Day 69: Finding Your Hourly Rate

If you’re reading this blog then I can assume you’re interested in entrepreneurship, whether it’d be a lot or a little. In my sphere, I know a few people who are extremely talented in a few areas, but have yet to make the change from hobbiest, to professional; a change which is actually not that hard to do. They’re either scared of risking the time for no reward, or the other, more prominent circumstance, they don’t know what to charge if they would start freelancing. What am I worth? What would my friends pay? Would this price scare people away? are all questions that venture through the mind of an aspiring entrepreneur, and I’m here to ease your soul.

Find Your Hourly Rate

Finding your hourly rate is a great step to moving forward in a freelancing career. But how do you find your rate, Sean? Well, here are a few tips to help you get started.


  1. If you’re freelancing, you’re special. Not too special. But you having some sort of knowledge that not everyone knows, nor is willing to learn. You’re worth just as much as the 16 year old flipping burgers at the nearest burger joint. He flips burgers, you make movies, or music, or whatever. Great. You’re makin’ minimum wage now! Awesome.
  2. What does your portfolio look like? Have you done a few jobs already? It doesn’t have to be amazing, but having something to show for allows your clients to build some trust in you, and helps them understand what kind of content they’ll be receiving. From your clients perspective, that’s worth a lot more then minimum wage. So don’t sell yourself short. You’re not flipping burgers! You’re filming weddings! Act like it!
    1. If you have no work to show for your talent then I’d suggest taking on one or two projects for cost, so you can build up a little portfolio. For cost I mean, have the client pay for all outstanding costs like rentals, parking, gas, maybe lunch, but they don’t need to pay for you. You are free. 
  3. Nice! You have a decent portfolio now. You’ve worked with different kinds of gear, and you have a few people calling you up asking you to do some projects. Now what? You have two directions.
    1. The Guy That Owns All His Gear: If you’ve somehow landed with a bunch of amazing gear… one, you’re lucky… and two, you’re unique. That being said. You’re worth quite a bit. Now we’re going to do a little bit of math. Add up the amount your gear is worth. Let’s say $10,000. Now, let’s say you want to upgrade that gear once this year, and you plan to work on 4 projects a month, one a week. $10,000/52 weeks = $192. Let’s call it $200 even. So on top of your hourly rate, which we’ve agreed is double minimum wage now. You can add on $200 per project, per week. Wooo! These are all ball park figures, but it’s supposed to help get the ideas flowing.
    2. The Guy That Rents All His Gear: If you don’t own your own gear, you probably rent all your gear on a project to project basis. This makes it very easy to write up a quote for a client. They say what they want, you say what they’ll need, and then you show them a quote for what it’ll cost to rent it, along with how much it costs to have you. Rental guys are in a unique situation because you can work with anywhere from really elaborate projects, to really simple ones. The burden of responsibility rests on how well you know how to organize the project and use all the gear you’re renting. If you take the total worth of the gear you’re using for a project, and do the same calculation Total Gear Value/52 weeks = Mark Up Per Project, you get a pretty good idea how much that project is worth.

So let’s say you’re shooting a wedding video, hypothetically. You have $10,000 worth of your own gear, plus a few things you’re renting. The rentals only cost $27, but the total worth of the rented gear is about $500. We’ve also established that we’re charging double minimum wage because we’re special, but not too special. So let’s do the math. A wedding video takes about 40 hours of total production time from preparing, to shooting, to editing, and then distributing.

40 x $20 = $800

$10,500/52 = $202

Rentals = $27

Total = $1,029

Nice. That’s a pretty good pay cheque for a 40 hour work week, and a wedding video at a very reasonable rate. As you can see, this basic formula works with a lot of different scenarios, as well as different professions. Hopefully this helps out some of you aspiring entrepreneurs.

  2 comments for “Day 69: Finding Your Hourly Rate

  1. Steve Sherron
    August 11, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    I found your site yesterday from a link from Lynda and I have to commend you for what you have done. If only all young people like yourself took this kind of initiative. Awesome!

    I read this post with interest. I also do quite a bit of client video work but personally, I don’t do weddings. I know you are young and you may not feel very experienced, but your hourly rate of $20 is just too low. I watched your demo reel and you should feel more comfortable about charging higher rates. No way you should be charging less than $50 and that’s still very low. The day will come and you will be in great demand.

    Here is an idea for you to consider. It’s a concept I have used many times. When negotiating, simply ask your client what is their budget? They have a budget for everything in a wedding. If they don’t have a budget, tell them to get back with you when they have determined it. Walk away. Seriously, no negotiating at this point.

    Let them know that when they have determined their budget, you can then determine what you will do based on their budget. If they have a $1000 budget, you tell them what you are willing to do. If it’s $2000, tell them what you will deliver. You are in control at this point. If you both agree, you perform your services. You don’t want to shoot and edit 40 hours for $1000.

    I promise this works. I have had clients ask me what my hourly rates are etc. I tell them I don’t know. I need to first know what you want before I can consider. I walk away from negotiations. I tell them to call me when they have a budget and at that point I tell them what I’m willing to do. if we both agree, I go to work.

    Here’s the deal. I will work for $500 if it means setting a tripod and delivering a video file that they can have professionally edited at a later time. Allow your client to feel in control when actually it’s you who is in control.

    • Sean Witzke
      August 14, 2014 at 12:30 am

      Steve, that’s great advice. Thanks. I’m in the middle of negotiating with some clients about pricing and I will keep this in mind. And thanks for the complement on my demo reel! I’ve never really thought of myself as a $50 an hour kind of guy, but you’ve encouraged me to take it more seriously now. I guess this also opens up your market to anyone and everyone. If you shoot a $500 budget, you’ll get what a $500 budget is worth. Makes sense. Thanks for reading the blog!

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