Happy New Year... or at least it will be, a couple of hours after I complete this post.
I am an incessant planner. Just my nature... always has been. After I decide to pursue a course... say, joining the ranks of Santa Claus, I try to analyze how that's going to work, as opposed to the guy who just starts doing it. I know, I know... I end up winging it half the time anyway, with all my fancy spreadsheets and schedules thrown to the wind. But I'm still going to do it... in part because I enjoy it, and also because it helps me think about what I'm doing.
Case in point: In my last blog entry, I outlined the steps I would need to take to pursue the job of St. Nick. I reviewed it this evening, and I'm fairly confident that I enumerated the key points. I'm sure there are details to be filled in, and as I get further along, I will so fill them. But one thing that I'm still working on is the budget and what I should legitimately be charging customers. Face it: my first year is going to be a learning experience, so I don't feel right charging the market rate. I really don't want to undercut or undermine the other Santas working in the area, but I hope to coordinate with them to hit new market areas, or take some of their overload, so I don't plan to take jobs away from them. Secondly, I doubt that I will have a full schedule the first year. I'm hoping to get 20 gigs or so, for maybe 30 hours of paid exposure. In addition, I'm sure that I'll volunteer for a number of places that I am associated with anyway.
As I fine tune my rates, I've got it all plugged into a spreadsheet to figure my bottom line (they call me a Excel Guru at work). Right now, I'm figuring two rates: Standard rates during the week (Monday - Thursday), and Prime rates on the weekends (Friday - Sunday). I have looked at the way some of the rest of you structure your billing, and I kind of like the way SCSanta does it... billing by the 1/2 hour, with the first 1/2 hour weighted heavy to cover travel & setup. My current thoughts are to charge $30/$20 Standard rate, and $45/$30 Prime rate. This isn't going to make me a fortune, but it will cover most of my costs, and should garner me a fair amount of great experience as I work on my routine. The next year, I would probably be able to line up more gigs and charge a higher hourly rate. Might even see some profit in the second year.
Of course, all of these plans can be upended based on some of the things that I have read here on ClausNet. I've seen differing opinions about charging less. My Santa's Hat is off to Santa Chris Capstone for the idea of Entry Level Santa For Entry Level Clients. In a couple of weeks, I plan to start talking to some of you who live in my area, trying to get a clue as to what I should be doing. Hopefully by the time Spring rolls around, I will have a better idea of how it works.