Ask any freelancer what part of their job they hate the most and chances are a good chunk of them will point to the inescapable chore that is pricing. Pricing your own services is awkward, confronting, and much like breaking up with a partner, you just wish someone else could just step in and do the dirty work for you.
But luckily for all you free agents out there, we have a quick little formula that’ll help you tackle this supremely uncomfortable task so you can quit stressing and get back to doing what you love most—making video magic!
Part 1: Three-Step Pricing Formula for Videographers
As you’ve probably realized by now, no two video productions are the same, which means the fees you charge for them shouldn’t be either. Tailoring your prices to each project is key to ensuring that neither you nor your client walks away feeling as though you just got royally ripped off, and the most straightforward way to do this is by following these three simple steps:
1. Calculate Your Outgoing Expenses
The first thing you’re going to want to do is make a list of all the expenses you’re going to incur throughout the course of your project. This includes everything from the planning phase all the way through to post-production. We’re talking equipment rental, location hire, set props, actors and crew personnel, transportation costs, stock music licenses, the whole kit and kaboodle.
Now repeat after me: All of these expenses are things that my client and, not me—repeat: NOT ME—will be covering.
Then you’re going to add up each of the expenses and whatever the sum comes to will form the starting point for your project fee.
2. Calculate Your Time and Effort
Next, you’ll need to make a list of all the tasks you personally will need to undertake to see the project through to completion and how long you estimate each one to take.
This will include any client meetings and phone calls, scripting or storyboarding, logistical planning, the total number of hours spent on set, as well as any post-production work you’ll be required to do or oversee.
Don’t worry about attaching any price tags just yet as this will come in the next step.
3. Decide How Much Profit You Want to Make
Lastly, you’ll need to decide how much money you’d like to walk away from the project with. To help you do this, go back to step two and take into account all of the time and effort you estimate you’ll be putting into the project and try and place a figure on what you think it’s worth.
If you’re new to video and film production and want to keep your prices low, then you may opt to charge nothing for your personal output—a choice that’s entirely up to you. As far as we’re concerned, as long as your production expenses are covered, you can charge whatever you want. But we’d like to think that even if you are fresh to the industry, you will take the initiative to demand your due, even if it’s just $100 a day.
Once you’ve decided what you’d like your profit to be, add it to your total sum of project expenses and voilà: there you have your complete project fee!
See? That wasn’t so bad.
Part 2: What to Avoid When Pricing Your Rates
Okay now that the hard part’s over, let’s move on to the easy round: what NOT to do when figuring out your rates.
Don’t Base Your Prices on What Competitors Charge
One of the biggest temptations for newbie freelancers is to copy the fees of their competitors or friends in the industry. This is a big pricing no-no.
Each of your competitors has set their rates to reflect their level of experience, any specializations they may have, and the quality of the finished product they’re capable of delivering. Assuming that you can just come along and adopt their pricing structure is pure crazy talk and will almost certainly lead to you under or over-valuing yourself.
Don’t NOT Charge Anything
For freelancers who are desperately trying to bulk up their portfolio, not charging anything is another common trap. But be warned: doing so has big consequences—and not just for you.
Not charging anything for your services doesn’t just devalue you as an artist, it also devalues the market as a whole. When companies know they can always find someone to do a job for free, they pass on working with seasoned professionals who do charge.
This ultimately forces the pros to drop their prices in order to remain competitive, thereby sending the value of video services down across-the-board. Needless to say… that ain’t cool.
Don’t Use Fixed Rates
If there’s one thing to remember when pricing your video services it’s that the cost of each video project varies massively and your fees should always reflect this.
For example, one couple’s wedding video might require a drone, three additional crew members, and same-day editing, while another couple may only require one additional crew member and the bare-bones equipment.
So, do you charge the same fixed wedding package rate for each? Hell to the nay nay. Before throwing any numbers around, always sit down with your client and work out exactly what it is that they want before coming up with a project quote.
Avoid Charging Hourly and Daily rates for Big Projects
Since hourly and daily rates fail to take into account big project expenses such as equipment rental, transport, set props, etc., we recommend avoiding them altogether and opting for a project fee similar to that outlined above.
NOTE: The one exception to this is if you are not leading a project and are only being staffed on one on a pay-for-hire basis. If this is the case, then you should definitely be hitting clients up with an hourly or day rate.
Like any thorny task in life, figuring out your videography pricing will only continue to get easier and easier the more you do it. But while you’re out there honing your business skills, don’t forget that there are other ways to turn a profit on your video services that don’t involve haggling with clients over money.
Stock video agencies like Motion Array are more than happy to play the middleman between you, the artist, and prospective buyers… all you need to is upload your work to their marketplace and let them take care of the rest!