Indie Toolbox

Rate Guide: Day Rates

Establishing a Day Rate

When you’re estimating costs for a project it often makes the most sense to use a day rate to come up with a rate for the overall project.

Based on AIR’s research into prevailing salaries paid to reporters, editors and producers with full time staff jobs at podcast production shops and radio stations, we’ve established the following recommendations for minimum fair and equitable day rates.

These rates don’t reflect every independent producer’s experiences or expectations. Many  independents in broadcast and podcasting charge significantly more per day, some are used to working for significantly less. These rates assume that a freelancer is able to work for pay most work days and don’t account for time spent pitching and negotiating between commissions.

These rates represent what we believe is fair. However, many public radio stations are paying freelance contributors significantly less than this. If these rates seem high, particularly if you’re in a very small market or working on a community operation, our methodology section (below) includes a formula for deriving fair day rates using existing salaries as a baseline.

Associate Producers and Production Assistants median day rate: $330

Both Associate Producer and Production Assistant are relatively junior positions, often in their first job after an internship or their first job after a bit of college audio experience. At this level staff require a fair amount of close supervision and are very much still learning. Few independent producers work at this level — by definition an indie is working with minimal supervision. Range: $50K – $72K (or $272 – 392 per day).

Reporters and Producers median day rate: $415

A producer, editor or reporter who is neither “associate” nor “senior,” usually has two to five years working in audio, but that can vary. At this level editors, reporters and producers know their craft and need minimal oversight and guidance for most routine work, but will still need direction on more advanced projects. Range: $62K – 90K (or $337 – 489 per day)

Senior Producers median day rate $570

Senior producers, reporters and editors usually have at least five years of experience, often much more. Staff at this level are mentoring or managing a team, and often have notable talent. Freelancers working at this level have demonstrated an ability to find and craft stories that are nuanced and complex or that require reporting expertise and experience covering an issue.  Range: $80K – 130K in general (or $435 – 707 per day)

Strategic Partners and Executive Producers Day rates range from $745 to $1500 and up for professionals who exceptional insight and news judgment to a project, or who are integral to developing the voice or the reach of a new show or series.

Methodology

The figures here reflect AIR’s research into both the salaries and benefits currently being paid to public radio and podcast production house staffers at every level, and the additional costs of doing business as a freelancer.  We established median salaries at each level of expertise, and used those salaries to derive a comparable day rate.

We interviewed experienced podcast production companies and radio shows about what they pay their staff. In addition, several station staffers shared union contracts, which included salary ranges, and we reviewed at 990 filings for a range of non profit public radio networks.

We found salary ranges were consistent across the range of public radio stations and podcast LLC’s that we talked to or had access to data about. The ranges do overlap, but at almost every employer we talked to the ranges overlapped internally.  In addition to salaries, staffers are generally entitled to a benefits package. Benefits vary but two sample packages are representative of what we found in our research:

     LLC A: 90% of health insurance (including dependents); dental insurance; 3 weeks of flexible vacation plus the week between Christmas and New Years; unlimited sick leave; 3% 401k match; weekly lunch; snacks available.

     LLC B: 100% of health insurance (coverage for dependents not subsidized); 2 weeks of flexible vacation plus 5 weeks of mandatory vacation; 401k with no matching; staff meals about three times per month.

Full time staffers working in an office have access to a range of intangible benefits including support vetting and refining ideas, stories and pitches; access to equipment; IT support.

Deriving Day Rates from Salaries

We added 26% to the base salary to accommodate the added costs borne by freelancers (payroll taxes, health insurance, equipment acquisition and maintenance, office space) as well as some of the benefits (eg. retirement contributions) that employers generally cover. Then we used the following assumptions to derive a reasonable day rate from an annual salary:

  • A full time job means working 5 out of every 7 days.
  • The median American professional takes 4 days of sick leave in a year.
  • 10 federal holidays
  • 3 weeks of vacation is standard for professional positions

Based on these figures, we came up with a work year of 232 days. That figure assumes that every day is a billable day, which is rarely true for freelancers. We didn’t account for the time that indies spend negotiating work, developing pitcheis that never get picked up, or managing logistics.

Nonetheless if we add 26% to the salary figure and then divide it by 232 working days, our formula looks like this:

=({Salary} * 1.26)/232

If you were paying attention in algebra you’ll notice that the above is identical to multiplying the salary figure by 0.005431.

AIR’s work on rates

AIR is actively developing a series of guides designed to help independent producers set fair and reasonable rates, and to help everyone create accurate and realistic budgets. We want to hear from you.

This guide was posted in September 2019 and has not been updated since it was posted. Our hope as an organization is that AIR can keep these rate guides up to date but if you’re reading this and it is more than a year old, you should adjust the recommended rate to reflect changes in the cost of work and living.