If a potential client asks “What do you charge”, do you feel put on the spot to come up with an answer right away? Do you have that answer, or are you fumbling for words in a mad dash to not lose out on a gig? While some customers usually have a predetermined budget and rate in mind, others might ask you to quote them before going any further because they have no idea themselves. The question then becomes, “How do I set a rate – without selling myself short”?
Having been a full-time voice over artist for almost 30 years, I am very passionate and informed about voiceover rates. With heaps of experience in what constitutes an industry-standard rate for a voice over artist, it goes without saying that I have a lot of opinions on the matter. Firstly, the lack of clarity around where different talents price themselves in contrast to one another. Following a conversation with my colleagues Dan Leonard, George Whitman and Brad Newman at Uncle Roy’s annual voiceover barbecue, I realized “I can help,” and came up with a five point checklist to help get you started.
So grab a pen and paper and get ready to do a little bit of homework, because we’re going to dig in on how to set your rates as a voiceover artist.
Non-Union Voice Over Rates
In the expanding world of non-union voice over rates, the debate is great on how much to charge for voiceover work. If you partake in any form of non-union voice work, I caution you to avoid a desperate race to the bottom in order to continue to get your share of the pie in our market. There lies the path of fiverr, burn out and not being able to sustain a healthy career in VO. That being said, how you price your voice work is not one size fits all. Yes, look at some of the rate guides that are out there, but also check each other out. A lot of us are now posting our rates on our sites. Survey some of the better talent and constantly working talent to determine what that might be.
Union Voice Over Rates
It’s an excellent idea to become familiar with SAG/AFTRA, ACTRA or Equity pricing. Union rates have been negotiated between producers and entities that represent the performers. Having sat on some of the committees elected to participate in these great discussions I can say coming to agreements are long and arduous. One thing people always seem to forget is that these negotiated rates are the basement in pricing. One should not ever work for anything lower than what has been negotiated, and with talent, experience and demand, one can negotiate higher rates. Just make sure you are justified before doing so, and have a strong body of work with lots of experience to base it off of, but also filter it through the five point system outlined below.
5 Pricing Factors to Determine Your Rate
Our art is a craft. Some of us craft better than others. Some have chosen to polish one aspect above another. Not every voice actor is equal. But then not every job is equal either. How do you sort out what to charge? Inspired by a copy writer friend, Steve Roller, I give you the factors to take into account when sorting out what you should charge for a particular job. First of all, go through these and rate yourself 1-3 (low, medium, high). Keep track of your numbers & I’ll tell you what to do with them further down.
Your Voice Over Experience
Are you a beginner or a seasoned pro? How long have you been at this? Are you full time or are you working at something else to support your voiceover goals? How long have you been able to write “voice actor” as your job on your tax forms? Have you won awards or been in any stand-out or high profile series or jobs? If you are not yet full-time or have been full time in VO less than 3 years, give yourself a 1. If you’ve been making 6 figures for more than 10 years, give yourself a 3.
Your Perceived Voice Over Value
How do people see you in the market? Not your peers, but your clients. Are you known? Have you done something remarkable and do you promote it? What does your reel sound like? What does your website look like? Is your YT or Vimeo Channel full of samples of what you’ve done? What is your social media presence? How many connections do you have on LinkedIn, or followers on Facebook or Instagram? Are you one of the go-to talents in your city? Your country? 1-3. Mark it down.
Your Actual Voice Over Value
Strip everything away and ask yourself honestly, how good are you? What feedback have you received about your craft from your clients? And how good in their industry are those clients? Are you working on triple A video games or is your income mostly from games produced in countries with developing economies? Have you ever won or been nominated for an award, or do you have dozens under your belt? Below, average or above? 1, 2, or 3?
Your Geography in the Voice Over World
Where it’s going vs where you are. Become more informed – what country are you from and where it will be aired – are you undercutting your Western suppliers of work? Try to get as much info from the client as possible and know how to use the market to your advantage. How expensive is the city in which you live? New Yorkers and SoCal people have high rents/mortgages. You guys live in the 3. Whereas if you live in Greenville, SC, Omaha, NB or in Canada (like me) things cost less. Jot down a 1.
Your Hunger for Voice Over Work
Are you crazy busy this week? Do you have a mammoth project in your inbox that you need to set aside time to prepare? Have you met all your financial targets for the last couple of quarters? Then you, my friend, are happily not that hungry for voice over work right now. Give yourself a 3. But if you haven’t booked yet this week (or this month), you qualify for a 1.
Figuring Out Your Own VO Rates
If you’ve added all your numbers up, you have something between 5 and 15. Multiply that by .1 So a newbie will be at .5 and an award winning, 30 year pro (like yours truly) will have a 1.5 Here’s where the magic happens. Now go back to your guide whether it’s the Union rates or non-Union (which are actually about the same) and multiply their suggested rate by your personal number of .5 to 1.5 So, if your tally was 1.1 and the suggested rate is $500, you can with clear conscience (and data to back your decision), comfortably charge $550. If your tally was .8, your rate might be $400.
Variability in Voice Over Rates
Why shouldn’t we all just stick with the rate as-is? Same reason my narration rate doesn’t match Sigourney Weaver’s. We’re not all at the same point in our careers. I was a full time radio announcer for 4 years before I became a member of the Union. Those 4 years and the increasing quality of the work I did within them gained me access to qualify for Union rates. Before that, I may have thought my work was as good as. But it wasn’t. As it stands today, my agent usually negotiates for scale and a half, or double scale; but remember what I mentioned earlier, guides are just that – guides. If you feel like you’re able to negotiate higher, just make sure you can justify it first. I wrote this because of so many friends and colleagues with lesser degrees of talent/experience who aspire to charge suggested rates, but aren’t there yet. It’s also for the multitude of experienced, talented voice artists who should be charging more. A lot more. Know your worth. Know the market. Price yourself accordingly and never try to undercut the industry too much – nobody respects that, especially clients. Nobody wants to buy something cheap.
I will now remove myself from the soap box I have been spouting and ask for your comments. What do you think? Rates are a hotbed in terms of topics. I’ve pulled the covers back. Want to climb in?