Probably the greatest learning curve to overcome in this or any business, besides consistently delivering your very best performance, is determining your rate. However, assuming you’ll lose the client if you don’t lowball your rate to sub-basement levels is, historically, about the worst small business move there is. You’re digging a hole to bury yourself in.

And about 10 years ago, since the advent of Pay-to-Play (P2P) sites, non-union talent have felt compelled to lump all the added production duties, often well beyond the voice talent’s abilities, into voiceover rate. Yet there’s an ever-increasing demand for skilled voiceover talent. Easily a 2000% increase over 5-6 years ago, and the greatest increase in the history of speech, production and performance. So much for supply and demand.

Here’s the issue: by placing advanced production responsibilities onto novice voice talent, the production values tend to define bad local radio production, or over-the-top, Info-mercial production and vocal styles, at best. The end product tends to suffer which can backlash on the client, forcing them to start all over again.

There’s a simple solution to this conundrum and that’s to ‘under promise and over deliver’, especially by leaving production to the professionals. Your professional reputation and credibility are at stake.

If you’re simply a voice talent, BE a voice talent. Not as an engineer, or a production studio, especially when you honestly can barely edit much beyond a simple audition.

And, if like so many of us, you’re a business novice as well, regardless of your production experience, it’s imperative you fight the impulse to devalue your self by offering the “cheapest rate possible”. Potential clients typically ask for a rate because they don’t have a budget yet. The only experience they have over you may be their business savvy. They may even attempt to negotiate. Which is precisely why you need to know how much you need to earn to make so that taking on the project is worth your while.

Every project requires a case-by-case gut check, and that you allow for unforeseen overages you may need to cover. Speaking as a professional producer, they will arise, and you will short yourself if you don’t account for them.

Certainly, inexperienced individuals who assume doing “the first job for $25 to $50”, for example, with the intention to raise their rate at a later date are, unfortunately, lowering the bar across the entire industry—this is the ultimate fatal flaw of P2P sites. On one hand there are opportunities. On the other, you may get far less than you bargained for.

Granted your potential client may have asked for your rate as a voice talent, but beyond recording the session, production services are NOT included in your rate. Even if you are a skilled recording engineer or producer, production services are added to your voiceover rate. The client is likely asking because they just don’t know.

The Voiceover Resource Guide publishes and updates the most current union rates for voiceover work every 6 months.

All non-union voiceover is loosely based on union ‘scale’ rates, the lowest acceptable rates offered in the union (SAG-AFTRA). ‘Scale’ is a national standard. These rates should give you a realistic ballpark for voicing a variety of voiceover genres, in lieu of residuals, and without including additional costs for editing, or any production demands.

What you need to consider before offering a potential client a quote is:

  • KNOW what the job is worth. Most talent (experienced or not) just want to work. Therefore they offer the lowest common denominator, and honestly don’t charge enough to begin with.
  • Whatever quote you offer sets a precedence the client will come to rely on with you in all future dealings. This rate will be passed on to their colleagues when they refer you, as well.
  • OVERAGES. Corporate production clients often initially claim they “only need a voiceover for this sole project”. However, statistics dictate a 90% likelihood of voicing additional work, which is “unforeseen” at the onset. I.e. The client expected the final time on the project to run 10-20 minutes in length, but instead it’s running an hour and a half. More than 4 times longer than the initial estimate. This is often due to the client’s lack of production experience. Don’t let it be because of your short-sightedness. Consider in advance how you intend to handle overages the client hadn’t bargained for. Determine when to work with the client, when to hold them accountable, and when to cut your losses.
  • Changes. How many “pick-ups” or changes will you allow? 3? 4? (Technically, if the mistakes are yours, it’s yours to make it right. But, if the client keeps changing the script—which they will… how many changes are too many?) If you don’t specify what your rate includes from the start, the client will likely assume they’re allowed unlimited tweaks, even in a year or so. They aren’t. This is work, and you have a service to provided. Protect yourself in advance. Put the client on a timeline to expect changes on this invoice, or they will incur overages.
  • Reuse Fees. An additional full fee should be invoiced if the client intends to re-use or continue to use the final recording beyond the agreed timeline, such as after a year or 18 months, or whatever timeline you determine with them from the start.
  • CONFLICTS. Regardless of whether you are brokering all your own sessions or not, you’re ultimately responsible for keeping track of your “conflicts”. There are no conflicts in radio, but there are or can be online. In other words, if you have a Burger King commercial running, you can’t even audition for McDonald’s. It’s a conflict of interest to work for the competition. That’s the case whether you’re union or not.


Copyright © 2018 by Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.