I’ve been freelancing for a few years now and so far I’ve only been charging on a per-hour basis. My services only include video editing, video animation, and localization.
Now I’m working for a company on a very complex After Effects project that’s taking me over 13 hours to render. My computer has more than decent specs so pretty much any computer would struggle with it.
Now I would like to know if I should consider this rendering time billable hours. It’s slowing down my PC sometimes but now I’m rendering such projects overnight so it’s not really an issue for my workflow. I’d still like to get some tips on how to charge for this.
My take on the situation is that if your machine is tied up for this client, you can’t be doing something else with it, or making additional money with it, and so that is billable time; aka “opportunity cost”… however, if the machine is doing all the rendering unattended, that’s not the same as the billable time you track for the actual creative work you do, assembling the program. So, if it was me, I’d bill it, but at a lesser rate. Or at least track it, then decide on an upcharge for it when your project is done and you’re working out the rest of the billing. For example, if you’re out hustling up more work while the render is going on, doing something to advance the business, maybe you comp it. Or build it into future billings as a percentage markup. Hopefully your annual budget has a line item for equipment upgrades, where you put away some of the income to build a fund for more and faster drives, bigger and more powerful processors, etc. That’s just one area that distinguishes pros from talented amateurs or hobbyists.
We can talk about how you set your hourly and day rates, and if they are truly “correct” rates, in a separate conversation: it’s a topic that has been covered here a million times, but it’s worth perusing those previous discussions, especially if you’re relatively new to the game.
Thanks for your reply. I’m planning on upgrading it at the end of the year. My reasoning is that although I make sure it doesn’t affect my workflow, it’s still generating costs, mainly due to power consumption. So I think a lesser rate would be the best solution for now.
This is a question not only about invoicing, but also about efficient workflows.
If you optimise your workflow, you will have less “dead” render times – and less worries about invoicing this render time.
So, how can you optimise your workflow: try to divide your AE comps into shorter comps. Render these in the background – as shorter comps will not take up as many resources, you can continue working while rendering. You can stitch the separate clips in PPRO.
There are several advantages to this workflow: you can start reviewing (e.g. by a client if you create a team project) while still animating the rest of the video, is one of them. Another important one is that once you reach the deadline, you don’t have to wait for 13 hours and then find out there is still something wrong – which takes you another 13 hours. With your project chopped into smaller pieces, you only have to re-rerender shorter pieces in case of last-minute changes.
And, since your render time is integrated in the workflow, you don’t have to charge for extra rendering hours.
If the reason for the rendering is because you have used e.g. a lot of particles or other render intensive stuff – you could try to use proxies, or pre-render the complex stuff into mov’s with an alpha channel and work with these renders instead of the original comp.
And if its not possible, I agree with Mark: if you cannot use the computer for any other work – your client has to pay for occupying your computer. If it happens overnight … I consider that as a cost that is already included in the hourly/day rate. And yes, this should be high enough to invest in hardware … for example a separate “render machine”.
Thanks for your input! I do have several compositions but even then, rendering them in low resolution would still take me between 15 minutes to about an hour depending on the complexity of the project, so I usually just avoid rendering anything for this client during my regular work hours. I’d usually render during my breaks or overnight. I like the idea of including this to my hourly rate too. I would explore this for other clients because for this one I usually just send the source files unless they specifically ask me to render the video myself.