travel time?
/forum/topic/1148357/0



david debalko
Registered: Jun 05, 2006
Total Posts: 818
Country: United States

I know this was covered at some point in the past but I can't seem to find it- I have a 3 hour job that is 2 1/2 hours away. so I will travel for 5 hours for a 3 hour job, the client really wants me to cover it and says they will pay for my travel time. I want to say charge half my hourly rate for the travel time plus mileage. any suggestions will be appreciated
Dave



swoop
Registered: Feb 11, 2005
Total Posts: 1491
Country: United States

You can do it that way or you can charge per mile.



Genes Home
Registered: Mar 12, 2008
Total Posts: 1444
Country: United States

I would say do anything you want that covers the income you WOULD have made while working.

Your concept of charging a discounted hourly rate plus mileage is something the customer should understand with no problem.

If you charge mileage, check the IRS allowance and use that as your basis (minimum).



the888account
Registered: Oct 21, 2011
Total Posts: 339
Country: United Kingdom

Charge your hourly rate.

This is what I used to do when contracting (not photography). Its per hour regardless of if I'm working, driving or sitting on a plane for the client.



pr4photos
Registered: Sep 17, 2008
Total Posts: 1118
Country: United Kingdom

I charge a mileage rate that covers my time and expenses to get to the location. If I tried my hourly rate I simply wouldn't get the work



david debalko
Registered: Jun 05, 2006
Total Posts: 818
Country: United States

This topic recently came up again for me, I live in Philly and will be doing a job up in Boston. I have to take a lot of photo gear so I think I will drive. I am shooting Tues, Wed, Thur with Mon and Fri left as travel days. I am trying to decide how to bill for Mon and Fri? I will probably get there early enough on Mon that I will drop off gear and do some scouting/setting up and Fri I might do some work as well.
Any thoughts on Mon and Fri



RustyBug
Registered: Feb 02, 2009
Total Posts: 13572
Country: United States

If you made the drive on Tuesday & Thursday (long day I know) ... how would you charge?

Also, if you were hiring a camera repairman to come to you to work on your gear at your location, how would you expect him to charge you for his travel time?

Time is time ... the value of it is one thing. The cost of mileage expenses (plane, train or automobile) are different things (gas, oil, tires, depreciation @ standard IRS rate, etc.).

Whenever I travel for other (non-photography) industry work, I'm "on the clock" while traveling, even if they pay for 100% for the plane ticket up front, etc. When I'm working for someone else (as in a regular employer or contract staffing firm), they might be the ones paying for my "on the clock" time, which is being absorbed into their overhead that they are passing through to their client, or they just count it as "billable time" that they present separately to the client. It can go either way, but it still is getting paid.

If my agreed upon hourly rate is "premium" I may choose to absorb my time into it. If my agreed upon hourly rate is "low margin" ... I may not have any room to absorb the cost of my time.

But, when working for yourself, you are now the one responsible for billing sufficiently for your "on the clock" while traveling. Whether it is billed separately as "travel time" & "mileage" or as "expenses" or built in to your billing otherwise (part of overhead) is largely a matter of semantics & presentation (and tax accounting).

The salient point here is that SOMEBODY (me, employer, contract house, client) is paying for those costs of "time" and "mileage". It's your call at who is responsible to cover those costs. Imagine if the client asked you to go to the South Pole ... how would you charge for the travel expenses of time & money? The issue becomes a bit more clear when exaggerated as such, in that you would either have to raise your "rate" to be able to "eat" the costs ... or you'd have to bill for the travel time/expense separately ... or you'd have to "pass" on the job because it would no longer be sufficiently profitable due to the erosion of you margin by your travel costs (time & mileage expenses).

Most business realizes that travel has an external cost. They also understand (sometimes needing a reminder) that it needs to be a profitable endeavor for you as well. They don't want their margins eroded by others imposing on them costs that they wouldn't normally incur, it is only reasonable that you be extended the same. Whether you are on "premium" or "low margin" rates will have some input regarding your approach @ 1/2 your normal rate, full rate or none. Do the math for the gig "cradle to grave" and see how you fare overall regarding your margin. That will give you some insight as to whether you are "eroding" yours vs. "gouging" theirs.

If it only takes you a 1/2 day of travel, then bill for a 1 /2 day of travel. It will be your decision as to whether to leave the day before or very early the day of. They typically only want it to be fair. Ask yourself, how would you expect them to bill you if it were reversed ... and proceed accordingly.

Here's a reverse thought. If you could "Beam me up, Scotty" to their location ... how much would you charge for your time to get there? Likely none for the time ... but the cost you paid Scotty to get you there (in minimal time) would be one that you would pass on. Slow boat to China or Concorde across the pond ... time & money.





cgardner
Registered: Nov 18, 2002
Total Posts: 9376
Country: United States

Apart from billing a consideration is being able to schedule your time in advance and having the ability to book more than one client a day. Booking your location shoot time in 4hr (9-12) / (1-5) and 8hr (9-5 with lunch break) at the customer blocks simplifies that task. You might also have >8 hours overtime rate of $X with a 4 hr. min.

Include the cost of your time to travel within a 30 mile radius (60 miles R/T) into those rates. On the price list specify jobs greater than 30 miles will be quoted on a case by case basis. That covers the bases in case you need to rent a vehicle, or fly and rent car / gear. The min would be your hourly rate, the max. is what the traffic will bear. For a 4 hour job 100 miles away include the cost of a round of afternoon golf, book a 1PM tee time and plan to get up early

All the customer wants to know is that the job will cost $X and you will be there at 9 or 1. So if you book a 9-5 slot and it's closer the 15 mile average you get to sleep in an extra 1/2 hour. If it's at the outer reaches of your "Thirty Mile Zone" you'll need to set the alarm an hour earlier.

The half day blocks encourage the 1/2 day client to be organized and not run over and trigger the full day rate. The 8 hr. customer will have the incentive to wrap at 5 and avoid the overtime minimum.

Having a price list like that doesn't mean you can't negotiate, it just gives you a framework to negotiate to your advantage. For example a nearby client with a 2 hr. job might balk at paying the 1/2 rate. If it means losing a job for a new customer with long term potential you can always agree to bill at your standard 1/2 day rate but apply a "new customer" introductory discount to keep the integrity of the billing structure intact and still get the job. That way the perception is that you're cutting him a break he shouldn't necessarily expect all the time.

I did that with printing clients. All jobs were estimated and billed the same way regardless of customer, but there was discretion to discount the total for some clients.



markd61
Registered: May 26, 2009
Total Posts: 471
Country: United States

RustyBug and CGardner are right on.

Many new photographers get excited about the "glamour" of travel and in their desire to get the job will under price themselves.

We only have so many days in our life. I sell my days whether I am shooting or not. The price is the same because of the opportunity cost.

When I get a request for a quote out of area I calculate a total price. The client does not want to hear "$X for this and $Y for that." I charge for all time at the same rate. I also add a premium for the hassle of travel. In many ways the hassle is far more taxing than photography.
Some clients balk and decide on going with a local photographer. Others pay my rate as I am a known quantity and can be relied upon to deliver what they are looking for. Either way I am pricing to my point of indifference.



RustyBug
Registered: Feb 02, 2009
Total Posts: 13572
Country: United States

markd61 wrote: Either way I am pricing to my point of indifference.


+1 @ value of indifference resolving emotion vs. business objectives.

I told a fellow photographer once that I didn't like shooting weddings like I did back in the 80's. His reply was "Price them high enough that you do like doing them." It'll make it so you either shoot fewer or your bank account will get happier about it. And the ones you do shoot you'll enjoy (less frequent rate race, more $$$) more. I still don't shoot weddings (I refer to him, where he either accepts or passes) ... but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the wisdom of this nugget just might be a keeper.

His selectivity has garnered him the likes of traveling/shooting for a full week for a destination wedding with the family putting him up in resort accommodations the duration ... something he didn't pass on. Makes me wonder how much he "liked" that one.



Micky Bill
Registered: Nov 25, 2006
Total Posts: 2688
Country: N/A

markd61 wrote:
Snip

We only have so many days in our life. I sell my days whether I am shooting or not. The price is the same because of the opportunity cost.

Snip


I'd have hard time charging my clients to pay me the same amount to shoot as I do for travel. I charge a percentage of the fee for travel days. I feel a premium on the time I am shooting makes more sense to me. I also charge a lesser amount for pre production and post production.



RustyBug
Registered: Feb 02, 2009
Total Posts: 13572
Country: United States

Is the pre-production or post-production any less important to the client being delivered the final image that is "your" work? Or, could you simply outsource your pp because your input to it has no consequence on the final image, once you click the image? In which case the value of your pre-production is likely worth more than your post-production.

But, either way most images aren't simply an sooc effort, it is a combination of at least two of the three. GWAC's know how to push the button, and some know how to use post- to cover their tracks ... many times they do not understand the value on pre-.

The final product is a culmination of T&E (time & expense) and the pre-production, production and post-production efforts necessary to yield a final product to the market. No different than the business of making a "widget" really. Transportation costs, raw materials, various stage of processing, packaging, marketing and delivery (et al overhead) all cost the manufacturer of a product to produce such a product.

We are likewise manufacturers of images ... and all costs should be considered. If you can't bring it to market for a cost that affords you an appropriate margin, then you might want to reconsider whether or not it is worth the effort to make it available to the market.

Even a cab driver keeps the meter running when he's not driving, if you're commanding his (standing/idle) time ... as you are keeping him from other revenue opportunities. Whether or not he would actually get it is a debatable unknown, but the basic premise is that it is a known that he is sacrificing that opportunity on your behalf.

When we purchase a final product at a retail store (i.e. we went to the store's location), the breakdown on cost to manufacture is not present to the consumer ... only the final cost.
When we purchase a final product and have it delivered, it is product cost + shipping (or "free" shipping in overhead/margin)
When soliciting bids or receiving the invoice from a contractor, it is common to have a breakdown of T&M (time & materials).

How your package (and present with savvy) your costs and whether or not you reveal the various components of those costs to your client ... that's variable and it's your business, your call (variable strategies abound for each). Just don't discount the value of those components disproportionately or unfairly to yourself ... somebody (mfr or end consumer), somewhere, sometime is going to pay for them, i.e. there is no such thing as a free lunch.



RDKirk
Registered: Apr 11, 2004
Total Posts: 8976
Country: United States

Whenever I travel for other (non-photography) industry work, I'm "on the clock" while traveling, even if they pay for 100% for the plane ticket up front, etc. When I'm working for someone else (as in a regular employer or contract staffing firm), they might be the ones paying for my "on the clock" time, which is being absorbed into their overhead that they are passing through to their client, or they just count it as "billable time" that they present separately to the client. It can go either way, but it still is getting paid.

Yes, sir. If I am on salary with a company and they're sending me on a business trip, I expect to get my full salary even if some of that time was spent sitting in an airport or on a plane.



Ralph Thompson
Registered: Jan 02, 2008
Total Posts: 1275
Country: United States

I had an internship at the largest commercial/portrait studio in our area (long, long ago...when I was young). I went on a shoot and asked how do they charge for a shoot? This was a shoot 90 minutes away. The photographer said they charged $x/hr. as soon as the key went into the car to start it, and the clock didn't stop until they took the key out. This did not count print costs. This studio was big, their work was stellar, they were in high demand and their clients didn't blink.

Now on the other end of the spectrum, a local photographer I work with recently shot a job about an hour's drive away. He only charged for the time he was on site. However, he wants to charge travel time. He charges around $150/hr on-location time. As mentioned earlier, you can charge a drive time rate (plus mileage?), nor not. It all depends on how hungry you are and if you're in high demand. It could be easy to charge yourself out of the market. But on the otherhand, many of our clients are prepared to pay for our time, we just need to ask and be fair.



markd61
Registered: May 26, 2009
Total Posts: 471
Country: United States

Micky Bill wrote:
markd61 wrote:
Snip

We only have so many days in our life. I sell my days whether I am shooting or not. The price is the same because of the opportunity cost.

Snip


I'd have hard time charging my clients to pay me the same amount to shoot as I do for travel. I charge a percentage of the fee for travel days. I feel a premium on the time I am shooting makes more sense to me. I also charge a lesser amount for pre production and post production.


A premium on the time shooting or a discount on travel are two ways of saying that you want to net the same for shooting all day in your studio.
We all have trepidation about asking for money but the fact remains that if you charge a discounted rate for travel you net less per hour than while working in the studio.

When I owned a photo lab we used to have photographers tell us that they printed their own work because they saved so much money. My response was that they made more money shooting than printing so why weren't they out shooting?
I can fix my own faucets but I don't because I can make more money doing work for my clients that allows me to pay a pro to fix them for a decent income to him/her.
In the same way, a client can pay me to drive/fly or swim but the price for my time is the same.

As I said before, I have only so many days left. My clients can buy them for list price or I can give them to my family for free.



Micky Bill
Registered: Nov 25, 2006
Total Posts: 2688
Country: N/A

None of the photographers I know can book every day as a shooting day no matter how much they want to.
Im not a cab driver so i dont charge the same way cabs do. I'm not on a salary so I don't get paid the same rate every day no matter what I do. I charge for usage on to top of a creative fee, sometimes it's a per shot rate sometimes a day rate. Pre and post production as well as digital post production all have various rates the clients expect and accept. I don't charge the same for the various hats I wear because the different hats require different skill sets, the highest skill being the photography, so it's not that simple.



RustyBug
Registered: Feb 02, 2009
Total Posts: 13572
Country: United States

Micky Bill wrote: sometimes it's a per shot rate sometimes a day rate.

This illustrates the variability at how you package & present. But I'd venture to say that in each case it is in line with (big picture) margin expectations for profitability, even if variable @ task/assignment, etc..

Long ago, I was in Mexico haggling with an old woman sitting on a blanket on the street corner over some silver jewelry she had spread out on her blanket. Having literally sailed around the world the year before, I'd been to many different countries and spent many hours bartering with merchants, so I was pretty well versed in doing so. After me driving down her price to the point that I felt like I had just gotten the "deal of the day", we resumed our travels.

As we continue on our way, I'm feeling really good that I was so smart and had been so savvy with my haggling. But then, the moment I stepped off the curb onto the street, it donned on me ... she STILL made a profit. She wouldn't have sold it to me unless it was profitable for her to do so, even if she let me THINK I was getting the better of her. She knew her costs, she knew her overhead, she knew her margin, she knew her customer, she knew her needs. Granted, she didn't have an MBA or even know the definition of margin ... but she knew what her costs were and what would present a profitable endeavor for her. All that, while she was but an "uneducated" (yet profitable) old woman on a street corner in Mexico.

She knew her costs ... we should know ours. Travel is a cost, how you compensate & package for it ... your business, your call. Just think it through in context with the other pieces of your puzzle, as well as how palatable it is going to be presented to your customer.







RDKirk
Registered: Apr 11, 2004
Total Posts: 8976
Country: United States

I don't charge the same for the various hats I wear because the different hats require different skill sets, the highest skill being the photography, so it's not that simple.

I used to think and price that way until I learned better. The rules of business apply to any business, whether you're hired a photographer or you are the photographer.

The highest skills--and these are pretty much equal--are personal marketing and the photography. The other hats that require lesser skill really ought to be outsourced to people you pay less. Otherwise you want to devote your time to either marketing or photography. Any job that truly requires the time of a photographer should still be billed at the rate of a photographer.



Micky Bill
Registered: Nov 25, 2006
Total Posts: 2688
Country: N/A

Maybe you are right, I don't know...but not in the market that I am usually in. Here is a clip about how art buyers and clients look at billing / estimating

http://tinyurl.com/astpnow

If you FF 6:30 minutes into the talk a buyer explains the difference in fee for shooting or tech scout etc. This probably only makes sense to people doing advertising type of work. A direct to consumer formula would be different. One size doesn't fit all.



markd61
Registered: May 26, 2009
Total Posts: 471
Country: United States

I saw from that video that the buyers are a disparate lot who have different needs and wants. They all talked about getting receipts and itemization for costs incurred. The first one "inferred"(!) the quality of the bid from the amount and leaped to a conclusion based on what she "knew" costs to be.

The fellow you cite as saying that scouting and pre-production costs are at 1/4 to 1/2 the day rate is really saying that those tasks are lower skilled time intensive tasks that do not need the skills of the photographer and can be delegated to an assistant or a producer whose job IS to do those tasks for less. He is also saying that IF the photographer is going to do those tasks then he WILL be paid less. What this also implies is that the photographer who lacks the resources to hire an assistant or work with a production company is going to be challenged by those large scale jobs. This does weed out those who lack experience in managing and bidding ambitious projects. It also explains why agencies (despite the shrinking of budgets) still pay seemingly large sums to those who can reliably deliver the goods.

When competing at the local level photographers are rarely working with experienced agencies. Most often we deal with an in-house marketing person who may or may not understand what things cost. They do love a bottom line price as this is something they can reconcile with their budget.
As Rusty pointed out the woman selling the jewelry did make a profit as she really knew her costs AND she had an idea of how much money she needed/wanted to make on a daily/weekly or annual basis.
If you feel a need to show a discounted price for travel you are still fashioning a bid that will pay you what you want but will show the client a lower price that they amy be more willing to accept.

But going to the original question of charging less for travel is how does that fit into your total compensation? If, by traveling you net a lower income and suffer the travails of travel why are you doing it?

If your local business environment is such that you feel you need to seek jobs that require travel then that is a judgement you make. If you can get your desired rate without travel then hooray! As you note none of us works all day at our daily rate but that is beside the point. We pay the tow truck guy a seemingly crazy price because we are paying for him to be there when we need him. He has costs that go on all year but he gets calls only occasionally.

The big picture is we have a target goal for annual income. We bid as needed but without a plan based on estimated volume we have a hard time calculating costs. With experience we know that we can expect a certain range of bookings we then need to calculate the average revenue needed from each job. Not all jobs are the same and some will be more profitable than others. But as RDKirk noted above, if you can get someone to do a task for less than you need, then you should get them to do it and spend your time marketing or shooting. Unfortunately, we still can't outsource our travel time.