Recently, a friend sent me an article about determining your rate as a professional audio service provider. This one in fact:
And I have to say, it really struck a note with me, as this is something I have to deal with all the time. And it’s not something I really ever planned on having to deal with when I started writing music, so even for me it’s something new to figure out. It’s a very interesting place to be trying to figure stuff like that out, one I think about A LOT. On paper, from the professional standpoint, the hourly rate looks like the way to go. Unfortunately it also means you end up spending a lot of time explaining (debating) why the job took so long, and more often than not, the client feels like it’s too much. Even if they don’t say something, you know theya re thinking it. Flat rates are nice and simple, but of course the odd project now and then really exceeds the time you thought and you end up feeling like you got the short end of the stick.
For me personally, I settled on a compromise. I use a flat rate for mastering that lets me ‘bank’ a little extra time/rate for the odd job. The client is happy that they know exactly what it will cost (and payments are easier since I can make payment buttons, etc.), and I’m ok with the odd job going long since I know that likely a lot of the other ones took less time than expected.
For mixdowns I do a rough hourly estimate at the start, and charge the client based on that. To be safe I’ll tack on an extra $10-$20, not much. Sometimes I need that extra time, so I made a good call. Sometimes I don’t, so maybe I get a little more. Likely I won’t need that bit of extra money every time, but it makes it easier when I get the odd job that runs long.
Best of all, it’s easy for the clients. Despite how fair it might be, NO ONE wants to be told 3/4 through the project “look, I know we’re almost done, and that you’re happy so far, but you have to pay me more if you want me to finish this.” No matter how nicely you word it!
Pricing for a profession like this is hard, probably one of the hardest things about running your own service-based business. You want to earn what you feel you deserve, keep the price low enough to attract and keep clients, and at the same time not look like you’re pricing things too cheap and scaring off the more well known players.
The best advice I can give is to go with your gut. You can try to hide it, but we all have a dollar amount that we feel our time is worth. Think about what you would like to be paid an hour for what you love to do (and better be good at doing!) Keep in mind that this is actually WORK we are talking about. You have to earn whatever charge, and trust me it will not be easy.
Once you know what your time is worth, you can better judge how to to charge for certain services. How long do you really think it will take you? Sure there will be some factors now and then you have to consider that might alter that rate, but for the most part it then becomes a pretty simple question to answer.
Best of luck!