This is a question that comes


This is a question that comes up here on the forum almost monthly, and the answers are almost always the same.

Lets begin by disavowing the notion that your charges should be related somehow to the value of the real estate which you’re shooting. Followed to its logical (illogical?) conclusion, this would suggest that you should bill more for an hour of shooting the Hope diamond than for an hour of shooting cheap costume jewelry.

And this brings us to the crux of billing: what are your costs involved in the shoot and what is your time worth? You say you have nearly $10,000 in gear. If that money were invested at 5% interest it would be earning $500 the first year, $525 the second and so on. So you know you must charge enough on each shoot over the year to account for the $500 lost in interest. You surely have expenses for your office, insurance, utilities, etc. Your shoots for the year must generate enough income to cover all these expenses. Then you have transportation expenses — car insurance, gas, depreciation of your vehicle, etc., etc.

Finally, you must consider what your time and expertise is worth; how much are you prepared to work for by the hour?

Add this together and you’ve arrived at covering your costs. To this total you must add what you expect to earn as profit, for it is this that will allow your company to grow. We usually add 25 to 40% to the job.

With all of this in mind, you can calculate what it will cost per hour to cover your costs, based on the number of hours per year you estimate you will work.

I strongly encourage you to work by the hour, rather than by the job. Bill for the shoot and separately for the edit and deliverables. By doing this you avoid any unpleasantness with your client, who may want your to shoot a quick walk through or may want a detailed architectural record of each room in the home. Our company has a minimum of 4 hours, regardless of how short a stay we have on site, with an hourly charge after four hours.

The main thing is to be sure your charges cover your costs — daily and annually — your salary, and a profit for the business.

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