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How much to charge?

Tim Jones

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Seen that question asked a lot, and read a bit on the subject

Some thoughts.
How do you price
  • As a product, where you deliver a finished piece.
    • A finished map
    • Survey set with observations
    • A x minute video production
  • As a Service where you price components of your work based on time or resources
    • Site Charge for collecting the content (video, photos, audio, samples)
    • Processing charge for turning the content into a product
    • Distribution were you actually present the content to a target audience
Once you know what method how does one go about setting a profitable rate, market providing

So far I have only dabbled in this and since it is not my day job I can afford to just collect a few bucks and be OK with it,
But if I were operating as a business I would be in real trouble because I have spent way more than I have earned just getting this far.

I come from the consumer service industry
In that industry you are actually running two businesses.
A business defined as buying materials and developing skills that you can resell at a profit
In the repair business you buy technical labor, and service parts
then you determine based on what you paid, what the market will then pay you back for your investment.
Tech labor is harder to calculate than parts.
Basically it is payroll costs, for a skilled individual who can do things others cannot
For us, that would be a drone / camera / production technicians time.
So what is that worth?

I prefer not to break it up at the moment but I am lazy. And charge a flat fee for a finished product.
But again, I would most likely be broke if I stay that path.

Say it takes you 1 hour to go on site, deploy your drone. Take stills and ground video, and maybe even interview the consumer and or some customers
Then you get back to home base, and from what I can figure out so far. If I spend an hour collecting content, I will spend 10 hours or more turning that raw content into usable product.

So 11 hours in.
In that 11 hours I have applied several skill disciplines, that the average person does not have
  • The ability to effectively pilot a drone, and operate cameras and audio gear
  • The ability to do post production on media
  • The ability to convey a customer story
What is that worth?
Right now I am basing an hourly rate on what I would need to feel compensated. Roughly 70 bucks an hour.
Will the market support that? who knows.
Now there is equipment cost
I own three drones, and all in have probably spent 4K on those
I own four cameras from gopros to mirrorless DSLRs
I have a jib and crane, lighting, audio recording devices
Two computers
And the ever popular adobe subscription
There is wear and tear on those.
So maybe an equipment fee of 100 bucks per job?

The thing is, you cannot just go into this and not give that serious thought.
Because if you don't, it will just be a hobby that turns into an underpaying job..

Right now I really think I am going to try and figure out an hourly rate that includes my equipment costs, and then estimate a finished product based on how many hours it will take me to complete the deliverable.
A clear definition of the finished product would be required. And if the customer then makes additional requests I would need the ability to change the number of hours involved.

What approach are you taking to set your rates, to insure you will turn a profit
 
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BigAl07

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First off you have to fine tune your work flow to match what your client is willing to pay for. Over the last 5 years I've only spent 11 hours on one project and it paid dearly. Most of the time our projects range from 2-3 hours and only if we do video. Our most basic rate is $250 and that is for a quick & dirty photo shoot with little to no editing and maybe 10 images. Our rates go up according to what the client asks for.
 

Tim Jones

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Is this is real-estate?
Yeah sadly that market is so saturated it is hard to price much in that market at all
 

BigAl07

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Is this is real-estate?
Yeah sadly that market is so saturated it is hard to price much in that market at all
We work in RE, Construction, Public Safety, TV/News, and Industrial Inspection fields. Our price depends on the client and what they are expecting as a final product.
 
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BigAl07

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So do charge by product?
Do you then have like a catalog of offerings?
We charge by the finished product. I sit down with the client to determine what they want (sometimes they don't have a clue and we have to hold their hand and give samples). Once I know what they want and expect I give them a quotation.

No catalog I just have an idea of what my Cost of Doing Business is and know how much we need to make per hour to stay in business long-term.
 
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BigAl07

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$250 sounds about right for less than a dozen stills, no video. I would include post processing.

For that price the only P/P they get would be combining HDR images. We offer post services but it's a paid service since it eats up the clock in a hurry. It doesn't take long for 2 people post processing images to bust 16 hours tweaking and perfecting the images. We get paid for our time or we don't do the job.

Also if the project requires additional research/preparation (for instance if it's in an area where I'll have to prefly, prepare etc) we build that into the price up front.
 
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Tim Jones

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yeah it is the per hour rate that requires the calculation. And I imagine it varies by market. But you basically apply that rate by request and delivered product.

Sounds solid.
I guess I need to work on cutting the post processing time. My work flows are not bad. I tend to not know when to stop.
Guess that comes with time
 

BigAl07

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yeah it is the per hour rate that requires the calculation. And I imagine it varies by market. But you basically apply that rate by request and delivered product.

Sounds solid.
I guess I need to work on cutting the post processing time. My work flows are not bad. I tend to not know when to stop.
Guess that comes with time
I think you nailed it. I could easily spend a full day on a dozen photos getting them perfect and how I want them but will my client pay $3K for 12 photos? Most likely not but if they are willing to pay I'm willing to do it.
 
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Airbender

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Well I guess there is PP and then there is PP. I'm talking about adjusting levels, contrast color balance, vibrance, saturation etc. I'm not doing any composting. Pretty quick after years of the same drill; drone shots or hand held camera. Don't judge but I've developed a set of actions that does the heavy lifting with one click. Maybe a little fine tuning after that. Takes seconds, not minutes, unless something is way off.
 
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Maddog

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Try using Google to find aerial photography businesses in your area. Check out their websites to see what they charge.
Many of them have a range of "packages" for customers to choose from.

Here is an example:Aerial Videos & Photography - Aerial Raiders

(I know nothing about this company and I don't endorse them)
 

Dave Pitman

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We work in RE, Construction, Public Safety, TV/News, and Industrial Inspection fields. Our price depends on the client and what they are expecting as a final product.
Same with me sans-real estate. I will provide just imagery or imagery and post. Some projects I shoot and dump the card to the client and I'm done. Others I have to hold their hand to get them where they didn't understand where they wanted to go.

It is challenging sometimes to figure a price without some guessing. But that's what makes it "fun" right? ;)

In the beginning, I would take a job even if id didn't really pay well because because it was getting paid something for doing something interesting and enjoyable. I still do it for the same reasons now, but I'm a lot less willing to do jobs for break-even rates.
 
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BigAl07

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Same with me sans-real estate. I will provide just imagery or imagery and post. Some projects I shoot and dump the card to the client and I'm done. Others I have to hold their hand to get them where they didn't understand where they wanted to go.
BINGO! My favorite are the ones I fly, confirm the data, and dump it into their lap. Those are the ones I really enjoy.

Yes more often than not we have to spoon feed them because they honestly don't know what they want. We charge for that too.

It is challenging sometimes to figure a price without some guessing. But that's what makes it "fun" right? ;)
At first it was guessing more often than not. We developed a solid Business Plan and it changed out business model and pricing scheme. The beauty of the detailed BP was it taught us so much about our business, our market, our pricing, our marketing campaign, and our COMPETITION! The BP was some of the best time (aka money) we have ever spent.

In the beginning, I would take a job even if id didn't really pay well because because it was getting paid something for doing something interesting and enjoyable. I still do it for the same reasons now, but I'm a lot less willing to do jobs for break-even rates.
That's one area I will respectfully disagree on. I've been in sales for a long time (probably too long LOL) and I learned a long time ago... if you'll work for free/cheap you'll have a tough time getting out of the hole and you accidentally become the free/cheap guy. The only time I don't invoice for something is if I get something in return other than money (don't go there LOL). We have "traded" our work for other work... a local production company uses us for all of their aerial work and in exchange they run our ads every week/month for free.

An exception above is when I started out working with our local Police/FD/EMS. We proved the technology prior to charging for the work.
 
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Dave Pitman

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That's one area I will respectfully disagree on. I've been in sales for a long time (probably too long LOL) and I learned a long time ago... if you'll work for free/cheap you'll have a tough time getting out of the hole and you accidentally become the free/cheap guy.
Don't get me wrong. I have never provided service for free other than sending a complimentary watermarked photo to someone. I meant I didn't charge enough for the amount of travel or something along those lines.
 
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BigAl07

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Don't get me wrong. I have never provided service for free other than sending a complimentary watermarked photo to someone. I meant I didn't charge enough for the amount of travel or something along those lines.

Ahh that makes sense.
 

Maddog

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@BigAl07 do you think you could provide some basic information on developing, getting help with a business plan for those who have never done it!

Is it permissible to mention or link to one's Business name or web site? I think it would be helpful, if you don't mind, for others to check out your website to see what your talking about.
 

Tim Jones

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I think you nailed it. I could easily spend a full day on a dozen photos getting them perfect and how I want them but will my client pay $3K for 12 photos? Most likely not but if they are willing to pay I'm willing to do it.
Good information
So in my workflows, I have tons of templates and adjustment layers already built.
These make getting the correction / enhancement 80% there
and If I just stuck with that, (which most customers and non pixel peepers) would be happy with, then I should leave well enough alone

Learning all the time, save art for when art is required, otherwise provide quality image with basic correction
 
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BigAl07

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@BigAl07 do you think you could provide some basic information on developing, getting help with a business plan for those who have never done it!

Is it permissible to mention or link to one's Business name or web site? I think it would be helpful, if you don't mind, for others to check out your website to see what your talking about.

We do allow linking to your website/company so long as you're not "promoting" your business. We are here to share information and hopefully to grow as a community together. If someone starts posting their business trying to drive traffic we may step in at that point but it will be a case by case situation. Mostly the problem comes if someone comes here trying to sell products/services to us and we will nip those in the bud.

The best information I can give is to contact your local community college and ask for their Small Business Department. I can't tell you how much they helped us when we first started planning our business start-up and everything they did was FREE! They don't charge (at least in NC) a single dime. It's a good idea to make a monetary donation to their foundation to show your support. They don't do the "work" for you but they give you the guidance and support so you can do it yourself. The information they provided to us was invaluable in how it helped up build our company from the ground up.
If you're in North Carolina check out:
NC Small Business Center Network

Also some large universities have an Entrepreneurship program in which graduate students are "assigned" a business to help create a detailed business plan. You get "awarded" this by the Business Dept/board so you have to contact them and if they have this program you must enter your name and go through interviews etc.

What's ironic is through this process our local college has become one of my top 5 commercial clients over the years. We do projects with them several times a year and it's always a blast.
 

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