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Hey All,

We've had variations of this question before, but here goes:

Let's say I've been hired to do the sound design for a company ident 20 secs long. The job requires a bit of composition, sound design and then of course, final mix is on my time too. I estimate that I sound have 2 or 3 demos for the client by the next day. We will then have a meeting, I will make tweaks and deliver the next morning.

How do I charge for this? Per day? Per hour? Flat rate? Per second :)? [ My little sound experience comes from location sound in South Africa. Let's say that I charged ZAR2000 per day for a TV shoot with full gear(that I get from a rental company) ]

Kurt

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Besides half-day and day rates, you can do what most services firms and design agencies do: Estimate based on hours of actual design work.

This lets you get a bit more specific, exercise control over rounds of revisions (by scheduling the project based on how long it will take), and it lets the client dial up or down the number of revision cycles or complexity to fit their budget. An obvious other question is the schedule, and how much design work is possible in that timeframe.

If this is done, I also pad the estimate not to gouge, but to reflect risk. If this is a known or repeat client, the risk may be zero. If this is a new client and there are a lot of stakeholders, I may assess a 10%-20% risk factor to my estimate. If there's a lot of meetings, I'll add 5% meeting overhead, too, if I'm only accounting for hours of design work. Finally, if it's a juicy gig or a good cause, I'll discount, while making sure it's a conscious decision to win the gig. Loss-leader projects are rare, but thin-margin projects to win the work are a little more common.

I always start with a verbal range to start the conversation, explaining what the biggest cost drivers are, which are usually the amount of design time itself as well as the number of revision rounds. (Actually, I cut to the chase first, and ask if they have a specific budget in mind that I should be working backwards from. Most of the time they decline, but then it's not your bad if your estimate takes them by surprise.) Then I gauge the reaction, and negotiations ensue. I always go in with a fair number up front, but I do go into negotiations having a bottom number in mind, at which point I'll feel good about walking away.

The biggest unspoken advice in the work-for-hire world is that gigs are 50% design and 50% expectations management. That latter 50% is vital to establish from the get-go, as it cements your position as the expert and what the client is expecting...this is also the main driver in your ability to keep your work schedule sane.

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I can't state prices but I used to charge by the day when I was freelance. If it took me all day to create a single sound the client was happy with and it took me another to mix the project then both were the same rate. I always found it too complicated to start charging for different things. Worked out good for me as my regular clients always knew how much I would charge based on how long I thought it would take.

I'm sure others do it differently though.

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  • Thanks, Ian. A day rate seems to be a good idea, and then it also leaves open the possibility to charge for a half day, (see Andrew Spitz question) if need be. The day rate seems to cover the possibility when doing a few assets for a game, e.g. 50 types of body punches. Charging per sound might become unwieldy then... – Kurt Human Jun 9 '10 at 11:05
  • ... Andrew Spitz' question is bit.ly/aIjzKS – Kurt Human Jun 9 '10 at 11:06
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While I can't state specific amounts, since I'm unfamiliar with your economy and currency, I will tell you how I structure my rates.

The first thing I consider is the type and scope of the project. Is it a one-time, one day thing? Is it a month long project? Week long? Ongoing? From there I will decide how I will charge.

Location sound I will always charge a flat day rate, plus rentals if it applies, and overtime after a specified number of hours.

If it is just a one-time, one or two day design job, I will usually charge by the hour. If I'm doing a longer project, say a week to a month, I'll either charge by the job (if it is a defined, simpler job) or by the day. However, like production sound, I will charge OT if it goes over a certain number of hours.

I sometimes negotiate a half-day rate if I'm only working a few hours on a location gig or something.

Hope this helps!

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