06 Jun 2018

How to Price Your Video Work

So you’ve started producing videos, but you haven’t quite figured out how to price them. Boy do I remember those days. Figuring out how to price yourself and your product is a challenging proposition and knowing where to start can be daunting.

There are really two ways to price a project. One is by a day or hourly rate (day rate is more common) and the other is by the project itself. For me, I price my work both ways depending on what I’m doing. When someone contacts me asking me to field produce an outdoor show, I quote them a day rate. If someone contacts me asking me to create a video for them from concept to final production, I usually quote that by the project.

Old photo of Keith Warren and I while working day rate jobs for two seasons of The High Road

Let’s start with the day rate first, particularly for the hunting and fishing industries. If you get asked to shoot an outdoor show or to film someone’s hunt, a day rate is a great way to price yourself. It allows you to be straight forward in your cost and lets that person know how you compare price wise to other people they may have spoke with in the industry. When you price your day rate, you need to base it on how much experience and knowledge you have, what kind of gear you’re using and what the industry standard price is. Someone who’s only been shooting for a year and is working off of a Canon XA10 with a single microphone isn’t going to be able to charge the same rate as someone who’s been shooting full time for six years and is working off of a Sony FS5. Knowing where you stack up is important.

Earlier in my career, filming with a Panasonic GH4 and Lumix 12-35 2.8 lens

If you’re relatively new to filming and have entry level equipment (i.e. Canon XA10), you should expect to get somewhere between $100-150 a day. If you’ve got a few years of experience and have some pretty decent gear (i.e. Sony A6300/A7SII with lenses), you can expect to make between $200-350 a day. If you’ve got 5-10 years of experience and have invested in high-end equipment (i.e. FS5, FS7, C300 MK II), your rate will often fall between $400 and $750 a day, depending on where you are in that spectrum. If you’ve got over 10 years of experience and own a RED, a VariCam LT or something along those lines, you won’t be reading this article and your rate will be hitting the $1,000 plus range per day. There’s obviously different variables than just these, but this should give you a ballpark idea on where you are.

Getting ready for a shoot with my Sony FS7 and a Canon 18-80 T4.4 Cine Servo Zoom lens

Once you’ve determined what day rate you’re comfortable with, you next need to figure out what your expenses are. When traveling, I charge the state per diem when driving in my vehicle, all airfare (flights, baggage, airport parking, etc.) when flying and any rental cars plus gas if needed. I also charge for hotel expenses, film permits (if necessary) and anything else that comes up as a cost. You should do the same as it’s part of the cost of production that your client should expect to pay in order for you to be there. Some people also charge half days when traveling, but I don’t. I charge a full day when traveling as what you’re paying for when you hire me is my time, and if I’m gone for 7 days (5 days shooting, 2 days traveling), then you should expect to pay my rate for that time. Not everyone works this way, so how you price your travel days is up to you, but you should at the very least expect half day pay for traveling.

I always make sure to charge for all travel expenses as it’s part of what it costs to get me to the job

For day rate film jobs in the outdoor industry, this system works, but you can price even higher than this for day rate jobs when working outside of the outdoor industry. For example, if I get hired to shoot all-day interviews for a plastic surgeon, my day rate will be much higher due to the nature of the job. I have to get there early, setup the entire room for the shoot, get all three of my cameras ready and get out my remote controlled slider, lights, boom mics and more in order to do the shoot. After the interviews are over, I then have to break all of my gear down, pack everything up and put the room back together. There is an incredible amount of work and expertise involved in a high-end interview shoot like this, therefore my day rate is often 2-3 times the price it would be for an outdoor or hunting related shoot. Knowing the scope of your project, as well as the industry, will help you further determine your rates.

Filming high-end multi-cam interviews for a plastic surgeon takes a lot of time, gear and experience

As I mentioned earlier, I price many projects, if not most, by the project itself. What that means is that rather than give a day rate, I give a total price for doing the entire project. For example, if I get asked to shoot a 4 minute promotional video for a school, I will give them a set price which includes all costs. I put that information into a proposal and that’s my official bid for the job. This allows the school to know exactly what they are paying for, how long it will take and what the overall cost is.

Shooting aerials for a promotional video with my DJI Phantom 4 Pro+

When pricing a project like this, I first estimate how much time I think it will take me to shoot and edit it, as well as how long I think it will take to write the script, location scout, get the people, find the props, etc. Once I’ve determined roughly how many days it will take, I then multiply that number by my day rate and lump this together as one cost, say $3,500. Next, I determine what expenses are involved. These expenses are travel costs, storage space (based on roughly how much hard drive space it will cost me to store two copies of the project), film permits (if needed), music rights, actor fees, voiceover expenses (if a VO artist is needed), graphics (often for After Effects templates), sound effects, props and additional shooters or sounds guys if needed. Any additional expenses or rental costs, if specific equipment is requested, is added here.

When pricing by the project, you need to price in expenses, including locations, props and actors

Once I have the overall cost of my time as well as the expenses required, I am then able to determine the cost for the project, say $5,000. Once I have that together, I can officially build my proposal and send it in for the bid. If the client likes my work, experience and bid, then there’s a dang good chance I’m going to get the job.

How much you charge to do a project like this again goes back to your equipment, experience level and overall knowledge of video production. The further on that scale you are, the more valuable you are, so the more you can charge for your services and product. Keep this in mind as you move forward in your business.

What equipment you have plays a large role in what you can charge

Overall, pricing is a never ending, always changing target that constantly moves based on where you are in your career. However, knowing where you stack up as well as what all to charge for will make pricing your projects much easier. You may end up asking for too little and regretting it, or asking for too much and getting a no, but that’s ok as it’s a learning process that every person has to go through. Just remember to charge for expenses and to price yourself according to your experience level, knowledge and equipment.

Filming a day rate project for eBay with my Sony A7RIII & Zeiss Batis 25mm 2.0 on a Movi M5 gimbal

My last piece of advice is to not be afraid to ask your worth. I know far too many talented video producers who charge way too little because they are afraid to ask for more. You must not forget that you are offering a service that’s valuable and that not everyone can do. When you have good gear and a solid understanding on how to use it, then you certainly should be able to charge for that. That’s the whole point of offering a service to people that they don’t have. Never forget that you can always go down in price, but you can never go up. That perhaps could be the best advice I ever received when starting my career and maybe it will be for you too.

Shooting interviews with my Sony A7RIII, Zeiss Planar 50mm 1.4 and SmallHD FOCUS monitor

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and for visiting my page! To check out my work and to see what kinds of projects I do, click on the Home tab. If you have any questions about this article or about filming in general, send me an email at josh@rusticriver.media and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. For more vlogs and blogs just like this, follow me on Facebook at Rustic River Media and be sure to join my new Facebook group, Filming with Josh. Until next time!

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