Most filmmakers and series creators I talk to undervalue themselves. They work 90 hours a week and are barely getting by. When I ask them whether they think they got paid what they’re worth on their last gig, I never hear, “Hell yes! They gave me a huge check and I can now live the life I’ve always seen for myself”. In, fact it usually the exact opposite.
When I ask them why that is and how they negotiated their last gig fee, I hear things like, “I gave them a treatment and a project budget and told them I could finish it in two weeks”…. And there it is. That client has no context for what you’re worth and why they should pay you that so they will now define that for you. ‘Okay, thanks for your budget, but I see it’s going to take you two weeks and around here that is worth “X”. Why? Because you offered them your time, which to them is the least valuable thing in the office. I’ll say it again, your time, not theirs, is the least valuable thing in their office at that present moment.
Jim Rohn, a well-known entrepreneur has a famous quote that describes the film/TV/content business to a “T”. He says “You are not paid for the effort and time you put into your work. You get rewarded for the value that OTHER PEOPLE put on what you do”.
So, what CAN you do to get paid what you’re worth? How can you begin to predict, control and drive how much you get paid for every gig you get hired for? Below are 3 ways to ensure you’re getting paid correctly:
Define and communicate your worth by having a clear (and short) answer to these questions:
- How will I make my client money?
- How will I save my client money?
- How will I save them time?
- How will my work (as opposed to someone else’s) increase their audience?
**remember, if you want to make money creating film, web series or video content, you will always have a client. That could be a studio, a brand or an audience you have acquired. Tim Burton and Martin Scorsese always have clients (the studios) that they have to add value to. Just because they’re famous doesn’t mean they don’t have to answer to someone. The minute they stop adding value, they’ll be relegated to making gardening videos for the Encino Chamber of Commerce.
Don’t undercut your value:
Client: “So tell us why we should hire you over someone else”.
Content Producer: “Ummmm……”
Most content creators, when they get asked this question by a potential client don’t have an answer and when I ask them why, the say things like:
- “I don’t like to toot my own horn”.
- “I like to let the work speak for itself”.
- “It feels sales-y”.
Next thing they know, they’re wondering how that cell phone bill is going to get paid. Meanwhile, their producer buddy just landed the gig and is now shooting a cool web spot for a client they will keep for years.
Create value by being an expert:
This one is simple. Know what you do well, what you have consistently had success in and have the most knowledge of, and provide your clients with that. If you’re great at shooting doc-style I wouldn’t recommend going after that bright-and-shiny floor cleaner commercial. If you know and communicate what you do well, it’s a good bet your potential client will come to know it too and pay you accordingly.
So, in short, it doesn’t matter whether YOU think your work is valuable (not to be confused with having confidence in your work). It matters what the industry and their audiences think is valuable. The industry will show you they understand the value you bring by paying you what you’re worth.