How much is too much when charging a client? Are you charging enough? How do you know how much the client will be willing to pay, especially if you’re just starting out? And is it ever okay to work for free? This week we are looking at a question from a student about how much to charge a client.

STUDENT QUESTION: How much should I charge my clients?

JOHN-CLAYYou don’t always have to charge clients; it’s OK to do things for free, especially to start and get experience. I would say after you’ve done two or three projects, try to at least get expenses covered. So if you’re renting gear or even if you’re using the gear that you have, you could charge rent for that. You could be donating your time, but any hard costs, if you had to drive or you had to buy food, I would ask that they cover some of those things. Generally costs on a local project is going to depend on different parts of the nation. But in a general sense for these type projects, you know it could be a couple hundred bucks. I did a project last year for a nonprofit and we donated all our time and we just charged them $300 to rent some cameras and some gears, purchase music, and specific stuff like that. 

It can be hard to know because again, local, it depends on where you’re at and how big of the city you’re in and all these kinds of things and what you’re making for them. To me, I mean when I was first starting out, I think I charged $100 and I used $100 and I went and bought a hard drive cause I get actually put the footage somewhere and I was borrowing everything else. So you know, it’s finding ways to do things as cheaply as possible on your end so that any amount of money that comes in you can save as much as possible. It’s kind of big picture there. To me, you just start somewhere, that’s why the expenses are a good place to start. 

To me, you just start somewhere, that's why the expenses are a good place to start. Click To Tweet

And then you kind of work up from there until you’re, you know, $300, $500. A lot of the times, it’s helpful to understand what they’re doing with the video or how it’s, what is it going to help them get more clients? Is it going to get more business? Is it so just people know they exist, like what’s the overall purpose and trying to figure out then how much do clients pay with they get a new client, how much are clients going to pay?

This gets into bigger conversations that take practice, but it’s helpful to know what they’re trying to do. Let’s say, someone makes their own jewelry and they go to craft shows and they’re selling them, and they want a video on a website. They want to increase online sales, but they sell each product for $150 each. So if you’re trying to help, you should probably be charging at least $150 for the video because you’re trying to help them sell products.

You need to be able to have the resources to make the level of video that they need. Click To Tweet

You need to be able to have the resources to make the level of video that they need. And so knowing how they’re going to make money or who they’re going to bring in is helpful in that the more local, smaller businesses don’t always have those numbers and information. So it’s hard to say one number. It kind of grows. Don’t be afraid to start small, but keep growing it. I’ve had clients that I would have to raise the price the next year and eventually they’re like, it’s not worth that to us now, we’re going to use somebody else. And it was okay. You know, it depends on if it’s people you want to work with, but have your hard costs covered. And there’s a whole exercise in the building of the business and budgets, knowing how much you’re spending on stuff and let your cost to run your business and much personal expenses are all of those things built into knowing how much you need to make personally, which is a different conversation with them than just this one.

Don’t be afraid of talking to clients about money because, especially if it’s a for profit business, they shouldn’t really be afraid of that. I used to be a lot more afraid of talking about money because the first person name a number loses. That’s what I always heard. So you always want to make the other guy say how much they’re willing to pay before you, but I just really haven’t found that to be true. I want people that are more open and conversational about the budget anyway.

And if they’re that uptight about money, they’re probably not the right client for me because I just need to know what we’re working with. I’m not trying to gouge anybody, I just need the resources to make the videos to accomplish things and make this successful. So I try to give them a range. 

Again starting out, you may do this for free; track your time, do you know how long things are going to take you? So when you want to charge you can say, “I’m going to guess it’ll take me this much time. Usually for something like this, we’re probably looking at between $300 and $500, does something in there work for you guys?” or with whatever you want your range to be. And that just gives them a ballpark because they don’t have any idea.

Bethany Meckle

Bethany Meckle

Content Curator

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