There’s an old saying in business: Good, cheap, fast, pick two. This can be applied to any service related company, and it absolutely applies to voiceover. In our gig-economy, there are many options for voiceover professionals (and amateurs) at various price points and many buyers are tempted to save money by finding the least expensive provider (or doing it themselves or conscripting a co-worker who won’t be compensated for it). But here’s why cheap or free voiceover is worse than none at all.
Cheap Means Compromising on Speed or Quality
When you ask for cheap or free voice over services you are compromising on speed or quality – which one do you want to give up? When your content reflects directly on how consumers perceive your business, compromise is costly. In our lightning fast, virtual world where disruption and change are constant, of the three – cost, speed or quality – speed is usually the most important. So speed is a given. But with so much selection, buyers rarely want to sacrifice quality (and neither do consumers).
A great quote from West Corporation, a digital media, and technology company, is “Many shoppers call, text or walk into a business thinking, ‘Give me your best thing at the lowest cost as fast as possible.’ But what they really want is the highest quality item for their dollar, reasonably fast.”
Cheaper is Rarely Better
I’m seriously as happy to save a dollar as the next person, but cheaper is rarely better and there’s a big difference between selling your cost and selling your value. Bill Green, author and CEO of Lending One, says that “companies that sell on cost comparison end up losing in the end. It’s very difficult to build a profitable and sustainable company when your primary strategy is to undercut the competition–because what ends up happening is you nickel and dime yourself to such a small margin.” So only looking for voiceover businesses that are barely sustaining themselves comes with some large risks – as well as not engaging your customers, setting the right tone for your company or inspiring action, they won’t be around in the future when you need updates to your project or want a consistent voice for your new campaign.
Indulge me briefly in comparing voice over services to other industries where cheaper is not better:
- Cheap VO is like cheap paint – you’ll have to use more (paint coverage) or it takes longer to get it done correctly (an amateur VO may need substantially more takes to get your copy delivered without errors or your tone and cadence the way you desire it and even then, it may not give you the quality you want)
- Cheap VO is like a cheap child safety seat (with a lower danger threshold) – the style might be outdated or not up to today’s standards and not hold up under intense scrutiny (your sound is unable to stay astride newer trends in advertising and risks getting tuned out, like a dated “announcer” sound or audio recorded on insufficient technology with scratchy, tinny or fuzzy results).
- Cheap VO is like cheap health insurance – your health AND you pocketbook can suffer from inadequate or inept care (an amateur VO is much less likely to be able to deliver a nuanced read which does what you want it to do – rise above the noise and pique your consumer’s curiosity or resonate with their need, or equally damaging, doesn’t understand the importance of an NDA and blabs about the project all over social media, giving your competitors insight into your not-yet-released project and stealing your advantage).
- Cheap VO is like cheap electronics – as well as missing parts and pieces (editing, pickups) they may not offer a warranty – aka won’t be around for future work or an extended campaign or “brand voice” because they have priced themselves too low for a sustainable career
Quality, Professional Voiceover Saves You in the Long Run
Generally, cheap voiceover is cheap because the artist may be lacking in quality, has inferior equipment, or has lots of (unpaid) time on their hands. However, there are instances where you can find moderately ok, less expensive VO. Geography comes into play here. If someone lives in a rural region or a country with a devalued dollar, they can pass savings on to the buyer. And many quality voiceover businesses negotiate price to try to work within your budget. At the very least a pro will make fewer mistakes, and therefore saves you in the long run on pickup and revision charges as well as endless back and forth with your client and risk to your reputation.
In extremely rare (unicorns on Mars-type) instances great quality voiceover artists offer free narration services. For a Thanksgiving promotion, a gift with purchase for existing clients, a gift to a local church or community organization or perhaps for their favorite charity. But pro-bono VO narration is usually the bailiwick of those seeking experience in the industry. A.k.a. newbies. And while this is a great strategy for someone new to the industry (and one I often coach my voiceover students to practice), it comes with caveats that buyers must take into account.
Resources for Standard Voiceover Rates
So if speed and quality are the two you pick, but you have no idea what a quality pro voice over artist charges for their services, discover how professional voice over artists price themselves here.