Determining rate for working with commercial production companies


I’ve recently started feeling that I have the skills and equipment to entering the commercial industry. There are several smaller production companies in my town (Wilmington, NC) who mainly do commercials for local companies and a few national brands. I want to contact these companies about working as a sound mixer on their productions (these companies own nice cameras but don’t have much in the way of sound equipment) but I’m not sure how to determine what is a fair rate to charge. The film industry in Wilmington has hit hard times and pretty much all the freelancers have left so the only people I’d have to compare rates against are the remaining union guys. Does anyone have any experience with working with smaller commercial production companies? Would it be more likely for them to hire me if I offered them an hourly rate or a day rate? Also should I charge a rental rate for my equipment as well as the day rate? (this was something one of my film professors said was standard practice but his experience is on big studio features not smaller commercials). Any advice would be appreciated, thank you!


one of the best pieces of advice ive learned over the years is to get a program (i use quickbooks) that can keep track of line iteming each thing you send in a estimate/invoice. that way the client can look at all the costs and figure out what can be nixed if cost is too high rather then just one lump rate. i tend to lump some items together so you dont have dozens of line items (lighting package: includes x x x for example rather then this light, this stand for this light, reflector, etc). also getting used to line iteming things has personally helped with me in the “feeling bad” for charging x price- as now its easier to come up with a estimate when asked (a 2 person interview: ok i know that is 2 cam opts= thats this price, 1 audio opt= this price, etc).
hope that helps


Productions in general typically operate on day rates, ideally with overtime if they exceed a standard day (usually 12 hours). I’m not sure if commercials specifically always abide by these rules; most commercials I’ve been on have been smaller, fairly casual operations, but the day rate rule did apply. I don’t think it’s unusual to charge an equipment rate as well; just be sure to mention upfront “my rate is x, and my equipment fee is y” so there’s no confusion. In my limited experience, I’ve used (and seen) about $50 as an equipment fee for bare-bones equipment (say a shotgun mic, boom pole, Zoom recorder), and around $100 for a more conventional professional kit (several thousand dollar mixer/recorder unit, boom plus lavs, etc.) Take it with a bit of a grain of salt since I don’t have extensive experience in commercials, and my experience is in the general Los Angeles area.


No, just no! :-o

Not counting labour at all, then just a professional sound kit (which the mixer supplies, and is being rented from him) is going anywhere from hundreds of dollars per day to a thousand plus dollars a day. (depending on the needs of the particular shoot)

Never ever would $100/day be a reasonable kit fee for a professional sound recordist’s kit, not unless they’re say a good friend and generously giving you a “mate’s rate” in donating some of their gear/time to your project they dig too.

Think of it as quite comparable in costs to the rental costs for a professional camera kitted out (lenses etc), which can also be hundreds of dollars a day (or even easily much much more).