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    Establishing Voice Over Rates For Beginners

    John Melley - Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    It seems the subject of “Rates” is a hot one, particularly for people new to Voice Over.

    After my article on Are Your Low Voice Over Rates Your Own Fault? I received several questions/comments.

    Here’s one from a new voice talent. My thoughts on his questions follow:

    Dear John,

    I'm new to voiceover work and thus do not have a lot of context to what a job should cost. I know how much I would like to make, but I also know that if I ask too much I may lose the job and at this point gaining clients and experience seems to be the priority.

    At the same time I'm working on a presentation narration project that has turned out to be much more work than I expected and I am hesitant to go back to the client and ask for more money.

    I'm sure that with time I will learn to better gauge how much work a project will take, and thus bid more appropriately.

    Love to hear your thoughts on tips for those of us new to this line of work.

    Thanks for the great article.

    Sincerely,

    Tim

    Hi Tim,

    Yes, it's a "chicken/egg" question on rates for new voice over talent. Most talent look at what they should charge for voice over rates from a clean slate – like they should start really low.

    You need to ask yourself a few questions

    Here’s a question. Did you ever start a new job where you were doing the job for the first time, but someone thought you were capable of learning it so they hired you? Did you work for free, or did they pay you? Most folks get paid. Yes, it might be lower to start and it could increase with experience, but you got paid something.

    Same thing goes for Voice Over.

    You need to ask yourself a few other questions. Answering them honestly can help you determine your comfort level with your rates.

    I have found that most discomfort about what people should charge comes from being unsure of something; be it experience, level of comfort with the material (do you know anything about the subject matter you're recording) or attitudes about money, etc.

    So ask yourself:

    • Do you have enough VO Training to deliver a good performance of the material you're being asked to record?
    • Can you deliver it to them as promised?
    • Why did the client pick you? (This is key. Did you audition and were you selected from a group of auditions? Was it your style and do you have the "sound they're looking for"? Or were you selected because you gave them the best bid?)
    • Was a budget discussed prior to recording?
    • Was there a negotiation on rates beforehand?

    If you can confidently answer "Yes" to those questions, then charge something you're comfortable with knowing you're new, but don't plan on staying there too long. You can get trapped.

    This can become a problem especially if the same client comes back to you for another project and they expect a similar rate. It's only natural for them to do so. You'll need to up your rate or else you'll end up resenting the work. (Kinda what I'm hearing in your narration project.)

    As for Going Back and Asking For More $

    I'd stick with what you quoted for them on the narration project and do it for what you agreed to, but at the same time, I don't see a problem with saying something after they've approved your work and give you a compliment on it.

    I'd say something like: "Thanks. I enjoyed the project and learned a lot from doing it. I must say it took quite a bit more than I expected. I'm new to voice over and editing so I'm learning what different projects take in terms of time. I'd love to be considered for other projects, but I'll have to be more realistic in the amount of time it takes when I quote you a figure. I hope you can understand that."

    Pricing can be a great positioning tool.

    Higher prices impress people. "Gee they must be really good." Here's the caveat. You've gotta be able to back it up. If you charge a higher fee and you deliver a so-so performance, you're cooked - and rightfully so.

    And Now For Something Completely Different...

    Finally, to put a completely different spin on this: If you've had any work experience you're probably knowledgeable about something. You bring that knowledge and experience with you. Don't discount that.

    What am I saying? If you're an expert in candy making, (or whatever background you come from) then consider doing VO projects in that arena. In that world, people won't question you and you can get the rates you want because you're already an expert and you're expanding your product offering. Then you leverage the voice jobs form those projects and build your rate base for other types of projects from there.

    I hope this helps!

    Do you have a Voice Over Business or Marketing question? I'd love to hear from you. Please feel free to ask. I'll try and answer it here. If I need to, I'll do some research and present what I find and we can both learn something!

    Thanks!

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