When it comes to determining your rates there are many questions you need to ask yourself. Should I ask the client to reveal their budget? Should I give discounts for retainers? Should I offer one size fits all packages? How often should I raise my rates? This is the second part of my entry dealing with rates. You can find part one here.
How often should I raise my rates?
Over time as I have become more methodical and ambitious with my productions, my rates have risen accordingly. So how do I sell my higher rates to prospective clients? To begin with I don’t sell the rate. In fact I hardly mention it at all. What I sell is an idea in the form of a treatment. This treatment clearly states my vision and the resources needed to achieve it. Once a qualified client understands that I am the best man to help them accomplish their goals, more times than not they are happy to invest in my plan.
Don’t undervalue yourself.
The freelance lifestyle is wrought with unpredictability and insecurity. For many freelancers it is feast or famine. For those lean months it’s tough to say no to any client when rent is due or bills need to be paid. It seems like the client always has the upper hand when negotiating rates, especially when you take into account the dozens of videographers who will say yes to any budget. If you recall in chapter three I gave the following words of advice.
“if you want to work as a videographer there has to be some outstanding quality in your work that is specific to you. And that does not necessarily mean art. It can be your quality, your turnaround time, your lenses, anything that makes you different can be leveraged strategically. If all you offer is a copy, your clients will use your competition as leverage to bring your rates way down.”
Follow through with this advice and you will also have something that you can leverage.
Should I get the client to reveal their budget?
There is this unwritten rule that states that the first one that mentions a price losses. Most videographers (myself included) are not in a position where they can take part in a negotiating standoff. Save these theatrics for Hollywood. Maybe with time you will develop your Gordon Gekko like instincts, until then if the client asks for an estimate send them one. Expect some push-back, and aim to meet them somewhere in the middle. This type of back and forth is healthy negotiating, passing scraps of paper over a table with your dollar amount accompanied with witty barbs is not.
I would have never predicted that I would have avoided so many battles just because I took the time to put something in writing. Even if I didn’t draw up a formal contract, I at least tried to clearly state our agreements in email. Things you should always get in writing. Delivery dates and deposit amounts, due date for balance payment, number of revisions included in your rate, who owns the raw footage, and the hours for your shoot day. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Trust your gut.
These are all just guidelines I use based on my experience. However there are going to be times when a handshake and a nod are more appropriate than bringing in lawyers to draw up extensive contracts. There will be situations when shooting an extra hour or doing an extra edit does more for building a relationship than pointing to a clause in your agreement. Your number one goal should be to nurture your good clients and keep ‘em. So be flexible, trust your gut, and exercise allot of common sense.
Next Friday: Lipstick On A Pig. How to make a bad event look good!
Trevor “Trevz” Bayack is a Brooklyn-born filmmaker who approaches his web pieces as mini documentaries. Recognized as a member of the 2008 URB magazine Next 100 for pioneering the “video blog” Trevz continually makes his pieces shorter, sharper and ever more shareable” Follow thenewpop twitter feed for more.