How do I get into this filming lark and make money from it? Part 2: Rates and surviving

 

This is probably the trickiest blog post I have ever had to write – hence it is heavily delayed. I have been wanting to write this for a couple of months, and something spurred me on to do it so here it is! Read part one here!

Now…there is no specific amount one should charge. It is dependent on so many factors. Especially these days when many people do everything, shoot, sound, direct, edit. Don’t expect this to spoon feed you the information you need. I won’t be giving you an actual rate to charge people. There is no such thing. This post will give you information that you can hopefully apply to your business model whether current or future.

Here are some of the variable, some…there are loads more!

1: What gear you are supplying if any.

2: What your job is. Are you just shooting? Are you editing too? Are you directing too?

3: Are you doing this as a one-off or is this a multi day job or for a repeat client.

4: Your experience.

5: How much you value yourself/ how desperate you are.

It is a bit of a taboo subject. I don’t for example tell people how much I charge unless they are asking to hire me, and then it is dependent on the above. My rate for 1 day is very different from my rate for making a film of something or being hired to shoot for say 1 week where the rate per day is lower.

What is the least I have worked for apart from freebies? I did a number of cameraman for hire days (no gear) for £225 a few years ago when I needed the work, bread and butter if you will. I was a very experienced cameraman at this point, but because no gear was involved the rate was low. When that same company hired me with gear and my car, it was £550. So as you can imagine I didn’t want to work without my gear. I had invested in the gear and needed a return on that investment. This was for broadcast work. I am not really going to go into that too much in that post, but I will mention it through examples. Broadcast work is so tricky and varied in pricing.

Today with gear like DSLRs being so affordable, you can get a cameraman with said gear for not a lot. A recent posting of the UK website “Shooting People” had a full Sony F3 kit with I believe 4 or 5 Zeiss CP.2 lenses, Sachtler tripod, sound gear, basic lighting gear AND a cameraman for the utterly ludicrously cheap price of £200 (if you don’t know what that is in your currency, please use one of the many currency convertors on the internet)

Now I don’t know if that was a typo, but I do believe this was not an individual but a “production house” hiring their gear with a cameraman. God knows what that cameraman was being paid. He probably would earn more working at McDonald’s! To be honest £200 to rent that full kit would be a steal – if I were to take them up on that offer, I would give the cameraman a chair to sit on and ask him to get me a coffee every now and then whilst I used his gear! 🙂

There are many theories as to why this was so cheap, a rich kid who has had all the stuff bought from him to someone who nicked it all (just checked, I still have my F3!). Whatever the reason for that sort of pricing, if I was looking to hire someone, that would ring so many alarm bells…just how shitty is this cameraman for example? If this is totally kosher and it’s someone desperately trying to get work, then it’s not a good precedent to set and it’s also not financially sustainable in the long term.

SO…with that above recent example in mind what should you charge for the above? Again it depends on YOU and where you are based. In some countries/ cities where there is saturation of the market, you may find it hard to get the price you deserve and you could end up taking far less then you are worth. What is the alternative? Sit and home and earn nothing…something is betting than nothing, right?

I tweeted/ facebooked/ google+/ myspace/ beboo messaged people to get some ideas of their experiences with clients and what they were charging. It was interesting reading. I will put some examples in this post, all anonymous, but it will give you an idea.

In my blog post “State Of Play”, my fictional character, Fred, who represents many of you, was worrying about which camera to buy. In this blog post we catch up on him and find out he actually bought the following. Don’t read into this as what to buy, this is just a random example.

1: Canon 5DmkII

2: Miller DS10 Solo tripod

3: Basic lighting kit

4: Tascam recorder and wireless mics

5: 24-70mm f2.8 lens, 70-200 F4 IS and 50mm F1.4 prime

A nice basic kit, not sumptuous, not extravagant but enough to get the job done. No fancy pants things like sliders, no expensive lights, no matte box and filters, no monitor etc…

Fred lives in London. So he is selling himself as everything from a cameraman with kit, to a someone who will produce a web video/ corporate film for clients.

Fred has no paid work on his showreel.

Fred has phone numbers but no clients.

Fred has no real world experience.

Fred needs money to pay off the loan for the gear, pay his bills, make sure his girlfriend is happy and eat!

Fred has talent and will get the job done well, if someone gives him a chance.

All of the rate examples I use below are not necessarily market rates but purely figures to illustrate how much increase in rates should be made with time…roughly! Again, these are just my thoughts. Do read the examples in bold for other people’s examples.

So, with so little to offer the clever thing at the start is to simply offer yourself for free to a couple of clients. Free you say? Yep. He is more likely to convince a client to give him a chance as they have nothing to lose and he gets a real client, a real job and something to go on his reel. So how many of these freebies does Fred do? Not many, two maybe three. Enough variety to help him get the paid work.

Sure, he could say pay £100 to the client and they may give him that, but it’s better for him to choose the client he wants to work for, tell them honestly why he is doing it and go for it. Much more chance of getting work. I talked about this in the previous blog post here. I did that a couple of times when I started freelancing, to get some different types of things for my reel. It worked for me.

Now with 2-3 good looking pieces of work under his belt he can legitimately go touting for work.

This is more for getting corporate gigs than as a jobbing cameraman. For a jobbing cameraman it’s tougher as, often, you take what you can, anything. There are such a lot of people out there. When I first started freelancing I did a lot of work which I couldn’t stand. I needed the work. I needed the money. If you are going to be choosy at the start of your career, don’t expect to go very far. It takes a long time and a lot of hard work before you can pick and choose what you want to do!

Fred has found people who want to hire him but are offering a pittance. £150 to produce a web video. Should he do it? Well if the alternative is sitting at home then maybe but he needs to look at the client and ask himself: is this client someone I will repeatedly work for or will this be a one off?

If it’s a one-off and you need the cash, then do it. If it has the possibility of being an ongoing job, pricing yourself so crazy low is bad for you and bad for everyone else. That client thinks £150 is a ok amount to pay. It’s not. Once you start working for a pittance for that client hoping you can then up the charge later, you will find yourself coming unstuck. How after 2 or 3 jobs do you say to said client: I cannot sustain working for you for so little – I need to up rate to £250 or £300. After paying you £150, then they will balk at what you are demanding (probably) and tell you to take a hike, and they will look for the next sap who will charge £150 to make a video for them. You set a precedent with them and once you have done that it’s hard to renegotiate.

If Fred had set the bar higher with pricing at the start, the client may well have said no but it’s important not to undervalue yourself. If you are just shooting then handing over rushes, it’s easier as it’s a straight day rate, but as soon as you start editing as well then it becomes more complicated.

Here are some examples of rates and some stories that people have sent me anonymously.  All of these are in BLUE

9 years experience. $500 for a 10 HR day with the following gear: 5Dmk2 Zeiss ZE 50mm T1.4 Leica R 28mm T2.8 Leica R 90mm T2 Leica R 135mm T2.8 vinton fluid head tripod Rode video mic

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Client/Job depending $600 – $1,200 Day rate with full kit & operator

$600 – $750 ad on per additional camera body and operator

$75/hr for editing. Editing estimates vary between 1-4 hrs of work per minute of finished product
Full kit:
Canon 7D
Lenses: Canon 14mm 2.8, 28mm 1.8, 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.8, 100mm 2.8L Macro, 200mm 2.8
Redrock Captain Stubling Rig
Manfrotto 503 head
Manfrotto Monopod
Kessler pocket dolly traveler
x2 Arrilite 1K w/ softbox
x2 Arri Fresnel 650
Zoom H4n
Sennheiser G2 lav
Sennheiser shotgun mic
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Between £500-£1000 for a very good & experienced crew depending on the job, equipment needed & length of day. Occasionally less than £500 if we’re providing kit or it’s a local job but not as low as £200.

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About three years ago, as an assistant producer, I was interviewed for a major BBC series. I was asked if I would come in for a trial day…. on location…. oh, and could I use a mixer and would I mind recording sound. Riiiight. I politely told them to f*!k off, hinting that perhaps they wouldn’t get an idea od what kind of an AP I would make whilst doing the job of a sound recordist… on half the money. Anyway. Cameramen have been having their work and rates eroded since I’ve been in telly (less so in corporate land).

My early productions were booking digi-guys with kit for well over £1k a day. These days more and more self-shooters are used, and when a cameraman is favoured it’s often DSR kit/man for a third of what they got a decade ago. It’s not all bad – but for the churn-work of regular TV, the cameraman’s hay day is long gone.

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From a Producer’s perspective, I’ve worked with expensive cameramen that don’t warrant the rate they charge and have an “it’ll do attitude”. I’ve also worked with inexperienced cameramen whom charge a rate equivalent to a runner. It’s taken a good 3 years to develop a network of great crew through trial and error. I now have a team of reliable cameramen whom charge reasonable mid-high rates and I know they’ll deliver great footage for me to work with. I think it boils down to level of expectation…I have a high level of expectation and expect to pay anything between £350 – £1000 a day (operator only, no kit) depending on the job.

Other people (production companies and clients alike) have low expectations and refuse to pay industry standard rates for an experienced operator. They want half days or hour rates which I refuse to offer. It’s impossible to take other work on the same day – try explaining that to a stubborn client. You’ll never be able to justify rates to someone that can’t see the difference between something shot with poor images and audio and a beautifully crafted film. They’ll always be delighted with mediocre! I turn away several jobs a year based on principals. We have some flexibility, but your work should speak for itself.

If someone wants to undercut you by 50% then I say let the client find out for themselves what problems this brings.

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A decent rate for cameraman with a good kit in terms of Aussie rates would be 1500.00 for an 8 hour day. I both employ people @ this rate as well as charge myself @ this rate as a Director/shooter (ex3, 5D, GH2), incl your wonderful dolly in that rate !

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My rates vary between $500/12 and $1500/10. mostly settling around $650-950 per day. I try to get a 10-hour deal. usually settle for 12. in the union world DPs often request a 14-hour guarantee so even if the rate is the same, they have more hours applied to their health and pension qualifying hours. I can’t really comment on the union DP rates since I am not getting them, but certainly commercial DPs get $1500-$4500 per day. by the way, all of the rates I have mentioned are not including gear.

I own a 7D but hardly any accessories so I must rent those when that camera is called for, and generally rent what is needed myself on a smaller shoot (and bill production) or on a bigger shoot, work with producers to source gear from my favored rental houses (or sometimes owner-ops). I have found that renting everything needed to use the 7D in a productive cine-style setup usually adds up to about $500-750! it is usually cheaper to rent an EX3 or HPX-170! however sometimes the large sensor is necessary. often producers just want the cheap option (interviews).

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So the above are some examples of people’s thoughts and some varied rates. Very varied.

(Again these figures are not a representation of actual rates, but the increase over what Fred used to charge)

Let’s go back to Fred. Fred is 2 years in. He as has made a fair few web videos for clients/ done cameraman for hire work and built himself up a reputation for a hard worker with a can-do attitude (worth its weight in gold), and has gradually upped what he has been charging people. His day rate with his gear, more than he had before – he’s now got an FS100 too. He charges as a shooter £395 a day, and if someone wants him to make a video then, depending on how much work it is, a base of one shoot day/ one edit day with client meetings before is around £850. Now that he has a reputation and a good list of work/ reel, it’s easier for him to charge more. BUT he will still lose out on many jobs to younger Freds who are at the point he was at 2 years ago. That is inevitable. Not every client cares about quality or would know what quality was even if said Quality slapped the client in the face screaming quality, in Quality Street in the town of Quality in the country of Qualitania on the planet Qualitog IV.

It happens in business everywhere. Get a quote from a cheap builder and don’t expect him to do a good job (or even finish it, I should know!) over the guy who quoted twice as much. You might get lucky, but you generally get what you pay for. Pay peanuts and you get monkeys as they say. So if someone offers you peanuts do you take it? It’s that same point again. If you NEED money then it’s better than staying at home. Sure it can hurt your pride but it’s better than nothing. But is it?

That’s the problem with this topic – it is so full of contradictions not just at the beginning of your career but also deep in. Here are some more examples…

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I live in a town that “has” a definite video community, but it’s not very established as somewhere quality work is found. In fact, we have lots of large corporate headquarters and plants and things like that here because the area is beautiful to be around, but when they need video work, these higher budget opportunities often get shipped in from other locations.
Now, the smaller companies that do want to hire video work out locally, don’t like to pay for things. It’s really easy to find companies that want to do trades and other ways of getting video work done for less or no pay. Those you can squeeze some budget out of, pay very little and it’s seen as an “expensive” service. Needless to say, most talented video people in the area leave the area, or, they leave the whole state for similar reasons. I’ll talk more about the state of Utah as a whole.
Here, we don’t have too great of an video industry (not that many opportunities, lots of people without work so they are willing to work for cheap) and we’re non union. Even with Sundance and all that, plus a seemingly healthy film community, almost all larger productions whether it’s live TV or medium-to-large films, all bring in everything themselves, from personnel to even building their own studio in some warehouse instead of hiring out to someone that’s already located here.
Rates around here, if you happen to land a gig as a camera operator–I’d say it’s fair game to say anywhere between 150$ and a 600$ per day. An average of the guys who do it every day of the week, maybe 250$-400$. In any case, not much when you think about in terms of salary.
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EXAMPLE FROM DUBAI
In terms of people undercutting rates, although unions are illegal here, because the market is so small we actually have a decent unspoken agreement as to what rates should be for personell. In terms of gear, its a bit of a free-for-all. Over the last 3 or so years of working with REDs, Ive found that at least half of the ones ive encountered are woefully underequipped. Most are supplied with faulty cables, little to no media, hardly any batteries and no aftermarket accessories. Almost none of them are maintained other than an exterior clean or receive firmware updates.
This is the most frustrating part of being drastically undercut, as clients fail to see why Kit A: with a full working production kit should cost any more than Kit B with only basic accessories. Look at it like a 5D Body versus a full zacuto/redrock rig. We are relatively lucky, the cameras still go out regularly because our experience with them, its more of a situation where we get hired for our expertise and the camera goes along with that.
A kind of “if you want us, you pay our rates regardless” type of thing I suppose. I guess that shows that skill and reputation will always be worth something!
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As you can see it really varies. To give you an example of where I stand now, and I am lucky enough to be able to more or less choose the work I do through a lot of hard work…
I never do half days. A half day is a full day as far as I am concerned. Do that and you won’t be able to take another half from someone else.
I only work with my kit unless they want a specific camera.
When working abroad or even long distances from home. Travel days. Really a travel day is a lost day of work, and these days travelling is way more stressful and harder than shooting! But I tend to be flexible on this depending on what sort of ticket is bought for me! 🙂 But minimum half day for short haul flights up to 2/3rd for long haul with a good flight!
I own cameras from DSLRs through to a RED EPIC. Hiring me with an EPIC will cost more than hiring me with my DSLR, but generally I didn’t change my pricing when DSLRs came out as the most important and expensive part of the package was always me.
It is really tough for many people now. I have good friends, talented friends who are really struggling. It’s so different from the first time I did freelance sound recording some 15+ years ago with a cameraman who got a cheap BETA SP kit when he was laid off by ITN. He made great money with his camera and he was utterly shit! Even back then I would watch as he would light an interview with two red heads blasting 5 foot away for the interviewee either side of the interviewer. AWFUL! Yet he worked all the time. He had kit in the days when there were not that many freelance cameramen out there.
This brings me to the most important part. How do you stand out? The above cameraman would not stand out today, he would be left behind. This is what you need to succeed.
1: Talent
2: Hard work
3: The best can-do positive attitude in the world
4: Treat every job, no matter how tedious, as if you are doing a Terrence Malick film. If you slack off it’s a slippery slope. Always make an effort even on the dullest jobs. It keeps you interested and makes YOU stand out. I have seen people not bother on jobs they don’t care about and it shows. That same client may then not give them a great gig because of this.
5: Being willing to be part of the team and help out even if it’s not part of YOUR job.
6: What kit you have. See…the least important part, or at least should be. There will be people hired because they own Epics, or F3 even if they suck, but they probably won’t get a second job from that client!
7: Marketing yourself but I will cover that in a separate blog post
Reading some of these case studies and may think it’s all doom and gloom…it’s not. We are in a transitional phase where anybody can get their hands on gear. What this will do is separate the men from the boys. Just because every Tom. Dick and Harry can go and buy a shooting kit it doesn’t mean they will succeed. Talent, attitude and all the other stuff mentioned above will be what will lift you above the competition. If you have it, work hard, create those those connections then you well succeed.
REMEMBER…don’t undersell yourself! Unless of course you really suck 🙂
Part 3 of this blog will deal with marketing, social networking and that good stuff!!

No matter what industry you are in there will always be someone who will want cheap over quality, do you want to work for that person anyway?

I will finish with some more anecdotes and examples! Feel free to post your own experiences in the comments anonymously of course. I am sure there are positive stories out there too!
After a shooting for a Client he decided that the location (that he selected!) was the wrong for the Commercial and really asked if I would charge again if I had to shoot it a second time on the new location… because “it’s the same product”. Sound’s like a Fairy Tale, but that’s what I’m dealing with every day, and if you say “yes, of course, because it was not my fault and I have to do the same job a second time” you’re getting fired. That’s how business works over here for the last 12 months.
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We do corporate vids and I lose a lot of work to cheap cowboys like – it makes me so angry. Up here in Glasgow there are a ton of production companies and ‘just out of uni’ practitioners. They all have lovely slick websites, but many of them are producing just awful work, charging ridiculously low rates and undercutting me left right and centre. And I charge a fairly modest rate for me and my EX3. I found out the other day that the graphics company next door are working for a competitor of mine who is offering jobs for free just to get work through the door. It’s unbelievable.
I’m not sure how I can compete long term. I’ve done ok for the past three years since starting up and I have a few good blue chip clients who do know the value of quality. They get great value from me once they’ve signed up. But winning new work when most businesses and the public sector are buying on price, and when there are people out there charging half of what I can charge is just incredibly difficult. So far I’ve been stubborn and have stuck to my guns with rates – I’m unwilling to drop them and become a low quality hack. Hard to communicate that to potential clients who don’t know you yet though.
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it’s often “the big guys” over here who ruin prices. I know a real good DP in Cologne… he has huge Equipment, did a lot of good Music Videos, but industry over here dumped the prices, and guys like him started to deal with that. He goes out with a RED ONE right now for 600.- Euro per Day with a team of four people!?! No joke! On the other hand there are a lot people like me who worked for those companies over a lot of years, and if you don’t want to loose your job, you have to go with those new rates – they don’t care if you need the job or not, the cheapest wins, and it could look crappy – doesn’t matter. I’m one of the people who has his limit to go out there, and that’s the reason why I only had three jobs this year from RTL. There are a lot of people out there now who shoot for 100.- Euro (!) per Day on an T2i, and it’s okay for the Television Stations (mostly it’s still HDV stuff). It’s a real tough situation, and I’m sure it will get even worse.
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I’m based in the Midlands and I spent a lot of time freelance editing and second camera opping for TV production companies until a couple of years ago, even then I was having to do deals with them if I worked longer than a week – usually down to £190 a day. Usual rate was £250. I know it’s not London, and I was working on cable channel shows, but still… The companies have all gone now – either moved to London or vanished.Now I’m doing the freelance thing picking up little corporate or public sector jobs (a nightmare!) as well as starting my own snowboard video website as a kind of labour of love. I find these days I just have to ask what budget clients have got for a job because it will be nowhere near proper rates – this usually involves filming for half a day to a day, and editing a 3-5 minute piece for about £250-£300 if I’m lucky (DSLR)
. I did a filming job the other day for a UK TV documentary – filming on an EX3 with nanoflash (supplied). I worked 7.30 am – 11pm, managed to prang my car on the way out of the car park because I was so knackered and not paying attention, drove home for an hour and a half and by the time I’d charged the batteries and transferred all the media (the kit was being picked up at 8.30 the next morning) I eventually got to bed at about 3.30 am. I got paid £300 for this – it was supposed to be £250 but they took pity on me as the day ran longer than expected ( I knew it would), minus £75 excess on my car insurance to repair the damage.
Most of the time the snowboard companies offer me “product”, which is usually a t-shirt advertising their brand! Doesn’t really pay the bills, but I do it for the love I guess.
Unfortunately the options for me are either do the job for peanuts or don’t, OR somebody else will.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the blog post Philip! This was such a good read! It is interesting to hear, how the rates vary on different factors!
    Keeping it in mind, for the future!!

    1. For the last year, I worked as the director for a (startup) kids show with a crew of 15. As the director i made 50 cents more an hour than the crew at 8.75. =) not complaining. Just adding some perspective. best experience of my life.

  2. I found it hard to calculate my rate at times, depending on the job but since the last 3-4 months I won’t get under the rate I set for myself. Why? Because clients won’t take you seriously if you say “my rate ist 1000 Euro” and after the client says “it’s not in our budget” … you: “ok, I will do it for half the rate”

    I did a long calculation of what I have to earn (hourly rate) and what I want to earn.

    then I had the “clean” daily rate, as if I would go out without costs for driving, eating etc.
    then I added all the necessary gear I always use on every shoot (including dolly, slider, basic light, basic sound equipment). I searched for the local rental prices (most of the time it’s a 30th of the new price. ) and raised my rate.

    Just think of what you would have to pay if you would rent all the stuff you already own!
    Then I slightly got to my final rate.

    Just do yourself one favor: don’t sell yourself for less! No one will profit from a cheap rate except the client. You won’t be happy, neither will all the other shooters

  3. Thanks for your input into this delicate matter Philip. I’m a photographer and what also applies to video work is the cost of advertising. If you take photography advertising seriously you pay £2-3k on magazine adverts to attract clients which also pushes your rates up a fair bit.

  4. Man…

    This really bums me out and makes me feel like an ass. Because I will probably be just another of these assholes who makes live harder for people like you, Mr Philip Bloom.

    (You worked for RTL? Fuck, I hate this TV Station. I would rather shoot myself than work with them…)

  5. Whatever I charge there is someone who will charge less so I have found little work these days because I won’t whore myself or my gear out. Yeah things are tight and I have a friend who actually took a gig photographing artwork for a painter at $6US/painting. He doesn’t realized that the wear on his DSLR is more than that. I’m trying to be content shooting my own “art” images and writing my memoirs. I wish the new guys and the $1/image stock guys the very best. We’ll see them in hell.

  6. Also what matters is how much the finished product is worth to the client. I’m 22 with a 5D kit and I have charged as little as $50/hr or as much as $300/hr simply based on how much the video is worth to the client.

  7. I am an editor with over twenty years of experience cutting big national (USA) commercials and I am constantly being challenged about my rate. I charge $75-$65 an hour if I work at someone else’s shop and $125 when I work at my place. I feel justified in my rates based on my talent and years of editing experience. I know I loose a good deal of work because there are a slew of button pushers in this town, who do what ever the producer tells them to do and don’t bring anything creative to the project and change between $25 and $30 an hour. Also the clients are asking for a lot for no money. I recently turned down a spot for a major US sports team, that had a considerable amount of effects and would have required almost two weeks footage research, rotoscoping and compositing on top of editing. I was asked to do bid from rough cut through deliverables. My bid was close to $12,000 which I thought was a margin. The client tells me they only have $5000 and presented it like this was a good deal. I said no. They ended up hiring the son of the owner of the ad agency who had a bootleg copy of FCP on his laptop. needless to say it went down the toilet fast and the producer called me back to see if I was willing to take it over. I said yes, at the rate I gave him in my bid and never heard back from him again.

  8. Very interesting, i just did a wedding for $150 (basically free) and am doing the same thing in october for a family friend. I’m taking the job for so cheap because it is like paying for advertisement. I will have a solid reel after these two weddings and will be able to justify a higher payment. My kit is fairly weak however (Canon t2i, 50mm 1.4, 55-200mm 4-5.6, and a Zoom H1 mic). I will have to consider that when estimating my rate. Though, once I get more work done and graduate college I will obviously upgrade my kit.

    1. glad to hear that you got started in the industry. i did my first 3 weddings for free to get a demo reel, and now we do about 40 a year. you can also rent lenses and bodies in many places across the usa. i would consider doing that and hiring two/three people to help you for a wedding. set the bar high, don’t settle for mediocre. it’s understandable that you don’t probably have all the gear you need (sliders, steadicam, etc.), but be creative and tell a good story…

  9. I think we should all make cheap godaddy websites and take these cheap jobs, then don’t show up to teach everyone a lesson! Lol

  10. This is so my life. I love this blog!

    In addition, I tend to have to drive to remote locations with a car full of gear, cases etc., and a crew in another car. Gas prices alone can equal to the rate that I sometimes agree to work for, making it half of budget of the project, and often the client will not even provide us water on these hot 100° F Summers we have here. They usually will reimburse for gas if you keep a receipt. Sometime they don’t, and look for a local youngster with a T2i or the likes. They are aware that good gear is more accessible to more people, and are taking full advantage of the over saturation of people offering video services. So sweating, thirsty and under-paid I persevere.

    There are you too many great but inexpensive cameras and gear today. You can not expect the same rates and treatment as 20 years ago, or even 10, or 5 years ago, when Pro gear was 10 to 20 times more expensive and unreachable to many.

    I remember when the web designers used to get big money for their talent back when the internet was new (around 1998 and earlier). Once things got to the level where a teenager living at home with parents could compete in the market with the professions the asking price for quality web design went way down to the point now where one does their own website design and services. I think the video industry in heading in the same direction.

    For my own sense of Artistic fulfillment, I am already planning to self Distribute for my income, just as many was self publishing their own sites these days. iTunes, Netflicks, Amazon and the like is the future for the little guys. Cheap and dirty operators seem to be ruling the day otherwise.

    Just my thoughts, though I could be way off.

  11. I recently did a project where the client wanted something “simple” – But they had already seen my work, so they knew I would “kill” simple. And here is where my rate became VERY easy to calculate.

    1. How many days from arrival at client to delivery to client?

    2. How much money do I NEED to make each month to live without emptying my bank account to zero?

    Divide #2 by #1

    My time is valuable, everyone’s time is valuable. And clients understand when you say without hesitation what you do, and what it takes to do it. Upbeat, positive, and have great confidencen in your skills.

    My offer was $5k USD. His was $500. I told him I could make something really scaled back for $2500. We politely ended with “I’ll think about it” – 8 minutes later, “Ok, $2500, let’s do it”

    So, I deliberatly held back 3 different times creating the end product, because it would eat into my time/rate…. but still over-delivered what I promised.

  12. Problem is,one does not need any “official” qualification to be cameraman.
    Just go to K-mart buy Canon and HOLA – be cameraman.
    You can not go to TESCO and buy some set of knifes and become surgeon overnight…..

    Am i just too sarcastic? 🙂

    1. You cannot compare a cameraman with a surgeon. Not even for the purpose of being sarcastic. It’s too much of a pears and melons thing.

      Some people have talent that helps them shoot good footage with little to no experience/learning. Nobody will ever perform surgery and have their patient survive it without studying medicine for years on end.

  13. I would like to give some advice to the freelancers.

    Doing deals or even doing work for free is fine to get on the ladder but it is important early on to ensure that everyone knows “the deal.”

    1. Put your full amount on the invoice and then show the discount you gave them as a new customer. This way next time you can say the deal is over, the full rate is as stipulated on your last invoice.

    2. Never do the same deal again with the same person, if you are extending your portfolio do a freebie or low cost for a new sector or client. If you bend over they will keep shafting you!

    3. Don’t give you gear away for free. Itemise your rate and the gear.

    4. If you need to discount to get work discount the gear first. If you discount yourself they will value you less and respect you less.

    I have been a seller and I am still a seller but I am a buyer now too!
    Hope this helps.

  14. interesting thoughts and a much needed blog. here in spain there are a few people doing great really high end stuff and still earning a fortune but the rest of us are left to fight it out with people cutting their fees to almost nothing but offering everything (equipment wise etc). at the end of the day i agree, it’s your talent that’ll get you by, but only if you have good contacts. making contacts and networking, along with providing a quality end product is the key.

  15. Thanks Philip,

    Great post, Ive been doing wedding videos on my DSLR (Soul destroying) and have a degree in film making. But trying to explain to them why what I shoot is so much better than some imbecile with a handy cam charging 100 quid is so deeply frustrating.

    You totally right that you should stick to your guns of what you feel your worth. I didnt the first few times and totally got taken advantage of.

    Always always charge what you feel is fair for you, if you dont you will hate yourself for it 🙂

  16. This sounds a great deal like the late ’90s in web design. I’d see people doing crap work for free because they thought it would give them an “in.”

    The only reason to do something for free is if you have passion for the project. Otherwise you’re just selling yourself out for absolutely nothing.

    If you don’t value your art then no one else will.

    I’m deeply fortunate that part of my job includes shooting/editing so I get to do something I’m passionate about as part of a regular paycheck. But, if I was freelancing, you can be damn sure I’m getting paid.

    And you should too.

    The creative life is super hard. Do it for money and for love. Both.

  17. “My early productions were booking digi-guys with kit for well over £1k a day. These days more and more self-shooters are used, and when a cameraman is favoured it’s often DSR kit/man for a third of what they got a decade ago. It’s not all bad – but for the churn-work of regular TV, the cameraman’s hay day is long gone.”

    I think I know who wrote this! More frightening is the fact fact that I probably don’t. I’m a Jobbing cam op for 10 yrs in the UK, proper telly! Rates have gone to such bad levels. I just got back from a shoot (£200 per day, no kit 🙂 expenses 🙁 ) I know thats shit but hey, I gotta live! A fellow cam op told me in London there were 24 Cam ops a few weeks back that had agreed to be on location to shoot god knows what for £50 per day! So 24 separate cam ops said “yes, I will give you my hole day and my skills for the price of a pair of cheap jeans”
    In contrast my other great friend and colleague just earnt real wages working for a national broadcaster for three weeks. I suppose it’s about how good a business person you are too.

  18. I started off doing one freebie video. Then some drastically discounted work for a well-known non-profit in town. It’s a great system IF, like Philip said, you know your end goal and make that clear. It was a great beginning of a referral-based stream of business for me.

    The three main things that help me are:

    1) I’m interact well, communicate clearly, and act light-hearted (to communicate confidence) to prospects and clients;

    2) I’m a great b-roll shooter so I can cover a lot without destroying my schedule;

    3) I don’t try to make each project Oscar-worthy – I do budget work for smaller businesses with smaller budgets. It doesn’t make me proud but it keeps me feed and able to work on creative stuff on my own.

    Lastly, AWESOME video. Hadn’t seen that, thank you! Spot-on.

  19. Seems the moral of the story is this: Be the guy with the 60D doing it for peanuts. Lower overhead.

    That being said, the internet video market is only just starting to mature. So things may turn around… As broadband spreads across the globe having a really high quality shot is going to matter again.

  20. i think new times need new conditions.

    iam not a professional cameraman, but educate myself as a future director, so i make every filmmaking job to know what iam talking about.

    a band came to me (yesterday) and asked, if i could make a video. i said:

    tell me what you are willing to invest and i tell you what you get for it. then we shoot the thing and if i or you don´t like it, i keep the material and you keep your money. (it´s one little starting band and they won´t make money with the video, so we talk about something like 100€).

    if i would do companyvideos, i would try to work like that, but with a price that would pay my investment, if they don´t like the product and with a price that would make a win (sure that sentence does´t make sense at the end… iam not english). let´s say for fred´s case: 100€ if you don´t like what i did and 300€ if you want it.

    the client can be sure, that i would do my best (instead of just cashing the check). he can be sure, that he doesn´t need to pay for shit. i could get a jobs, from clients who don´t know me. another point is, that they will actually take a closer look on the product and learn to see the diffrence between trash a quality… and i don´t work for free!

    you teach them the worth of youre work, if you tell them, what they could get. i told the band, if you pay that, we could meet in your rehersalroom. you play the song 6 times and i always focus one of you and the last two takes, i film a wideshot. for editing, i sync the 6 takes and pick the best angle for the moment. for more money, we could have fans down there… if you pay that, we colud light the scene right and build another enviroment. if you want me to combine footage from gigs, that would be that much work and if you want homevideos or a story, you need to invest that… bla bla

    some simple rule: if they make money with it, i should do.

    you could make a reel without payed jobs and i never would work for a company for free, not even for the reel (actually a reel that contains your businesswork always sucks and doesn´t show what you coul´d deliver… i think… show me a good real!). what if they call them, and ask what they paid? and it ruins the business, if there is alwas one, that works for free.

  21. I just finish my cinema school/audiovisual school. So I’m now a video editor, I will say for the moment on a scale of 0 to 10… A nice 7/10 in terms of talent, but I have also a good knowledge in video technologies, cameras and postproduction formats/stuff and a bit of experience with some cameras because in my school even editors have the classes !

    Now, I’m french so it’s a bit easier because we have “work conventions”, that claims for exemple that an editor for a full feature film could not be paid less than 1000 Euros (without taxes) per week. (that makes it 200/day)

    Ofcourse I’m not at that point in my career. For TV-like works, it’s cheaper. But for now I’m setting my rate at… Negociation depending the project with a maximum of 100 Euros per day, and a minimum of 80 Euros for a day (it’s not me setting this, in France it’s not legal to pay someone less than 8-8.5 Euros per hours, so on a 10 hours a day basis, that brings it about 80 Euros a day).

    But it depends also on what is the job, where it is, if I just have to edit or if I have ot off load/capture/transcode, premix, debayer (RAW !), edit, do basic special effects work (After Effects) or graphics animation and so on… And it depends also on if it is something they let me do at home (I got a pretty good iMac that can do every job that don’t requires more than a ProRes4444 full HD video…. Which is quite enough in today’s standards as a start) and then we meet up online or somewhere to whatch the work, correct it or validate it… Or if I have to go somewhere. If so, I charge the gas consumption or the bus/train ticket (where I live, I can go from home and return home for as low as 2 euros so it’s not a hell of a charge !).

    But for now… I need a fucking job ! I’m trying to get one at someone you (Philip) know well (mister Pampuri) but seems he can’t hire someone else for now. So, I’m searching.

    Nice article anyway. How are opportunities for editors in London ?

    PS : I DON’T charge anything for having a Final Cut Pro 7 Certification. I only use this by saying “I know my tool” and that’s it. And I WON’T pass the FCP X Certifiation (but that’s not the same subject isn’t it ? :p)

  22. I read this blog since last year and got up to speed on the revolution. We then shot a test project using a 7D (my first HD) and I am a true film school grad.

    So as a producer in the last year I have been hiring people in Los Angeles – motion graphics, sound post, editors, gaffers, camera people — but I have been getting rates at 50% or more less than I would have to pay in the 90’s when I got out of school. How could this be? (even with inflation)

    I think with HD technology, including fast, cheap computers and cameras that shoot and finish on HD — that film “professionals”, or those who have made a middle to upper middle class lifestyle are going to be pummeled across the board just like auto workers, sound engineers and photographers. The technology simply is too easy for the average person and that makes the “value” of your skill less. Either that, or I will ask for you to do two jobs (Final Cut editor _+ after effects for example).

    The rates that are quoted above such as $600/day are simply not realistic for some guy with a 5D and some superspeed lenses. That rate is barely passable only if you are shooting a big commercial, have a huge resume AND are shooting on film. Maybe out of Los Angeles, you could get that but here — no way. Even with a Red, I can packages in Los Angeles for 5D prices if I look.

    In most cases, you are talking at a rate of $15-$30 an hour for production and post production people non-union.

    To me that is simply not an affordable lifestyle once you get out of post-college 20’s lifestyle. So what to do? The eky to making money on your hobby is not some technical skill you learned from a blog or the up-to-date MacBook pro you bought — since it can be acquired by anyone. Final Cut Pro? To me, that is not even a skill, It’s like word processing. [Its something I expect everyone under 25 knows like web design]

    The key to making money is to stop thinking that you are a cameraman who rents for X an hour. Your true value is concepts and the delivery of the final project and how you work with people. Your idea is the only thing of value now that images can be acquired so cheap.

    The past year was very eye-opening for me a former FILM guy. I would encourage everyone to get “rates” completely out of your head.

    1. BUT…if you are running a business not thinking about rates would be just plain stupid. You would go bust!! Your business needs to be financially sustainable!!

      1. did ben mean that? i think he means: sell your work based on the endproduct and not the time.

        if i got that right, i agree (and wrote somthing similar). i can do this, for that price and i can do this for that price. do you want that or is that enough for you?

        guess it could be a better way to clearafiy the value of your work.

        sure, for clients many work is just to fill the time. “the spot is to short, let´s show some cats” – a rate makes sense – no quality needed

        but if there into it. if a director is looking for a cameraman for his movie… and so on. it´s all about the value.

        but prices also fall, because there is less money to make for the campanies. tv is loosing viewers an advertisingbudgets massively (don´t they?) and so many good movies get made, that no one ever sees. so much stuff is out there for free.

        it´s not any longer so important, where youre from, what your parents can buy and what gear you have bought. some would say, we realy become an artform

    2. Ben is right, it’s not about “rates”, it’s about value. That is what Philip is touting all along. The thing is, this is creativity… it’s not really tangible..so you have to get something visual out there for any client to have a clue what value you can bring to them. Speak to clients in value statements, about a common goal that each of you are trying to work towards – eg. They want people to know who they are , to trust them and buy their product/service XYZ, and you want to use your visual piece to prove to others what you are capable of… – you want to make a fair price for your efforts..and they want to grow their business(s). Speaking in value statements brings the intangible art into a tangible value proposition.

      When you are young, lifestyle and living conditions usually require less $, and the product you create is usually less refined. When you have many years experience, you should be able to produce higher quality more efficiently, and command a higher rate because your value is far more substantial.

      Look around at your competition.. and make sure the value you can create is justified with a fair price.

      If the “market” suggests an “hourly rate” for services, consider changing your product into something different – NOW you are NOT addressing that market anymore, you are creating value in a different way.

  23. Great article Phil! I really agree on your points, and this applies to most industries.

    I have even stronger reservations on free work however! Don’t do it!

    In fact, use this as a guide from now on!

    http://shouldiworkforfree.com/

    If you really want to do because you think it’ll open doors for you and you can’t find anything paid that will do the same: Make sure the client knows your low rate or the fact the you do it for free is only for the first time/two times. Try to already think about the future relationship you’ll have with this client. I’ve made most of my money from a handful of clients the last couple of years, because they just keep coming back once they trust you and know you’ll do a great job!

    1. If you are starting and really need to get something on your reel and nobody will give you a break then do spec stuff. I worked for free to get my staff job. Interns work for me for free to learn then end up getting hired in the future. Working for free is part of the industry. it just must not be done much!!

  24. Thanks Philip for sharing. A Very interesting Part 2. You are right about the rates, it depends on YOU and where you are based. As a freelance cameraman in Switzerland three years ago I used to get 400GBP/$650 a day without equipment. And the same amount for a half day (4 hours work). I think now it’s about 20% more thank that.

    I think should do a cameraman directory on my site to help video professionals. Any idea?

    Thank you!

    Martin
    Cameraman.com

  25. Great post Philip. It is interesting as I guess these changes are happening all over the industry. In the Motion GFX and CGI field is the same. As technology gets cheaper, young people to come into the market early and without too much experience. They work for little and do undercut more experienced guys.

    I guess this will just keep happening as things gets cheaper, but there will be a differentiation between bad and good content.

    Would things go back to the late 80s prices, most likely not. But I feel the market will grow since more and more screens in need of content will surround us. Now who is going to be doing the good stuff and who is going to be doing the bad stuff depends on ones decisions.

    To tailor a career is a hard skill, harder maybe than learning how to light or operate a camera.

  26. This post may have just changed my life, reading it made me realize what a mug i was being taken for by one of my clients for editing. just rang them up and told them that the job I’m in the middle of will be the last I’m undertaking for them, unless they up their prices for the next round of jobs. they said the rates were reasonable and wouldn’t budge and i said goodbye forever. if they want to pay shit rates then they’re going to get a shit end product and i want no part in that.

  27. Great blog post. Very interesting. Here’s my two pence!

    People should simply not be producing whole videos for £250, the old adage of a grand a minute should really apply and by doing a video once for £250 you are forever changing the clients expectation that that is what it should cost. Given the costs involved in the equipment, the training, the computer software and hardware involved not to mention that you are trying to make a living out of it, it’s a false economy to make video for what amounts to less than minimum wage.

    I’ve been running a small production company for a couple of years now and frankly it’s become a real nightmare because I’ve met people saying they’ll do a video for a rate that we simply can’t compete with, because they are doing it for a ‘hobby rate’, and they are doing it for people like the Metropolitan Police!! It makes me angry when you are asked to quote for something and then they go with someone who is either doing it a hobby rate or worse, someone ‘doing it for their reel’. The recession has badly effected us, and we get clients calling up offering money that is ridiculous, not enough to cover basic office rent let alone pay the people to make the film.

    I never made something for a commercial client “for my reel” that ever earned me any money. It’s a false economy. Unless someone trusts you with a budget once you will never be given one. You have to earn that trust. And it isn’t by working for free.

  28. Cool article, as a college student (USA) interested in film production, this is pretty eye opening. I’m lucky enough to go to a university that has a co-op program: after two years of school, I alternate 6 months of working and 6 months of classes for three years. I landed my first gig doing production work, being paid full time (40+ hours per week) for the PR and Marketing department of a nearby music college. I’m really loving the production process, and the opportunity to build up a demo reel is fantastic. I’m going to pick up a 60D and some other gear when it goes on sale again in the States and possibly look for freelance work on the side.

    This somewhat long winded story aside, I’m curious if you spoke with anyone Stateside about freelance production, the frequency they are getting work, and their usual rates. I’ve met some people who have started small production companies in the New England area, and they seem to get decently steady work; but I wonder if this is the exception and not the rule.

    Anyway, I love reading your blog, and your films have been quite informative and inspirational to me and my own projects. Cheers.

  29. I have the hardest time asking for money, probly because I did it for so long just for the fun of it, and now its hard to say “you have to pay me this much for something I’ll probly be doing anyways”. For some reason the words “whats the rate?” are just so hard to say, especially when its a friend that is hiring you.

    It took me a long time to get out of the freebie phase, although I did make a lot of friends in the meantime. Finally I got paid on a show where I was working for free as a 2nd Unit DP for a proof of concept piece and the director liked my work so much that he gave me 4 1st unit scenes to shoot and paid me out of pocket. Just goes to show that talent and hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.

    I still have a hard time asking for what I think I am worth, mostly from the fear of them saying no and getting the next guy that will do it for the crap rate they are offering, but I guess thats the only way to work your rate up.

    I got some great advice from an experienced line producer….she said, “people value you based on what you get paid to do what you do. You should figure your rate based on what you think you are worth and what your work is worth, not based on what you think the employer will agree to.” Now, weather this approach really makes sense in the real world (especially when you need to pay the rent) well i guess that up for each of us to decide at that moment (just don’t decide your work is worth more in the middle of a show, cuz that never ends well, i learned that the hard way).

  30. Well everything is said in this excellent post.
    I do exactly the same as you Phil.
    When interested in a client activity, I always offer him the first video (even if I work 7days&nights) then ask for the “right” price.

    Thank you for those examples and explanations.

  31. Loved this line “Not every client cares about quality or would know what quality was even if said Quality slapped the client in the face screaming quality, in Quality Street in the town of Quality in the country of Qualitania on the planet Qualitog IV.”

    I think that’s the key ingredient to look for. I’ve been in enterprise software sales for 30 years and just getting into film and whenever you are selling a product and a service a key formula to remember is:

    Value = Benefit – Cost.

    If the only number they are looking at is cost, and not the benefits you are bringing them in your work, your gear, time to deliver, experience, quality of end product, etc, they will never see the value.

    I know there are a lot of moving parts to this discussion, but as many of you have said, don’t sell yourself short (if you don’t have to).

    I know we all want to win business and get the contract, but one of the best feelings in the world is “walking from a deal”. It usually comes back to you later on in some form, and if it doesn’t, it wasn’t worth doing it in the first place.

  32. I started my business a little over a year ago and I’ve been steadily growing my client base through word of mouth – I like to think it’s because the quality of my work stands out… there are a few production companies in town who charge absurdly high prices (simply because there’s little competition), but I don’t see any passion in their work… lots of “that’ll do” shots and sloppy editing.

    I just wrapped-up a project for a client this morning and invoiced them a price that was about 1/2 what the other production companies would have charged (as a freelancer, I don’t have the same overhead)… not to mention, I also gave them a discount as a first time client.

    What’s frustrating is that they were actually disappointed by the price and said it was more than they wanted to spend, making me feel as though I had ripped them off. I let it go because its their first time working with video… but the ignorance is absolutely astounding.

    @neilhartop, why would you say wedding videos are soul destroying? You get to capture one of most important days in someone’s life, and there’s so much opportunity for creativity! I love filming weddings and wish I could do more – I recommend staying away from the “hyper-romantic” cliche wedding music… take a risk and choose something with a little character. My wedding clients love my work and have all referred me on to others.

    1. Hi Joe,

      I totally agree with what your saying and I do try and make my videos as creative as I can,

      but its like you say, total lack of understanding of video or actual respect for your craft is no more reflected than it is when doing a wedding, I find them frustrating as the clients are a nightmare to please and often dont like something contemporary. The times Ive been asked to remove a Sigor Ros song for a Ronan Keating song does take its tool on your creative output! Been asked to put more of auntie Nora in the video even though you have no idea which one is auntie Nora! Things like that and then getting horrible emails saying ‘Why should I pay you £800 as I found someone on gumtree with a handy cam said they would do it for £50 quid!’

      I much prefer making narrative films than this…but hell it pays but I only work for what I charge now, its either that or I would get really bitter!

      Have a look at my wedding work Dave, I believe it is really creative…I just dont enjoy it mate…

      http://neilhartop.moonfruit.com/

      http://neilhartop.moonfruit.com/

  33. Philip Bloom; “it’s not a good precedent to set and it’s also not financially sustainable in the long term”.
    THAT is the key! Whatever you do, it HAS to be sustainable. You have got to add up all your costs of doing business (equipment, car, studio, phone, internet, etc…) to find out what you need just to break even. Then you add what you need to make as a salary. Then you add a profit margin. As a one-man-band, I know I can’t bill out more than 20 hours a week, so I base my rate on that. Anything else is not sustainable.

    After 10 years in the biz, I get $1,200 per day for shooting. That includes me, Panasonic GH2, basic lighting & sound. If the client wants a background, a jib –or if I need crew; obviously the price goes up accordingly. I charge $150 per hour for post production. Remember, this is after 10 years of building up a reputation in the community. These rates are not pulled out of a hat. It’s what I need to maintain a healthy business.

  34. hey all,

    i’m currently in hawaii and own a wedding filmmaking company. we are very busy and do about 40-50 weddings per year, charging around 4000 per. i usually have a team of 3-4 people total (including myself). we use all DSLR’s with steadicams, cranes, sliders, etc.

    it’s very competitive here in hawaii, and you have to stay ahead of the competition. being successful is no about quality, you BETTER have quality to even survive…but what makes you unique. after you’ve got the fundamentals, you have to be able to craft a style together that is true to yourself…and then the people that connect with you will become your clients.

    and i think that is also true for anything you do. i can’t help but feel that being a cameraman/DP in today’s world is ultra competitive. in the meantime while you’re waiting on the phone to ring, do as philip does and get out and shoot. be creative.

    remember, people don’t care what you do, they care why you do it.

  35. I have done work recently for a well known supermarket brand, who payed 600 quid using a team of 3, for the whole project including kit, a shoot day and the edit.

    they said it must be “slick”, “luxurious” and “expensive looking”

    kind of disheartening, when im busting my balls over corporate gigs, making something for huge companies to sell advertising deals for millions, I kinda assumed id at least be getting paid a reasonable wage.

    your either making things low budget for love, so your not getting paid, or its a big project so it will be “good for you, and your reel” so you wont get paid.

    that video sums it up.

  36. there is nothing delicate about this – day rates tend to be about the same and vary more based on market size as to what you can get. I know I work a little bit cheaper because I’m in a smaller market, but thats offset by a much lower cost of living.

    I think basing your rate in part because of your gear cost is poor. Another words just because we have affordable gear, doesn’t mean we should take less. In the case of dslrs’, ya sure the body is way cheaper then a conventional video camera, but what about all the other bits to make it shootable from rails / matte box / filters / lenses / whatevers. Its pretty easy to be $10K to $15K into gear for a decent setup. Yes thats still way cheaper then a F900 + lens cost 10 years ago.

    Instead, you should hold your rate and actually be profitable for a change rather then sending it all away. You should not let anyone make you feel guilty you are actually making money for a change. it used to be that 30%-50% of your day rate went into paying for gear, its nice to not have that overhead anymore.

    the problem is the cheaper gear let a lot more people in, who are desperate for work. they are the problem more then anything else. I’ve had producers try to beat me up on rate and the answer is no – if you want some one who has gear, knows how to use it, and knows how to consistently make great images ( or get great sound ) thats my price, and you know full well its reasonable. its right in the middle of what most pro’s get, and if I was in a bigger market I’d be charging more because I would have to in order to cover higher expenses.

    I’ve watched a couple lowballers come and go. they make a lot of noise when they show up, ready to set the world on fire. in the end, because they lack experiance in actually producing work, business in general and simply not charging enough to stay open they all come and go in a year or two. they usually leave a few bodies along the way as well. the only upside is that it might convince some clients you get what you pay for… some of them anyway.

  37. Hey, Philip!

    Thanks for your posts!

    I’ve directed, shot and edited six TV commercials in the last 11 months for a local supermarket chain in north-western Finland. I’ve had to undersell myself two or three times just to get my foot in the door, working days on a commercial for which I’d get paid 200-400 €, but I didn’t mind. I would have done all of that for free just to get the chance to try. Looking back at the first commercial I made, back when I had no merit yet whatsoever, considering how big a project it was, I was paid rediculously little. The gear was all company gear, but still for the directing, shooting (that took 9 hours) and editing (4 hours) I was paid no more than 100 €. Today my rate is 700 € for a 6 hour shoot and 5 hour edit as I’m pitching ideas for the 7th upcoming TV commercial for the company, still using only their gear (7D, 5DMII, sigma 1.4 50mm, Canon EF 24-105 4L, and slider). The commercials all broadcast nation wide, which was and still is a big deal for an aspiring 23 year-old director.

    Next year I’m applying to a film school for the third time. I have no doubts about my career as supermarket TV commercial director, but I feel it’s a risky business working freelance at this young age and I want the expertise and insight a film school can provide as my long term goal is narrative film making. The future is not bright for me, my wife and daughter if I keep working at these rates, and soon I’ll have to buy my own gear and seek pastures new, but for now, as a part-time DP, I’m grateful for every chance I get to learn new techniques and expand my knowledge working for the supermarket.

  38. Just read rates and surviving blog….I really needed to hear that, great detail and a much better understanding of what i should be doing, It feels a bit like the ‘Fred’ mould is a story about me, im sure other people feel the same way. I left college unable to get a realistic job in film making, my passion (it seemed to be who you knew not what you knew – has that changed 😉 ?. So i became a sparky which i have done for 5/7 years. Technology has given people like me a chance… Iv done my free work, my lower paid work, and now I think i deserve to be paid properly (for my standard) but i didnt know where i stood in the real world. I have put so much energy into getting where i am today, DIY everything, 18 hours non stop editing…. Iv always tried my best to keep to a very high standard, but with no budget thats not always easy. I love just going out and filming. I want this to be my career. Where i am now is calling for a big investment and im still unsure of the future… but I work damn hard, im always looking for inspiration and being creative…but that doesn’t pay the bills yet! So still wiring houses aswell. I only very recently got my first ‘proper’ job. Which i had to go through the process you mentioned of selling my quality over a lesser price… it wasnt quite a quality island on quality planet issue but nevertheless…same deal. I also had a job like you mentioned… I was working with a guy who had 10 years experience, a brand new F3 and a channel 4 contract! I was expecting to learn something from him, but i actually knew so much more!! he didnt even have an ND filter or a decent picture style for his 5d! anyway long story…. I just want to say thank you, Im on your blogs daily and i have to say you have been a HUGE help to me and so many people. If there where an OBE knocking around i know you’d get my vote. There must be a lot of people in your position of experience that look at people like me and think…pfft what do they know… And yet you have taken us in with open arms and given so many people your priceless knowledge…. What goes around comes around and you have earnt a huge amount of respect from the people that matter. I really wanted to get involved with your recent Time-lapse meet up in London… but i live in cornwall and had to work. I was actually in Broad-gate (amazing shadows and reflections!) the week before Time-lapseing myself for the job i mentioned above. which i hope you dont mind me putting a link to above. On behalf of everyone Thank you Philip Bloom

    http://vimeo.com/27041296

    1. Keep on keeping on! Shoot as much as you can. The effort you are putting in WILL pay off soon. I’m sure a lot of people share your thoughts on Philip’s blog… A huge asset to the film-making community!

  39. I thought only us here in Brazil had trouble convincing customers that if they want quality, it is fair to pay for it. Unfortunately this is a universal behavior, it makes me sad and resigned. I was tired of hearing the phrase “that’s expensive”, so I decided to take radical action, I have found several low quality videos on the Internet, from other producers. I recorded them onto a DVD and took them to meetings with clients. If the client shows resistance regarding the price, I show the DVD and tell them: “These videos cost what you offer to pay. Do you really think that I’m expensive now?” I’m sure this is unethical, but I find it unethical to pay the price just to not lose the job to the competition. And look who usually use the same equipment used by everyone today (Canon 5D, 7D, Tripod Manfroto, Slider, microphones, lighting, cameraman of the advertising market) and even then, only in this way can make the radical client spotting the difference quality because it is paying for it.

  40. its also incredibly frustrating when part-timers or hobbyists come along and do jobs cash in hand without insurance or paying tax. im quite happy to report people for tax avoidance because at the end of the day you have to play by the rules or you will never make a living from working in the creative industries etc

  41. I do travel videos.. 13 cities, 13 44 minutes episodes… I shot for $1000 per day in the US.. $2000 per day internationally… each city take about 6 days to do. EX1, 5D, 60D… good equipment.. Also music videos starting at $6000 and up depending on how big the production is, usually 2 days shooting and two days editing. I make sure if I need to travel more than 4 hours I get business class. If not I do charge for the day… I’m hoping to race my prices with time. I was at the Canon Filmmakers with Bloom in Miami.. it was great.. Thank you.

  42. Hey Philip. I recently shot a promo for a portuguese town called Ericeira. It’s a small surfing/fishing town based just north of lisbon. Heres the link to the video so please watch it and let me know how much you think this would be worth. I was there shooting over a week periode and took me about a week to perfect the edit. I produced, directed, shot and edited and got the rights to the music from Ed Sheeran who is currently making it huge

    http://vimeo.com/25923904

  43. One More thing. I am based in Leeds and dont have a lot of contacts here… I havnt been here long and I dont know the best places to look for work. Could you recommend any good freelance job sites?

  44. I believe that you should never leave money on the table when negotiating a deal with a customer. If a customer expects to pay $1,000 for you to shoot for a day, you shouldn’t offer to do it for $700. On the other hand, if a customer only wants to pay $700 for your services, you shouldn’t turn it down just because you ordinarily like to make $1,000 for a day’s work.

    I try to charge as much as possible while remaining competitive when compared to other videographers in my market.

    For a one-person camera crew, my day rate is $1,200. This includes my cameras, tripods, microphone systems, light kits and up to 10 hours of time working on the shoot.

    My half day rate for a one-person crew is $800 and includes the same equipment package and up to 5 hours in the field.

    For most customers, this rate is acceptable. For others, it’s more than they have in their budget for the project. When a customer indicates that my rates are higher than they want to pay, I simply ask them what they have in their budget for these services. Then, if what they are comfortable paying is within range of what I’m willing to accept, I’ll book the gig.

    I typically won’t accept anything less than $700 for a full day of shooting and $500 for a half day. Most customers who have experience hiring freelance videographers are familiar with industry standard rates and fully expect to pay them. Then, when they call you again in the future, they’ll pay the same rates again and again.

    The best strategy is to set your rates according to industry standards so you have something to go by when people ask what you charge. Then, be willing to negotiate from there so you can book the gig.

    In my mind, a guaranteed $700 for a day’s worth of work is far better than getting nothing because you refused to accept less. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. $700 in your checking account is better than $700 in your competitor’s account.

    And never ever do any work for free or too cheap. For demo reels, I think it is best to do these video for yourself, that way you can shows off your the skills and what makes you better or different, that you’d be selling.

    Here is an example from a website of what Wedding Videographers have to compete in my area’s market.

    Welcome to “The Pros wedding video”. The Pros videographers are nationally recognized for our artistry and service.

    Our introductory package starts at $795* and includes:

    Up to eight hours of coverage
    1 to 2 hours of your most important moments recorded
    Complete Raw Footage delivered
    Complete Professional Titling
    DVD divided into search-easy chapters
    Guaranteed value

    And that is only the beginning… The Pros also offer the finest custom-edited video services, High Definition Blu-Ray and online web-hosting at the very best value. We invite you to reserve the services and professionals perfect for your wedding.

    * Tip: You can add Disc Jockey and Photography coverage to this package for only $1200.

    1. Perhaps I am wrong, but I didn’t realize this was a site for others to sell their products?

      Great article Phill. really put things in to perspective for me. I have just finished Uni studying Film. I did a lot of freelance work during my uni days for extra experience. Definitely got more out of doing that than I did going to class!

      One of my vids: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFkxBdWSFEU

      Your site is great, im learning loads from your experiences, Thanks for sharing!

    2. “I’ve watched a couple lowballers come and go.”

      I have the displeasure of being one of those people at the moment, but believe me when I say that I can’t wait to raise my rates next month. I recently went into business for myself and needed to give it a kickstart. I don’t expect stingy clients to open up their pocketbooks down the line, which is precisely why I have been targeting event organizers – I give them a promo and I get the opportunity to meet numerous potential clients who are willing to pay.

      One of the biggest problems I have encountered, now and as a former freelancer, are those people who have talent, but lack the business sense or the motivation to make contacts and move forward. They wait and wait for the breaks to come to them, and so they continue making good content at low rates.

    3. I checked out the “pros” web site. They state they are family owned, but from reading about them, they seem to have a nepotism structure (ie. Dad & two sons runs the show, mom-daughter-husband-wives & other family members make up the staff.

      But the most interesting part about them was when I clicked on the video samples, “Wow, they SUCK!” Even their photography is nothing special, just some cookie cutter stuff. And these I’m sure is what they consider their best work, yikes. I guess you really do get what you pay for.

      I would consider “the pros” your classic Mcdonalds of wedding mesh mash.

  45. If you want to make money join the army, they’ll pay you more for “shooting people”

    20 kids just broke into Fred’s house, nicked his kit, took his sneakers, and burnt the place to the ground…poor bugger. They were pretty friendly though. “Sorry bout this mate, austerity measures.”

    When I calculated the hours I put into my second paying pro job it did end up being less per hour than I’d get at McFodder but I needed it for my reel and it almost paid for half of a 5D.

    Philip do you charge a premium when you wear the Lucasfilm t-shirt?

  46. I’ve been in the video production business for almost 12 years.
    I produce & direct live music DVD’s.
    I hire camera operators on a regular a basis.Sometimes 10 – 15 at a time.
    I find rates have nothing to do with talent.Some of the worst operators I’ve had have been London based 20 year veterans.Don’t even know back focus is out.

    I was a coal miner before this (true) last pit Parkside colliery 1994.
    most camera ops earn more in a day than a 25 year electrical mining engineer which let me tell you is a far harder job.

    I began working for nothing first 5 or 6 jobs. few years later my average wage was £ 25k per year that went to £60k after landing some high profile jobs.Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne projects. now as the bottom dropped out of the music DVD maker & labels
    stopped calling/bothering with live DVD I work for free….Correction pay to go to work.
    total reversal I now fund production,pay for jib,audio recording, mixing,artwork,,camera ops,pressings,venue facility fee.
    I have become the label under joint venture agreements…….It doesn’t always pay off and crew even at £ 200 a day or on more than me as producer & director with a killer client list.

    my expectations have changed as have my wages…

  47. Hi. 5 years ago, i worked as a gardner while i was going to
    film school. And i got my first big gig while working at an 88 year old
    WW2 veterans yard. He was working on a documentary of his WW2
    exploits with a seasoned L.A. producer, but was not liking the results.
    So i told him i could do better, and gave me the opportunity to pitch a plan.
    Pitched the plan with power point, with a budget of 200k, for about year and a half. And he said “lets do it”. I love the feeling of true happiness in presenting business plans. Shot and edited everything. Learned lots. And the finally tally
    was 200k. Great for my first experience, i have great equipment, but now im stuck doing much smaller jobs. But happiness is found in the attitude. Hope this gives hope to others.

  48. Thanks so much for this post Philip, so helpful, as a soon to be graduate I will take all of what your saying and experiences of all these other posts to make rational decisions and not under-sell my talent and creativity. I do not want to add to the cheap tacky work people seem to be flogging, lowering the value of everyones profession.

    Theres a time and a place like you said to start off and build a reputation, Ive already started running for people and working in the industry as much as possible (All have been such genuine and helpful guys)

    But thanks again so helpful especially for people really starting off and actually wanting this with a passion and actually wanting to make a name for themselves and their talents!

  49. Welcome to the freelance world my peeps. Feast or famine. That is the name of the game.

    Thing is and like others have said, the market is saturated with both camera ops and gear. Everybody and his brother wanted to get in on the big payday gravy train.

    That train left the station years ago. What were once bastions of safety finance wise are no longer there!

    Do as your mum said and save your pennies for a rainy day. The weather is about to get rougher.

    I personally keep my ditch digging skills honed. May need to use them in my old age! 🙂

  50. I have always found that the cheap clients cause the greatest amount of hassle! I know that the times are changing and every Tom, Dick, and Harry believes he/she is a shooter … the fact is … it’s a difficult job and takes skill. You need to constantly work at it … especially true as each new camera is a whole new bag to learn. Great Blog Phil … thanks

  51. Great stuff. I’ve lived in all european countries for 6 years, 32 years in the USA, and now 7 years in Brazil. I can tell you that the same ‘pricing system’ applies no mater where, and that’s true for cameraman, equipment, voicing – ah, don’t get me started with voicing – and here’s the part that, at least for me, hurts the most, getting paid, actually receiving that little and sweat dough!
    Today I’m happier as a retiree that, when I get a gig, well… I won’t lose my sleep over pricing and or receiving that check… whenever it comes!
    Cheers

  52. Two options: stand out, or keep pissing in an ocean of piss. Nobody likes changes resulting in making less money. But you know what? IT DOESN’T MATTER! Survival of the fittest – the webdesign referense is perfect… c)Tools and b)talent both come AFTER your a)ability to adapt to your market. It’s simple as that. Totally cool to be emotional over changes, but it’s not gonna take you anywhere. Or I guess, just hang on to your liferaft ignoring that Titanic-thing slowly sinking behind you.

  53. The problem with rates happens mostly at the very low end, as equipment has gotten so cheap it’s almost free and with all entry barries vanished, everybody and his mother got into the video business (well, lighting is still VERY xpensive and complex, but only pros know what lighting is). The market is so over-saturated now it is the law of demand vs offer, so it’s no surprise people are working for peanuts or beans.

    There are still categories though. Pro video, even for corporate, is 4:2:2 50Mbps, and requires a set end-to-end of relatively expensive equipment and (many different) skills, anything below that is a cheap jungle with no money.

    My advice is to better skip the DSLR fad and jump into the proper video world, like advertising (commercials), where even though budgets have sunk in the last 5 years, professionalism still exists and there ARE decent budgets.
    It’s also where nobody owns or cares about equipment (it is rented by the day, be it an ALEXA/35mm or a set of 12kW HMI lights with a truck-generator), proper salaries are paid and a project manager will never have to do the work of a gaffer, or a DP the work of a colorist.

    “How do I get into this filming lark and make money?”: skip the low end market (and learn a craft not a tool. Ah, and forget about gear obsession).

    1. Hear hear dear chap!

      The thing is $100 a day or a £100 is a lot of money to some monkey fresh out of college. Lets see though if they are still around in 20 years time earning……hmmm! $125 a day and still happy? With a family to support and the latest tech to buy? Probably not.

      You charge peanuts, everyone thinks you’re a monkey!

  54. Philip, Can I ask you is the majority of income you make now from you website an workshops rather than actual film making?

  55. What an awesome post. I mean if I had this three years ago, how much easier my trial and error pains would have been! I get asked this question all the time, and I think you summed up every point perfectly…so now I’ll be sending the link to this post from now on.

    My question is, after Philip Bloom follows all his own advice to be one of the best and most popular digital filmmakers around…how the heck does he find time to write all this in blogs and continue to have such a massive online presence? I mean I blog and get some exposure from it…but geez man where do you find the time? (and the posts are never rubbish….always well thought out and good)

    I appreciate your lead on the digital filmmaking democratization. Thanks for the inspiration mate…I look forward to having the chance to work with you or simply have a drink!

  56. Nice post Philip,
    Tons of information in this one
    and I boat load of comments to read 😛

  57. I think at first people are just blown away by the quality of these new cams, but now people are starting to understand talent. There was a brief stint where equipment determined your worth, but people started noticing that someone with talent can come in with a 20$ tripod, and a 7d and do a much better job.

  58. I charge my clients a rate of $800 per the finished minute produced (mostly DVDs containing documentary style news and educational clips). In arriving at my rate I factored in an average 7 day shoot, hiring my gear, driving 4000k travelling to different locations, meals and accommodation and about 4-5 hours of editing per finished minute. My last three projects averaged about 40 minutes each. My costs (out of pocket expenses, depreciation on my car and equipment) is about 1/4 of what I get paid. My client gives me the brief, the list of subjects to interview and leaves it up to me the get the job done. I get half up front and the rest on delivery of a DVD master with interviews shot and edited, signposts, graphics, titles and menus etc.

    The arrangement works for them – they know what they are going to get with a fixed negotiated price up front. The arrangement works fine for me too – enough work from reasonable sized projects where I have the incentive to keep costs down while providing quality deliverables my clients are very happy with.

    One of them once tried to do it in house and hire a camera operator, producer and editor separately and the result was twice as expensive, and they had several staff tied up just trying to manage everything.

    There is no doubt that talent is part of the equation, but it not so much about coverage, audio or production values – in my line of work its all about interview technique – you only get one first impression when you roll up and you have to disarm your subject so they are comfortable talking on camera in about 10 minutes from meeting them – that is probably the thing I do best. I make sure I know everything about them, and what I am there to interview them about – its their pride in their own accomplishments that creates the buzz that makes my work shine – people feel good listening to their stories and seeing how they do what they do – not some dolly shot or narrow depth-of-field arty shot – even though I do try to add a bit of that in my b-roll 😉

  59. The blog and responses are incredibly educational. I have filmed a lot of college lacrosse and generated short (5 minute) reports suitable for the web. There is essentially no professional competition because the teams are club and underfunded. Over time my work has become known within the community and occasionally I have been asked what I would charge. I have found that the time, the travel, the editing make the rate so low it is not worth it to worry about dollars per hour. Although it may sound strange, if I do it for free, I can spend as much time as I want to edit the final version into something I like. My reward, the feedback I get from the players, parents and fans. Also, making videos that people enjoy is very challenging. But the digital revolution and world wide web provide great opportunities to get your work seen.

    My only thought about “Fred” is that he should only enter the business, if it is an absolute passion, not just a career choice. Oh yeah, I kept my day job.

    One of my sons friends, dropped out of college, went to Berkeley Digital Film School for 16 months, shot music videos for local rappers and has made it big in LA. He had a great passion for this and made it happen.

  60. Having been filming / editing for myself for a few years I blagged my way into a video gig for a ski/snowboard instructor training company.

    Having never priced for video work before I ended up doing it for peanuts ( ooo ooo oo) but worked my ass off and edited hard. During the season i was approached by the ski field to potentially do their videos next year because they like my work. The “show reel” got me that gig as well as video work in Canada.
    When I came back to NZ I had a meeting and upped my rates from peanuts to 300 per cent more peanuts per video. They just said OK.

    In that first season I was honest and hard working (honest means saying “no i can not do that, how about we do this…”) and I became a vital part of what they do. Rates will stay the same for now as I have a good relationship with everyone involved and we all have a good thing going.

    Oh I have also just scored another couple of jobs which are in totally different genre inc a fashion show – making into vids and VJing on the night for practically no money but massive potential for connections and exposure, and a corporate type ad….

    So yes I worked very hard for peanuts, then used those peanuts to catch a few big fish.

    Plan to keep fishing and with the advice and info on here, sure to be landing whales soon!
    (could also do with winning that rode mic Phil!! my shitty mp3 and “321 clap” with sound drifting is killing me in the editing room. Cant afford pluraleyes!)

  61. One either has “it” or don’t. Some of it may be based on personal taste. However, it’s usually the case when passion and perfection is reflected in the work. However, on the contrary, others are quite sub par and uninspiring. Case in point, I’ve seen some brilliant master piece made with a cell phone and a Windows Movie Maker, and then I’ve seen the numerous God awful crap made using the latest and most expensive cameras and softwares.

    Bottom line, either it is pursued for all the wrong reasons or it just may not be their niche, whether they realize it or not. I truly believe that all individuals have a calling or “wired” to pursue and do something they ARE, and not necessarily what they WANT or THINK they want.

    Therefor, if your only goal is to be the next Philip Bloom/Vince Laforet, make lots of money, and gain fame and be noticed in the dslr world….. as the saying goes:

    DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB!

  62. Great post Philip…
    i’m surprised there was not a lot more posts on this..

    I approach my film production company the way I approach my still Photography business…. I charge $1,500-3,000 for a wedding as it is the whole package they are buying.. my expertise, my time not only on the special day but the 20-40 hours of post processing etc. I do…..

    I charge from $2,900 to $4,900 to do a mimi-documentary/tv commercial/web promotion…. I am just starting out but that rate seems to be fair, as I am a one-man-band, have reasonable gear (NOT factored in as that is just the cost of doing my business)…. I set my rate and do not go below that, because I KNOW what $100,000’s are paid for commercials on tv….. Directors getting $30K a day to produce something that now can be done just as well, but with less costly gear.

    An example of this is a Cadillac commercial several years ago. My brother was the location scout on that gig and it was a 1.2 million dollar commercial. All the finished product had was a slow-mo of a woman wearing a flowing scarf, driving in front of the art deco buildings on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach… Can you believe it?? I don’t care how you slice it or dice it, but all of you who do this on a ‘day-rate’ basis should re-think what it is that you are supplying. Maybe it works differently over here…. don’t know

  63. When do you think Part 3 will be online? If it already is I can’t seem to find it.