“What is your rate?”
To answer this can be pretty scary sometimes.
If you say too high, you may not get the gig, be offered next time, and miss out on potential work.
If you say too low, you may be undervaluing yourself, you may get the gig, but it may not be worth the money you earn – or worse, you may be in lower-tier jobs forever.
Firstly, be fair…
Ideally, you want to have a fair wage while also remaining competitive.
It may not be easy to gauge your worth and find the balance between charging a fair price for your services and not overpricing yourself.
…Be fair to Yourself
Many freelancers struggle with self-doubt, feeling they aren’t experienced or skilled enough to charge high rates. However, it’s important to remember that your services and expertise are valuable, and you should be bold and ask for what you’re worth.
Understanding your value as a freelancer takes time, experience, and confidence. Still, with determination and a willingness to improve continuously, you will arrive at a rate that works for you.
What is the value you bring to the table?
Consider the value you are adding to the production. Your value includes not just your technical skills but also the unique perspective and creativity that you bring to the production. Consider what sets you apart from other freelancers and how your unique experiences and talents can add value to the project. For example, if you have special expertise or bring a unique perspective to the job, this adds value to the production and can justify a higher rate.
Consider the current market demand for your skills and how your background, style, and approach can bring something unique to the table.
Consider Your Experience
Is it years? Is it decades? Or it hasn’t even been a year yet? How long have you been doing this? Take into consideration your level of experience in the industry. Talking to peers with similar experience levels can help gauge what is considered a fair rate. Feel free to have open and honest conversations about money. Learn the rates of other professionals in your field. These conversations will give you a better understanding of what is typical for someone with your level of experience and skill set.
Remember, discussing rates is a normal and necessary part of being a successful freelancer. By breaking down the taboo surrounding money, you can gain valuable insights and build stronger relationships with your peers.
Calculate What It Takes
Think about the time and effort required to complete the entirety of the job.
In addition to the actual filming or event day, there are several other factors to consider, such as preparation time, travel, setup and breakdown, and post-production work. These tasks require time and effort, and you should factor them into your overall rate.
Also, consider equipment costs, insurance, and other costs associated with running your freelance business.
Unique Skillsets, Unique Tools, and a combination of them
The demand for a freelancer’s unique skillset and mastery of specialized tools can significantly impact their rate. Freelancers who have niche abilities (for example, steady cam operator, audio engineer, drone pilot, etc.) can offer a level of expertise that sets them apart from their peers and increases their value in the market.
When one has a combination of unique skills, it even can exponentially increase your rate.
[Picture of Snowboarder Video filming, Jeremiah Davis]
Hone in on your unique skill set and continually refine mastery of your tools. This way, you can charge a higher rate!
Understand the market. It is often not about you.
It’s important to remember that there are factors at play beyond just market demand for your skillset. The market itself can impact the prices you’re able to charge, and it’s important to understand there is a limit to how much you can charge for your services.
That may depend on the available budget for the projects you’re working on or sometimes… the entire industry you want to be a part of.
Taking a holistic approach to calculating your rate will ensure you can provide a high-quality product and maintain a sustainable business model.
Before you leave, my 2 cents…
While money is a crucial component of your work as a freelancer, it shouldn’t be the only thing that matters. The people you work with, the projects you work on, and the satisfaction you get from doing what you love all contribute to your overall sense of well-being and happiness.
In the end, money is just a means to an end, and it is important for you to know why you want that money.
For me, it provides the lifestyle I want to have outside of work. Whether driving a nicer car, living in a better neighborhood, or having more space, the money you earn as a freelancer should allow you to enjoy the lifestyle you desire.
I hope this will help you stay prosperous and create a win-win next time a producer asks, “What’s your rate?”