How do I set my rate as a freelance video editor or motion graphic designer?
I don’t like vagueries. I like to give hard answers. This can be difficult to do with rate because there are so many variables. Still, I find the reason most people don’t want to give hard numbers is that they don’t want to be wrong.
I have no problem being wrong.
Is the graph below, showing rate frequency for post-production professionals, 100% perfect? Almost certainly not. But it gives us a very strong approximation. And perfect doesn’t matter because we’re only looking for a starting place. The whole reason we want to see averages is that we don’t want to be way out of line with other industry professionals (at least until we’re in demand enough to start charging whatever we want). And a strong approximation serves that purpose splendidly.
A couple of things to consider:
- I’m only taking full-time freelancers based in the US into consideration. This significantly raises averages because it reduces the number of amateur and ‘Upwork-level’ freelancers in the mix.
- This is based on project frequency averages, not freelancer medians. This means that freelancers that work more will be more heavily weighted.
- While I consulted data on the subject, I also relied on my own experience.
- I’ve worked with thousands of post-production pros over the years, evaluated tens of thousands- possibly hundreds of thousands- of candidates, and hired hundreds of crew so I have an intimate understanding of the industry.
Video Editors most commonly earn ~$400-600 per day.
Motion Graphic Designers most commonly earn ~$500-700 per day.
For starters, let’s take a look at the red line. As I’ve said before, as freelancers with a job-skill, we never want to accept less than $30/hr, even if we’re just starting out. Are other freelancers going to? Of course they are. Let them take all of the worst clients, we don’t want to get caught in a race to the bottom.
Next, let’s take a look at the difference between video editors and motion graphic designers. While their rate frequencies are very similar, motion graphic designers, on average, command a slightly higher rate. The supply and demand ratio is slightly better for motion graphic designers, so it stands to reason that they’d be paid slightly more.
Finally, let’s look at the rate frequencies and what they mean. Video editors and, to a certain extent, motion graphic designers, are victims of the fact that post-production has a very low skill floor. While it’s a long, difficult journey to become a skilled editor, cobbling something together that is coherent takes very little skill and training. Motion Graphic Design might take a bit more experience to become passible, but motion designers more often need to compete with remote ‘farm-sourced’ workers. This all creates more competition at the lower end of the rate scale, but experienced professionals should still expect ~$500-600/day for their work and should not be shy about charging more if they feel they can find clients that will pay it.
- Most freelancers, especially new ones, are too cheap.
- Price is only one potential competitive advantage you can have over your competition and it’s (pretty much) the only one that can affect your livelihood. This means that it’s probably the very last way you should try to provide more value than other freelancers in your lane.
- If a client can’t afford you, it doesn’t automatically mean your services are worth less than you’re charging. It’s more likely that this is just not the right kind of client for you.
If you’d like more information about rate you can check out my comprehensive freelance course, where I talk more about how different clients think about rate, mistakes to avoid, and how to defend your rate if a potential client raises an objection.