, don’t worry about what ‘your friend’ is doing. You’ll have to find your own niche whatever that may be and set up your pricing accordingly. Here’s a link to your state’s Wage Averages by Industry. It’s not precise as other states but it’s a good place to start looking. Good luck.

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