Saturday, 2 May 2015

How Much Should I Be Paid?

What you should be earning and how to ask for it.

Last week I turned down a job I'd wanted for years. Because it didn't pay enough. 

I know what you're thinking: surely if it was my *dream* job, I'd do it whatever the money? Yes, in an ideal world I would do that job for free because I love this industry and I love being a part of it. And many people sacrifice a wage for the sake of advancing their career, through un- or low-paid internships. Admirable? Maybe. Wrong? Definitely.

We have a National Minimum Wage (£6.50/hour, working out at £12,675/year) but we also have a Living Wage, for a reason. Basically, if you are expected to live off your wage, it must be equal to/more than £17,843/year in London, and £15,308 in the rest of the UK.

The job I was offered was at a *top* independent production company and they offered me just £17,000. It is almost impossible to live off that amount of money in London - so I asked for more. What surprised me was that the company didn't immediately shoot me down and were willing to negotiate. So this has led me to write this post!

How Much Should I Charge?

If you're not sure, these are the rates you should be paid, according to BECTU, the union that governs film and TV work.

Feature Film Rates 

10 hour day at £105
12 hour day at £133
50 hour week at £419
60 hour week at £534

Production Coordinator
8 hour day at £155
40 hour week at £618

Camera Assistant (AC)
10 hour day at £240
(but if the film's budget is over £40m, this becomes £430, so worth finding out and adjusting your day rate accordingly)

2nd Camera Assistant (AC) / Clapper Loader
10 hour day at £240 / £336 if high budget

Camera Trainee
10 hour day at £182 if high budget (BECTU gives no rate for budgets under £40m, but make sure you never work for less than £9.15/hour, which works out at £91.50 for 10 hours)

Sound Trainee
10 hour day at £154

2nd Assistant Sound
10 hour day at £275

Trainee Editor
10 hour day at £125

Assistant Editor
10 hour day at £200

Makeup Trainee
10 hour day at £70

Makeup Junior
10 hour day at £120

Costume Trainee
10 hour day at £100

Costume Assistant
10 hour day at £180

Television Rates 

Runner £397 (5 day week)

Junior Researcher £465 (5 day week)

Researcher £729 (5 day week)

Production Co-ordinator £803 (5 day week)

Assistant Producer £897 (5 day week)

Camera Assistant £240 / 10 hour day

Camera Operator £319 / 10 hour day

Sound Recordist £319 / 10 hour day

Holiday Pay & Overtime

Productions are scheduled so tight that as a general rule nobody takes days during the job (if you're working a 4 week shoot, they're unlikely to let you have 5 days off to top up your tan in Marbs). Instead, you should be paid that money on top of your wage and this should equate to 12.1% of the basic rate. The rates listed above INCLUDE holiday pay already.

BECTU also states that premiums should be charged for overtime or working unsocial hours. This should be charged at time and a half (T1.5). So if you're a feature film runner and you're contracted to a 10 hour day, once that's elapsed you should get an extra £15.75/hour.

Are These Rates Enough?

I thought I'd do a little experiment to test the BECTU rates against the London Living Wage (£17,843).

Let's say you're a feature film runner, on the weekly rate £419 a week. Now it's unlikely you'll have work booked every single week, because of gaps between productions, so let's say you work 3 weeks a month. That £1,257/month. That equates to £15,084 a year - BELOW London Living Wage.

If you do manage to work every week (52), that's still only £17,464 a year - still BELOW London Living Wage.

However, if you're a feature film runner working on a day rate of £105, you will earn £27,300 a year, which isn't too bad at all**.

So while these BECTU rates are good to measure against, you should always check that you're earning the Living Wage. I would also point out that these rates were decided in 2009 and should be reviewed to make sure they reflect modern living costs (they don't).

More info on BECTU and its rates can be found here.

**Weekly rates amount to less than day rates because you are paying for the security of ongoing work. But equally, if you're contracted for a week but they only use you for 3 days, you are within your rights to charge a cancellation fee to cover those 2 other days. The argument being that you couldn't accept other work in that time and your time is not free.

How To Negotiate

You've been through the interviews and you're waiting to hear back - finally you get the phone call. Mine went like this...

Employer: "Hi, we really like you and you're one of two preferred candidates for the job. I just wanted to discuss salary with you."

Immediately I go into a silent panic.

Employer: "We pay £17,000 and offer 25 days holiday. I need to know if you'll take it."

Me: "Ok, thank you so much, obviously I'm thrilled. But please could I take some time to think about the pay and work out my finances a little?"

Employer (with a sigh): "Um, yes. But I need to know by the end of the day. Like I said, we have somebody else waiting."

Me: "I understand, I'll call you back asap."

This call came at 17:12 so they hadn't exactly left me much time to consider their offer. I don't know if it was intentional on their part, but this is a tactic used by recruiters all the time. They pile on the pressure to get you to agree in a panic, to stop you negotiating. Which means, guys, that there is room to negotiate.

After doing some quick maths (lies, see tool below) I worked out that on this money I could afford rent, bills and a travelcard - literally nothing would be left for food, toiletries and basic living expenses. So I'd have a great job but I'd starve to death once I'd eaten the contents of my cupboard, including that unopened, bought-on-a-health-whim bag of quinoa.

I called the company back at 17:30.

Me: "Hi, again thank you so much for the offer, I've wanted to work with you for ages. But unfortunately I simply can't afford to live off that wage, as much as I'd love to."

Employer: "Ok. How much do you need?"


It worked out that what I required to live off was too much for them, so ultimately I had to turn it down. But I could have increased what they were offering to £20,000 a year. My point is NEVER accept their first offer because they will always have a little more in the pot and they aren't going to give it to you unless you ask. Just make sure you have a good reason for asking for more, whether it's making rent or because you feel your experience or level of responsibility should be reflected in your pay.

All I hope is that the contender I was up against remembered to negotiate. But I have a feeling they probably didn't.

A Handy Tool

Your best friend when it comes to working out wages and tax is Money Saving Expert's Tax Calculator. It breaks down your earnings so you can see what you'll take home after tax (or, if you're a freelancer, what you should set aside for your tax return) and makes everything very clear to understand. It even tells you how much of your student loan you'll repay. I use it every time I'm applying for a job.