Author Topic: Negotiating Rates  (Read 2478 times)

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Cberne

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Negotiating Rates
« on: Mar 27, 2016, 05:13 pm »
Hi everyone-

I've searched and have seen some posts on here that are similar, but none that really address my query.

Since I joined equity a few years ago, I have started booking more work more consistently. Up until recently, I always take the rate that is offered (minimum) and work hard to leave a good impression. In the fall I signed a lease and moved into a nice apartment in Brooklyn and have really started taking my finances, career, and needs more seriously. I can't work for nothing anymore. I have responsibilities now.

As I have been interviewing and getting offers for summer work, I have been making a serious push to negotiate the weekly rate up. I've had mixed results– some asking for what number it would take to get me (they couldn't go that high), some just saying that the minimum was all they were willing to pay.

What has your experience with this been and what tactics do you use to negotiate the rate up?

dallas10086

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Re: Negotiating Rates
« Reply #1 on: Mar 30, 2016, 10:27 am »
Remember that your rate isn't the only thing you can negotiate. You can include a travel stipend, gas stipend, I think some SMs here have even negotiated boarding for their pets while they're out-of-town.

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Maribeth

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Re: Negotiating Rates
« Reply #2 on: Mar 30, 2016, 06:13 pm »
Dallas makes a good point about other benefits that can be negotiated. A few things to add to the list are parking and meals. Meals are not something I would ask for on an AEA production, necessarily, but it is something that I would ask for doing festival or event work. I have had relative success in asking for parking- some theatres have deals with nearby garages and it doesn't "cost" the theatre that much to give it to you, but saves you a good deal.

One of the tactics that I have used successfully in the past is to back up my request with examples of why I think the higher salary is reasonable. For a short gig that I worked on, I asked for a higher fee based on the amount of meetings and prep work expected. Once I laid out the amount of additional work that would be required of me, the producer agreed to the higher fee.

Are you finding that your "magic number" is significantly higher than what is offered? If it's a theatre that pays $400/week minimum, then asking for $600 might be more of a jump then they are prepared for, where $450 might be more reasonable.

The tricky thing is that some theatres budget a certain amount for stage managers and aren't willing to negotiate up, knowing that if you don't take the job at the minimum salary, they won't have a problem finding someone else that will. It's still worth asking, in my opinion.

The other thing you can do is look for larger contracts at larger theatres. I know that's probably not the advice you are looking for in terms of negotiating but it is a good way to work for a higher salary. Sometimes it's about being choosier about the jobs you accept, knowing that you might turn down work if it doesn't pay enough to cover your bills. There are also good reasons to take a job at the AEA minimum, even if it's not really "enough"- developing a relationship with a theatre or director, making connections in a new city, keeping busy if you don't have anything lined up, getting the work weeks to maintain your health insurance coverage, etc. Consider the balance of short-term benefits vs. long-term benefits.

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SMrose

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Re: Negotiating Rates
« Reply #3 on: Mar 31, 2016, 09:45 am »
Are these companies you have relationships with already?

My experience with negotiating a higher rate has come after working once or twice for a company at the rate or fee they have set. (If it's not the rate/fee I'm willing to work for, I turn them down or don't even apply.)  Once we have worked with each other, if they aren't willing to give me a "raise" (should I feel the compensation is low for the work load), I move on.  On occasion, the companies have used someone else (when they didn't want to pay me more) and after that experience, have called and asked if I'll do the next show with the increase.  That is not always the case, however.
« Last Edit: Mar 31, 2016, 09:47 am by SMrose »

MatthewShiner

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Re: Negotiating Rates
« Reply #4 on: Apr 07, 2016, 12:47 pm »
This is very tricky.

I usually start at 10% over minimum (This is a number that most producers are aware of because usually agents don't get a fee unless their actors are being paid the 10% of minimum).

But, a lot of the times, the budget is the budget and you don't get a lot of wiggle room on negotiating the salary (and if you are in favored nations, well that complicates things).

Yes, negotiate the other things - travel, housing, car, parking, higher per diem (this is often how I have gotten around the favored nations issue . . .), a firm petty cash situation (So you won't be spending any of your money), taxi/metro reimbursement, meals during tech, and extra day off, etc.

If you have to negotiate the salary, you need to start up-selling yourself on what you bring over the minimum . . . do you have a long history with that producer?  long history with the director?  history with that type of production (musical, dance, etc)?  supervision and training of interns, PA's, house ASMs?  Are you going to be a doing a lot of work prior to the event . . . can you negotiate a longer contract, thus raising your income.  (Seasonal work, if I have gotten two weeks of prep . . . and that extra week of work helped make up for the lower weekly salary.)

These are all tricky up-sells since there are probably other SMs who are willing to do the job for less.  So, the thing about negotiating the higher salary you might need to be prepared to lose the job or do it for minimum.

I often "accept" the job, and deal with the details at a later date.  Often then they have released other potential SMs, and then I  negotiate the details - yes, I am prepared to work for minimum at the contract level I work at . . . but it gives me a wee bit of negotiation room if they don't have three other people chomping at the bit.  I tend to start conversations "Yes, I am doing this job, but it would be nice to if we can find a higher salary for the job" - and then I go into the sell.

But the best answer is to work on larger contracts where the minimum is meets or exceeds your minimum needs.
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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

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