Pricing Your Services
This employment tool suggests parameters to help you determine how to charge for your services when you freelance, and how to convert that to salary requirements when you’re up for a full- or part-time staff position. Our goal here is to establish "minimum" fair compensation standards for the diverse field of dramaturgical work. LMDA’s Employment Tools are works in progress, so please provide feedback in the comments box below so we can continue to refine them.
So, how valuable is an hour of your dramaturgical time? Some factors to consider:
- What is your level of training/education?
- How much and what kind of experience do you have?
- Does the scope of work require basic (early-career), standard (mid-career), or specialty (seasoned) dramaturgical tasks?
- Does your personal background, identity, lived experience, or a learned specialty offer added value to the project or position?
- Do you have an established relationship with the writer, director, theatre, or other collaborator?
Since dramaturgy is still an often misunderstood profession, keep in mind that each negotiation you undertake represents both yourself and our field. Your mission is to educate and promote the value of dramaturgy at the same time that you strive to land the gig for yourself. Know that we’re behind you all the way!
Before entering any negotiation for your dramaturgical services, you should know your hourly Dramaturgy Market Rate (DMR – yes we made that up, but it sounds legit, right?) based on your education, professional experience, and service, as well as local factors like minimum wage and cost of living, and project-specific factors like specialty and lived experience.
Your DMR is what an hour of your time would be worth in the “open market,” where there are big budgets and everyone’s making good money (think commercial theatre, industrials, film & television – yes, even amid pandemic). That said, markets certainly fluctuate. Also, since many of us work in the non-profit, educational, and shoestring- or no-budget arts worlds, and you will need to create a sliding scale to match the sandbox that’s calling your name. (Our general standard is credit and compensation commensurate with designers for production dramaturgy, and with directors for new play dramaturgy.)
Dramaturgy Market Rate (DMR) Calculator
Here's a "back of the envelope" calculator to get you started on figuring out how to price an hour of your dramaturgical services, in USD (convert as needed where you are):
–> Base (local hourly minimum wage)
+ Education ($5 bachelor's degree, $10 master's degree, $10 doctorate)
+ Experience ($1 for each dramaturgy production credit)
+ Service ($1 for each committee, panel, course, or other field volunteer work)
+ Life ($1 for each background, identity, or lived-experience factor that directly adds value to a given project or position)
+ Specialty ($5-20 if you have developed unique expertise that adds value to a given project or position)
= Your DMR
Example #1: Early-Career Hermione ($25/hr)
–> $10 (Chicago/Illinois minimum wage)
+ $5 (Northwestern bachelor's)
+ $8 (4 college production credits, 3 professional credits)
+ $2 (LMDA ECD Program Committee, 1 conference)
+ $1 (lived experience)
+ $0 (still working on a specialty)
= $25 DMR
Example #2: Mid-Career Hagrid ($100/hr)
–> $13 (Portland/Metro minimum wage)
+ $25 (SDSU bachelor's, Yale master's, UW doctorate)
+ $28 (18 academic production credits, 10 professional credits)
+ $20 (6 LMDA/ATHE/college committees; 6 courses; 6 conferences; 2 award panels)
+ $4 ($1 background, $2 identity, $1 lived experience)
+ $10 (emerging specialty)
= $100 DMR
Example #3: Seasoned Dumbledore ($250/hr)
–> $15 (NYC/New York minimum wage)
+ $15 (Columbia bachelor's, Iowa master's)
+ $125 (25 academic production credits, 75 nonprofit credits, 25 commercial credits)
+ $70 (10 LMDA/TCG/NEA committees; 15 panels; 25 guest speaking; 17 conferences; 3 awards)
+ $5 ($1 background, $1 identity, $3 lived experience)
+ $20 (established specialty)
= $250 DMR
These examples demonstrate that while formal education can boost your DMR early in your career, it's experience and service that has the greatest impact, whether that comes from production, editing, teaching, conferences, or other dramaturgical acts you get under your belt.
As with law firms, where the hourly rate charged to clients varies among clerks, associates, and partners, DMR will vary among dramaturgs. Those with higher DMRs should deliver more dramaturgical bang for the hourly buck.
Now, whether you charge a given client or employer your calculated DMR will depend on various factors. (Although we’re in the process of updating the Employment Guidelines, please look at the Appendix for additional context regarding fees within the field.)
For a gig that may only take a few hours (say, perhaps, script consulting), it may be beneficial to charge hourly and stick close to your DMR. For a gig that may take many, many hours (like production dramaturgy), it may be beneficial to charge a flat fee. In these cases, it is likely that the offered fee for the gig is much less than your DMR times # of hours estimated, but DO KEEP TRACK OF YOUR HOURS (‘cause we all know that dramaturgy expands ad infinitum with our curiosity). So perhaps agree to work for a flat fee up to X amount of hours, which then triggers another conversation about compensation. Even lawyers do discounted and pro bono work, and that's okay. But you can't discount or give away your services if you don't know what your time is worth. So calculate your DMR today!
Converting DMR into a Salary
If you’re applying for a full-time staff position, multiply your hourly DMR by 40 hours then 52 weeks. For Early-Career Hermione above, that would be $25 x 40 x 52 = $52,000. Now, keep in mind that as a freelancer, your DMR needs to cover all your expenses, including health insurance and other benefits that a full-time employer may offer in addition to your salary. So Hermione may be able to work for a salary of, say $45,000 if there’s $7000 worth of benefits offered as part of the total compensation package.
Whether you can live off an offered salary is another matter entirely, and will depend on your unique circumstances, like how much student debt you have to pay off in addition to basics like rent, food, transportation, etc. LMDA advocates that any full-time literary or dramaturgical work – even starting positions – must be compensated with a livable wage or salary.
Some theatres and related organizations begin their literary/dramaturgical investment with seasonal or part-time positions. These contracts often lack benefits, so make sure that the salary or fees offered are closer to your DMR, and, as always, KEEP TRACK OF YOUR HOURS! We can’t expect employers and clients to value our work if we undervalue our time. Know how long dramaturgical tasks take you to complete, and as you develop your skills, price your services accordingly!
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