How much should I charge?

Taylor-02-02-2017-462-NR-RT-2048.jpg How much should you charge for your service? Are you overcharging or undercharging?

Well, this is going to apply to most creatives, photographers, mua, models, etc...

When it comes to setting your rates, people say, know your worth. We hear this all the time, followed by how much do you want to make. If you follow this, for the most part you will either fail or maintain a low number of jobs that never seams to grow.

When you see a photographer charge $400 - $800 for one (1) retouched photo, please don’t assume you can pick up a DSLR and charge the same (you can try) – There are many differences, some in the final results and some in the backend.

A new photographer pricing themselves needs to take many aspects into account, the first most important, is a question: Can you deliver equal or better results? I see far too often a new photographer thinking they can do headshots for $500, when their work is less than a $50 snapshot.

There are several things that go into knowing how to set your rates. I have seen so many formula or excel sheets telling people how to set their rates, and well, none of them take true business items into account.

You rates, in my opinion, your rate and your worth depend of the following factors;

  • Market rates for same work within your area
  • Consumables (tape, makeup, hairspray)
  • Time (time on the project)
  • Quality of the final product
  • Experience
  • Professional (yea, over 75% of creatives have no idea about this)
  • Insurance

Let me explain these, and how they might be related as well:

MarketRate-XSmall.jpg Market Rates: What are the current market rates for the type of work you do? Look around your area and see what people are charging for similar work. Now I am not talking similar quality, but rather similar in genre.

  • If you do actor headshots, compare to actor headshots, not portrait headshots.
  • If you do bridal make up, compare to other bridal make, not beauty makeup.

Consumables: This is part of your overhead per job. Some examples are; Tape, napkins, makeup, snacks, etc... Now, unless you plan on being a reseller for these items, people do not generally charge more than purchase price + 10% . Its not about making a profit on these base items, its about recovering costs and the +10%, is usually a return on tied up capital. (I wont go into business details, but you have money tied up in these products)

snacks.jpg Time: This is one of the most misunderstood items. Charging per hour can either help you or sink you. Just because you put a lot of time into a project, does not mean you deserve high pay. Let me give you some examples:

  • Photographer: Lets say a new photographer spends 3 hours in retouching to achieve the same results as an experienced photographer does in 1 hour. In this case, why does the new photographer deserve to be paid more than the one with experience?
  • MUA: Assume an experienced MUA charges $20/hr, so a new MUA decides to charge the same rate, and completes a basic beauty look in 3hrs, thats $60, well an experienced MUA can knock out basic beauty in 1hr, so the experienced person charges $20??? you see, the new MUA is punishing the client for being slow.

These are two examples where charging for the project could yield favorably for everyone.

Quality: This is one of the most missed items. That is, people tend to not take this into account. This means, of the work you put out, is it on par with the work of others that you are basing your rates on? (see market rates) When you compare your work to the work of others around you, is your work, less than, same as ore better than?

Experience: This could be one of the most important ones, this will allow you to decide the best route to get your work done as well as knowing what to do when situations arise. With experience you can better handle the shoot and be better prepared.

Amateur-Photographer-Mistake-1.jpg Professional Another confusing topic. I am not talking about getting paid for your work. The kid on the corner selling lemonade is also getting paid, but they are not professional. What makes you professional is how you set yourself up and conduct yourself (not all apply to every creative and some make your more professional)

  • Deliver proofs within 48-36 hours (photographer)
  • Deliver retouched withing 48-36 hours of selection (photographer)
  • Have popper licensing, business accounts, accept credit cards, pull permits.
  • Proper contracts/quotes in place?
  • Ability to deliver content in professional manner (not drop box)
  • An inventory of clothing / makeup (stylists and MUA)
  • Arrive with an assortment of shoes (model)
  • Ability to pose, move from one pose to another (model)

Insurance I have seen/heard bad stories about some creatives losing equipment, having their makeup table flipped over, models getting hurt, insurance would have covered all these items. Now make no mistake, this is not meant to be any disrespect to anyone who is not insured. But I have to tell a sad story, a MUA that I know of, had their makeup table shattered due to someone hitting it, causing this MUA to lose all their makeup product. A debate ensued about who pays for it, how soon can this MUA get back to making a living because they lost their inventory/supplies. Now that was on the MUA side of it, so lets look at a photographer. As a photographer, if I put a shoot together, hire models, and the model slips on an apple box that I had her stand on, who pays for her broken leg? An argument would ensue, and it would just go bad. The last runway I shot, I had two (2) assistants shooting second/third cameras, I had them covered, all the equipment covered. In the event they dropped a camera onto the runway from the second level, well my insurance would have covered the damages. I know that if one of my studio strobes falls on the model, or the model gets burned from a hot light, I know that model is covered with $1,000,000 insurance policy. A policy that is written specifically for my photography business and not part of my home owners insurance (thats not professional)

So how much to do you charge? Now that you have a base understanding of the more relevant items, lets look at the list again and figure out how much to charge.

  • Market rates: Start here, find the market rate, use that a base.
  • Consumables: If you are providing snacks, have supplies available on your shoots, then increase a bit.
  • Time: If you take 2x longer than the market average for the same result, then lower your rate. On the other side, if you are getting the same job done in half the time, you could increase a bit. As you are saving everyone time.
  • Quality: If you are not producing the same level of quality as the market average, then reduce your rate. If you producing better, then increase it.
  • Experience: If you bring real knowledge and experience to the table vs the market average, then you can increase your rate a bit, if not, reduce it.
  • Professional: If you have the professional conduct that really set the pros apart from the amateurs, then you can increase your rate a bit, if not, reduce it
  • Insurance: Mostly for photographers, mua, hair stylists. If your all set in this department then you can increase your rate, otherwise, reduce it.

Now this mostly comes from my business experience and photography experience, but I do feel this flows into most creatives.

Understanding the above items, rates should start to make more sense you. I know some will disagree, and thats ok. Just do what works for you, as this works for me.

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Mike Bradley

Author: Mike Bradley

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