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Attackpoint - performance and training tools for orienteering athletes

Discussion: Mapping Economics

in: Orienteering; General

Jul 17, 2018 2:35 PM # 
Is it possible to earn a decent ($75-100,000) income as a full time mapper?

What is the going rate for field checking?
What is the going rate for generating a base map?

How much terrain can a mapper field check in a typical day?

From my recent experience field checking a local map I am only able to do ~0.12 square kilometers per day, in a ridge/re-entrant terrain with lots of rock features, which is not very much. Hopefully with more experience I will become more efficient. Since I am a part time inexperienced mapper I am only looking at charging $1000 per square kilometer for field checking and $250 per square kilometer for developing the base map.

To make a decent income I will have to at least double my efficiency and rate!
Jul 17, 2018 3:25 PM # 
We do not value mapping enough, and keep up a charade that volunteer mappers are the solution to our problem rather than trying to develop professionals and a system to support them.

Figure 100hrs/sq km as an upper bound on fieldwork for a modern map in technical terrain. Thats not even including the time to do the drafting, which if the fieldwork is complicated, the drafting should take a while too!

Hourly rates seem to be ~$30/hr for professional mapping. There are a lot easier ways to make more money with the skills it takes to be a good mapper.

Basemaps are mostly a GIS and data management problem. I don't change a rate per area, but a flat rate per map, depending on the complications of data acquisition and what final products are desired, but I also don't generally do drafting of features in the basemap.
Jul 17, 2018 5:16 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
What @edwarddes said: With LAZ point clouds and vector topo data, the time/cost of creating a base map is almost independent of the size.

Personally I charge a maximum of NOK 3000 (about EUR 300) in a single year to make sure the IRS will accept that this is a tax-exempt hobby.

Actually converting my (or some other's) base map into a properly surveyed and drawn orienteering map is a highly skilled art which we pay far too little for, with the result that the average age of good mappers here in Norway increase by 11+ months per year.
Jul 17, 2018 7:59 PM # 
There have been a few Americans living as full-time mappers at various times. They have tended to have interesting non-standard lifestyles. (Or other sources of income.)

But there are often clubs eager to hire a competent mapper if they can find one, especially one without visa issues. So work is probably available.

Bear in mind that your efficiency can also be affected by weather, depending on where you're doing the mapping.
Jul 18, 2018 10:20 AM # 
Doesn't O-USA have a registry somewhere of mappers looking for work and clubs/ organizations looking for mappers? Half correct. Here is the current list of mappers
Jul 18, 2018 10:30 AM # 
In Europe we often get Eastern European mappers, who tend to be excellent but are willing to work at rates that no local mapper would accept.

But I fully agree that we don't value mapping enough and as a result a lot of the maps around London are sub standard because they were done by volunteer mappers or just planners updating the bits that were worst for their event!
Jul 18, 2018 1:54 PM # 
I guess it'd be interesting to see the yearly overall revenue number for all the orienteering/rogaining events in the US.

Like 1000 orienteers participating in 20 events at $10 each would give you $200K for the whole country. Then you subtract all other costs.
Jul 18, 2018 3:19 PM # 
dofishman's definition of a decent income seems a bit ambitious. Theoretically, I think it would be possible to get within spitting distance of the median household income as a full time mapper in the US, but you'd be living out of a suitcase year round to do it.

Of course, that's theoretically if there was enough paid mapping work out there to keep you continuously busy. Having been listed as a mapper in the OUSA services directory for ~ a year without a single club contacting me about prospective work, it would seem there either isn't that much paid mapping work out there or you have to have a bigger reputation as a mapper than mine for it to come knocking on your door (it might, of course, help if I got around to setting up a web site with links to my past mapping work).

And igor_ makes a point I was also going to allude to - at current participation levels and prices (not that I have full knowledge of what every US club charges at local events but my experience is orienteering is almost everywhere extremely cheap compared to running races or almost anything else) there simply can't be enough money flowing through US orienteering to support more than a few full-time mappers with no other means of support, even assuming people with the required skills and willingness to live as perpetual nomads weren't more gainfully employed elsewhere.

If we want skilled mapping labour to be available on demand, I can see a few conceivable ways to go:

- hope a lot of retired orienteers decide to make semi-professional mapping one of their retirement projects
- increase participation and/or fees to the point that there is enough money flowing through US orienteering to support at least a handful of full-time mappers
- somehow persuade the powers that be to let us import Eastern European mappers in quantity (Note: even this probably requires more money, even assuming the persuasion of the powers that be doesn't involve bribery.)

Personally, it seems unrealistic to imagine there'll ever be full-time professional orienteering mappers available more or less anywhere in the US until and unless orienteering grows to the point that someone can be a full-time mapper working mostly on projects within less than a day's drive of their home base (with mappers in the snow belt presumably taking on projects in the south in winter or having some alternative cold season occupation). Short of that, it'll always be the province of oddballs who are okay with long term nomadism.
Jul 18, 2018 5:43 PM # 
That mapping list may be something that people don't look at very often. Knowing that you are a potentially available mapper is interesting information.
Jul 18, 2018 6:05 PM # 
jtorranc, if you want work, I suggest contacting clubs letting them know of your availability. That's pretty simple, won't take much time, and costs almost nothing. My impression is there are many more clubs who would be happy to get some mapping work done (but have trouble finding competent mappers) than there are clubs trying to fend off hordes of mappers looking for work.
Jul 18, 2018 6:25 PM # 
you won't get eastern european mappers if you can't pay more than european clients pays. here is always a lot of work to do
Jul 18, 2018 8:17 PM # 
Problem: 1) Mapper wants a pot load of money to make a map for a club which the club will then own.
2) Club does not have a pot load of money or will not have a pot load of money until the entries for its next big event come in.
Solution: Mapper makes the map but instead of turning it over to the club the mapper retains ownership of the map and licenses use of it to the club for a per entry 'royalty fee' every time the map is used and a fee is charged.
Does anyone else have experience with this type of arrangement? I see a lot of benefit in the idea for all parties but the mapper makes a considerable investment of time and perhaps money up front. Not everyone can do that.
Comments? Am I missing anything?
Jul 18, 2018 8:40 PM # 
With the widespread availability of sub-meter LiDAR, high-res orthophotography, and crowd-sourced street and trail data (OpenStreetMap), it seems like we're rapidly approaching a time where high-quality basemaps can be made for as large an area as we want, simply by feeding the right data into the right set of scripts. The cost of producing a rogaine- or AR-ready basemap (contours, roads and trails, water, some land cover info) is rapidly approaching zero. Whereas the cost of field checking a single small parcel to orienteering standards is getting to be outside the budget of most clubs.

Which could have a bigger impact on map and compass navigation sports for your club: having a single new orienteering map, or having rogaine-ready basemaps that covered 50-100x more area? Maybe the sport needs to adapt to take advantage of the cost differences between automated and field-checked mapping?
Jul 18, 2018 11:01 PM # 
@danfoster, very true. For a recent map, the LIDAR basemap (based on a free LIDAR dataset) had perfectly fine contours. (It had about ten samples per square meter, which is high.) With a little GPS work, all the trails and powerline were added quickly, tweaking their exact route by eye relative to the contours (they were that good). If I hadn't wanted to include boulders, pits, and a few other ISOM features, the map would have been done in lightning speed. And it's perfectly possible to navigate on just contours (I ran a test 1.75km leg on the LIDAR base when scouting the terrain...perfectly fine). (Cliffs and rockfaces were also reliably present on the LIDAR base, removing one safety concern.) Colorado has a big area with such LIDAR (most of it a bit far from me, but some 50 minutes away). I saw similar in part of the Jemez mountains of New Mexico. In such places it should be possible to do a navigational sporting event on an accurate detailed map with little mapping effort, maybe just downloading a LIDAR dataset and running Karttapullautin. (Not saying that this is preferable to fieldchecked ISOM maps (I suspect that my local club will continue to produce and use the latter largely), but a viable option for a perfectly fine bit of navigation racing.
Jul 19, 2018 12:13 AM # 
There have been some issues with foreign mappers coming to the US and being sent home. One way to avoid that is to talk about "doing art in the woods". Basically, that is what a mapper does......
Jul 19, 2018 12:47 AM # 
There is a process to go through before the mapper arrives in the US but basically you have to show that you cannot find an American to do the work. Get the proper paperwork to your mapper before he/she makes the trip. Otherwise the mapper may be turned away at the airport and not allowed to enter the US for several years.
Ask the folks at Mar-a-Largo how to work it. They hire dozens of temporary foreign workers each year.
Jul 19, 2018 2:52 AM # 
For many mapping is a life stage before settling down into as job that pays enough to live on, or a means of keeping oneself occupied after retiring or partially retiring from the workforce. For me, mapping pays about 20% of my normal professional charge out rate. That means it will never take precedence over properly paying consultancy work. I have done the sums and cannot see how this country could support even one professional mapper. It would be a crap lifestyle anyway. I just prefer to work on interesting local mapping projects, which occasional provide pocket money. I have decided to apply a personal copyright to all maps which are unremunerated. I have discovered that some in the past were under the misapprehension that I was being paid for all those maps. The copyright notice is a way of clearing up that misunderstanding. For someone serious about their mapping the next step might be to lease those maps out for a large carnival. I don't feel that serious.
Jul 19, 2018 7:51 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@JimBaker: I agree the the possibility of running O events on naked LiDAR maps, in particular "base maps" with thin 1m form lines anywhere.

In terrain with interesting contours (i.e. relatively fractal terrain with lots of exposed rock), those contours give a beautiful view of what it should look like when you get there.

Add in those big linear details for openstreetmap/strava labs/orto photos and you have something which can be used for both adventure racing and O training.

@TheInvisibleLog: Here in Norway, particularly around the larger cities, we have enough orienteers and paid events to make professional maps a revenue-generating exercise. I.e. my own club Nydalens SK have a bunch of maps around Oslo which are used several times every week by all sorts of organizations.

2 hours away, where I grew up in Porsgrunn, the situation is completely different, there we had to run all sorts of revenue-generating activities in order to pay for the maps we had to have, and we did this well enough to make our club POL the largest in the country. When we had the orienteering cup, POL used to win it about every other year, this required having very good runners in all sex/age categories.
Jul 19, 2018 12:34 PM # 
In our mining terrain the 1m contours overlaid on a slope map give an excellent impression of the gold mining detail. This detail is lost with smoothing algorithms used in KP and OCAD18.
Jul 19, 2018 1:43 PM # 
Another perspective. Many years ago I started (as a club volunteer) to join local maps together to make a "super-map". Less detail than an orienteering map, the use was urban street events, MTBO and near-urban short rogaines. 20m contours because I could fill in the gaps from the topo maps. Coloured everything I didn't know gray. Course planners (well mostly me) reported tracks, approx. vegetation etc. Large parts have been filled in and the gross area has grown to Along the way digital aerial imagery, 10m contours from local authorities, and lately a 1m DEM over the whole area means I'm swimming in data.

At some point the club said, hey you've done a large amount of work, maybe you should own this resource and rent it to us per person per event. After some contemplation about my eventual demise, I said why don't you own it and pay me per person per event for maintenance and development. I felt it was more likely to survive this way.

It doesn't make $100K a year, but it is significant for me. It is perhaps relevant that around here rogainers are prepared to pay more because the events are longer. Ironic isn't it, more income for less detail. We certainly cannot run this model for sprint mapping:-))))
Jul 19, 2018 2:08 PM # 
Yes, I think for large maps that model makes lot of sense.
Jul 19, 2018 2:30 PM # 
There are actually a number of (larger) US clubs that have pots of money that they'd be happy to spend if they could find quality available mappers.

For smaller clubs, there is (or at least was) a map loan program that could be used to deal with cash flow issues, zero-interest IIRC.
Jul 19, 2018 3:49 PM # 
This discussion indicates no one is going to get rich being a mapper.

For our reference can the mappers out there tell us how much they charge to field check an area? And how many square kilometers you can field check in a day?

On my last map I averaged around 0.12 square kilometers a day. Which means I would have to charge $2-3000 per square kilometers to make a decent living.

And can the club representatives out there tell us how much they are willing to pay to have an area field checked?
Jul 19, 2018 4:41 PM # 
As a mapping metric, I prefer hours per square Km. Using Km. per day is ambiguous, as a "day" can be any number of hours. I have been told, and from my own experience, that 20-40 hour per sq,K in the northeast is reasonable.
Jul 19, 2018 5:06 PM # 
I agree with coach's numbers. 20 for an easier area, 40 for something that's A- meet quality. When I worked on Surebridge, I was taking 100+ hours.
Jul 19, 2018 7:14 PM # 
The hours per square kilometer can vary quite widely I find, based on terrain and basemap quality. Some parts of my most recent map were 10 hours per square km, some with lots of rock 100.

@dofishman, $2000-3000/km2 sounds ballpark right for what would be needed to support a full-time mapper at reasonable income. My club pays its mappers far less though, maybe a fifth to a third of that. (I've done some free, some compensated, for this club and for others.). Personally, I think that the former is a reasonable amount if clubs want to encourage true pro mapping, the latter probably fine for reimbursement of puttering semi-retirees mapping locally with no deadline stress. [edited for clarity]
Jul 19, 2018 7:27 PM # 
Coach and JJ-
For something in the Northeast? To current standards (esp vegetation)?
Even assuming a skilled mapper and a good lidar base map, I think those numbers are too optimistic.
I'll suggest adding at least 50%
If you change "northeast" to midwest ridge and valley terrain, or other simple terrains, with a high % on the base map, I probably agree. However, those terrains are almost non-existant, even in DVOA land (Philly) , to say nothing of going north and eastward.
I agree the upper limit is ~100h/km2 as JJ, Ed, and Jim all mention.
Jul 19, 2018 7:54 PM # 
I agree with Eric. For glaciated terrains in the northeast, those are quite low numbers.
Jul 19, 2018 8:19 PM # 
Eric knows this better than anyone, but I like 40 hours / 1 square km for a good map of DVOA terrain (where vegetation is important.) I don't know anyone getting JB's $s/kms. That's above market.

I guess this goes without saying, but amateurs and professionals can have similar skill levels at a given task, but a professional knows how to make a living at something.

I can paint a house or fix a chair, but I'm definitely not a professional. A professional can do something with his eyes closed at 90% the quality of an obsessive amateur, but in less than half the time. And then can do it again and again.

It's hard to be a professional mapper even if you think you like maps.
Jul 19, 2018 8:44 PM # 
Not saying that $2000-3000/sq km is the going rate. I'm agreeing with dofishman that these rates are roughly (depending on terrain and base) what would be needed to support a full time mapper at reasonable income for the effort, environment (bugs, etc) and expertise.
Jul 19, 2018 10:53 PM # 
for dofishman and others-
So far this conversation is only about conventional ISOM maps.
I may regret mentioning it, but urban/Sprint/ISSOM/and special areas are a whole other animal, and I don't have a clue about how to approach this subject, other than it takes much more work /km2, and perhaps a different skill set.
I mention the topic only because this is a significant part of the market.
Maybe others have advice.
Jul 19, 2018 11:32 PM # 
"- hope a lot of retired orienteers decide to make semi-professional mapping one of their retirement projects"
This is exactly what I'm planning to do - it's 2-4 years off (depending on a bunch of factors like the situation with Obamacare and my investments). For now, I map on most weekends. I'm currently charging $25/hr for both basemap work and field checking/drafting. As others have mentioned, the time spent per sq km is highly dependent on terrain. The most time I ever spent was 100 hrs/sq km (Bon Tempe map) and that was roughly 10 hrs fixing basemap, 50 hrs field checking, 40 hrs drafting. The least time spent was 36 hrs/sq km (Deer Creek Hills map), divided evenly in thirds between fixing basemap, field checking, & drafting (12,12,12hrs). All other maps that I have done have been in the middle with the average being closer to 20+30+20=70 hrs/ sq km when doing a basemap from scratch.
Jul 19, 2018 11:35 PM # 
Advice. If you want to make money, don't. But I'm enjoying expanding the high-detail seamless mapping of my urban area. ISSOM with tweaks for the zones with a rural character. Maybe one day the club will say maybe you should own this resource... But for the moment its a volunteer, fill-in project

Hrs/ How long is a piece of string? But a generality is that with all the data from imagery, DTMs and GPS, fieldwork is going down and at-the-computer is going up. The ratio is going crazy. Well, you can make a WOC sprint map look-alike from the other side of the world.
Jul 21, 2018 2:14 PM # 
The life blood of the sport of orienteering is a high quality orienteering map. To produce these maps a highly skilled individual produces a base map and then goes out into the field to field check the map to add terrain and man-made features to the map. A typical mapper can field check one square kilometer in 50-100 hours depending on how complex the terrain is. If the weather is conducive this mapper should be able to field check 30 to 40 KM2 in a year (based on 50 hours/KM2) or 2-3 national meet size maps. In order to earn a decent living a mapper will have to charge $2500-3000 per KM2. At this rate a small national meet size map will cost $30,000, and more for a bigger map. If a club holds a national meet on the map and earns a profit of $20 per start the club will need to have 1500 starts to cover the cost of the map. This is a lot of starts for an average club. The club will need fewer starts if they can generate additional income from other sources (meals, map sales, souvenirs, etc.) or we will have to charge a higher entry fee.

Another source of funding might be the landowner. If he/she can use the map he/she might be willing to pay/offset the cost of mapping the area.

However, the going rate is for mapping is closer to $1000/KM2. At this rate the club will need to have fewer starts but the mapper will earn a lot less. At $1000/KM2 the sport is not likely to attract many full time professional mappers. Therefore if we want to attract professional mappers to the sport of orienteering we will have to grow the sport so we can pay our mappers a decent rate.
Jul 21, 2018 3:13 PM # 
How much of the 50-100 hours to field-check a square kilometer is spent on accurately locating features? What techniques are currently used for this by professional mappers? (pace counting, bearings, consumer-grade GPS?) How many hours could be saved if the mapper had a ruggedized tablet running OCAD with a survey-grade positioning device, so they could walk up to a feature and add it to the map with sub-meter accuracy and 100% repeatability?
Jul 21, 2018 5:37 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@danfoster: A significantly more accurate GPS would help quite a bit, but not nearly as much as you might assume these days: With high-density (5 or more pulses per square meter) modern LiDAR, the raw contours provides so much detail that it is almost trivial to accurate locate a newly spotted object.

In more diffuse terrain, without fractally complicated contours exact locations are much harder to get and better GPS becomes more critical.

Personally I have bought & tested a bunch (20+) of GPSs and GPS loggers over the years, currently I'm trying a modern multi-band receiver which can support GPS, Glonass & Galileo at the same time. My 2-3 year old Samsung S7 has an even more advanced GPS chipset but in a phone that chipset is optimized for low power instead of max accuracy. :-(
Jul 22, 2018 1:15 AM # 
With a quality basemap (and this applies to traditional photogrammetry ones as well as lidar), mapping isn't about locating positions, though it's easy for someone who isn't experienced in fieldchecking to think that. It's about making decisions. Is that boulder big enough to map? What level of green should this be? What should I consider to be the edge of this marshy area? How should I represent these assorted cliffs of various sizes? There's as much art as there is science.

(I certainly know people who do things other than mapping who would consider $75-100K a pretty high salary, well beyond "decent". Although it's worth noting that it comes with zero benefits.)
Jul 22, 2018 5:41 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@jjcote: Yes!

It is exactly due to the extremely hard job to correctly draw the borders of diffuse objects, such as various shades of green that I have spent so many weeks (actual development time)/years (testing it out) experimenting with ways to use the lidar vertical histogram data to characterize vegetation: When you are inside medium to darker green visibility is naturally quite limited so you cannot see where any boundaries should go, considering the need to generalize quite heavily.

Boulder & cliff mapping can go from trivial to extremely hard, when you have to generalize and move stuff around to maintain minimum object distances.

Re. salaries: I suspect the original number was for Australian dollars which are worth about 74% of USD, i.e. in the USD 56-74K range which would certainly be livable but not really great here in Norway. (Starting salaries for a newly graduated civil engineer from NTNU are in the same range.)
Jul 22, 2018 2:54 PM # 
Ah. Hard to guess where someone named David Fisher might be from, it's a pretty common name. Although he did use the word "kilometer" rather than "kilometre".
Jul 22, 2018 5:54 PM # 
Also "re-entrant" and "national meet" which are not Australian orienteering English, but are American. Also, the lack of indication of the possibility that he might not be talking about the US tends to indicate that he's US-based.
Jul 23, 2018 10:23 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@feet: attackpoint is quite US centric, sort of like the orienteering version of the Baseball "World Series"? :-)
Jul 23, 2018 11:58 AM # 
Geez, if $75K-100K USD is a living salary, I've been grossly underpaid by a factor of two in my profession as a scientist with a master's degree. Actually, I already know that. But how about reducing expectations to about 45K as a living salary for doing something that you seem to want to do. If it doesn't make ends meet, it's obviously not for you.
Jul 23, 2018 1:03 PM # 
Where I live, someone on minimum wage can go orienteering four times a month (theoretically; not any longer since the number of folks willing to subsidize by their labor the recreation of others has greatly shrunk, but as recently as 2013 one could) and thus spend about 1.9% of her income on a meaningful portion of her life-meaningful activities.

I'll just leave this here.
Jul 23, 2018 1:21 PM # 
Andrew, there are two misconceptions I've encountered repeatedly over my years as a self-employed contractor. One is that gross income is comparable to a salary.

(The other is, an estimate is referred to as a "quote", the moment I turn my back. Sometimes even before I turn my back.)
Jul 23, 2018 1:59 PM # 
@Terje and JJ: David Fisher is a St Louis (USA) based mapper. So we can be pretty certain his numbers were $US. But some later responses might have been $AUS?
Jul 23, 2018 3:13 PM # 
Yes, I am from St. Louis and I was referring to US dollars. I believe the higher compensation will be required to attract people. Remember a mapper is getting paid per square kilometer, so if the weather is not conductive to field work he/she is not getting any work done. Part-timers and club representatives may be willing to accept less but why should they.

My experience is that real time mapping is not any faster since you still have to walk the terrain and input the data. However it should give a better result because you can more easily match the symbols on the map to the features on the ground. I find that accuracy with GPS is not a big issue because the size of the symbols on the map.

For my Don Robinson State Park map I am using a Garmin eTrek 35t to locate the features. I generate tracks and waypoints in the field and import them into the map at home. When it comes to vegetation how accurate do you have to be.
Jul 23, 2018 3:50 PM # 
Another way to approach your initial question is to look at the demand side. How large of an area around St. Louis would you have to include to find clubs with an intention to spend $375K-$500K over the next five years on mapping projects? Does that represent the entire orienteering mapping budget of your club? Of your region? Of your country?

Is there another full-time professional mapper working in that area? You may have to double the size of the area again since you'll both be competing for projects.
Jul 23, 2018 4:08 PM # 
Dan the local club(s) does not have those type of funds to spend on mapping. I would be happy if SLOC would contract for one map per year. A mapper in the midwest has to be willing to travel around the area for projects.
Jul 23, 2018 4:17 PM # 
Terje Mathisen:
I do agree with dofishman that a good mapper is a highly skilled artisan who deserves to also be well paid, but I'm pretty sure that even the very best mappers here in Norway (one of the world's most expensive places to live) have never made USD 100K working full time.

Re weather limitations: Those mappers tend to work in absolutely all kinds of weather, the only real limitation is that the ground has to be snow-free which means that for most of Norway 2-5 months of the year is impossible. The solution is to save the most southerly/coastal/low-lying areas for winter and do the mountain maps in the late June to October timeframe.

This was a real problem for the Rauland JWOC2015 when the ground was still covered in snow in June, just a few weeks before the championship, i.e. in the period when you would like to do any final map corrections around the controls.
Jul 30, 2018 2:10 PM # 
Dan in an ideal world the clubs in my state (Missouri) would have a mapping endowment fund of one million+ dollars earning 10% a year on average dedicated to pay for a mapper(s) to produce new and/or updated orienteering maps of (Missouri) state parks. Each club would then hold a national meet (condition of the endowment to use the funds) on one of their new maps with the proceeds going back into the endowment fund to fund additional mapping.

I envision the endowment fund paying for a full time mapper. The mapper would be some one who loves RVing. He/she would drive his/her RV to the state park and work on the map until it is complete and then move on to the next site. Of course, they would have to get permission for an extended stay.

Since none of us are Rex Sinquefield (US Chess benefactor) we will have to do the best we can with what we have. This most likely means higher fees, older maps and no or few full time professional mappers.

If a typical (national event) map is 8-24 square kilometers at 50 hours per square kilometer field checking will take 400 to 1200 hours. If we pay our mapper a living wage of $2500 per square kilometer the map will cost $20,000-$60,000. If we hold two 2-day national events on the map earning $20 per start we will need 500-1500 starts per event to pay for the map. We rarely attract that many competitors to an event, not even a national championship event. Therefore, we would have to hold more than two national events on each map to recover our cost of mapping. Our historical data says we generate ~$4500-$6000 from holding a national event. This is not even close to the $23,000 it cost us to map Hawn State Park in 2001.

Now if we also use the map for a local event every year for ten years we can generate an additional $5-$10000 if we can attract 50-100 participants to each event. This is why we rely so heavily on volunteer mappers, and why we do not do a lot of mapping. This is also why most of our maps are over 20+ years old and most of our new maps are small county parks.

To pay for high quality orienteering maps we will have to:
1. Grow the number of starts
2. Charge more
3. Find additional income generating uses for our maps (adventure races, etc.)
4. Generate funds from Map/merchandise sales. (Bandanas, t-shirts with the map imprinted on them etc.)

Another model is in exchange for mapping an area the mapper would receive a percentage (up to 100%) of the profits from the national events held on the map. In other words the OMC Company would go around mapping various areas and hold national events on the maps. The percentage would be determined by how much work they do versus the local club.
Jul 30, 2018 2:30 PM # 
One flaw keeps coming up in many of these comments, and that is the expectation, or assumption that a map could/should be capitalized/ paid for through one event.
Historically, even with nominal payments for mapping, that would be the exception, rather than the rule.
Jul 30, 2018 3:33 PM # 
I also wonder about the one-map-at-a-time model described above for someone trying to make a living at this. It's not exactly the same thing but I have a family member who makes his living as a professional surveyor. When the weather is good not awful, he's out doing field work. When the weather is lousy he's in the office doing everything else. And like O maps there is a lot of "everything else", both before and after the field work.

He doesn't start a project and work exclusively on that until completion. He does the prep work and lines projects up in advance of good weather. Then does field work until he drops or until the weather turns. Then goes back to the office to finish them up.

While the average project size might differ I would still imagine that someone trying to make a living doing O maps would need a similar pipeline.
Jul 30, 2018 3:42 PM # 
I'm wondering where people are getting their numbers for size of national meets? I think the largest map Orienteering Ottawa has used for a championship meet in the last 2 decades has been probably about 5-6 square km for the 2014 NAOCs. other maps (for the 2010 and 2017 Canadians for example) have been in the 2-4 as km range.

That doesn't change the hourly rate for a mapper or make it any harder or easier for a mapper to make a living but it sure does make it easier for a club to get a new map for a major event.

My other comment on this discussion is that I think we as orienteering have a skewed sense of what a well paying job is (myself included). As a general rule we work in hi-tech industries or in other well paying professional careers and many of us map as a hobby. The sports industry is not a high paying career as a rule and I think we need to lower our expectations... I saw recently some data from Stats Can that the median (I think.. could have been some other average) income was about $37000 CAD.
Jul 30, 2018 11:05 PM # 
Re the pipeline idea. That sounds sensible for a surveyor whose work is generally within a reasonable commuting distance of home. It would be pretty hard to do this in this country as a mapper. Someone who was trying to live off their mapping would need to travel the country. That's a lot of travel and accommodation cost. The transaction costs provide a powerful financial incentive to do the job in one visit. Walk the forest during the day, draw in the evening, Repeat until finished.
Jul 31, 2018 12:58 AM # 
I was also going to comment about the 8-24 sq km figure. In years past, when the detail level on maps was much lower, people used to make huge maps, but these days much smaller maps are typically in use. Another part of the reason was that printing was going to be an offset run of 1000+ copies that were going to be used over the course of many years, so there was a tendency to map an entire large park at once so that all of the options would be there for future course setters. There wasn't a practical way to map what's needed for now and then add on more later, when the map was drafted with pen and ink. That said, there are places where the maps do need to be somewhat larger due to the nature of the terrain, and Missouri is among them. But terrain like that also goes somewhat faster in terms of fieldwork.
Jul 31, 2018 1:23 AM # 
It may not be necessary to map 100%. I know a contractor who mixes mapping, part-time work for the national body, orienteering retail and a bit of other stuff. In a small country - couple of thousand club members.
Jul 31, 2018 1:55 AM # 
Reading this tread is totally surreal, as if there is a parallel universe, or another planet, with USD, city of St. Louis, orienteering there.

In this reality 99,9% of those going to forest with map and compass would see no difference between a base map and an orienteering map. I spoke with the smartest guy in Mid Atlantic region, asked him why they charge $5 (per map so the whole troop/ROTC unit with their coach would walk thru the course for $5) and run events on maps-relics from 1970s, considering there are lots of rich people in DC area (security, propaganda, repressive apparatus, etc). Got no answer. I think it's the WASP agenda, and a genuine belief that only certain trades (lawyers, doctors, federal bureaucracy) are entitled to make money, while "friendly volunteers" are expected to do fieldchecking and subsidize with their free work the entertainment for the wealthy elite.
Jul 31, 2018 7:39 PM # 
A few points in response to various earlier posts:

- paying for mapping on a per km basis may be common but it isn't divinely decreed. When I mapped in Canada in 2016, I was paid by the hour and that was the apparently standard arrangement within Orienteering Canada's program to match up mappers with clubs who needed them.

- having mapped with GPS for some time, my impression is there's no point playing in the high end of the survey grade GPS market. All those units that claim real-time sub-meter accuracy are quoting their performance under ideal or near ideal open sky conditions, not how well they'll do under forest canopy or in low-lying areas surrounded by steep slopes. In real life, if you're in a flat area or on a bland slope with no distinct features on the basemap nearby, a relatively cheap GPS that gives your location within ~5m does all you need it to do (I now use a Garmin GLO, which does seem to outperform units I previously used that had no GLONASS capability. Maybe adding Galileo as Terje says he's trying will help a bit more.). If there are other features near enough to that point that would allow an orienteer to determine that something is in the wrong place, the final determinant of where you put each thing on the map will be making the features line up with each other, not absolute positional accuracy. And, of course, you will sometimes have to sacrifice absolute positional accuracy to produce a legible map in areas of high feature density.

Not that anyone currently mapping with a handheld GPS which they then take home to draft logged tracks and waypoints into map objects shouldn't get theirself a mapping tablet and a GPS with bluetooth. I can't tell you precisely how much but working that way and doing more drafting in the field rather definitely increased my mapping productivity.

- notions of mappers retaining ownership of maps rather than selling them lock, stock, and barrel to the clubs that want them sound crazy to me. Unless the mapper is wealthy enough not to need the money, at all, to live on, it's hard to imagine they'd be able to afford the up front investment of time and then the long wait for it to pay off, assuming it does pay off (the club doesn't fold, the land manager doesn't become unfriendly to orienteering, the terrain doesn't get hit by a tornado shortly after the map is finished and the map need a major update to be usable again). Is the mapper supposed to go to a bank and get a loan to keep himself alive, with the not yet created map as collateral? How is a club not in a better position than an individual to shoulder the financial burden of creating a map (that isn't created entirely by volunteer labour)? That's without even getting into practical questions of how to make sure, if the mapper is to be paid per map used (or printed?), that the number of maps used is being reported to the mapper accurately.
Aug 1, 2018 3:15 AM # 
Jon, thanks for introducing, at least to this forum, the concept of absolute accuracy, the limitations thereof, and the importance of relative accuracy to O mapping.

Granted, this is somewhat off topic, and probably deserving of a separate thread, but I think this is a very important O mapping concept, but surprisingly ignored by many, who I expect to know better.

More on-topic, I also share your take on mapper ownership, which is not a new idea, but seems to have an academic appeal, but doesn't fit reality very well. Sure, let the other guy shoulder the risk.
I would add an even more fundamental reason. The local club may not want to use the map, regardless of up front intentions, for rational or irrational reasons. I think I've seen evidence of both. I believe this is exactly what happened to an entrepreneur mapper and his map ~35+ years ago. (not me)

Paying by the hour? Sorry, can't support this one. I think there is a CSU story a few years ago that makes an unfortunate case study.
Aug 1, 2018 1:42 PM # 
Hourly rates are impractical especially when the mapper goes out again and again 'just to make sure' (this is me). Plus novice mappers will invariably take longer than more experienced ones.
Aug 1, 2018 1:55 PM # 
A fixed price is impractical as there's no way to predict the quality of the base material or the patchiness of the vegetation. A lot of my work is revision and old maps are highly variable (usually bad). I provide an estimate and offer to work for "time and materials".
Aug 1, 2018 1:57 PM # 
You're impractical.
Aug 1, 2018 2:15 PM # 
I can agree that revisions are more problematic, but I'll maintain adjusting the rate/km2, post mapping, is preferable for maintaining integrity and control of the process.
Hourly rates require a very trusting relationship. Congratulations if you are part of one.
Aug 1, 2018 8:09 PM # 
I'll certainly concede paying someone by the hour means you have to either trust them implicitly or supervise them fairly closely and have a clause in their contract saying they can be dismissed will relatively little ceremony if you decide their productivity or the quality of the product isn't high enough. Of course, negotiating a set rate per km2, given how variable the effort per km2 can be, means a lot of trust from the mapper that the basemap quality (if they aren't creating it themselves) and nature/complexity of the terrain is being described to them accurately. Either that or paying them for the time and effort involved in coming to scout the terrain themselves to decide what rate per km2 is appropriate. Maybe this isn't an issue for extremely experienced mappers who've never seen a terrain type that isn't old hat to them.

Relying on adjusting the rate/km2 post mapping being agreeable to both parties seems pretty trusting to me too, BTW., but I assume EricW knows of instances of this being the practice. My first thought is to presume it involves situations where there is expected to be an ongoing relationship so game theory doesn't dictate each side should screw the other over as much as possible, if possible, as the optimal strategy. But maybe there's enough of a grapevine among professional mappers that if you give one of them grief in a one-off transaction, you're risking being blacklisted by the rest of them.

That all said, I did some mapping for pay for QOC this spring on a fixed price basis - when we're talking about QOC terrain on which I've run many times, I can't tell you in advance precisely how long it will take me to map but a ballpark estimate isn't too much trouble.
Aug 1, 2018 8:14 PM # 
I've always mapped on an hourly rate. If a client insisted that I quote them a per sq. Km amount, I'd take a good look at the terrain and then highball it compared with the number of hours I thought I'd take. I'm always willing to estimate how long I think a job will take and then if it becomes obvious that estimate will not be very accurate, I would discuss it with the client.
Aug 1, 2018 8:53 PM # 
I've certainly seen cases where the prospective mapper visits the terrain, with the basemap, and evaluates the effort, then gives a quote in terms of price per sq km. It allows him to take into account both the nature of the terrain and the quality of the base. Provided there's a reasonable opportunity for him to make such a visit, I think that's the best approach.
Aug 1, 2018 10:01 PM # 
In Spain I have been struggling to earn 2000EUR / month working 24-25 days. A normal day is 6-7 hours of field work + 2-3 hours OCAD digitization (There is not much to do when you are alone mapping in a 7 inhabitants village). If I calculate the hour rate it is aproximately 5/6 EUR per hour. I prefer to work in a bakery. Local mappers earn ~600 EUR/km2, Russians ~300 EUR/km2 and for example Raquel Costa (Portugal) earns ~900 EUR/m2 (She maps for the most importants WRE events in Portugal in February)

In the end, I see three or four conclusions if you want to become a professional mapper:

-Being a very good/reputed mapper. Mapping for the most important WRE events/National Champs and having a good contract with big (and rich) national orienteering clubs.

-Accepting mapping projects (and keep your x EUR/km2 rate) only if the club has access to high resolution LiDAR data.

-Mapping a lot of sprint and School maps if you live in a big city and there is a good agreement btw the Council and your Orienteering Federation. I used to charge 80 EUR per School, and I could easily map (only field work) 2-3 High/Primary Schools in one day. In the afternoon you can chat with your friends and also you sleep at home.

-Working in Canada or Australia. They pay per hour (~ 25-30 AUD (A$)/hour)

Good mappers are (and should be) very perfectionist, and that's why numbers do not "fit" when we are talking about money. I cannot ask local O-clubs here in Spain to pay me 17-20 EUR/ hour. I loved this job/lifestyle, but now I am seeking "normal" jobs related with GIS/Cartography.
Aug 2, 2018 6:23 AM # 
Do we pay per hour? I'll need to ask my state association about that.
Aug 2, 2018 7:56 AM # 
Manu. I think you would find there are not enough paid mapping jobs in Australia at that rate to support a liveable income.
Aug 2, 2018 8:21 AM # 
Payment for this map would have been interesting on either a per hr or per km basis!

If you're especially interested, clicking on the link 'about the basin' in the 2nd paragraph will take you on a nice journey.
Aug 2, 2018 11:43 AM # 
Log, I'm pretty sure we may need a mapper for our next major carnival in 2022. That is if we don't just use the maps we paid to have drawn for next year but had to scrap due to access restrictions.
Aug 2, 2018 11:57 AM # 
Juffy: don't even know how professional mappers here are paid, but you're somehow across the mapping requirements four years in advance? *scratches head*
Aug 2, 2018 3:58 PM # 
Glad to see you joining the discussion just to insult me... for some reason.

I guess I'm not a professional mapper but every paid map I've drawn for OWA has been on a per map basis, not per hour.
Aug 2, 2018 10:15 PM # 
I'm just trying to work out why you're in the discussion at all, since you clearly have no relevant knowledge or experience on the topic.
Aug 2, 2018 11:08 PM # 
+1 Juffy. All tRicky ever says to me is 'chicken'.
Aug 3, 2018 12:17 AM # 
I think this site is best if we keep it friendly. With you sandgropers I sometimes find it hard to tell when it is and isn't. What hope have the Yanks got? Re the question of being a "professional" mapper, I think the main point about Australia is that we don't have any, based upon Alex's self-definition. We just need to accept reality and not get hung up about it.
Aug 3, 2018 1:18 AM # 
Ahem. We prefer to be called "seppos". (I think.)
Aug 3, 2018 2:13 AM # 
Sorry. Seppos. I stand corrected.
Aug 3, 2018 6:34 AM # 
Thanks for adding your highly informed opinion then since I'm so obviously uninformed on the topic (also to the troll for adding nothing to the discussion).
Aug 6, 2018 4:52 PM # 
So from the above comments, a top notch professional mapper with lots of experience can within reason after walking through an area give a good estimate of how long it will take to field check the area. Therefore the mapper can charge by the hour or by the area.

When you contract to do field work do you charge additional for room and board and transportation?

Since I am just a a beginner, and not to sure how long it will take me am starting by offering my services for a lump sum price.

I just hate it when some one who is charging by the hour quotes me a price and the job takes longer then expected, so the price is much higher than the estimate. This happened to me when I had a lawyer draw up some estate plans.
Aug 6, 2018 5:13 PM # 
Transportation and accommodations are on a case by case basis. Sometimes there is lodging available for free nearby (I've hosted mappers, and so did my parents once). Sometimes camping makes sense (either tent or in an RV or something). Other times the mapper stays at home. And sometimes the club will need to rent some kind of lodging.

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