Whether you’re a professional voice actor, an aspiring one, or a casting director looking to book voice talent for an upcoming project, you must familiarize yourself with the different rates associated with voice over services. While there are no one-size-fits-all or definitive standard rates that exist for every kind of voice over, there are minimum rates most professional voice actors will adhere to – even if they won’t publicly list them. This comprehensive guide to voice actor rates outlines several factors that come into play when pricing any kind of voice over work.
How Do I Set My Own Voice Actor Rates?
If you’re getting ready to strike out on your own as a professional voice actor, you’re probably wondering how to set your own voice acting rates. And you wouldn’t be alone. As mentioned earlier, most voice talent won’t actually list their rates publicly, so gauging the right amount to charge for a specific voice over project can be a little fickle if you’re not already an industry insider. The trick, however, is simply knowing where to look.
Where to Start Pricing
Institutions like the GVAA (Global Voice Acting Academy) offer free resources on their website to help a voice actor determine their own rates based on a loose industry standard. Meanwhile, the SAG-AFTRA scale follows a more rigid union voice over rate that’s less open to interpretation. But more on those later.
Factors that Make a Difference in the Guide to Voice Actor Rates
While voice over rates can vary greatly from actor to actor and region to region, there are a few variables to consider when looking at voice over rates. For example, the amount a fledgling voice actor might charge for a one-hour narration will be significantly lower than that of a professional voice actor for the same project. Similarly, a live-directed session will cost you more money than a standard recording session would.
In much the same way, a voice actor with a home studio and Source Connect can offer more competitive rates when compared to a voice actor who needs to book an outside recording studio every time they book a voice over job. Any attempt to list each of the many factors involved in determining voice over rates here would be nearly impossible, but I’ve assembled a quick checklist of questions to help narrow it down a bit:
Union or nonunion voice actors?
There’s a vast difference in the amount a union member can charge compared to a non-union member.
Non-union rates usually fetch a higher fee upfront, but don’t account for anything other than the fee itself. On the other hand, union rates account for insurance, breaks, royalty negotiations and other incidentals.
Home recording studio or rental?
When a voice talent has access to their own home studio, it eliminates travel expenses and the need to book rental time on studio spaces, allowing them to charge less money but make a higher profit.
Through services like Source Connect,voice actors and directors can work together in real time as if they were physically present in the same studio.
Finished audio or raw audio?
Finished audio is typically more time-intensive on the voice over actor’s side and calls for access to a sound engineer or production team, which can lead to extra expenses, but a more coveted final product. A raw recording file only requires the voice actor to read the script well and move on to the next project.
Is the project long or short?
The shorter the narration, the more you can charge per minute. The longer the project, the more wiggle room you have to offer a competitive rate.
Animation or localization?
Whether or not the voice overs being provided are the original audio for a series or feature, or added to localize an international product can have a serious impact on voice over rates.
What’s the usage period?
How long it’s going to be broadcast or used has a direct influence on how much you should charge. Depending on the length of use, a contract can be drawn up to account for royalty payments and perpetuities. It might all seem like complicated technical language, but it’s pretty easy to understand once you break it down into the bare essentials.
Essential Terms in the Guide to Voice Actor Rates
It doesn’t matter if the project is a commercial spot, a temporary recording for broadcast narration, a phone patch, or online ads – every type of voice over uses the same underlying terms. Think of it like the legend on a roadmap – no matter where you’re headed, the basic points of interest are all marked in digestible ways that look confusing but are relatively easy to interpret.
Finished Audio: Finished audio typically refers to whether or not the audio recording includes editing and extras added post-recording.
Finished Minute: A finished minute is the industry term for the average speed a body of text can be narrated based on its total word count. Finished minute is also applied when a voice over actor charges their client for fully edited audio recordings.
This invoicing method is often used with short-form voice over content like explainers and commercial work and commands higher rates based on the time spent in the recording studio.
Finished Hour: A finished hour, or hourly rate, is based on content that veers towards the slightly longer side, like audiobooks. Acting more like a flat rate, the finished-hour billing method offers a little more wiggle room to clients who want to avoid paying additional compensation for recordings that exceed the initial estimate. On the flip side, despite being offered at a reduced rate compared to finished minutes, a voice over talent can charge for more work than they may do.
Raw Audio: Unlike a finished audio recording, the voice over rates for raw content can be significantly lower for the same time period of work. From the point of view of a voice actor, it means all you need to focus on is the performance itself rather than the finished content. However, the hard sell on this type of recording from a client’s perspective is that all of the editing be left up to them.
Total Word Count: When a voice over actor charges through total word count, it usually means that they’re charging a flat rate for the entire project based on the length of the script. The formula that they apply to the total word count method is generated by dividing the entire word count of a script by the number of words a voice over talent can read per minute.
Buy Out: A total buyout, or buyout rate, usually applies more to non-union voice actors who outright sell their audio content in one lump sum payment. Often opting out of perpetuities, this type of voice over rate includes unlimited usage across multiple spots and forgoes royalties altogether.
Scratch Tracks: style=”font-weight: 400;”>Scratch tracks can be seen as something like the voice over equivalent of a table read. Unlike live-action sequences, any type of content produced through animation needs to be created in sequences, all the while with the final voice over in mind. Rather than pay a voice actor twice for the same work, casting directors for animated projects will often hire a stand-in to narrate the script before animation. This way, the content can be created around the script and actually sync up later with the final voice over.
Live Direction: A live direction is the remote equivalent of an in-studio voice over session. Through live direct sessions, casting directors and clients alike can sit in on (and coach) a voice performance in real-time, no matter where they are in the world. This method of directing has become increasingly popular following the covid-19 pandemic and has become a new industry standard.
Most live directions happen from a home studio equipped with source connect and, depending on the voice over actor, might cost an extra fee in addition to the existing rate.
Broadcast Narration & Non-Broadcast Narration – How to Tell them Apart
The easiest way to tell broadcast and non-broadcast apart is to examine the audience it’s geared towards, the type of content being produced, and the delivery method.
Broadcast narration is exactly what it sounds like – narration that’s being broadcast to a live audience from the comfort of their own homes, work space, vehicle or wherever they may be at the time it’s being played.
This type of voice over acts like a wide net that’s designed to reach people who aren’t necessarily intending to hear it, but can take something away from the broadcast all the same. A great example of broadcast narration might be a commercial spot for radio and television or a PSA. Again, the intent behind the broadcast is that it is tailored to a geographic audience rather than a deliberate one.
Because the audiences who actually hear these narrations are less defined than non-broadcast, things like royalties can be pre-determined based on how long the ad is intended to run for. While there are a few different kinds of broadcast voice over, all of them adhere to the same underlying delivery method: they’re marketed to a loosely estimated audience that’s hard to gauge.
This type of content is tailored to one of three major audiences:
Local Markets: A local market can be anything from a small-town radio ad to a local announcement.
Regional Markets: Regional markets circle a slightly larger audience than local ones and cover the span of an entire region, like a state or province.
Mass Markets: Mass markets comprise both national and international audiences. The type of content marketed to these demographics can often be found online or on satellite radio.
Non-Broadcast Voice Over
In contrast to broadcast, non-broadcast voice over is definitively tailored to specific audiences based on their preferences, interests, and direct needs. Instead of being projected outwards to a generic demographic over a set time, this type of voice over is intended to be sought out by clients or consumers and pull them inwards.
The GVAA Rate Guide – The First Stop to Setting Your Own Rates
Whenever we begin a new chapter in our lives or careers, it’s essential to never run into a situation blind. That’s why the GVAA rate guide is so important – it’s the roadmap to determining your own rates.
That being said, the GVAA rate guide is precisely that – a guide – and should be loosely interpreted. It’s intended solely as an informational and educational resource to read before speaking with producers and determining your own rates as a voice talent.
For some voice actors, the intent is to keep a competitive edge by outpricing their competitors, and for others, it’s simply a matter of sliding rates that accommodate particular needs. The amount you might charge for a 30-second explainer video will drastically differ from the amount you’d invoice someone for an audiobook. Whatever the case is for you, you need to ensure that when a casting or creative director calls for potential voice work, you don’t get caught with your pants down.
A professional knows their worth and understands the market and the usage. When you’re in the middle of a conversation with a prospective client, you need to be able to pull rates out of thin air – and ready to stand by them at a moment’s notice. At the end of the day, you’re selling a service in addition to a performance, and clients can tell when you’re not confident of your worth.
Types of Voice Over Acting (and How to Charge for Them)
Animation and Dubbing: The voice over rates for animation and dubbing can vary greatly depending on whether the animation studio opts for a union voice actor or a non-union voice actor.
Dubbing: Where a union voice talent might charge an hourly rate of $87.00, non-union voice actors can price themselves at an average of $125.00 per hour with a two-hour minimum.
Animation: When the voice over is specifically developed for animation, union members can charge an average of $1000.00 per 22-minute episode over the course of a four-hour session.
Audiobook Voice Over Rates:
Because audiobook narrations require considerably more time in-studio than most other types of voice over, the rates are typically billed per hour. Additionally, the rates can include royalties depending on the type of agreement. Depending on the needs of the content producer, these types of narrations can either be finished audio or raw, with the option of post-production add-ons at an additional fee.
The union voice over rates per finished hour can range between $150 and $225 based on the GVAA fair rate guide and up to $500 for non-union work. The suggested union rates for raw narrations fetch an average of $225 per hour.
eLearning Voice Over Rates
When we look at the average session fee for eLearning, there are a couple of ways to invoice clients, but the two methods most often used by voice actors are per word and minute.
eLearning Rate Per Minute: When a professional voice actor charges by the minute, they’ll typically break the session rate into ten-minute blocks of audio content that can either be finished or raw. The average voice over rate for eLearning per minute can range anywhere from $16.50-$79.50 per minute, depending on the type of content.
eLearning Rate Per Word: When calculated per word, the voice over rates for eLearning follows the finished minute formula mentioned earlier. It’s essentially the script’s total word count divided by the average speed you narrate words per minute. If you look at my guide to eLearning voice over rates, the average cost per word can span from $0.11-$0.55 depending on the length and complexity of the text and the speed at which it’s narrated.
Explainer Voice Over Rates: Explainer videos are quick and to the point, often lasting no longer than 90 seconds each. Voice over rates for explainers can range anywhere from $300-$500 per video based on the GVAA rate guide but can also be scaled back in cases of narrations produced in bulk.
Medical Voice Over Rates: Because medical narrations require extra technical insights that the average voice talent simply doesn’t have, they command significantly higher rates than most other forms of voice over.
Depending on the length of the content, the voice over rates for medical narration can cost up to $500 for the first two minutes of recording and nearly $2400 for an entire hour. If priced by the word, rates should usually begin at no less than $.25 per word.
Radio Voice Over Rates: When pricing voice over rates for radio broadcasts, it’s important to take into account both the intended market and the length of time it’s set to air for. The rates are typically set in three, six, and twelve-month increments and scale depending on the market they’re being advertised to. For example, the GVAA suggested rate for commercial radio work begins at $250 for three months on a local market level. The regional, national, and worldwide amounts can range from $300, $600, and $1800, respectively.
And those are just the tip of the voice over rates iceberg. The voice over industry is so vast and all-encompassing that it would be nearly impossible to list every single variable price right here in a single blog post. Still, a wealth of online resources go into much further depth.
GVAA Rate Guide vs the Guide to Voice Actor Rates
Before the online world became much of a thing, understanding the ins and outs of pricing one’s own voice over work was always a hit-or-miss adventure, kind of like throwing spaghetti and the wall and waiting around to see what stuck. For the longest time, and some might even argue to this day, standard voice over rates were open to interpretation based on the needs of both the client and the voice over artist and could change at a moment’s notice.
While union rates might have been established throughout more than a few international collectives, like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, the voice over community was often left in the dark about the different billing methods. Until David Rosenthal and the 2016 global voice acting academy publication of the GVAA rate guide.
What is the GVAA?
At its core, the GVAA, or Global Voice Acting Academy, is an online institution that teaches just about everything voice over. From industry newbies to voice acting pros, the GVAA’s mission is to connect voice talent with all the resources they need to have a successful voice over career.
What Does the GVAA Do?
With a slogan like elevate your voiceover career, it’s clear that GVAA’s goal is to help steer your voice over career in the right direction. Beyond the GVAA rate guide, they provide a wealth of resources like live coaching sessions, workshops, mentorships, and job postings. The GVAA is like a central hub for everything voice over.
- Recorded Classes, Webinars, and Workshops
- Recorded Coaching Workouts
- Script Library
- Live Q&A Webinars
- Rates and Negotiation Advice
- Mentorship and Guidance
How to Access the GVAA Rate Guide
While much of the info globalvoiceacademy.com has to offer is on a subscription basis, the GVAA rate guide is a completely free informational and educational resource. All it takes to access it is your first name, last name, and email address.