Determining Rates: A Formula for a Simple Voice Over Pricing Guide

Determining Rates: A Formula for a Simple Voice Over Pricing Guide

Female Voice Over actors Event

At Uncle Roy’s with Shelley Avellino, Dearbhla Trainor, Laura Schreiber & David Toback

While eating cake in Uncle Roy Yokelson’s Jersey living room this past weekend at the 13th Annual VO Barbecue, I tossed out this blog idea to Dan Leonard, George Whitham, Brad Newman, and a few others and got a thumbs up. So here goes. I am about to stir the pot. Having been a full-time voiceover artist for over 25 years, I am very passionate about voiceover rates, have heaps of experience in what constitutes industry-standard voiceover rates and (obvi) a lot of opinions. What has been bothering me is a lack of clarity around where different talent price themselves vis a vis their particular pecking order and ta-dah! I have a solution for that.

 

Union Voice Over Rates

Firstly, it’s an excellent idea to become familiar with SAG/AFTRA, ACTTRA 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.

 

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.

 

5 Pricing Factors to Determine Your Rate

Brass number 5 voice over pricing tipsOur 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’re 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 habit? 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 web site 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?

 

glass globe Earth international voice overYour Geography in the Voice Over World

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

Old Fashioned cash register voice over rates

Source: Alvaro Reyes

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, 25+ 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. 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.

 

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?

29 Comments
  1. Linda Joy 1 year ago

    Brilliant, Kim! …can’t believe how quickly you wrote this blog. Thanks for the inspiration! [grabs calculator]

    • Author
      Kim Handysides 1 year ago

      Thanks Linda! It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Glad you found it uplifting.

  2. Jérôme P 1 year ago

    Thanks! Great advices + tool/formula. What would you recommend for those of us who use home sutdios and do the editing, mixing? Calculate it outside of the VO?

    • Author
      Kim Handysides 1 year ago

      Hi Jerome! I use a home studio too 🙂
      Generally a client gets to have either a live directed session or an edited file, not both. Some VOs include editing in their pricing, some add it. I think it’s a matter of how much time it takes you, whether you subcontract your editing to a sound engineer (I do that for anything longer than a minute, unless I’m under an NDA).

  3. Royal Jaye Joiner 1 year ago

    Great points Kim!

    • Author
      Kim Handysides 1 year ago

      I appreciate you chiming in Royal 🙂

  4. Kevin 1 year ago

    Great article

    • Author
      Kim Handysides 1 year ago

      Thanks Kevin!

  5. David 1 year ago

    Well laid out Kim! Thanks for sharing (and the link to your eLearning rate guide, very helpful)!

    • Author
      Kim Handysides 12 months ago

      You clicked through to the guide! Awesome David. So happy you found it useful.

  6. Michael 1 year ago

    I have been reading about rates and how to approach them since I began a scant three years ago, being very conscious of the race to the bottom balanced against the desire to book and improve my craft, and I have not yet read or heard anything as incisive and as helpful as this. Excellent. I’m off now to dust off my slide rule and abacus…

    • Author
      Kim Handysides 12 months ago

      Happy it’s helpful Michael!

  7. Kath Crumrine 1 year ago

    Really interesting and rewarding post Kim. Thank you for taking the time and being so bold as to stretch the imagination of what’s possible – and how to look at value in determining rates in the VO world.

  8. Karen Allen 1 year ago

    Thanks Kim. I have been feeling massively confused as to what is should be charging- I don’t want to be a race to the bottom person, but don’t feel comfortable charging many of therates on some guides as I’m not sure I’m in the same league as some people! Very helpful. Thanks

    • Author
      Kim Handysides 12 months ago

      SO glad it’s been helpful Karen!

  9. Paul Boucher 12 months ago

    Smart and well articulated Kim. Another great concise source to point people to when they ask the question. I’d combine the link to this blog post with a link to the GVAA Rate Guide. Together, the two pack a lot of good experiential information to base rates on for any non-union performer in particular.

  10. Bev Standing 12 months ago

    Excellent Kim and thank you. You’re right, rates are an ongoing concern. I believe speaking to your client and outlining what you’re bringing to the table helps. Your “5” categories in this blog details exactly how to do that.

    • Author
      Kim Handysides 12 months ago

      I greatly appreciate you weighing in here Bev. Thanks so much 🙂

  11. Christine Cullingworth 12 months ago

    Great post Kim, always so informative and spot on!

  12. Melissa 12 months ago

    Good article, Kim. Thanks for pointing out that Union (scale) rates are the least that can be paid to talent – a minimum, not a maximum. But don’t forget that those rates aren’t all the buyer pays. On top of those rates the buyer pays a percentage into the performers health insurance and pension, and in some cases payroll taxes – so you have to add anywhere from about 20-40% to scale to get what the buyer actually pays. You don’t want to leave health insurance and pension out of your calculations. Something to keep in mind for non-union talent who want to be careful not to undercut union rates. Of course, when it comes to eLearning, in many cases pro eLearning rates pay overscale anyway, because of the editing factor.

    • Author
      Kim Handysides 12 months ago

      Excellent and accurate points Melissa. Those benefits were hard negotiated and won and only possible with the population and pressure of members. It would be good practice for Non-union talents to build space in their pricing to tuck away for health, retirement, etc.

  13. Suzanne 11 months ago

    This is GOLD! I’ve kind of FELT this but wasn’t able to articulate it. Much less provide math lol. Thank you SO much!

    • Author
      Kim Handysides 11 months ago

      Gotta love the math Suzanne! 🙂

  14. Tobi Czumak 11 months ago

    Terrific Info, Kim. Thanks for sharing.

    • Author
      Kim Handysides 11 months ago

      SO glad you found it helpful Tobi 🙂

  15. Terri Nicole 9 months ago

    I love this approach, Kim. Rather humbling and at the same time offers concrete goals for me to work towards. Thanks so much for your incredible insight!

    • Author
      Kim Handysides 9 months ago

      Thank you so much for your comment Terri. It makes sense that we’re not a one-size-fits-all kind of collective, right? 🙂

  16. Joni 8 months ago

    Kim, This was a very helpful post. I had a discussion about this very topic, charging less for my VO work because I’m not as experienced as some of the talent who’ve been in the business longer and they said not to discount myself. That I’m still a working pro. My complete income is from VO. I think this advice came from not wanting me to undercut the pricing structure for the rest of the VO community. Is this not a consideration? I assume that is why you came up with the point system but it’s still considerably less. Are you going strictly by the SAG $’s or did you take into account the GVAA Rate Guide?

    • Author
      Kim Handysides 7 months ago

      HI Joni, yes I did take the GVAA rate guide in mind. It’s a great tool – but keep in mind its pricing is based on the two major markets that can call the highest prices (New York & LA). As so many of us work remotely now, the system I came up with is tailored to help better price those with perhaps less experience or who live in less costly centers, etc. And absolutely we want to keep our collective pricing as robust as possible – however one of the experience and other factors come into play in Union rates as well. (i.e. I charge double scale for all my commercial work commensurate with my level of experience) Thanks SO much for your comment. 🙂

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

CONTACT US

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Sending

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?