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Justification for your Rate beyond “Market Value”


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I’m about three years into the professional sound mixer world, which means the last couple of years I have been rapidly increasing my rate. And in doing so I have had a decent bit of client turnover.   Just recently I lost a client who was easily 1/3rd of my income last year.  The producer would often say things like “the union doesn't care if the producer gets paid.”  I certainly don't think producers have as much trouble getting paid as we do, but I have been thinking a decent bit about what is a fair payment for the job. 


Personally I have started thinking of my rate card as the amount that you have to pay me not to be interested in the business side of the work.  That is to say, if you pay my full rate I don't care how much money you are going to make or how much you were paid to create the work.  I will work hard and be happy with the amount I was paid.


When a client can't pay my rate card I want justification for why I should work for them.  If what I’m doing is not being paid at the market value, I’m in a way investing in their project.  And like any investor I want transparency and justification for my investment.  Now obviously as projects get bigger being seen as an “investor” becomes less realistic but I feel that the concept still applies.


I’ve tried to map out full budgets myself for smaller productions and thought about how much I would pay my sound mixer if I was a producer of a small Interview/Recre based TV show.  All of that just becomes a bunch of numbers and percentages so I dunno if this forum is the best place to post it, but I would gladly share it if anyone was interested.


Has anyone else worked through a budget for projects or been on the “other side of the desk”?

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Producers don't see the many hours of prep time needed to develop your service and the investment in gear and maintaining " readiness"  to respond with good service. OTOH we don't see the myriad of problems that producers face in organizing and paying for a shoot.  So it's tough.  As far as seeing yourself as an investor-- I have my doubts about that, just because there's no potential that you're going to get a profit that is more than your standard rates. I mean that would be extremely rare.  I just read about the investors in the  Jersey Boys musical making big profits and it's made the news because it so rarely happens that people make money investing in theater.   It's best to negotiate a deal to get paid right away for the work you do.  If there's something on the back end- well   "I'll believe it when I see it."

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The people that hire me know they could save a $100-$200 a day sometimes hiring a less experienced mixer with no extra gear or back ups for some straight forward jobs but they don't because they don't want to risk there reputation over a few hundred bucks. I had a simple corporate interview job this week 5 interviews boom only to camera less then 6 hours. I still got $800/10 for gear and labor. The camera guy that hired me could have used his 416 into the camera directly and made another $800 or hired someone else for $500 all in for the day to make $300 extra but he didn't because he charges a good rate and in addition to providing good sound I was also able to help him set up and also helped keep the client out of his hair while he got set up. I am always his first call on jobs that have the budget for sound. Good sound mixers bring much more to the table then just great sound. Bring more to the table and people will pay you more 

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