Hi All:

This is a great forum - I have learned so much, in the short time I have been a member.

I am getting requests to do Sound Design work and people are asking me how much I charge.
As a Novice Sound Designer can anyone offer any suggestions as too what I should charge or how to go about figuring it out?

I read some other threads on subjects closely related and some suggest to provide a SOW, which is great advise. I am very confident in creating a statement of work as I've had experience in another industry doing this, but am not sure what the going rate for Sound Designers is and what type of payment structures there are.

If possible, in the future, I would like to charge royalties on custom design sound but am not sure how realistic this is.


Carmine M

  • 1
    Please state what geographical region and metropolitan area you are in. Location has a huge impact on rates! May 20, 2011 at 4:52

4 Answers 4


I see this question getting asked on message boards a lot. It's a perfectly valid question and I'm not sure why it's so hard to find answers with actual numbers. There are lots of people coming up from student/low-no film markets into a more commercial markets (just like I did) who are very likely to greatly undercut established rates without knowing any better (just like I did).


Union sound effects editors in LA get around 37$/hr according to this site

But keep in mind that these are for staff positions. Meaning they're getting a guaranteed number of hours every week, benefits, overtime, they're using studio equipment and software etc. Contract or freelance rates should always be at least double employee rates. At least.

Over on Gearslutz, the always generous Georgia posted her studio rates as of 2008

$150 / hour for music composition $150 / hour for sound design $150 / hour graphics $200 / hour picture editorial $225 / hour for ADR and dialogue cleanup $300 / hour for Foley $350 / hour for mixing $350 / hour for printmastering and/or encoding Dolby or DTS $450 / hour HD laybacks $450 / hour VFX

This is for a full service studio of course and if you're a freelancer working in your bedroom, you may not think you can charge this much, but I know respected sound designers working out of home studios who are charging over $300/hr for sound design.

My current base rate is $80/hr but I'm considering raising it or charging on a strictly per-project basis. There are commercial projects that would happily pay much more and indie projects I'd love to work on who can't come close to paying that much.

Frequently for indie projects I'm really interested in, I'll offer a reduced rate. But I always make sure they know it's a reduced rate and I reflect that on the final invoice. There is a huge difference between commercial and indie film rates so it makes sense to do this, but if these low rates become the norm than we collectively run the risk of devaluing our work.

Anyway, my 4 cents (I'm a freelancer remember).


I've never heard of anyone having royalties on sound effects or designed sounds. You sell it for royalty free or you don't, it's not music. (although I guess the use of Apples starting chord might receive royalties).

As for charging, you say you're new to it and a novice, what level exactly, how much do you have under your belt? I know a guy who offered to do some sound design for some student short films, he was getting paid well for it, a novice, infact he'd never done any sound design before and he did an awful job and ruined 3 films which could've turned out good. You don't want that reputation.if you charge a lot and your work isn't very good, then it's going to work against you. Be realistic and work your way up and raise your rates as you learn and improve.

In my experience I started doing shorts, got some small promo's and ads and this has moved up and up and I now can expect anything from £200-400 for a days work, depending on the company. I still do low paid work if it's of good quality.


  • Thanks Ed. The current project is my second project. I created sounds for various anamatronic dinosaurs. The owner was happy with the initial sounds that he is asking me to synchronize them with the anamatrons movement. He has ask for more sounds for other dinosaurs as well. I don't want to quote too high, more in the lower range, as building my portfolio is more important at this stage than the money. Yet I do should charge something to be able to add equipment and software to my toolbox as I am really enjoying this line of work.
    – Carmine M
    May 20, 2011 at 0:44

It depends mainly, as above, on your experience. Look up on the website of your region/state/country's sound editor's guild or film production unions website as to what their guidelines are. These lists are normally broken down in to payscales based on experience and job description. You might not always get the mentioned rate,depending on the project budget, but the numbers are a good way of protecting both you and your client.

  • Thanks Kurt: A quick search, I found a pay scale site that lists Audio Engineers at $20.65/hr and Film/Video Editors at $17.88/hr. At the onset i'll spec out a project and charge somewhere it that range. I'll continue my research as you suggested. What do you think?
    – Carmine M
    May 20, 2011 at 0:56
  • mate, why not check out some of your local studios and find their rate cards? Good way to gauge.
    – user6513
    May 20, 2011 at 15:14

A bit late to that party here but, in reference to @Kurt and his post on guidelines, you might want to check out this relevant page on the Motion Picture Editor's Guild.

From what you say on your background as a novice sound designer, I think the most relevant contract and classification is "Post Production (Independent)" and "Sound Editor [Z-2]". Hope that's useful!

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