What’s your rate?

Monday, July 5th, 2010

The question is inevitable. And the fact is that most of us are not qualified to negotiate our rate. This is why there are agents. But for the majority of steadicam ops…representation is not in the cards. So what is your rate?

I can’t claim to be an expert on this subject, but I have learned a few things along the way. Here are some tips for broaching this subject:

1) Confidence is key! If you don’t really beleive you are worth what you are asking for or you are desperate for work… It will come through in a quiver in your voice or other tell tale sign. So Be Decisive. When asked, you should answer immediately without hesitation. This tells the other party that you are 100% certain of what you are worth.

2) Know your ABC’s… By that I mean you need to know your A-rate, B-rate and C-rate. I define them as such. Your A-rate is what you can make a comfortable living earning. It’s what your peers are charging, not what your mentors are charging. Your B-rate is what you can discount your rate to and STILL make money, It might not be a ton but its positive cash flow. And finally your C-rate is your break even rate. This is bottom floor and only acceptable if you get an offer to shoot an indie starring Al Pacino or some other A-lister that will look great on your reel. Or perhaps there’s a DP you really want to form a relationship with… That’s where your C rate comes into play,

3) Don’t give it away until they ask! So often I hear people say “my rate is X, but I’m flexible.” I suggest never saying such a thing until they’ve expressed that they don’t have the budget for you…and even then there needs to be an incentive for you to negotiate. Is this a great job? Will it provide good reel footage? The best position to negotiate from is one where you can just walk away from the table… So if you are desperate for work you are going to be at a major disadvantage.

4) Or course if a production is asking for a significant discount then you should know what they are spending before accepting a discount rate. If they are offering you $500/day and spending $5mil on the movie, something tells me you aren’t being valued.

5) Finally, learn the common objections that Producers and PMs will have for your rate and have techniques for addressing them. My favorite is when they tell me that there are other operators out there asking for “a lot less” then my quote. I kindly inform them that there is most likely a good reason for the economy rates and explain what their ROI will be with me. I could also point them in the direction of my blog entry entitled “Apples & Oranges: Insights on Steadicam Produce.”

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