January 31, 2017

4 Tips on Setting Your Fee for Freelance Videography Work

Nice, someone's interested in hiring your for a videography job! But what should you charge?

As a filmmaker or videographer, finance may not be your favorite topic, but it's certainly an important one. If your ultimate goal is to make a living doing what you love, you have to be knowledgable about the business side of your craft, as well as clear about your expectations. In this video, David Bergman of Adorama TV shares some tips on how to set your price, how to communicate with your clients, and what you should know about how businesses work.

I worked as a videographer/photographer in college to pay for textbooks—and the reason I was only able to pay for textbooks was because I absolutely despised talking about money with clients. Someone would approach me to do a photoshoot or film their wedding and they'd say, "What's your price?" Being an inexperienced freelancer I'd respond with, "Well, that depends. What are you willing to spend?"

My desire to not appear money-grubbing, as well as my failure to assess the value of my work drastically affected my income to the point where I gave it up all together. Honestly, getting paid $200 to film a wedding and deliver a video days later just wasn't worth it.

So, before you head into your next videography gig, you might want to consider these tips:

Don't be afraid to talk about money

You're providing a service, so of course your fee must be discussed. Your client wants to talk about this just as much as you do, so don't worry about coming off as money-hungry.

Accurately assess your fee

This is tricky, because while some think themselves the next Steven Spielberg and charge too much, others think themselves as a nobody and charge too little. Take into account your level of experience, the gear you use, travel, per diem, and how long the job will take. Depending on the type of work you're doing, you may want to charge an hourly, day, or project rate, so, for example, an you might want to charge by the hour if you're doing an editing job, but for a wedding, you might want to charge a flat fee.

Don't hand over the final product until you've been compensated

No one wants it to ever come to this, but sometimes it's difficult to get clients to fork over the money they owe you, and delivering the product to them only makes it harder. Requiring a deposit is a good way of getting this ball rolling, and requiring your fee to be paid in full before you hand over their photos or videos is a great motivator for payment.

Name your price

Don't be like me and give your clients the option to name their price, because they'll go as low as they can. Name your price, that way the ball is put in their court to agree, negotiate, or walk away.

Do you have any tips on how to decide on what to charge for videography work? Let us know in the comments!     

Your Comment

20 Comments

I provide an estimate per project and split the total cost in three parts for the client; pre-production, production, and post production to ease total sticker shock. If they want further breakdown, i provide it for them. I charge a fair bit and have no problem walking away if they don't like my estimate. I'm lucky to have reached a point in my career where I can afford to let jobs go. Wasn't always that way though. It's a tough game for sure.

January 31, 2017 at 11:33PM

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Ryan Sauve
@sauvedp
177

This is very good point to consider. Thanks for sharing this here. I land up doing things that was never disclosed by the client before the deal is struck.
1. Educate the client about the entire process you will be going through to deliver the final product. From preparation - shooting - editing - rendering and final delivery. Believe me most clients do not know what is rendering and how time consuming it is.
2. Get it on paper signed by you and your client about your deliverables and remunerations. Many times in good gesture I land up doing time consuming things - for free. Like - the client requests one video to produce for their website / YouTube etc. Later they will say please make one in low res for WhatsApp! Then they might say split the video in sections. When you split the video, you still need to put the openings and endings! Then you render it. Clients need to know and understand this processes and we need to explain right at the very beginning.
3. Agree to the payment modes, intervals and amount before you finally close the deal.
4. Get everything on paper, signed by both you and your party and STRICTLY STICK TO IT. Anything beyond this please charge them. Let them know your worth.

Anything else please share more to enlighten us, because for us art comes first than money. But the most difficult part is how much should I charge for the job :)

February 1, 2017 at 2:20AM, Edited February 1, 2:21AM

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Dibyendu Joardar
Director of Photography
652

I think you have the same issue as i do. it starts when you use this popular phrase, 'It's no problem' or something like it. The point being that when you say something like that you're trying to suggest that it isn't beyond your ability, i get that, BUT how it's interpreted by the client, is that it's an easy none-time consuming easy thing for you to achieve not worthy of extra expence. Maybe we should try and say something like, Yea i can do that but there is a considerable amount of extra work there and that will cost extra, do you still want me to do it. And then fill them in on why it's more work. Walk them through the whole thing if they need that.

February 2, 2017 at 6:30AM

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John Stockton
Filmmaker, Editor.
434

Thanks for the topic.

February 1, 2017 at 3:12AM

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Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
1177

This is a nice topic. About the part of not delivering the product until payment, that however can sometimes be tricky, not sure about elsewhere but in France a client only has a legal obligation to pay you after delivery AND has a time limit of up to 45 days AFTER receiving the product to actually pay the worker, can sometimes be very frustrating.
Anyone have similar experiences out there in other countries?

February 1, 2017 at 5:33AM

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I find it amusing that articles like these claim to never be afraid to talk about money yet they NEVER actually talk about money. Where are the average costs? What are HIS costs for this or that. NO ONE will say anything. What are you people trying to hide? Even in the comments....nothing=) "Charge what you think its worth" or "name your price" is probably NOT the answer people are looking for that are asking the question. They want to know starting points. Base prices. Max price, ect.

We hire a few guys for $750/day w/ camera package, but that changes with travel. And we'll spend more for guys we have a relationship with because they're reliable. Sometimes they give us breaks when its simple.

Why won't anyone just SAY what they charge for X? What are you hiding=) Articles like these come around every so often and they honestly don't answer the main question people are asking.

Whats do you charge to shoot a wedding?
What is a day rate for a basic interview?
What is your hourly rate....essentially. What are you ACTUALLY worth/hr for X? You would think freelancers that have been doing it a while can very easily answer these questions to help new guys starting out, yet there's this secrecy and hush hush attitude and honestly no one is helping anyone else by beating around the bush.

February 1, 2017 at 8:37AM

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Josh.R
Motion Designer/Predator
980

Its a sick joke almost.

"Make a $1000 movie!" but when you get into the logistics of that and start piecing out how to spread it you get laughs about how low you have to pay. Its an art in itself convincing people to work for you for so low.

February 1, 2017 at 10:33AM

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Chris Hackett
Director, Director of Photography, Writer
1228

Few people share because its entirely subjective to your market, your cost of doing business, and your types of clients.
Wedding Videos go from $500-$50k for a 5 min highlight video. Music Videos go from nothing to ~$100k as a cinematographer.
You can get away with charging a lot more for indie level work in Miami or Dallas, because there is a lot less competition, then say LA.
If you own equipment and do a certain type of job regularly, you can do that much cheaper than someone who has to rent.

I charge $2000/day in Dallas shooting music videos, commercials, and corporates (w/edits). If I were in LA, I doubt I could get more than half of that (tho I would probably work more shoot days). But Less for features or TV.

February 1, 2017 at 11:48AM

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Josh Wilkinson
Music Video Director/DP
377

Hey Josh!

I'm in the Dallas area myself. Does that quote include your gear? Getting started in corporate and nonprofit work out here and trying figure out where the market is at.

Thanks!

February 2, 2017 at 2:42PM

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Ryan Wermich
Director/Director of Photography/Editor
74

That's from central FL to the Atlanta area, for corporate event coverage or a standard interview. And we've paid a lot more for lower quality. Inability to properly light a green/white screen seems to be more difficult for some.

Your time is worth what its worth but you can only get paid what people are willing to pay. I'm quite glad I'm not a freelancer=)

February 2, 2017 at 8:24PM, Edited February 2, 8:24PM

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Josh.R
Motion Designer/Predator
980

Yup. Red Scarlet Dragon, Set of 250w hwi equivalent LEDs, dolly, and grip equipment.

Careful with non-profits. A lot of them will try and rip you off. Most successful non profits have massive marketing budgets.

February 2, 2017 at 8:36PM, Edited February 2, 8:36PM

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Josh Wilkinson
Music Video Director/DP
377

It doesn't help anyone if you still don't actually mention any numbers.

It's actually really simple if you just state a going rate, no guru required.

So, for anyone starting out and struggling with how to set a fair price. Aim to charge around £550 a day and you'll be doing fine. You might need to bump up the rate if specific gear is required and for travel etc. By the time you make a name for yourself you'll know if you can charge more or not.

February 1, 2017 at 10:22AM

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I sympathise with the frustration in the replies here. But this illustrates why it's impossible to give simple pricing advice, applicable to all.

Should someone with no experience and a 650D charge £550 p/day? If you have experience and capable gear, and similar shooters in your city charge £250 p/day, should you still charge £550? If work is slow and clients in your area can only afford £200 p/day, can you afford not to take the work?

I think it depends on the work you're doing, the kind of clients you have and the sort of prices others in your area charge. It might also depend on the kind of work you want - are you simply looking for the highest paying clients, or do you want the most enjoyable/interesting work?

February 1, 2017 at 1:57PM

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This has been the best resource that I found earlier on that has saved me when I was working freelance and then when I started my own business and started hiring people. Knowing your cost of doing business will make you think about equipment, taxes, rent, etc. It is good. Good luck to all of you out there! http://blog.vincentlaforet.com/2013/08/01/how-to-succeed-as-a-creative-l...

February 1, 2017 at 4:48PM

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A counterpoint: DO talk about money before you begin any work, but DON'T talk about money too early. The client will pressure you to give them a price immediately. Resist. Make sure you discuss all of the details of the project and understand everything it entails BEFORE you give a price. Go over everything you'll be doing and make sure the client understands everything they'll be getting so when you do give a price, they know the value in it. And start high. You can always bring it down later. But you can never bring it back up.

February 1, 2017 at 5:28PM

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This video looks like it was made for 3 dollars. And 2 of those dollars went to licensing that killer electric guitar track from Pond5.

I also didn't find any tips. So, maybe I can add some that might help someone...

Tip 1) Ask someone else what they charged. Of course it depends on how well you know them, but as a shooter/director/editor, my peer pool is pretty small. I usually know others like me, doing similar work, sometimes even bidding the same job. I've never had a problem asking someone else on an edit job "so whats your day rate these days". If you're shy and/or don't have any friends, then you can always contact someone with similar work, make up a fake project, and ask them what they would charge for the work.

Tip 2) ask them what they have for a budget. The more I work, the better my work gets, and the higher my day rate is. 10 years ago I would have worked for just credit. Now, it takes a decent chunk of change to get me out of bed. That being said, there are some projects, either with brands or people I want to work with, that don't have the budget to support my normal day rate. When thats the case I let them know what it normally is, tell them I do want to work with them, so what do they have in their budget for me. I hate to bargain so whatever they say is the price, and I can make a yes/no call on if I want to pick up the gig. I also know what they are working with if Im going to reco someone for them.

Tip 3) Be scalable. Like Ryan said below it's ok to break up the work. Line item it out so they know what they're paying for. His example was for a 360 project, with pre, shoot and post work together. Lots of times Im hired just as a director, or a DP, so Ill kinda do the same thing, but with line items. Transportation, insurance, equipment, per diem, whatever. Instead of saying 2k a day, create 6 line items and make it add up to 2K. This is good for two reasons; one, it lets the client see where the money is going, and usually makes them feel they are getting multiple things for one price, and two, it makes it easier to change your rate if you go in high, and need to back it down. Usually I always have a top number, a number that is basically the most I've ever been booked on a job for. Ill set it at that with line items, and if it comes back, then I can say, "well, lets loose transpo, cause your going to provide that, and lunch will be on set, and if you don't need the whole lens kit we can cut down on the equipment line..." etc that way you have some sort of legitimate control on what you can and cannot subtract.

Hope these help. This is years of having to set my rate. I used to always have a nervous breakdown about it, like if I gave them the wrong number I would never work again. Now, it's just business. The number is always flexible, and you start to realize what type of client you are working with; either fully budgeted (highest bar set), some budget but you don't know how much (ask what they have for a budget), or someone that has no idea what you do costs, and thinks 100 bucks a day is a legitimate request (give it to someone you don't like;).

Happy shooting!

February 2, 2017 at 3:51PM

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Roberto Serrini
Director • Editor
623

Give it to someone you don't like :D made me laugh out loud. Your comment is good and has valuable advice but your reel on your profile page is even better!

March 14, 2017 at 9:32AM

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Milan Schere
Director
229

Yeah, I saw the video as total weak sauce, but I think that's why he/they wanted to presented it in a such a way to solicit and or submit your knowledge on pricing, working with customers, an over-all launching point.

As usual the pros on this side (comments) of the fence came through with some solid, useful information. Thank you.

February 3, 2017 at 6:06PM

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You have to take into consideration all your tools. (camera, lights, computer, ect) also your office including heating. (I use the spare room normally unheated) How much would you spend on all those things over their lifespan. Then of course there's your creative skill. That ones up to you.

February 4, 2017 at 7:52AM

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Donald McPherson
hobbyist
215

It's hard to start budgeting at the beginning, especially if you really want a job but consider that if you quote too low, your client will not only think less of your skills and treat you that way but you'll probably end up not enjoying the work halfway into the project, unless there's some type of deeper connection. Meaning, unless it's driven by passion, set your price above the threshold that you think would make it worth doing it. Underbidding one thing might make you hate the job while you'd be happy to do another one for free. If it takes extra motivation to tackle a task create yourself a financial incentive.

As for numbers, think about each project broken down into tasks even if you're a one man show. Writing, storyboarding, directing, lighting, camera operation, editing, visual effects or grading, etc. Just because you're multi-skilled doesn't mean these come for free. Aim for indutry standard pricing within three years:

Technical crew:
Cinematographer/Videographer $1000 per day
Gaffer (lighting) $450 per day
Grip $450 per day
Camera Assistant $400 per day
Swing / P.A. person $250 per day
Sound Person with gear - $650 per day

The other positions needed are more of a creative crew nature like Assistant Director / Production Manager / Hair & Make Up / Wardrobe / Art Director, and pricing is rather flexible depending on region. A good visual effects artist or editor for example is between $650-1000 per day.

When you start out, split these rates into half due to lack of experience and then increase them after each successfully completed job! Equipment is the same. An Alexa is around $2000 per day, a RED half of that and if you got your own professional gear like an URSA Mini, TERRA or Bolex D16, you might be able to squeeze $500 out, but shooting on your own DSLR should probably not cost extra.

When you put together your budget, basically figure out how many days you'll need to prep, shoot, edit and do post. Associate each 8 hours of work to the equivalent day rate, like $500 per day for the filming but only $325 for editing. Then add other expanses such as transportation, music licensing and equipment, if applicable. If the final number covers your costs and makes you happy in exchange for the time it takes up from your life, you're done.

However, this is all subjective and a crued simplified exploration. Please, don't shoot me. I'm just trying to help. It would be a tremendous resource to have an anonymous database like Glassdoor for our industry. Sorted by location and kept up to date. Someone get on that! New Linkedin feature?!?

March 14, 2017 at 10:14AM, Edited March 14, 10:14AM

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Milan Schere
Director
229