Avoid Mistakes

Like most small business owners just starting out, budding voice talent tend to severely undervalue themselves out of sheer desperation, and for fear they may “lose the job”.

For instance, “I’d love to voice your documentary… for FREE!”

Insert your own twisted rationale here, such as, “But, I’m just getting started.” “I’m happy to get paid at all.” “It’s just for this ONE job.” “It’s for a friend, or a neighbor, or a relative, or a friend of a friend.”

Fast forward a year or two, and you’re still committed to doing 3 or more projects a week for this same vendor for the same sub-basement rate. Only you’re not just doing the voiceover, you’re also handling all the production but not getting paid for it. To make matters worse, you’re locked into that $50 per job rate you quoted them from the start. Seriously? You’d make more money walking dogs or babysitting.

To add insult to injury, the client will never be happy. Never. Why? Because YOU devalued your true worth as a voice talent from the very start when you quoted them that lousy, penny ante rate in the first place.

Now you’re overwhelmed, and here all you wanted to do was get your voiceover career started. You didn’t think the first couple of clients would snowball into this. Yet, here you are, spending more time and effort recording and editing than actually voicing anything.

The phrase ‘cheap is very expensive’ comes to mind.

This is the greatest obstacle voice talent face today. Here’s why: Doing something for nothing, or near nothing (say, under $200) sets a poor precedence in this, or any business, because clients come to rely on the rate you quoted them initially for all future projects. When a client asks you, “What’s your rate?” They already want to hire you! They wouldn’t be asking otherwise, they simply don’t know what they’re getting for their money.

You may be new to this field, and have very little production experience, but guess what? That corporate client who wants to hire you to do the video narration probably has even less than you! Especially if you’re trained, and you’ve spent some time and attention producing a professional voiceover demo you can be proud of.

So when they ask if the production is included, they’re asking because they honestly don’t know it ISN’T! (Nor should it be!) So, if you’re worried you’ll lose the gig if you don’t agree to deliver services well beyond your actual production capabilities—relax. And inform your potential client your fee is solely for your voiceover performance skills.

Stay in your lane!

Truly professional voice talent aren’t simultaneously producers, casting directors and talent agents all rolled into one. And, while you may have skills in any or all of these areas as well, it doesn’t mean you’re required to multi-purpose and thereby lessen the quality of the final product. If you do, it’s more than likely you’ll find yourself facing chronically complaining clients. Mass media alone contributes to clients’ unrealistic expectations of what they’ll get for their promotional dollar. They’ll expect production values that’s parallel the NBC Nightly News, which you couldn’t possibly deliver on your own. Learn to leave it to the professionals. Even voice talent with some semblance of production acumen are generally out of their depth when they attempt to deliver much beyond recording and uploading raw audio files to the production client’s cloud simply because they aren’t getting paid for it.

Precious few voiceover talent effectively estimate the true value of their voiceovers, and the media their performance may be used (or reused) in. This is precisely why producers and talent agents exist, and why traditionally those services are wholly separate functions, let alone professions.

Other than that, take the rate sheet from just about any Pay-to-Play site, and add… yes ADD, 20 to 30% to determine your rate as a nonunion voiceover. Be bold. Be confident. But stand pat. You’re in a poker game, my friend. Rest assured, the rates on these sites are far too low in the first place, and that’s a perfect jumping off point to establish yourself as a professional. Plus, you’ll account for various unforeseen costs that will inevitably arise, and allow room for growth and negotiation with your newly forged client.

Still concerned about what to charge? Then don’t take my word for it, here’s what Entrepreneur contributor, and founder of Marketing Domination Media, Jonathan Long, says about ‘feeling bad about charging what you’re worth’. “Never feel bad about charging what you’re worth.” It’s basic business. Raise your standards, or become a slave to the sub-par.

There’s no beginner, intermediate, and advanced in this industry. Which is why I don’t feel the need to even comment on Fiverr.com any more than just this: It’s not an option, any more than hiring a 13 year old to voice your corporate web site’s industrial video would be a viable business move.

You’re either a professional, or you’re not. And this is either your business… or its not. Treat it like a business.

Commerce is confidence. Do everything in your power to give yourself every reason to be confident in your product (your performance), your service, and know your worth.

Copyright © 2017  by Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.


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