Your Rate Card
Every photographer should have a rate card, even if you normally don't create an income from your photography. If you don't, and have not thought about it, then you are unprepared when an opportunity arises. Its fine for some to say its only my hobby, and I don't need to make any income from it, but even for them I would say photography is an expensive hobby, equipment is outdated quickly and I am sure you have at least a few items of equipment or software that you would like if only you could justify it.
In an age when most phones have a camera and digital cameras are becoming commonplace, some may think photography should be free, but the fact that I can buy a cheap tool kit does not mean that I can get my car serviced for free or the fact that we have desktop printers does not mean we can produce magazine runs from our desk.
Establishing your rate card means you are for armed, know the sort of figures that make sense and can confidently expect to get at least this much.
So how do we set our rates, it might be that we start by looking at what the competition charges, it might be that we start by looking at NUJ minimum suggested freelance rates or we could start by working out our costs and then splitting this over time to get rates. Ideally you will want to look at each and then on top of this think about what extra or special skills or situations may add on top.
In a rate card we are looking to put a price on work that is charged by time for different types of work, reproduction charges or licences, and perhaps some special packages.
The rate card is the start price on top of this you may add some extras, extra rights, extended use of photos such as on the web, as well as in print, plus special or one off situations, special skills, special equipment and studio.
Your rate card may have discounts in some form for smaller businesses, or particular areas or classifications. As this is built in you don't have to heavily discount from your rate card for anyone. Charities that have paid staff should be treated as businesses, small charities as small businesses and large charities as large businesses.
Some people may expect free photos, for example police officers, but a Chief Constable was recently reported as having salary and expenses of £172k a year and all officers were reported as getting £100 extra just for taking a phone call when at home, on top of their large salaries and perks. Even the lowest paid new recruit getting a higher salary than a very experienced paramedic. Councils likewise have the money to spend banker sized salaries to Chief Executives so can pay for photographs they want.
Generally with photography advertising and large or difficult or demanding clients have the highest rates, small businesses, small publications and in some cases editorial have the lowest, with other work in between.
What I would suggest is that you set first your standard rate, applicable to the top standard rate, and then look at the others from this.
What do others charge
You can find out what some have been paid for some commissions from a website that records this (links below), and this will perhaps give a flavour of what has been obtained historically. Remember to note the year of the transaction as prices and in particular costs have gone up year on year. If you are interested in a particular geographic area and within this an area of photography, then you can carry out your own market research. Approach them as if you were a potential client and ask their prices. Its as simple as that, well at least in theory. In practice as they are likely to charge in slightly different ways have different additions and the like, you may find it easier to do a comparison by looking at a specific job and creating a spreadsheet allowing you to record the various options and get a comparable price. What you will find is a range of prices being charged, and if you disregard the top and bottom two or three you will get a better idea of the normal range.
What they have paid:-
Recommended Minimal Rates
The National Union of Journalists have produced a whole range of rates for all types of freelancing work including photography. Within photography they have suggested ranges of minimum rates for different client groups within different photographic areas. On top of these figures they suggest production figures are added and then on top of these rates for additional licences or use. The current suggested minimums are at least a couple of years old now, so we should look at adding about 20% to these for inflation and rising costs. The NUJ inspired minimum rates can be found at Freelance Fees Guide take the time to read this site, it has a lot of useful information.
Your own costs
To work out rates based on your own costs you need to work out the income you expect, the cost of running the business, overheads, and the like. Once you have this you can work out next, the number of days a year you expect to be able to work for others, taking off bank holidays, holidays, time to undertake admin and similar, also remember to allow time for marketing you have to get the work. Now you are never going to get 100% of time booked, so decide what you think is reasonable perhaps 60%. From this you have a number of days that you think you will be charging for, dividing the costs you worked out before by this, gives you the minimum figure that your chargeable days must average out at for this to work. On top of this you need to add the cost of getting the work, so advertising, promotion, commissions whatever.
Most people starting off, working from home with no staff, results in a figure far lower than the two other figures obtained from looking at what others charge and minimum recommended freelance rates, but this needs to be done regularly as costs will rise a bit at a time and its easy to work more and more for less and less. A lot of businesses that appear to be doing well go broke for this reason.
Creating your own rate card
Given that you will now have three sets of figures you can decide on the rates you want to charge, too expensive and you will have to spend a lot on marketing to get the work, too cheap and people may not take you seriously or give you the more interesting projects. Its better to get less work at a higher rate as you can still market more services, than to be running around having difficulty in coping while getting a low income. You can't buy long term business by having a low price list, as no one likes a steep rise ins prices, its better to have higher rates and where necessary give a little bit more discount.
The occasional commercial photographer
For many, who are not so involved in creating an income from photography a lot of this is too complex, requires too much work, research and perhaps they need a simpler approach. For these people only we have produced a suggested minimum rates sheet. It is based on NUJ suggested rates, simplified and updated a little, you can see this at Suggested minimum rates for photographers.