Anything Goes : Stop being cheap by Christopher Iuliano

Christopher Iuliano

Stop being cheap

I am amazed at what people are trying to pay for video production work. I work freelance so when I see a job on craigslist I will usually apply. I will paraphrase a recent conversation I had with a potential client: it was a mechanic factory looking to make videos to post on youtube demonstrating how their machines work. They said the videos they had currently were of poor quality that were no longer acceptable. They said they wanted to make videos for most of their current machines, as well as all the new ones that would be coming in the future, so they were looking to make an ongoing connection with a videographer. They wanted someone with an HD camera, lighting, and microphones. Also, they wanted this person to edit the videos and add graphics. They asked for a price quote. I replied, "you would be looking at around $50-$60/hr for the shoot with all my gear. And the editing I will do for $30/hr." Please, tell me if I am charging too much (though I feel this is relatively cheap compared to what I've seen others charge) Anyway, I never heard back from them. I was going to just let it go, but it seemed like it could be continuous work and I didn't want to just let it slip away. I emailed them, asking them if they had received my email? They politely replied that my price range was out of their budget. I am flexible, so I asked what their budget was. "$75 per video," they replied. $75!!!! are they serious?! I wouldn't take my camera out of the bag for $75. I told them that it would be very hard to find someone to do this for such a low amount. A lot of people charge more than that an hour, and they want an entire video produced for it (filming, editing, encoding) there is just no way! When will people learn that a 1 minute youtube video does not take 1 minute to create?! I ended up telling them that they should spend the money and get their own camera and lights. That they would have a better chance of getting a Videographer to work with them for that amount if he/she didn't have to use their own equipment. I told them, if they got the footage themselves that I could edit the videos for them for $75 each, and even that would be at a discount. Am i wrong here? Or does this sort of thing happen WAY too often in this business?

Kristopher Veenis

I've run into the same problem time and again myself. I think in today's world with every increasing democracy on the technical side of the equation, especially in terms of distribution platforms (like youtube, VOD, and other streaming online services) it makes the whole process of making a video or any type of media seem so easy. I think most people see a youtube video and say "well I could do that?" And the truth is almost anyone 'could' make a video. Now will said video be of good quality, makes any coherent sense, or will it ever be seen by enough people to have any type of impact? The answer to that is almost always no. The fact that it all looks so easy and looks like anyone and everyone can do it, has cheapened the idea of the artform to an extent. 30-50 years ago, hell even up to about 15 years ago; when things were shot on film, with heavy lights, and real professionals were hired to write, shoot, and direct things, and edit things, no one with any sense would have said, well lets do it ourselves or lets just hire a student, or anyone off the street to do it, because the idea was that professionals do professional work, and amateurs do, well amateur work. The entire conversation in this respect has degraded over the last 15 years more and more every year, At the same time one person is almost forced to wear multiple/multiple/multiple hats usually in order to price themselves in the ballpark to get almost any kind of mid to low level work, which almost always causes the project to suffer. You know what they say though, "you get what you pay for." I don't think that statement is any more true than in the video production world today.

Daniel Urdanivia

I'm an editor, even if the each video is just one minute I wont do it for $75. the first rate that you gave him it was ok. they probably don't have a good budget for, because they post it on craigslist, so you initial rate is perfect. less than that is better if they do it by themselves because I doubt they find someone to do it. good luck

Kira George

Hi Christopher, I understand what you are saying, but you have to understand that many folks out there do not know what goes on behind the scenes. They watch t.v. shows and think it takes just a few hours or a day to make because they see the finish product. I work in the financial industry and believe it or not, people do not understand the market and what the difference with stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are. Which to me is basic stuff. So we have to remember that, at the end of it all, they only see the "ending" product and not what actually happens from start to finish. I think it was great of you to email them back and give them pointers on how to save money. For me personally, because I am a person who does things ONLY after I know why I am doing it, I would have asked WHY it cost so much. This would have set up for you to explain what all is involved.

Stephane Lun-Sin

It reminds me of some producers' story hiring DPs on the basis of the camera they owned...But yeah, your prices are fair. It's just like everyone else said, people generally don't know what it entails to produce a good video, story-wise, production wise and editing wise...They think it's all in the gear. (How many people ask me what camera I use, as if that was what composed, framed and lit the shot...). Educating them as to the work involved and giving them examples of how vast can be the difference between a professional shooter and an amateur one can be a good idea: Shane Hurlbut shooting on a Canon 5Dmii WILL give different results than say me with the same gear...If they don't understand that, I guess they can do their own videos.

Bill Mackie

No, you are not charging too much. Maybe too little? It is a pretty good maxim that the less you charge the more people will expect. Raise your rates and network your tail off to find worthy clients. If you are going to work for peanuts at least do it for a charity. You gain experience and you also do a good thing = Win/Win

John Bennardo

I have a $250 minimum to leave the house with my gear, so $75 for an entire video is ridiculous. Those clients, just walk away from. My guess is after they hire someone on the cheap, they'll be looking for someone new to re-do it. You get what you pay for, and for $75, they won't get much. Stick to your guns and charge what you're worth. If not, you'll be bitter doing every job.

Marc Baron

A big problem today is everybody wants us to work for free. Try being an actor! I once had someone who wanted me to sing at their event for free. When I asked if they were paying the pianist why couldn't they pay me - they said it would be good for my career. When I asked how is working for free good for my career they had no answer. The real problem is ... there are so many people out who will do it cheap/or free.

Clayton Loring

Hi Chris, I understand your frustration. How about a different approach? Show the client the difference between a professionally crafted video and some piece of garbage (shoot with camera phone) and say "which way do YOU want YOUR company represented " After you show someone a cadillac they never want to buy a junker. Good luck

Adrian Barker

I think it's all down the their budget. It's not for television it's for YouTube so they don't want to pay the going rates.

Martin Douglas

I've had the same issues and like you have seen people consistently charging a lot more. Even then, from the different forums I've looked into it seems like the low end is around $70 or so per hour whether for filming or editing. By that standing you're $30/h to edit is really cheap. The only thing I've seen that may make it expensive might be the area you live in, but even then calculating the hourly rate they asked you for likely puts you way under minimum wage. While there's some decent work to be found on craigslists, it seems to be the Wal-mart of the job market for most posters. They want everything for nothing, and I have a feeling that those taking the jobs are doing it in hopes of something turning out later on although that rarely happens.

Marcinho Savant

I came to a point where I refuse to "give it away". Not when it's not for a massive opportunity... or for charity. Set the rate you need to feel good about your work, be fairly compensated, and not feeling bitter, or resentful... for being taken advantage of. It's difficult to walk away, but I play hardball, and present, and get my rate. Those who decline are not my ideal client anyway. Know your worth and set up your boundaries.

Rachael Saltzman

Things to think about. Do you have a body of work sufficiently better than their current videos to show them? I've been on both sides of the counter in this issue. My favorite answer for the truly silly (can I tell you about the person who wanted a full bore stop motion music video with custom sets and puppets for $100? Hilarious. They informed me that someone could do it. I said great, give me that someone's number!) On the flip side, I've gotten reels from kids who's parents bought them a RED, are total garbage, and they're asking for top dollar because they have the fancy item (I don't know why, but Red is the worst offender in this category). So. If you have the experience to back up your rates (which are fine for a couple of years in and dedicated, low for high experience), show them the work and let them know their presentation is a reflection of their business. While children are wonderful, potential buyers, especially of machine parts, are not impressed if it looks like you handed your five year old a phone to make business videos. I usually back FAR away from lowball clients, because they always seem to think they've bought every waking second of your life, are condescending and demanding, and will both nickel you to death and breathe down your neck until you create garbage. Oh, and I've always ended up having to chase them down for the money they owe me. Every. Damn. Time.

Debbie Elicksen

Good thing you're not a writer. Most of those same firms want them to work for free -- or my personal favorite line if it's a book: for royalties.

Debbie Elicksen

However, in the future, set your price by seeing what others (in the same skill level) are charging for the same work. Never ask them if it's too much. They will always say yes. Try and assess their budget and what they think it is going to cost. If you can see what you know it's going to cost, give them three prices, with the middle being the one you want -- which is usually the one they take. Such as hourly, contract, and monthly fee. Anyway, for creative work, the problem is people hiring that service don't equate it with the same skill level as a dentist or mechanic -- which they never argue a price over.

Rachael Saltzman

? I am a writer. Unless I'm writing my blog, it's for an advance and royalties. Though most ebook publishers are royalties only. They still put in the hiring of the editor (no small feat), book formatting, and cover art.

Debbie Elicksen

I meant the comment for Christopher's initial post for video work.

Mark Cabaroy

@Christopher Luliano the problem is the market is inundated with videographers. Anyone with an iPhone can shoot and post video so having a high end HD camera is overkill. Especially if you're answering an AD as oppose to being approached because someone saw some of your work. This is a problem that I see in a lot of media people today. They don't realize it's a competitive market. Everyone wants to make money and a few people really have the skill set worthy of it. There wil always be people who will pay for services because they don't know any better but if they search long enough they'll simply find "talent" and I use that word loosely who will do it for less money. I've been approached to do music videos wedding videos industrials commercials you name it. Years ago I could get 3 to 5 thousand dollars to do a local commercial or music video. But then you needed a beta am and editing system. Now you only need a laptop and a handycam or iPhone.

Christen Norman

IDK about pricing, but your potential client already knew that their previous videographer provided poor quality videos. They should have expected to pay a realistic price for an experienced professional. Perhaps, they could have understood a total package price, rather than an hourly rate, but the client sounds like they do not understand that effective advertising could greatly help sales. Best of luck to you.

Royce Allen Dudley

One side effect of the digital revolution is that the masses perceive high quality as virtually free... the fact a skilled artisan operates that gear is not part of the perception, period. The "respect" professional photographers of any kind once had as an " authority" is gone as well... just go to a wedding and watch people stick their iPhones up in front of the paid photographer's lens to get their own shot... or see the abuse news cameraman get now that they never got 10 years ago. You CANNOT change the mind of people who perceive what we do as low quality. When met with crazy offers, I politely suggest there are many hobbyists who'd be glad to help them but I do not know any personally as I am a professional. I suggest if they are happy with what they get at that rate they keep getting it, and if they decide they need a more presentable product, to consider a professional who delivers predictable, reliable results every time. Fact is, craigslist is not where one should expect good work on either side of the equation. It's also a fact that supply and demand have changed. I have no hard number source but I am in Los Angeles and I guarantee there are tenfold or more DP's than there were before HD and DSLRs became commonplace. "Everyone" is a DP. I begrudge no one that journey, but those who claim the name before they are established and work for free help keep overall rates lower. The solution is simple: Demand more of yourself and get REALLY good. Shoot your own demo material. Might cost far more than your gear did. It's a good idea.... If you have a standout reel and reputation, the phone rings a lot. Still many people won;t afford you, but they express they wish you could... and that's great advertising. Word gets around. Same token," do a solid" for someone and you will not get better work, you will get calls from " Hey I heard you might shoot for gas money ".

Bryan DeWeese

75$ per video is possible IF the shooting was geared so that the videos are under two minutes a piece and all use the same intro/outro and music which would come from stock footage and you were able to capture all the footage for a dozen videos in one shoot... IE 75$ * 12 = 900$ --> 900/30$p/h = 30 hours works time or 15 hours shoot time and 15 hours edit time. the issue you may run into is that subject matter experts often write poor video copy and the scripts/shots may be disorganized and some of your time may need to be allocated to stream line a shoot such as this. 75$ per video is only possible if you are able to multi-task on multiple projects without a lot of setup changes. Also, if you are a one person shooter and you can delegate simple jobs to your client or his employees instead of hiring others to shoot with you you can streamline your budget that way. I guess my point is that some would turn down 75$ perr video flat but it CAN be pretty good profit if you plan well and the client is willing to combine one shoot for multiple videos. Cheers,

Gene Avakyan

I'd be careful about letting them shoot and you edit - you and I know the footage will have...'issues'...and that will inevitably reflect back on you - they will think YOUR videos are bad when it was their footage - lighting, sound, camera movement, etc - that was at fault. Just my 2 cents worth..... For $75 you could also just 'edit in camera' - shoot exactly what you'll use and do minimal editing/post-production, or do as Bryan mentioned above, but that would take some good planning and it doesn't sound like the client is looking for optimization of the workflow, just cheap work.

Diane Knaus

Gene you are absolutely correct. When people have such low expectations they will twist things around and make you the bad guy.

Cory Wess

Your pricing is fine; assuming you do good work. Their budget is stupid. However it's their choice if they only want to pay $75 per video. You're getting upset about it is just immature. In corporate video production, there are plenty of people who want the work so bad they will work for anything. Thus this client will probably be able to find someone who will do it, which justifies their budget and business decision. Again your being upset at it serves no purpose. Focus on your abilities, and focus on clients who recognize good work and are willing to pay for it. Also, stop looking on craigslist for work. That's the place for bottom feeders. You don't stand outside wallmart to find investors for your film. They are not the problem. So many complainers about craigslist here, on FB, everywhere. The CL posters are not the problem. Fix yourself: 1. Stop looking in the wrong places for work. 2. Improve your sales and marketing skills. 3. Set standards for what type of work and how much you will work for. 4. Never complain about anything.

Rachael Saltzman

In real corporate video, our rates are much higher. They'll find some desperate kid, and have another crap video. Rinse and repeat.

Vincent Lowe

Actually, your prices are way low. I thought you were going to complain that this is what they offered you. Truth is, that a lot of companies think they want to create video for their business, but they don't want to actually pay for professional services to do it. This is like the early days of the web when no one would pay for web development because their nephew had recently downloaded a cracked copy of Dreamweaver and done the church website. What those companies got was a "nephew website" and what those same companies now will get is the "nephew corporate video." Don't worry, some companies will take delivery when the clue train stops, and they will realize that your rate is highly competitive.

Vincent Lowe

By the way, I was just thinking about this again, and I wonder if it's possible in your market to get someone to work on the brakes on a car for $60 an hour? (at your house?) Think about what it costs to have a plumber or an electrician come to the house to do a job. Don't most of them start with a base rate of around $120 just to walk in the door and unpack their tools? OTOH, if you look at the concern they're addressing, maybe you can find a middle ground. The company wants to have a job done without bleeding expense into an unknown sized hole. (Hourly rates do occur for us as that, when we are the customer.) So if you find out how many videos they want to make, and estimate the actual time it will take (given that they might be sort of rubber-stamp like with respect to the typography and text slates, the opening and closing sequences), then estimate the time you think it would reasonably take to do the job. For instance, if they want to have 15 videos made in all -- and you think you can shoot it in one day, edit the set of them in one day -- then maybe you can get your rate even while pricing it how they ask. To say this more concisely, it might be wise to consider a fixed-rate basis for a job if you can get a rock-solid commitment from the client to avoid expanding the scope of the job after it's started. You can meet their concern (of having a predictable cost basis) and yours (which is to be paid a reasonable rate). Just an idea. ---v

Mark Schulze

We charge a lot more and tell the cheapskates that "if they can not afford to do it right then do not do it at all". We still have clients that pay for a good video of $500-$1000 per minute so try not to "race to the bottom". $75 -$125 per hour for editing and $750 -$1500 per day for a 1-2 person crew with equipment. I have been in business for 32 years now and doing just great. Work hard for a good wage and the rest will go away in time. Peace Mark

Crystal Kelley

I think all of us video/post production workers should fix our prices to a set amount. That way we can avoid this lo/no pay jobs offers. People who want work done will know that they must save and budget for our services.

Lina Jones

My motto is never let a sale go because you don't know where it may lead, who might see the video and want to use your services, or references, whatever price you quote to a client should always be with the understanding that the price is to remain confidential. My production company is not a big or as fancy as you guys are one day it will be, may I never stop being hungry or humble especially to small businesses and entrepreneurs trying to make it on a dime. Good Luck to you all :D

Vincent Lowe

I guess I'm somewhere in between those two positiions. I don't believe in collaboration to fix prices (and in fact, at some level it's actually illegal), but I also don't believe in "take the job at all costs." I require something of value to accept a job - and sometimes it may be non-monetary. The problem with low bid jobs, or pro-bono jobs is that you still have to spend every ounce of effort and care with them that you do when you work for scale. If you fail to do so, your work doesn't present itself well, and the "client" isn't as happy -- that makes for a negative endorsement outcome. One thing though, I'm a fan of addressing a client concern with fixed-price bidding for a job. If I am buying services and someone tells me that they bill hourly, I immediately begin nursing a fear that the cost can spiral out of control. If I look at what the client wants, and can present them with a final fixed cost, I can increase my yield by working more efficiently, or by provisioning more economically. It's up to me to fatten the margin. But who knows, we'll all have to compete with the "nephews" in the coming marketplace, so it's time to look for what's left of the edge that professionals bring.

Royce Allen Dudley

Lina- Few producers ever keep a low rate confidential, and they will expect it next time. Especially a too-low rate. They brag because they got one over on you. Put it in writing- it still won't help. Call it a one time deal... it still won't help. I do know that full rate leads to the same, and to repeat hire if you delivered.

James Patrick Brown

What are your thoughts about this 2 years later?

JD Hartman

Same is still happening today. If a client can get you to work for little or no pay today, why would they pay you more on the next job? Similarly, "We'll pay for your services, but not the use of your equipment." If I "give" away the use of my lighting and grip package just to get work, then it's not worth owning as it costs real money to purchase and maintain. Networking value can only take you so far. You just have to say no.

Michael Wearing

Whenever I quote for corporate work I usually give them three prices and explain what they get for each. The lower end being a one person shoot, No actors. The upper one being a known actor and full crew. the middle one being somewhere in between... Invariably they go for the mid price one. I think the secret with any negotiation is to not talk money until you have them where you want them and they really want you and only you to make there film.

Jacob Joseph Young

Hello James very nice to meet you hope to run into you soon!

JD Hartman

Cheap production jobs will never disappear as long as naive or desperate people keep taking them. Still true today: produce; edit; choreograph; shoot; sound; lighting; grip; HMU; etc.; etc., a music video for a group,all for 5k USD. A crime

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