PA Rate… and Raises

I’ve talked before about PA rate in a blog post appropriately titled… “PA Rate.” Everything there still applies, but I wanted to talk for a moment about negotiating for a higher rate.

On every PA interview I’ve been on, the coordinator will ask either “What’s your rate?” or “What did they pay you on your last show?”. For my first few shows, I was a sucker, and I answered truthfully. On my first show, I told them that it was my first real show, and they paid me $125/day. I’d say that’s pretty fair for how much I knew and how much work I was doing.

On my second show, I told them that I had made $125/day, so they turned around and paid me… $125/day. An interview for my third show went as follows:

Coordinator: What did [a coordinator whom we’ve both worked for] pay you on your last show?
Me: One-hundred-twenty-five dollars a day. What’s the rate here?
Coordinator: I think that’s about right. That’s what we’re paying PAs.

But aha! I learned my lesson. No matter what rate I had told him, he would have answered with the same response. “That’s about right.” So on my next interview after that, I upped my rate. A WHOPPING $5/DAY!

I'm rich, bitch.
With my $5 raise, I am now the 1%.

The moral of the story is that you should set your rate, instead of your last boss setting it for you. Ask for what you think you’re worth. The worst that can happen is that they say “no.” (This has happened to me. I’ve priced myself out of a job. It’s soul-wrenching, but you’re only as good as your rate, so it doesn’t do you any good to low-ball yourself.)

…Says the guy who’s currently unemployed.

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7 Responses

  1. Seriously everybody, DO NOT low-ball yourself on your rate. If you’re working a reality show or something like that, honestly there’s not much you can do to get above that $125/day line unless it’s already in the company’s plans… but if you start working commercial or industrial gigs, and people call you out of nowhere asking about your availability… if they ask your rate, that means that they have some wiggle room. Aim high, whatever the highest rate you’ve earned is, say that. Give a range, but definitely mention the top end.

    On commercials in Atlanta, $200 is pretty much what you’re going to make… but! I have one company that pays me $250 for 10 hrs. If I hadn’t bothered to ask about overtime, I would have never known to invoice it. Of course, be aware that if you ask about overtime on most jobs they’ll lookat you like you’re on drugs.

    While on a PA gig I usually get $200, when asked about my rate I always say “Usually either $200 or $250.” And guess what? It has happened more than once that a PM or whoever’s calling was in a good mood, and said “Alright, well let’s go with $250.” That’s $50/day extra that I got just for saying that’s what I make sometimes.

    Also, if you’re not obsessed with getting your DGA days in or something, don’t sell your abilities short or confine yourself to the realm of the PA when you could be doing other things. Make friends with an art director, and eventually they’ll need an art/props assist when their regulars are busy… and then you’re getting $300/day + overtime, and probably an extra day for returns or prep.

  2. Jobs here are few and far between I’d much rather take a rate cut and work, make connections, and add another credit to my resume than sit at home twiddling my thumbs.

    But what I’ve learned is that PA rates will vary even on the same gig – production will take PAs for the lowest they can get them – Once on a low budget indie, I worked for gas money and nothing else. It was only at the last day of production I learned that the other PAs had negotiated rates ranging from 25 to 50 a day – still a far cry from the $150/day standard PA rate around here, but apparently well within the means of this lower budget production. And lightyears above the gas/bridge toll reimbursement I had gotten stuck with.

    It’s learning to perform the tricky balance of getting as much as you can out of production without pricing yourself out of the job entirely. But what I learned is that if you’re just starting out, and you’re taking those low budget gigs that advertise on craigslist and claim to have no money for PAs – take it with a grain of salt.

      1. Hey TAPA,In my eixnrpeece, even paid PA positions can be sketchy sometimes. I’ve worked a couple shows where the PAs get paid a flat day rate, no matter how many hours we work. Are these jobs I should not be taking? I am completely fine paying my dues, and the people who are hiring me tell me that $100/day is decent for a PA (I’m in a Tier III state), but at the end of the day (after wrap) it doesn’t sit right in my stomach. There’s always the concern that I won’t be called back if I make trouble, but at what point does standing up for myself take precedence?

  3. I just wanted to take a minute and say how much I love your blog and say thank you. I’ve been reading it forever. I wish I knew you in real life so we could be best friends and complain or boast about our lives. But, I think you might speak for all of us so I will probably find a friend like you anyway. Haha. Cheers!

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