Long-Term Construction Time-lapse: What Should You Charge Your Clients?
If you’re trying to win your first construction timelapse job, it's hard to figure out what to charge clients.
That's why it’s one of the most common questions we get.
Pricing your service right will help you win jobs and maximize your income.
Price it wrong and unexpected costs can really cut into your bottom line.
While we can’t tell you exactly what to charge in your local market, we can provide guidance on the sorts of costs and other factors that should guide your pricing strategy.
Construction Time-lapse: Common Costs
Costs for your project can be one-off or recurring.
One-off costs include equipment, duties and taxes, installation, and site access accreditation.
Recurring costs include your construction timelapse cloud service, cellular data, and maintenance visits.
1. Equipment Costs
First, who’s paying for the equipment; you or client? There are pros and cons to either option.
If you pay, you will own the equipment, but pay a big cost out of your own pockets.
The upside is that you’ll be able to reuse it on other projects in the future.
If your client pays, you won’t pay out of pocket, but they will likely own the equipment once the job is finished.
Don’t forget to also check what duties or taxes are applicable on imports to your country.
2. Installation Costs
Who will pay for mounting the unit?
This often requires planting a pole, pouring concrete, and/or hiring a scissor life. Specialized personnel may also need to be hired.
Often clients have access to personnel and resources which let them do these tasks easily. They are a construction company!
If you decide to do those tasks yourself, you may need to pay for construction site access certification.
For help with planning your project, click here.
3. Monthly Costs
Recurring monthly costs include the subscription fee for cloud services, and cellular data.
A construction timelapse cloud service allows you to charge for up-to-date remote site monitoring and project management tools.
So, make sure to factor in these subscription costs to your own fees.
Cellular data costs will often be higher than anticipated if left to approximation.
Taking the time to calculate data costs can save you from a nasty surprise when your bills later.
We’ve made calculating your cellular data costs dead simple with our Time-lapse Data Calculator.
4. Maintenance Costs
Despite your best laid plans, you still have to deal with Murphy’s Law.
Dust storms, spider web over the glass, falling debris…
Don’t be an optimist; factor maintenance costs into your calculations.
We recommend budgeting for maintenance visits every two or three months.
One way to keep costs down is to have an on-site contact for minor maintenance like cleaning the glass.
5. Post-Production Costs
What services does your client expect you to provide?
Will you provide one stunning timelapse video at the end of the project?
Or will you deliver content on a regular basis?
Client expectations are paramount.
Discuss exactly what deliverables they expect so you can budget correctly for your post-production.
To summarize, costs are:
- Equipment: Long-term timelapse system, camera and lens
- Duties and taxes (depending on country)
- Installation: Poles, concrete, and equipment; Personnel; Construction site access certification
- Monthly charges: Software subscription and cellular data
- Maintenance: Quarterly visits and unexpected maintenance needs
Now You Know Your Costs, What Should You Charge?
Once you’ve worked out your costs, you can make an educated decision about how you’ll charge you client.
There are three things you should think about. Do you charge...
- Monthly, or a larger one-time fee?
- An all-inclusive fee, or a base fee + optional add-ons?
- Upfront for equipment, or factor this into monthly fees?
Charge Your Client Monthly
A common beginner’s mistake is charging your client a one-off fee for your construction timelapse service.
While it makes sense to charge this way for short-term timelapse projects...
...the scope and benefits of long-term construction timelapse are completely different.
What if the project runs over-time?
You could be waiting months or years before collecting fees.
Meanwhile, you're still paying maintenance costs!
By charging a service subscription, if the project runs over time you actually get more money!
That project will continue to be an income stream for you as long as it’s drawn out.
With a construction timelapse unit like the photoSentinel Tempo, you offer useful tools like site-monitoring.
In terms of benefit to your client, they have access to site updates and other progress monitoring tools in an instant.
Clients can resolve legal disputes by checking claims against the photos record.
And, the content you’re providing is something they can show off to their stakeholders.
That’s well worth them paying an ongoing fee for.
All-Inclusive Fees or Base w/ Add-ons?
Charging an all-in-one month fee for all services simplifies things for you and your client.
Yet, a larger monthly fee on the initial quote can be a barrier winning the job.
Another approach it is to charge a monthly base fee, plus extra fees if they opt into certain features.
Add-ons could include but are not limited to:
- Regular timelapse content (a mini timelapse update video once a month, for example)
- Shooting at faster intervals
- Frequent uploads
- A better camera and lens
- Other footage – b-roll, aerials, interviews, etc.
It’s up to you to decide which of these two pricing models will work best for your project.
Should You Charge Upfront for Equipment?
If your client pays for the equipment upfront, you’ll be able to avoid that initial hit to your cashflow.
Of course, they’ll usually own all the equipment if that’s the case.
Although, if you want to avoid market depreciation of your camera and lens, you might see that as a bonus.
But what if you want to own the equipment, so you can put it to good use on future projects?
In this case, you will want to buy the equipment up-front yourself and distribute that cost across your monthly service fee.
Or, if you’re feeling extra clever, you can bundle equipment costs into your monthly service fee...
...and also require your client to pay three or four months in advance.
That can give you a cash injection to buy the equipment upfront, and guarantee ownership so that you can reuse it on future projects.
Construction Time-lapse: Maximizing Your Income
Most important to remember
- Work out the costs first so you can factor these expenses into your fees
- Charge monthly so that it doesn’t matter if the project goes overtime
- Decide who will pay for the equipment (and how)
Follow these principles and you’ll be well on your way to managing a profitable construction timelapse business.
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