Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor


Strangely many “professions” don’t like talking about rates and a daily wage as it’s still taboo…in their heads. Next time you visit your doctor ask him/her what their take home pay is each month, you will get the “not as much as you seem to think” chestnut  ?

Freelancers like ourselves are in a better position when it comes to daily rates but things become confused when you get part timers charging for their services…let me explain.

For years the thorny subject of “money” and what someone is worth seems to be a grey area till you are threatened by the under cutter …the part timer is a person that earns a wage so anything he or she makes on top is a bonus. The classic example is weddings, part timers don’t need to charge a lot because they are happy making an extra £200 at the weekend, its a hobby and they get paid for it.

Today its not only the part timer that threatens your livelihood its more likely to be the person engaging you to film and edit the job, times are hard so your client takes advantage of this by cutting you down to the bone, your no sooner sitting enjoying their hospitality when your walking out their office £100 per day worse off, they are looking for a deal and you reluctantly give them one.

There is no easy answer to this other than to have set daily wage you are prepared to work for let me give you an example…

Recently I noticed a web advert for a job in the media filming and editing for £20,000 per year thats £83 per day before taxes !

So you are worth £83 per day in that particular employment…not a lot.

Taking that example most decent posts pay £40K upwards so the person employing you to film is on about £166 per day, that was my pay before tax 15 years ago working for Scottish Television news as a freelancer without kit.

Your worth,… in your mind, is also equated to equipment used, if you have £20K worth of gear you will command a lot more per day than someone with a DSLR…but here is where the waters become somewhat muddy.

If you decide you are worth “x” amount per day, possibly 2.5 times your competition you also have to bear in mind what someone is willing to pay for your services…remember if the person you are working for is on £350 per day themselves they are not expecting to pay you much more than they earn per day, its all about competition.

What are your competitors charging for filming and editing, forget about kit at the moment remember most companies don’t care what kit you own nor do they have the savvy to judge beyond your “pitch” and initial filming costs per day, to them you are all on the same boat.

“Oh but my gear cost £20K” who cares, your client certainly doesn’t unless its for broadcast use…, most cars cost £20K upwards but you only get 35p per mile if you are able to factor that into the job.


Broadcast work in general is fairer as the daily rates are set in stone, the crews above are using mainly Sony PMW-500s, Digi Beta, Panasonic P2 and one DVCPRO camcorder, depending if its the broadcasters kit or yours will determine your daily rate.

Working for broadcast you will certainly be able to factor your kit into the equation with a Canon C300 plus lenses etc you can expect £650+ per days filming in the UK, note broadcasters in general are looking for Sony PMW-500s or JVC HM650s with FTP capability.

The two factors in a good days pay is time served and a good track record, the media industry is changing, equipment is a lot cheaper than it was 15 years ago, you can now shoot 4K for £2500 plus lenses, fantastic shallow depth of field HD for £1000 plus lenses, editing is a whole lot cheaper than even 7 years ago… so don’t be fooled by your equipment costs.

There are a ton of people coming into the video business every year, I get a flurry of CVs at the completion of every media course, these young adults are keen and willing to work, they are the future, they may not have the experience but they come with fresh ideas and more importantly are a lot more willing to work for less pay to build up the experience.

Back to the question “How much are you worth” or putting it another way “How much is someone willing to pay you” …every job is unique and so are you, if someone really likes your style they will pay your going rate but if you are up against an unknown competition for the same job its likely to fall on the cheaper quote no matter how good you are.

There is no set daily rate unless you work for a broadcaster or a client who decides what you are worth from day one.

Its all about how hungry you are for the work and keeping the overheads down, its not easy but I enjoy my work and that’s a major bonus in itself, I don’t sit in traffic jams to get to work for nine o’clock and enjoy my dogs, so work in general is a bonus in itself and like everyone else strike deals with clients.

Bottom line : Some of you may have credit agreements for £20K worth of gear which even at 0% interest is £1650 a month so the minimum you need to earn just to keep your head above water is £55 per day, frightening… not to mention other banking commitments so what you charge has a bearing on not only your finances but your wellbeing in general.


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

7 thoughts on “Are you charging yourself out at the going rate ?

  1. In Australia, professional crew rates are reasonably standard according to what camera you have. For example, Sony XDcam F800 or 700’s, the rate ranges between $1250 to $1500 per day. TV stations pay this and corporates and production companies too.

  2. The problem is not always getting the work but getting paid for the work one has done – is!

  3. Great article. Thank You. I’ve just turned freelance after 20 years in broadcast. I’m a producer/director/shoot-edit if you like. Like many, I agonised over choices of cameras. I was seconds away from buying a PMW500 with J14 out of my redundancy but decided there just weren’t enough people out there who wanted to pay the rates needed to pay off a kit like that. What’s more, I wasn’t prepared to dedicate my every waking moment to camerawork in order to pay it off – when I might just want to spend a few weeks producing or directing someone else instead. When I hire myself out with kit (PMW200 & Canon C100) my rates are lower than someone on a PMW500. I won’t apologise for undercutting them – I can do 80 per cent of what they can at a lower cost to me and the client. If the client really needs a shoulder mount camera (or a C300 for that matter) I will tell them and give them the option of hiring me and a bigger, better, camera as well – so far they have. I, too, have been undercut by people on DSLRs but, judging by most of the the results, I expect to see the clients again in future. Those DSLR operators who undercut me and did a good job will be working with me in the future. The good ones will survive.

  4. I covered this in a blog recently and it’s a tricky one to deal with. I charge what i think is fair and is enough for me to make a profit once i factor in gear depreciation etc. However i got severely undercut by a ‘son of a director’ of a company i was asked to shoot an ad for. He offered to shoot a whole ad for £100 on his DSLR. I walked away and wished them luck. It came out looking like you might imagine… horribly lit, shaky camera and all the worst imovie presets for the titles. Nasty.

    On the other hand, i did a paid shoot for a very big production house who pay a standard fee of £100 per day for ‘new’ camera ops. I worked for 8 hours and shot over 3 hours of footage which was used in a high profile campaign. When they called and asked me to work for them again, i laughed and said no chance. The ‘proper’ pay level was also laughable. The problem is, they have lots of willing people up for doing a ‘test’ shoot for £100 on the promise of better pay later. Shitty behaviour.

    Charge what you’re worth… under charge at your peril… it’ll bite you on the arse later in your career.


  5. £55 per day? where did you go to school?

    Nobody is going to work 7 days a week, every day for a year.

    Try 5 days a week with 20 days holiday entitlement and you’re up to £83 a day.

    HDW : Correct 😉 That’s why I married an accountant.

  6. Good post. I can only imagine what those who been in this field for 10+ years go through. I started 4 years ago, so I’m still “wet behind the ears”, but even I experience the undercutters. In today’s market you need to be more than just a camera operator. Having post production skills in editing and After Effects really separates you from the “my camera shoots video” filmster.

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