Winning Strategies for Pricing Your Work

Winning Strategies for Pricing Your Work


Been there done that.

ngthatcher's picture

ALWAYS talk about the fees at the outset - leave nothing hanging, and get it in writing.   The biggest problem most people have is talking about fees.   You can make a joke out of it - "My family motto is 'Get the check!' so let's get that part out of the way and keep my ancestors happy."   "I always start at ten grand a day and work backwards - how about $1500 a day - I provide everything and I'm at your service.   I'll make another  deal with you - I won't waste your time if you'll be absolutely clear about what you want before we begin." etc.   One thing actors hear all the time but it applies to everyone in the game is, "We can only pay you fifty bucks but you'll get a lot of exposure."   "Where I live you could die of exposure."   Next!

By the hour

Of course what's entirely overlooked in this excellent analysis is charging by the hour. I'd prefer not to have to live with day rates and absolutely want to avoid project rates. I'm prepared to give a client an estimate of how long I think a project will take from start to finish, but I want it clearly understood that if it takes less time they benefit, more time and I benefit. Our company charges a minimum for taking the camera out the door: this includes setup and tear down and two hours of shooting. After that it's by the hour.


We'll give a break on charges if we're hired on a guaranteed 4 hour or 8 hour day.


Editing is by the hour. No breaks, no debate.


The problem with charging by the day is that there's no way of knowing how much of a day is going to be used and clients, in my experience, tend to baulk at this. They don't want to charge for unused time.


Charging by the project puts the entire onus on you: you're going to get burned fairly often, no matter how good you are at estimating. We did a corporate project for which I estimated 10 hours of storyboarding and script development. The work actually ran closer to 20 hours owing primarily to unforseen complications with corporate headquarters.


Unless we know with certainty that a shoot will take only two hours -- a corporate board meeting, for example --  we charge a 4 hour minimum. We started doing this after shooting several construction jobs. Our crew would show up for a 7:00 a.m. call, ready to shoot, only to be told after waiting around for an hour that the shoot for that day had to be cancelled. After having this happen a couple of times we started writing our contracts with a 4 hour guarantee.


There really isn't a right or wrong in how you decide to charge, but for me it's important that I'm being paid for the time I spend on a project, and the best way I know how to control this is by billing by the hour. It has worked for our company for the past 14 years; I don't see change on the horizon.