How much do food stylists and prop/still life stylists earn?
Image styled by me, shot by Scott Choucino
Well that's a tricky question isn't it! And for several reasons.
Firstly, because people (British people sorry!) are taught not to discuss money, and secondly, because freelancers or anybody pitching for work are understandably nervous about publishing or discussing their prices for many different but mostly logical reasons.
Prices may go up or down due to;
- client budget - this is an industry where different areas like editorial, advertising or TV will pay different rates for the same job due to the end use and historical ad agency style pricing
- kudos - if you're somebody that I really want to work with or think would look great in my portfolio I may drop my price if asked to
- stage of career/experience - early on in your career you may charge less and increase with each year of experience
- need to work/lack of work - we all have those quiet periods where we will take any job just to keep working and eat.
Also there are different ways of pricing - perhaps per project if its a large or ongoing shoot or per day with extra services as add-ons if required.
I will be discussing the day rate pricing strategy which I think most freelance food stylists and prop/still life stylists work to.
Recent styling work for Asda
So what can you charge per day for food styling or as a prop stylist?
I asked the question, and 27 food and prop stylists kindly answered so we could share this information and stop being in the dark!
I asked my Instafam and put the following averages and observations together for you, but before we get into that, lets look at what else may be chargeable.
With a day rate pricing strategy, you will probably charge for other expenses and services like,
- travel - this could be mileage on your car (current HMRC rate is 45p/mile), public transport costs, parking fees etc
- accommodation - if you need to stay over to get to the studio/location on time or are working for a big block of time away from home your accommodation may be able to be worked into your costs as an expense
- prop hire - your day rate should be your labour cost, like your hourly wage, so any use of your belongings as props should be chargeable. Unless you want to run an inventory I would keep this simple, something like £50 per box. This is chargeable on top of the time to select from your won props because you have to spend time researching them, spend money buying them, and spend money replacing them if they get broken or lost on set (happens ALLLLLL the time!).
- prep/shopping/returns time - all time spent on the following is chargeable at the day rate as part of the job cost -
- any time you spend shopping or collating items for a shoot - collecting from prop houses, prop shopping from retailers or food from supermarkets and specialist suppliers etc
- collating props - you're not just going to chuck a box of random things together are you, you will go through your collections and spend time selecting props that work for the brief
- preparing food, organising it into shots, cooking what you can ahead etc
- returning to retailers and prop houses - just like fashion stylists you should charge for the time it takes to return items to retailers both in store and online if you have to make a trip to the Post Office etc.
- And of course any travel/mileage associated with this prep is chargeable.
You might also get asked to hand model - is this included in your day rate or an extra because you will need to get a manicure done the day before? This may sound petty but its the 'could you just' requests that can make an attractive day rate suddenly feel a bit meh.
Transparency is the fairest way to work I think - if you can be polite and clear about your fees without being obstructive to getting the work people generally appreciate it and get that you are just protecting your income. (And if they don't, it may be a good signal to dodge that client!)
So here is what you can expect to earn as a food stylist or props/still life stylist per day.
UK averages taken from 27 participating food and still life / prop stylists
As you can see it's a lot lower paid for editorial work, but you should take into consideration that magazine and book shoots can run over several days or weeks and are usually valuable regular clients if the publishers, art directors or feature editors etc like you!
Another observation I made from the data was that 82% of the stylists answering about work in London gave prices for editorial work - where as 87% of midlands/North of England stylists gave prices for advertising and TV work. It seems that more of the work in London is editorial and therefor lower paid per day (but as mentioned above, is also likely to be longer jobs with regular clients).
There isn't much difference at all for the same type of styling work in different regions - i.e I don't think you will get paid more for the same work in London.
Other than London and midlands there were answers from Bristol, the Cotswolds and Ireland that have also gone into these figures. Ireland seemed a little lower than England but with only 3 participants its hard to give any helpful numbers separated from the overall averages.
I hope this has been helpful for you if you are thinking about becoming a freelance food or props stylist, or even if you just wanted to check you are charging enough, it's so hard to know!
Massive thanks to everybody who shared their information with me on Instagram, I've had lots of lovely messages to say it's been useful for newbies and people in different areas so I'm really pleased its been helpful already and I'm so grateful for your participation that's made that possible.
Look out for more blogs and resources on how to style or become a freelance stylist, or please get in touch if you'd like to learn with me 1-to-1 or organise a workshop with me.
Thanks for reading, please leave any comments below!