Erosion of Rates and Production Values; Working Without A
Carol discusses that in this deadline driven business, with clients demanding that if you do
more and more in less time, then the possibility of diminishing returns set in. She explains:
Every jerk on the planet thinks they can pick up a camera and mouse and become
a shooter and an editor. There’s a dumbing down of taste because of a proliferation
of things like “YouTube.” People are accepting less on the production values side
and they want to push the budget down. There’s an erosion of rates because they
devalue your work and level of expertise. Somebody like my friend Bill who is an
absolute camera magician does extraordinarily creative work he has had an
absolute struggle to maintain his rate. He’s probably making 20% of what his rate
should be.
I ask Carol if she has seen her rates change? She responds with candor:
There was a time when pushing my rate up actually improved the demand for me.
There was the perception that if you charge more you must be really good. With the
law of supply and demand, you become more sought after. With the recession,
there was the mad scramble to just keep paying your mortgage. Especially the last
year people were really trying to compress the rates and take me back to 2002
rates. I did a couple of jobs where I really compressed my rate.
Carol was also gracious to disclose her day rate since I was being nosey. Although it may
sound like a lot of money to the uninformed, this is with 20+ years of professional
experience working for major national clients and on large-scale productions. Additionally,
there is the reminder that freelance work does not happen on a daily basis and is sporadic
at best:
My day rate for pre-pro and post supervision is $800 for ten-hours of work. For
shoot days it’s $850 for ten. People wanted me to work for $600. Which in the
grand scheme of the world is not a bad rate in the sense that it sure beats slinging
burgers. But at the same time, what people don’t understand the government gets
30% right off the top. I have to pay my own social security (FICA) at 6% and then the
employer pays 6% -- so I have to pay 12%. Then I have to pay 100% of my health
insurance and 100% of my retirement benefits. That money doesn’t go very far. You
can see that I drive a car with 193,000 miles and I live in a two-bedroom condo. I’m
not getting rich.
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