I’ve probably increased by about $50k/year for the past few years. Covid did not effect the design/home industry so that worked well.
I have very little overhead: I work from home, have insurance, and travel costs are all reimbursed by client. Profit margin is 85% Grossed $300k, profited $250k. I have no employees, a freelance assistant on shoot days, and an editor/retoucher on maybe 10% of projects.
My clients are Amazing! So easy, nice to work with, lots of women (many mothers too), creative, successful. I have the best clients! Mostly interior designers along with a few projects each year for companies in the design/home industry (ie cb2, saatva, interior define) and a few publications each year. I also license one off images to companies in the design/home industry like lighting companies, tile, etc. 95% of my income comes from small independent interior designers of around 5 people within Texas. Last year I traveled to NY once, LA twice, Colorado once.
On average I have 2 shoots per week, sometimes 3-4 in busy seasons. I edit every other day and am in the studio like a 9-5 job when not shooting. I take probably 12-14 weeks off to travel or to be with family/kids. I work hard when working, but when I am off, I am off.
Average shoot is about 8 hours for the day, arrive at 9, end at 5. Around 15-20 images shot with a team of me, my assistant, sometimes a stylist and their assistant and 2-3 people from the designers team. Images are licensed to only that designer for web usage only, and I make around $3500-4k. That is the average shoot/client for me. I never work on weekends or after 5 pm.
My highest paying shoot of the last few years was $10k, 2 day shoot, 25 images, licensed to interior designer and architect, easy, fun, laid back, 8 hour days
My lowest paying shoot from the last few years was $1500, just 5 images, shot over maybe 2-3 hours, licensed to designer for web usage only. still nice, quick and easy, so the lower fee reflected that. less images, less time shooting, less time editing
I do not shoot video, but would like to start.
As far as pricing goes, talk to other people in your industry in your area and get on the same page. Don’t give away your images. They are valuable. It is not an honor to be featured by a company like Cb2 or Serena and Lily if they are not paying you- they are taking advantage of you. Also, if you like the slow pace and control that comes with shooting interiors, it’s an awesome path to take. Start assisting for someone who focuses on what you want to do and learn all you can. Especially as a mother who values family and space, I have found the schedule is amazing- not too much travel (but some), no work on weekends or evenings (unless you are doing more architecture and taking lots of exteriors), you can say yes or no to anything, and clients almost always ask when YOU are available, so you have complete control over your schedule.
$150-175k taxable income paid to myself most years, taken out of $225-250k each year in creative & licensing fees, stock sales and print sales after expenses. My gross invoices are $275-325k a year with all expenses included. Most of my expenses are fuel for my truck, flights and hotels and meals for clients (nearly all of that is reimbursed) and camera and computer gear upkeep and replacement. I pay no rent, no employees but myself and very few professional fees of any kind. I run a fairly tight ship as far as needless expenses go.
70% of my income is from commercial and editorial assignments, the remaining 30% from print sales and stock sales. My clients are mostly agricultural and outdoor lifestyle in nature. Some industrial. Some college work.
I maintain strong relationships with two Fortune 500 clients and most everyone else is mid-sized. I shoot all over the country for the larger clients and mostly in the Midwest for the smaller ones.
I have no employees and virtually no overhead. I work out of my home office and I don’t maintain any studio space. Cameras and computers and a pickup truck are my only expenses.
I’m probably shooting or traveling to shoots 140 days a year, and then doing work in the office, printing, networking and researching another 100 days a year.
My income took a 30-35% dip in 2020 but other than that it’s remained the same. I was able to collect two years of PPP worth around $37k total and then our state had a covid grant with which I was able to collect $65k. The Covid grant required me to have a sales tax license in place during 2020 and at least one really bad quarter that year, both of which I had. My business is an S-Corp, which I’ve maintained for 25 years and it’s been very beneficial in several ways, including the PPP, the Covid grant and many other corporate tax savings throughout the years.
An average shoot for one of the larger clients is 2-5 days and around $5k/day, with $1500/day for travel days, and $2k for scout days. Licensing is very minimal because these clients freak out about it. The midrange clients are usually 1-2 days and mostly within driving distance.
My best job was a 5-day shoot plus two scout days and two travel days in Washington state in 2022 for a large ag tractor company. Shoot days were mostly dawn to dusk, travel days were just flight times (5-7 hours each), scout days were only 3-4 hours each. After travel expenses my biz took home around $33k.
Every year I take on a handful of tiny shoots from a local community college to profile alumni in their jobs. $650/shoot, plus mileage and $100 digital editing. It’s easy shooting for a couple of hours and comes during slow winter months.
I do a little b-roll here and there for clients. I doubt if it’s even 1% of my income. But I do shoot some short pieces as I build my video portfolio.
Look into incorporating. There are many tax benefits to it, and it adds a firewall against libel and other legal issues. Don’t rent a bunch of space, studio or otherwise, that you don’t use a lot. Maintain a good set of camera gear and good computers so you’re not dealing with tech and gear issues on shoots. Don’t be snotty or uppity to clients no matter how crappy they are… there are many instances in my 30 years of freelance where a client peon on a shoot calls me years later because I was easy to work with and now they run an art department somewhere else. Words to live by: “You reap what you sow.”
I do a lot of non profit work but the majority of my income comes from commercial. My clients are all over the US. Pre pandemic, I worked 3 weeks a month now it’s 1 week. No employees anymore just freelance assistants and digi tech. My profit margin is not good.
My overhead is mostly marketing and advertising. My rep requires we pay $1000 per LeBook show and make 4 promos a year. Plus advertising in LeBook online and many other channels and shows.
My clients are Catalog, Department Stores, and not necessarily anything I love. To supplement income I do weddings and portraits when times are slow
Average rates for me are 2,500-4k a day right now. I work at least a 10hr day plus several pre calls and scouts and tons of editing on the back end for the client. So I would say my “day rate” pays for about 3 days of work, on average . But my agent also gets 25% of that. So I probably take home $800-$1000 a day if that.
Speedo, Sketchers, and Pandora have paid me the most in the past. My highest day rate for fees alone has been 10k with advertising usage for print and billboard, 2years, all inclusive. I would say the take home pay is 50% of that after my rep, expenses, and marketing
Worst paying job I have accepted lately is shooting e-commerce for $750 a day (my agent gets paid their fee separately) I only take it because it’s local, I can drive to work and shoot 9-5, and they sometimes book a week at a time. It’s filler work that pops up regularly and helps me fill the gaps between advertising jobs.
I don’t shoot video, but I work with DPs and book jobs that require both, often.
This is an expensive career, especially with a rep, and the pay is getting significantly less. I still hustle, shoot for myself all the time, and am not ready to give it up. I love what I do too much. But man, is it tough out there!
This is so helpful!!! Thanks so much. More please!!!