9th December 2017 at 1:09 pm #613
Next month I go freelance as a film editor for the first time. How do you freelancers decide how much to charge?
9th December 2017 at 2:18 pm #644
I’m Will Steer. I’ve been working as a freelance editor, colourist and animator for the last four years. I run Good Hustle Films.
1. Look at the norms in your industry – In film there are strongly established hierarchical gradations in the industry. So, for example, I accept less money if it’s a lower grade job because I know that’s how the industry works. A postproduction supervisor, for example, is usually fairly well paid. The editor on the film is usually the highest paid.
2. Talk to other people in the industry – Working out your value is mainly about talking to other people in the industry. Networking helps. It can be a bit awkward to ask people about their rates, so you have to be careful about broaching it. Online forums and Facebook groups are usually pretty good. I’ve actually found lots of good jobs on Facebook too. Not from a group which is all about recruiting, but one where professional editors share jokes. It comes down to knowing people.
3. Take into account the film’s budget – Keep in mind the size of the budget of the movie. On a bigger budget movie you will get paid more for the same role. So you might be on a smaller budget project further up the hierarchy and earn less, whereas on a bigger project with the same level of experience, you’ll find yourself further down the hierarchy earning more.
4. Don’t charge too little – Not long ago I was working with a few illustrators who were so desperate for work that they were offering work for free. I just said to them “I will pay you good money. I will not accept you working for me for free.” Because that’s the main danger when you’re starting out: charging too little. It can be scary to think that you won’t get another job, but don’t quote too low. Don’t undervalue yourself. If you feel like a job’s going to take ten days and you only quote for five, or eight, you’re going to be stressed out and you’ll end up resenting your client.
In a nutshell: have faith in your work and your value. That’s very important.
5. Don’t undercut – For god’s sake, don’t undercut! If you’re aware of the baseline for what the industry is, don’t go below it in an attempt to get clients. You’re screwing the rest of us over and you’re screwing yourself over in the future, because once you start working low for those clients, they will expect those rates to continue. It ends up being bad for your career and for your fellow creative professionals. Not long ago I was talking to someone about doing some computer aided design work. It was for a client who I happened to know had plenty of money. He said, “I know the hourly rates in the industry for a computer aided designer are between £35 to £85 an hour. So I was thinking of charging £25.” He thought it was a good thing. But I said: “why?” After all, he does seriously skilled work. It’s OK if you feel your experience is only worth the minimum. But don’t go below it, or it’s not a minimum.
6. Sometimes it’s a trade off between money and experience – I’ve got one job coming up where I’m being paid less than I would normally accept, but it’s a good opportunity for me, so I’m willing to accept a slightly lower rate because I know that I’m part of something that’s worth being part of. If you want to work in feature films (especially indie films), you have to go in a bit lower and work your way up. 7. Get comfortable turning away clients – If a client isn’t willing to pay the baseline, they’re not a client worth having. They don’t appreciate the value of the labour. It’s as simple as that. If they’re not willing to pay the minimum, I think you should end that relationship before it even begins.
8. Unions can be a useful resource for finding rates – We’re fortunate enough to have a relatively strong union, BECTU. If you’re working in an industry that has an element of unionisation, those unions are good places to go and find going rates in your industry. Those have always been negotiated as a realistic rate between large employers in your industry and the union. Those rates are a good indication of industry standards. Granted, there may be parts of your industry where they can’t quite reach those rates so you have to be lenient. But, depending on what kind of job you’re doing, unions can be very good places to find rates.
9. Don’t worry – Right at the beginning, when you’re starting out, you probably will mess up and do too much work for too little money. Almost every freelancer, unfortunately, will experience that in their career at some point. It’s not even about being exploited, just that you mess up a bit. My advice would be: move forward, and don’t let it worry you too much.
- This reply was modified 1 year, 11 months ago by Asher.
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