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  • I need advice on establishing VFX/Compositing rates

  • Grillmaster

    August 11, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    I’m a full time Editor/VFX/Compositor… basicly I handle all post production for commercials at a local news station. I’ve been freelancing in the evenings from home and am working on building that into my future full-time job (less commuting). I recently established myself as an LLC and am picking up a few new clients. Most of my past work was for people I already had a relationship with and I did the work at a VERY reasonable rate. Now that these people are refering me to new clients, I need a real rate structure
    I will be doing 2D and 3D compositing as well as 2D animation/motion graphics. I currently use Photoshop, After Effects and Illustrator and will be buying Shake in the near future.
    How shold I charge? Day Rate, Per Job, Hourly or by the work (i.e. Compositing 2D is $??? per hour, and do you charge for render time?)
    I know there are a lot of other variables that go into this equasion but any advice would be great! To complicate matters more, how much (roughly) are these skills/services worth?

    Thanks, Chris

  • Mark Suszko

    August 11, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    If you charge a flat rate I can guarantee you this: you will be too high or too low. Neither is good business. I would go hourly, perhaps with a minimum base rate under that. A lower hourly for render time is up to you, but I would say this about that: can you use the machine for any other work while it is tied up rendering their job? No? Then there’s opportunity cost to consider, so I would choose not to discount the “render time rate” much if at all.

    The basic formula is: learn and calculate all your true costs of doing business, including the things you don’t normally think about. The others here can list those for you, but it’s been mentioned here many times before, in great detail. You could keyword seach the archives for rates, etc…

    Divide annual costs/ money by annual hours (less vacation, manitenance downtime, etc.) to get the break-even. Add a markup for profit of whatever percent you think is fair and the market will bear. Now you have a figure below which it does not pay to take the job or turn the machine on, rather, you would be more productive cold-calling or drumming up new accounts or flipping burgers than doing the guy’s job.

    There’s exceptions to every rule: some folks do pro-bono jobs for the love of the subject, or as personal favors, or to use as a calling card to get seen by the people associated with the charity who DO pay for projects. Or just because it’s a particularly cool creative challenge. Or because they need to look like they are still in business during a bad time and are hiding the fact they are not charging. (That secret is very hard to keep)

    Be careful though of giving it away for free because you are a fan, if they can truly afford to pay you anyway. You will lowball yourself into a corner.

  • Chris Heuer

    December 27, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    Thanks for this response (from so long ago). I just read your article in the Cow magazine and something about it seemed farmiliar so I checked this post.

    I especially thank you for your “It’s not just about getting paid” column at the end. I had a summer of work that wouldn’t let up and I was BURNED OUT! Just reading that article made me feel better. I play with crayons and sketching but you have some great ideas in that column. Thanks! Chris

    Chris Heuer
    Freefall FX, LLC

  • Mark Suszko

    December 27, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks for the awesome response, feels like I got an extra Christmas present! 🙂

  • Mark Suszko

    December 27, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    BTW Jonas, be sure to double-check the weather report next time you take the Minnow out… 😉

  • Chris Heuer

    December 28, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    OK, now I’m impressed! Nice to meet a fellow Gilligan fan… or simply a genius with one hell of a memory. Either way, I’m impressed!

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