by Shiny in Essential Knowledge, Rates
It seems there’s a virus on the loose.
Something is killing all the hard work video editors put into their craft. That virus, is called undercharging. You see, not knowing how much to charge for video editing and undercharging not only devalues all the hard work you put into learning the craft, it also drives rates down for every other editor.
So, hopefully with this extensive guide on video editing rates, together we can all get paid what we are worth without having to work any harder.
I helped this editor double their rate without having to work any harder. If you want the same then this guide on video editing rates should help you.
Get the video editing rate calculator
THE CURRENT PERCEIVED VALUE OF VIDEO EDITORS
The surprising moment that triggered the need for this guide was a picture message I received from another editor one cloudy London day in May 2021. The picture is a screengrab of a job listing that they came across for an in-house video editor position.
The job required the applicant to have a bachelor’s degree, and, preferably, 3 years video editing experience. So far, so expected. Then, and here comes the kicker – the salary.
They were offering a salary of £15,424 – £20,000 a year. WTF.
I know what you’re thinking, that’s low af. And you’d be right. Is this really what the world thinks video editors are worth? How low is this in the world of video editing and is this value that is placed on video editors even legal? Let’s find out.
Let’s assume you work 8 hours a day* and you’re the lucky sucker to land this job with the base salary of £15,424 then you’ll bring home a baffling £7.62 per hour.
For perspective, the first result from a quick search on the same job site shows that a cleaner in London gets paid £10 per hour**, and the London Living Wage*** needed to survive in the capital is £10.85.
So, a salary of £15,424 is crazy low. Is it even legal?
According to the national minimum wage in the UK in 2021, for it to be legal for this company to employ an editor for a salary of £15,424 the editor will have to be between the age of 18-20.
So this 18–20-year-old will need to have with a 3-year university education and “(preferably) 3 years of experience”. I think you can see the problem here.
I’m a nice guy so let’s assume that perhaps their budget is so low because they’re a non-profit or something? I dug a little deeper to find out. Sure enough, they were… not.
Turns out this company is an accountancy holdings company, and as we all know, accountancy companies are notoriously short of cash. Lol.
*As per the job posting, for the 252 working days we have in the UK in 2021.
**Not to devalue the incredible work cleaners do, but this job requires no training, whilst video editing requires years of training.
***The London Living Wage is an initiative backed by the Mayor of London that puts a figure on the minimum amount that residents of London need to earn to be able to survive in the notoriously expensive capital.
DON’T UNDERSELL YOURSELF
The point here is that there is a growing trend among employers that editing is seen as ‘easy’ – something that anyone with a computer can do. This trend ignores the fact that it takes years of training and practice to be able to cut something enjoyable together. It’s kinda like how the skill needed to take a good photograph was devalued by the fact that everyone now has a camera in their pocket. Obviously not everybody with a smartphone has become a great photographer, yet taking a great photo is now perceived as ‘easy’.
THIS DEVALUING OF VIDEO EDITING HAS TO STOP.
You as a video editor need to know your worth so you don’t get taken advantage of. There are plenty of employers and clients out there like the one above who will take advantage of you without a second thought.
So, this guide is designed to help you understand:
- Your worth
- How much you should be charging for your time as a video editor
- How much your skills are valued
- That being open about money is healthy
CREATING A HEALTHY VIEW ON MONEY IN THE POST PRODUCTION INDUSTRY
Allow me to demonstrate the power of talking openly about money with a little story of my experience working freelance in London for clients like BBC, CNN and some of the biggest ad agencies in the world.
When I was working my way up the ranks as a freelance video editor in London, a lot of other editors were shy about talking money with me.
I kinda get it – we’re schooled when we are young that money is a taboo subject. We’re made to believe it creates division and jealousy between people. However, not talking about money just gives the people with the money the power to dictate our worth and therefore devalue us – it benefits them to pay us as little as possible.
When I started my freelance editing journey working at Vice, there were maybe two editors that would openly talk about money with me. As we quietly rose up the ranks at various companies, we would put our day rates up and talk to each other about how much we thought the others should charge based on skill etc.
The number would rise gradually from £250 per day, then £300, £325, £350 etc.
It was around the £450 per day period that I was having a conversation with someone who I had known through the entire journey up the ranks, but who didn’t like to talk about cash. Eventually we got onto the subject of day rate. I told them my day rate was £450 and they looked astonished as they told me that they were charging the same client £330.
We had the same years of experience, similar clients, but they were £600 a week worse off. Simply because they didn’t like to talk about money.
Now imagine how many years that had been happening? That’s a lot of cash they missed out on, purely because they were too proud/shy to talk ££££££.
It’s healthy for us all to talk about money and rates as an industry, wherever we are based. If we keep these figures from each other then we’ll be destined to ride the same stale day rate our entire careers. You’ll spend your days worried that if you make your rate too high then you will lose a client.
SPOILER ALERT: You won’t.
HOW TO FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH TO CHARGE FOR VIDEO EDITING
If you’re fairly new to video editing as a freelance career, then this is one of the first major concerns you have. If this is you then great. You’re in the right place.
You’ve probably got one or more of the following questions:
- How much should I charge for video editing?
- Should I charge per hour or per day for video editing?
- Should I charge overtime for video editing?
- When should I put my rate up?
The answers to these questions are below.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I CHARGE FOR VIDEO EDITING
The process of figuring out how much you should charge for video editing is pretty straight forward, but you’ll need about 20 mins of time set aside to figure it out. The process can be broken down into 2 steps:
- Figure out your IDEAL SALARY
- Divide that by the number of days you want to work per year
STEP 1 – HOW TO FIGURE OUT YOUR IDEAL SALARY
Life costs money. Obviously. How you live your life right now should be your base for your salary expectations. If you’re living with family still then your expenses are very low, and if you’re living in a penthouse with all the latest gear then your life costs a lot more, so you’ll need to charge a lot more to cover it (it’s also very unlikely that you’ll be reading this guide).
So, write down how much money you need per month to continue living the life you currently are. These rates will increase as your career does. These are some of the costs you should be thinking about:
- Utilities and bills (including phone and internet)
- Fun money (socialising/hobbies)
- Debt repayment
- And most importantly, how much you want to put into savings (always be saving)
VIDEO EDITING RATE CALCULATOR
Download this FREE spreadsheet to quickly figure out how much to charge for video editing
If you’re using the spreadsheet then you can skip to STEP 2. If you’re figuring it out on your own, then the next bit is heavy on the maths but very important.
Okay, so now you know how much you need to earn per month to live your life. Times this number by 12 and you know how much you need to earn per year after tax. Let’s call this number INCOME AT (income after tax).
Because you will need to pay tax on your earnings (unfortunately), and INCOME AT is your income after tax, we need to know how much you need to earn before tax is taken off. Your income before tax is taken off will be your IDEAL SALARY.
Every country has different amounts they tax their citizens, so you’ll need to do a quick search online for “Income tax brackets for [insert your country]”. If you add about 45% to your INCOME AT then you should be able to get a rough estimate of which tax bracket your income will fall into. Take a note of how much tax you’ll need to pay then round the figure up and cautiously put more money aside than you need. You don’t want to be borrowing money when it comes time to pay your tax bill. Plus, if you’ve put aside too much then you get a nice little yearly bonus after paying your tax bill. When doing my calculations in the UK I have found that setting aside around 30% of my income keeps the tax man happy, so I will use this figure in my example. Yours may be higher. We will call this number TAX%.
Now we can figure out your IDEAL SALARY using the following calculation:
100 – TAX% = AT%
INCOME AT ÷ AT% x 100 = IDEAL SALARY
VIDEO EDITING RATE CALCULATOR
Download this FREE spreadsheet to quickly figure out how much to charge for video editing
Awesome! Now we’ve figured out our IDEAL SALARY. You may want to bump it up a bit if it feels a little low. First time I did this I made the mistake of underestimating how much I actually needed to live.
Alright, now to figure out your day rate.
STEP 2 – CALCULATING YOUR DAY RATE
Now that we know our IDEAL SALARY, we simply divide this number by the number of days that we want to work. This is where the beauty of being a freelancer pays off.
So, how many days do you want to work? 200? 2?
A standard year in the UK has around 252 working days (Mon-Fri) per year after you have taken off days for national holidays. But who wants to work every single working day of the year?! You’ll want some time off for holidays, sick leave, as well as time to recover from stressful jobs and the inevitable down-time between jobs (it’s rare that one job finishes and the next starts the day after). Think about how much time you want off, subtract that from 252 and you have the number of days you’re hoping to work per year. 180 days per year seems to be my average on a good year without pandemics.
Then simply divide your IDEAL SALARY by the number of days you hope to work.
You now have your day rate. Congratulations!
Only want to work two days per year? Divide your IDEAL SALARY by 2 and gloat to every other sucker working 180 days a year.
To get your hourly rate just divide your day rate by 8, or 10 if you’re feeling generous (I divide mine by 10).
HOW MUCH DO VIDEO EDITORS USUALLY EARN?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question unfortunately. It depends on your location and your skill level. In the US, rates tend to be higher than the global average.
Typical video editing rates in the US:
- Start at around $20 per hour when you are just starting out
- $60 per hour when you work with local clients (outside of NY/LA)
- Then moving to $100+ per hour for large clients in NY/LA
Typical video editing rates in the UK:
- Start at £150 per day when starting out
- Moving onto £300 per day for bigger clients
- Then charging £500+ per day for commercial clients in London
*If you know the typical video editing rates for your country, then please let me know and I’ll add them to the list.
Rates vary wildly depending on the client, the type of work and the location, so take these video editing rates with a pinch of salt. Typically, corporate clients will pay a lot more then small businesses, and TV Commercials will pay a lot more than online ads.
SHOULD I CHARGE VIDEO EDITING PER HOUR, PER DAY, OR PER VIDEO
It’s a question I get asked all the time. The real answer is, it’s up to you, but I’ll put my case forward for which I prefer and why.
I always recommend to my students that they charge by the day, not by the hour, and never per video.
Firstly, it’s industry standard with large clients so will be expected once you hit a certain level, so why not make it your standard early on. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the client will respect your time more when they are being charged per day. They will request ‘small’ changes less often – frequent minor changes are incredibly taxing on the brain. By charging per day the client won’t nag you as often with “Can you just do this please…”, they will understand that changes need to be considered and actioned in bulk. This is a much more enjoyable and streamlined way of working.
Another thing to consider is that if you agree to one job for only a few hours on a Wednesday and another client then wants to book you for the whole week, you may have to say no to the longer booking because of the clash. This would mean you’ve lost out on more income than if you were to charge for the whole day of that Wednesday.
However, sometimes I allow clients to book for half a day if it is at the end of a long booking of several weeks. I will also allow half day bookings for loyal clients that haven’t just shortened their day booking to half a day because ‘we don’t need that much time anymore’ – often because of my efficiency.
WHY SHOULD WE GET PAID LESS BECAUSE WE’RE MORE EFFICIENT?
This is another advantage of charging per day and not per hour.
I would highly recommend against ever charging per video if possible (often called a ‘buyout’). I’ve made that mistake early on and it hurts. Clients always overstep the amount of work agreed, which means more work for you to do without any extra pay. If the client will only agree to pay you per video be aware that they may be trying to take advantage of you.
If you do accept a buyout, make sure that before you start any work, agree in writing the work you will do and set a maximum of 3 rounds of changes. Be strict on this. Set an agreed day rate for extra work should they go over the agreed 3 rounds of changes. Let them know if their changes are beyond the scope of the agreement before you do it, and how much extra it will cost to do them.
Here’s a summary of the pros and cons of charging per day, per hour or per video for you.
CHARGING PER DAY
- It prevents the client from coming back with loads of minor changes
- You can organise your time better
- It shows you value your time
- It’s industry standard
- You get more money
- It encourages clients to give feedback quickly if you have time left in the day
- Minor tech issue delays are absorbed into the day
- You can charge for overtime
- Client may not want to pay for big chunks of time (but fussy clients are not ones you want to keep anyway)
CHARGING PER HOUR
- Client will appreciate the flexibility
- You can take on more smaller jobs to practice your craft
- Clients come back with lots of tiny amends
- Mentally draining
- Difficult to judge time needed
- Tech issue delays can cost you money
- Clients perceive jobs as being smaller/easier than they are and therefore expect more out of your time
- Small prices attract small clients
- More difficult to organise your time
- No overtime rates
CHARGING PER VIDEO
- The client knows the final cost
- There is an incentive for you to finish quickly
- You can take on more than one project at a time
- There is an incentive for you to finish quickly leading to sloppy work
- Every amend beyond agreement reduces your hourly rate
WHEN TO CHARGE OVERTIME FOR VIDEO EDITING
The industry standard working day for video editing (in the UK) is 8-10 hours (including a 1 hour lunch break). Overtime is charged when the work required of you stretches beyond standard working hours.
I charge overtime (OT) after 10 hours of work which seems fairly standard amongst most video editors I know.
Overtime is charged per hour. Your hourly rate is normally your day rate divided by 10, but you can round this up to a nice friendly multiple of 5 e.g. if your day rate is £325 then your day rate divided by 10 would be £32.50, but it is acceptable to round it up to £35 per hour.
When you have to work overtime during unsociable hours, it is common practice to charge 1.5x your normal rate. It’s fairly standard to charge this rate when working on the weekends or when doing overtime after 11pm on weekdays. When working after 11pm on weekends it is common to charge 2x your normal rate.
You may choose to charge OT differently. The Motion Picture Editors Guild in the US suggests 1.5x rate on day 6 in a week and charging 2x on day 7. BECTU in the UK suggests 1.5x hourly rate after 10 hours, 2x hourly rate after midnight or on weekends or bank holidays, also the client should provide meals after 8pm, and transport after 10pm if working on location.
It’s up to you what you choose but you can work it out with your clients.
WHEN TO PUT YOUR VIDEO EDITING RATE UP
If you want to put your rate up, do it. The cost of everything goes up, it’s a natural consequence of inflation. So should your video editing rate.
YOU WON’T LOSE MONEY BY PUTTING YOUR RATE UP.
It’s a common fear that putting your rate up will end up scaring away your current clients who will go and find someone cheaper. If a current client can’t afford your new rate, then they will tell you before they look elsewhere, they won’t just up and leave without saying a word. You’ve invested time building trust with them, and I’ve found clients value trust more than money.
If they can’t meet your new rate and you really want to keep working with that client, then keep charging them the same rate and put it up for all your new clients. Eventually you’ll have more bookings than you can handle at your new rate, and you can let the cheaper clients go.
WHAT IS THE INDUSTRY STANDARD DAY RATE FOR VIDEO EDITING PROFESSIONALS
There are a bunch of organisations that survey and collate the rates of industry professionals every year. The survey results are a fantastic way of telling how much you should be charging based on how much others in a similar position are charging.
Below is a list of some of these organisations:
The Motion Picture Editors Guild website displays union rates for post production roles in the USA
If you know of other suitable video editor rates surveys/references not listed then please let me know so I can add them.
HOW WE CAN PREVENT VIDEO EDITORS BEING UNDERVALUED
Together we can create a healthy relationship with the subject of money and stop the downward trend of video editing rates through the undercutting of our peers. Hopefully this guide will go some way to helping, but you can help as well.
The more video editors know this information the better for all of us, so please share this guide with as many editors as you know, so we can all charge what we are worth without having to work harder.
Thank you for your help in the fight! And remember, don’t undersell yourself. People are willing to pay you to do something that they cannot. You have earned decent pay.
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