Your Hourly Rate is Killing You

Many freelancers in the creative field have their hourly rate, they have their day rate. The typical interaction between a client and the vendor starts with the job description and ends with price negotiation. 

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Dealing with some clients, especially in the corporate world, they will want to know the estimated time it will take to provide the services. What a freelancer naturally does is provide estimated hours and their appropriate rate- this document better known as the Quote:

Shooting — 10 Hours x $50/hr

Editing — 40 Hours x $30/hr

TOTAL: $1,700

Once the client agrees on the estimated time and hourly rates, it’s time to get to work.

The freelancer shows up on location, starts filming/photographing/writing — whatever the job is. They end up working the estimated 10 hours. 

Then it’s time for editing. The freelancer works the estimated 40 hours.

This is the perfect scenario. The client expected to pay $1,700. And the freelancer expected to get paid $1,700. Everyone’s happy. 

For a freelancer who’s new to the game, this sounds like the perfect exchange of time for money; a fair bargain. The new freelancer finds the logic quite simple:

“If I work, I get paid appropriately. If the job takes longer than expected, then I get paid more. If the job is shorter, then I get paid less.”

This logic follows the pricing model known as “Time and Materials”. The client pays the vendor the cost of time and materials needed to complete the project.

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The Increase in Productivity

The new freelancer is no longer new to the game. It’s been a couple of years now, and the freelancer has gained quite a bit of experience, and increased their productivity. Fantastic! 

Now it takes less time for the freelancer to complete the job needed. What took 50 hours of time, now takes 30 hours:

Shooting — 5 Hours x $50/hr

Editing — 25 Hours x $30/hr

TOTAL: $1,000

If the freelancer's rate remains the same, they now earn $1,000 for the job — previously it was $1,700.

Their increased productivity is now killing their revenue.

The natural thing to do now is to raise their rate. The freelancer now charges $100/hr for Shooting and $60/hr for Editing. They have doubled their rate across the board.

Now let’s readjust the job:

Shooting — 5 Hours x $100/hr

Editing — 25 Hours x $60/hr

TOTAL: $2,000

It’s the same product, the freelancer doubled their rate, they’ve improved productivity, and they have increased their revenue on the job by 17.5%. Pretty good, but let’s push back a bit.

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From the client’s perspective, the freelancer has produced the same results quicker and at an increased cost. Let’s say the client isn’t in need of faster turnaround time. Getting the final product on Wednesday instead of Thursday isn’t so much a priority, what’s really the priority is to do the same job at a lower cost. The freelancer has doubled their rate for the same job. Perhaps the client agrees to the rate increase but asks if the freelancer can stay within or below the old budget of $1,700. Again, the client holds the power and the freelancer can agree to work within the budget or be substituted by someone else.

Welcome to the World of Commodity (and the Race to the Bottom!)

In this classic scenario of client vs. freelancer, the freelancer lacks the power to price-negotiate and to control the interaction. From the start, the freelancer has trained the client to expect fixed cost for time and materials. The client values the final product to a certain extent but cares equally if not more about the total cost to create that final product. 

By chaining themselves to cost-based time, the freelancer’s increased productivity slowly kills off their revenue when the exact opposite should be happening. Unless the freelancer turns to lying about their hours to get what they think is worth (a quick way to ruin one’s reputation), they will be able to finish jobs more quickly and make less money in doing so. 

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How to Avoid the Trap of Selling Time 

  1. Articulate the Value - The freelancer must find a way to better translate the value of their work and how the client will receive this value. 

  2. Understand a Commodity - Freelancers must realize if they are in a commodities business. Can the client easily find your skills on Craigslist, Fiver or TaskRabbit? If so, then you’re a commodity. 

  3. Become the Expert, Not the Vendor - Take on an expertise position with new clients. An expert isn’t replaceable — a vendor is.

  4. Bundle Your Services - Charge for the project as a whole. Avoid breaking down the job into hours and rates. An hourly rate is easily haggled down. 

  5. Stand By the Policy - Inform old clients that there will be a new policy change effective immediately in regards to the pricing model. “I’m sorry, it’s our policy.” 


 
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How to Brainstorm YouTube Videos

I’ve produced over 300 videos for my channel. Some were published, others were shunned for life. Allow me to walk through my quick and dirty process of coming up with ideas for YouTube and beyond. 

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1. Start with What You Know

If you’re a content creator, then chances are that you consume other content creators’ work. You’re watching your favorite YouTube channel, you’re reading your favorite Medium writer, or listening to a Top 50 podcast. Take a look at the type of content they’re producing and riff off their success. 

It’s a way to get your brain thinking like a world-class content creator. Add a slight twist to their concept.

World Class Creator: “How to Improve Your Instagram Game”

Your Idea: “How to Improve Your Instagram Game for YouTubers”

Go more specific. Or go in a totally opposite direction.

SERIOUS NOTE: Do Not Hang on Step #1 for too long. There’s a fine line between biting and homage.



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2. Brain Dump

Now let’s dive into original idea creation. It’s honestly a numbers game. The Art of the Brain Dump is to unload as many ideas onto the page as possible. 

90% of these ideas are awful. That’s okay.

Use this to your advantage. If you know that 9/10 ideas are bad, then you need to write down 10 ideas. One of them will be decent enough to work with. Write down as many bad ideas as you can think of. 

Whether in the morning, throughout the day, or at the end, relieve the brain of all your ideas. I’ve found that writing down ideas throughout the day helps me because it means that I won’t lose the idea later in the day. Find your own rhythm. 

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3. Save Your List

These ideas can’t live in your head forever without risk of them changing or being forgotten. Find a way to store these ideas. 

When I first started producing episodes for my YouTube channel, it all started with some printer paper and creating a list 1–100 and slowly filling out that list. Then I moved on to a notecard and writing down one idea per note card. I began to lay out the notecards on the floor to get a broad few of my ideas. 

Lately, I’ve found Trello to be the best for ideas storage. I create columns for ideas and write down my ideas as 5–7-word phrases. I used to write 2–3-word phrases but would later forget the specifics of the idea. Flesh out the idea as much as you can as quickly as possible. 


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4. Rank Your Ideas

As mentioned above, my use of Trello and note cards allows me to rank my ideas and sort through the bad ones. Don’t look at your bad ideas with anger and scorn; they’re the stones on your path guiding you to better ideas.

Rank your ideas using your OWN strategy. If you’re aiming for more views or subscribers then tackle the most “clickable” topics. If you’re aiming for creative expression and self-fulfillment then go for the ideas that interest you the most. 

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5. Still Stuck? Read Books. 

My best ideas have spawned while reading books. To caveat, I’ve been reading non-fiction books about filmmaking, cinematography, self-help, business, and social media. Reading these types of books puts me into a certain mindset- it primes my brain. Occasionally, my mind will wander as I’m reading and that’s when those great ideas happen. 

I have not been able to have these same awesome moments when browsing Instagram, watching YouTube videos or listening to podcast. My brain is just too focused on that content to allow for a moment to breathe and think. 

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Written by Jordan P. Anderson

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Jordan P. Anderson is a cinematographer and content strategist based out of the Washington, D.C. area. Jordan takes on projects by first understanding a client’s business and their needs as a company. Knowing the core strategy, Jordan is able to produce effective and compelling video content to help solve the client’s pain points. In total, Jordan has worked on over 400 videos and campaigns aimed at solving his client’s problems.

How to Get a Job in the Video Production Industry

 
 

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You may be heading into the workforce. Being fresh out of film school, or college or you’re ready to stop freelancing and get a “real job”, here’s a personal guide and experience. I’m now able to say that I’ve worked in all three of these types of work environments.

And I’ll say my opinion on which is the best at the end of the video.

Here’s what to expect:

Small Business

($1 million revenue or less per year)

  • Team 1-3

  • Solo, partnership, or small group

  • Agile, quick, small budgets

  • Lots of hands-on experience as a new person starting out

  • Lacks benefits, proper working hours, proper business standards

Medium Business

($1-10 million revenue)

Team of 3-10 people

  • Expanded team yet still small

  • Multiple managers, maybe even dept. heads

  • Shares some of the same working conditions of the small business

  • Able to handle larger projects due to expanded bandwidth

  • You’re still able to be both high concept and ditch digger

  • Able to access larger equipment too

  • Pay is decent, some benefits, not a perfect system

Large Business

($10 million+ revenue)

  • Team of 10 or more

  • Robust department heads and division of labor

  • Greater pay, greater benefits

  • A little more hands-off

  • More politics and more red tape

  • Meetings galore

Final Thoughts

These three types of business appeal to us all in various ways. Some more than others and as you get older, some that don’t seem attractive become the preferred.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and can tolerate some risk, then I would explore the small business or medium business category. The large business will frustrate you with its slowness to change, it’s politics and living the idea of the “cushy job”

If you’re a little more experienced and you’re looking to establish your career in management then medium or large businesses will give you the chance to work with a variety of people in the workforce.

If you have a low tolerance for risk, you’re in need of more money and benefits, then the large business has you covered with safety, stability, and longevity.

There’s nothing wrong with small, medium or large businesses in video production, what’s most important is understanding yourself, your personality and what drives you when you’re at work. I’ve worked in all three of these environments and it took the life experience to know which one fits my personality best.

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I can remember picking up my family's video camera as a teenager and being enthralled that I could make an impact in someone's life. The filmmaking process is complex but at the heart of it simple: tell a compelling story.

What resonates the hardest is visual storytelling. The ability to create an emotion or convey an idea through an image is what drives my career as a filmmaker. My marathon mentality is focused on becoming the best cinematographer possible.