Whenever I get paid, i set aside some funds for tax, for super (national retirement), for business growth and the rest goes into the family pot.
I moved to Australia about half way through my career.
My work is, 40% fashion, 30% e-commerce, 10% video and 20% advertising. Majority of the brands are very well known locally and internationally. It’s not rare to be driving around or walking through the shops and see images I’ve worked on. I get the odd local start up brand, but those jobs are pretty rare now. My partner always gets a kick out of it, she loves hearing about what went into getting the shot and what was happening just outside of frame.
I work full time, average 4 days a week. If it’s a slow, I’ll take a weekend gig or two, but make an effort not to. I like enjoying my weekends.
I don’t have a lot of overhead. Once a year I will invest a little into my kit; i’ll buy equipment that people often forget to bring on set, or equipment that is frequently hired. I typically leave it in the car so it’s always available in an emergency. This has saved the day a number of times over the years and I’m sure has led to more work.
Otherwise, my expenses are just what ever the ATO allows me to claim as a deduction. I always put away at least 10% into my Super fund, sometimes more if i have had a good week/month.
More and more agencies and clients are paying super; i wouldn’t say it’s common yet, but it’s becoming more popular. No one really knows what you should or shouldn’t be doing, and no one can decide if it’s supposed to be paid as part of your day rate or on top of your rate. I think a union like they have in America or Britain would help a lot in standardizing these kinds of things.
In 2021 i worked about 100 days, and in 2022 i worked over 150 days.
I think the pandemic (and last few years) has had a huge impact on the industry. For a number of reasons, rates have increased: A good portion of the assistants in town have either left the country, left the industry or have started shooting themselves. The cost of living has gone up significantly in our city, we were able to be selective as to who we work for because everyone kept wanting to shoot here. Also, I’m hearing that new assistants are charging nearly as much, if not more than seasoned pros. So in order to make up for it, we’ve raised our rates accordingly.
I think this last one hurts the industry as a whole. Why would anyone hire an assistant with 1 or 2 years experience when they can pay an extra $50 or $100 and get someone with 7-10 years behind them? I think this is bad for the industry as a whole because they don’t get on set, they don’t get experience and it’s a struggle on big/busy days.
My average day is about 9 hours. More and more jobs are going into OT though, which I typically don’t mind, but 11-12 hour days get tiresome really fast.
My day rate is $600 for 10hour day, Overtime after 2 hours, double time after that. I don’t do half days anymore, it’s not worth it. I might give a small discount if it’s a good or long term client and their desperate, but never for new clients.
I don’t do a lot of seasonal jobs. It’s warm here most of the year so we can shoot outdoors almost any day, provided it’s not raining. Bring some sunblock and you’ll be fine.
My terms are strict 28 days and it’s generally respected, i either get paid within 24 hours or on the 28 day mark. People who take longer don’t tend to stay clients of mine for long.
Best job was a multi week shoot for a major Australian brand. It was very relaxed, full day rates, lunch catered every day etc… It was outside the city so i should have charged for travel as well, but i just ate it in exchange for the cash. It was during the pandemic while some parts of the country were shut down so I was just counting my lucky stars I had income.
I think i came out with just shy of $10K. I had a hard time getting paid because it was flagged with the ATO (Aus Tax Office), so it took a while to get the cash cleared but made my year.
Worst paying job was a job with a new client that came from out of town. I thought we had agreed on rates, but turns out our city uses industry terms differently then they do, so there was a bit of back and forth after they received my bill; In the end, I was left with essentially a 50% pay cut for an extra long days work.
I work on a little bit of Video. Some of my clients shoot video, and it’s becoming more and more common to be on set with a videographer as well as a stills crew. I still charge my usual rates, and my roles vary from just general hands on deck to data wrangler.
Even though i’m less experienced on video than i am on stills, i feel i bring value on set because i know how they like to operate, how the like to light, how they like to run their days etc… only thing i can’t do (yet) is operate the camera or focus pull.
I market myself via instagram. I try and shoot personal work, or just shoot when I’m out and about doing stuff. I feel like my creative vision is a good marketing tool, people have told me they’re hire me because of the way i see certain things. Otherwise, it’s just word of mouth.
Worst Advice: they have more money, take it and run.
This is the worst advice because I’ve found success doing the exact opposite. I prefer to leave that $50 or $100 on the table in exchange for building trust or not charge for a quick short favour; I think karma has taken good care of me.
Best Advice: say no.
Say no and stick to it.. It could be a low ball offer, being asked for a discount just this one time or doing something way outside your comfort zone. You might lose that job, you might lose that client, but everyone will respect you and you won’t have to deal with that anymore.
Stop thinking about other assistants as your competition, and think of them as your peers. Talk to reach other other, be kind to each other, ask questions, share your rates and how you would charge x or y. We don’t have a union but we can still work together.
If someone isn’t paying you on time, isn’t treating you well on set, is being disrespectful, stop working for them. There’s so much work out there, people are getting flown in from other cities because there is such a shortage of good, qualified help. Just say no.
Learn how to use your tools. The amount of times i have someone hand me a camera or laptop and say “make it do x” is just incredible. For a while, i was in different people’s phone book as “John Smith – Phase 1”. Knowing those little obscure tricks and features has rally helped me gain the client base i have now.