Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

A Discussion about Rates

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

April 27, 2010

Comments (17)

Benjamin Franklin imageRates is a sensitive topic regardless of industry.

As we begin, let me first say that as a marketplace our primary responsibility is to facilitate business relationships that yield fruitful returns for our customers. A person in need of a custom voice over recording can visit Voices.com and find someone to work with quickly and cost-effectively. Similarly, a voice over professional who wants to market their voice and obtain business opportunities for work may also use Voices.com to achieve their goals.

Our role is to connect people and provide a platform for them to conduct business.

Setting rates is not part of what a marketplace does.

While we understand our unique role in the industry as facilitator, we are keenly aware of the need some talent have for establishing a rate sheet that indicates a range they may choose to quote within. Similarly, there are some clients who also appreciate resources and who have asked for a road map to follow with regard to how much they could budget for their voice overs.

If you're curious about some of the challenges we face and want to further explore the topic of voice over rates, read on.

Freelance Voice Over

Over the years, it has been difficult for freelance non-union voice over professionals to both set and preserve what they are able to charge for their fees. While union professionals have a rate card to reference that is standard across the board in most cases, union talent may charge the minimum rate as quoted on the sheet or above it should their clientele wish to pay more for the services rendered to them.

Non-union voice talent also reserve the right to set and charge their own fees.

Bearing this in mind, there is no set standard for non-union rates which leaves a wide spectrum for setting fees.

The marketplace brings its own set of challenges.

The Marketplace

Voices.com has been in business for 6 years. We serve both union and non-union voice over professionals and both union and non-union producers. During this time we have actively listened to our customers to learn more about what they wanted to see delivered in terms of service, features and benefits.

Something we have chosen to do is to provide resources for those starting out, for people who are seasoned professionals and also for those who are looking to hire voice over talent.

A Frequently Asked Question

One common question that people had, on both sides, had to do with the cost of a voice over and wanted us to make it easier for them to distinguish average of rates for particular applications of voice over compiled from a variety of non-union professional voice talent.

From what I have heard and read and been told, many voice talent expect that Voices.com educates clients on their behalf and ensure that the people who are seeking voice over services are informed of what a voice over might cost prior to asking for auditions and price quotes.

Suggested Voice Over Rate Sheet

In response to customer feedback, we have incorporated suggestions received from talent members and gone back and forth on this particular issue many times to best serve our customers. As a result, we decided to provide resources that indicate what the working professional may be charging for their work for various market sizes and applications. This particular resource is known as the voice over rate sheet.

The voice over rate sheet helps to identify what some working voice over professionals are charging and provides a range for clients who are unfamiliar with what the cost may be. This helps people who haven't worked directly with talent to know in advance what they may need to budget for work they need recorded.

Every few years, we revisit the rate sheets and update them with more current information reflecting what our members feel should be addressed.

Practicality Meets Simplicity

With respect to rates, minimum budget requirements, and security we have done the following for you:

Minimum of $100 for Posting a Public Job

One of the practical and effective practices we have put into place is instituting a budget minimum of $100 in order to have a job publicly posted to qualified professionals. This pleases customers who want better quality job postings and or postings that pay higher dollar amounts. Having a minimum fee for posting also protects you and prevents a casting call going out from a producer who doesn't expect to pay any money at all for the work they hope to procure.

Being Able to Filter Jobs

Voice talent at Voices.com can choose to receive work posted within certain budget ranges and exclude opportunities that they don't want to apply for. For instance as a talent, should you prefer not to see jobs in the $100-$250 range, you can visit your preferences and set them accordingly.

Voices.com Provides You With a Safe Payment Service

Have you heard of SurePay? SurePay (TM) is what we call our escrow service. Talent had often asked us if we were going to be charging the clients anything for using our service. We tried a few different ideas but SurePay was the winner as it ensured client satisfaction and also ensured that talent would be paid for their work.

David Ciccarelli, Voices.com's CEO, designed SurePay and developed it with our team, also seeking consultation from financial and legal advisers. SurePay was funded and built from the ground up by Voices.com in direct response to customer feedback.

In your account, you can choose whether you'd like to be paid by Voices.com on behalf of your client by PayPal or by check in the mail. You can do this now within your account by clicking on the link below:

Update My Preferences

Receiving payment by PayPal is the default preference, however, if you'd like to avoid the PayPal fee we can send you a check. It will simply take longer to get to you through the postal system.

Payments are made on the 1st and 15th of each month. If you picked PayPal as your means for receiving payment, you will receive payment on either the 1st or 15th of the month. If you chose to have a check mailed to you, it would be sent out on the 1st or 15th of the month. Should the 1st or 15th of the month fall on a Canadian holiday, payment will be sent the following business day.

Challenges

The single biggest challenge we face revolves around voice over rates and meeting the expectations of some talent who feel that some budgets are too low for what is being asked of them professionally.

Similarly, we face the challenge of being able to service customers who need voice overs recorded but may not have a budget that reflects or is agreeable to the market's going rate for a voice over of that particular scope, requirements or dimensions.

While we have a budget minimum for posting of $100, sometimes this figure may fall short of what some talent may wish to see on a per application or category basis as I alluded to earlier. We are currently working on new budget minimum requirements based upon voice overs for more specified projects and your ideas are most welcome via an email sent directly to me at stephanie(at)voices.com or left as comments on this entry.

Let's take a look at one example in particular to illustrate the point and challenge.

Audiobooks and Long Form Narration

One area where this has been problematic in the past has been audiobooks because so much of the actual recording and editing is relative to individual reading skills and technical abilities.

After speaking with award-winning narrator Simon Vance on one of our teleseminars, he suggested that $200 per finished hour is acceptable for proficient voice talent who also act as engineers and standard so far as the union rate goes.

$200 per finished hour of audio can be a great rate if you are able to edit with proficiency. From what I gather, it really comes down your ability to read well and your editing skills. You'll need to factor in how long it takes you to read (i.e. how many words per minute can you read?) and also the length of time it takes you to edit out any breaths, coughs, and so on.

Bear in mind that $200 per finished hour is a union rate. Some narrators may command higher fees. Non-union talent reserve the right to set their own base rates and may be choose to charge the union rate or higher, or conversely, they may set their fees lower according to their rate card.

Length of Time Devoted to an Audiobook

On average, a person can comfortably speak between 150-170 words per minute. You may find it helpful to time yourself reading something you haven't seen before or have reviewed once to gauge how many words per minute you yourself can read.

Generally speaking, the average audiobook may consume at least three weeks of your life. You'll be working on that audiobook each day for nearly a month, and if you are not a good engineer or have difficulty reading well with consistency, it may be longer.

Quoting, with regard to audiobooks, is mainly relative to how long it will take you to record and edit the recording if required. You might also want to take distribution into account. An audiobook recorded for a famed author may pay more than narrating the works of a comparatively unknown author or self-published author.

Relativity... Getting Back to the Point:

When something is relative, it is by nature different for everyone and there isn't a one size fits all solution. What you need to on an individual basis where audiobook and long form narration is concerned is to evaluate per word how long it would take you to record. If the amount of time it will take you to complete the project is satisfactory with the amount of money the client has budgeted, go for it! If you find that the budget is lower than you might have expected but you still want to record the audiobook, let the client know what your concerns are and note that you are open to discussing it further.

One thing that is important to note is that while everything is relative, it doesn't mean that you need to compromise beyond what you feel comfortable with or what you feel is right for you.

Should an opportunity not be appealing to you, simply let it pass. A number of talent have written negative messages to clients in their proposals which have done little to convince them to increase their budget. A client is more likely to increase their budget to meet your needs if you communicate in a polite manner that states facts, not feelings.

This strategy works well for us when we are in the initial stages of evaluating jobs that are submitted for posting at Voices.com. If the budget is very low, we do recommend to the clients that they increase their budget presenting them with facts, not feelings. When we do so, the majority of clients are happy to take what was said into consideration and adjust their budgets accordingly.

Keep in mind that everything is relative. This also goes for the budgets some clients are working with and also how they perceive the role of the voice over.

Uniqueness and Relativity

Every client that walks through the virtual doors of Voices.com is different, whether it be their unique brand, the size of their company or the amount of work they need recorded. Some companies will have dozens of projects that they need to complete each month while others may simply want one voice over recorded each year.

Some clients have their own production departments and are familiar with how the casting process works, how much money they should budget and know how to provide creative direction.

Some clients may be completely new to hiring voice talent, creating ads or branding their organizations with voice. They may not know how much a voice over costs for what they need to have done.

We do our best to meet the needs of each customer and serve them well. By doing so, we are able to present more quality opportunities to our voice talent members and continue to deliver on our promise.

Perceived Value

You'll find that some clients fully realize how powerful a voice over is and understand how your voice weaves itself into the fabric of their overall design. Others may not be aware of the significance of a voice over and merely see it as an item that needs to be crossed off a list of project related tasks. This may be particularly true if the voice over is not the focus of their project or integral to its completion.

The perceived value of the voice over is relative to how the person hiring voice over talent feels about the voice over's role in the final production.

To put this into other words with different examples, we experience similar things with our customers.

Do all voice talent perceive the value of the marketplace in the same way? No, they don't!

Some people place value only on getting a return on their investment that covers their subscription fee while others value a number of things in addition to the core service. These may include the ability to audition, be searched for, be featured, be found, have access to industry experts for assistance and guidance, belong to a community, be part of teleseminars, enjoy podcasts, blogs, customer acquisition and so on.

Value is relative just as beauty is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder.

Any Thoughts?

How do you determine what your rates are? Do people need justification for your rates or are they easy going?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/Clint Hild

Related Topics: audiobooks, how to, industry, Non-Union, quotes, quoting, rates, SAG, union, voice acting, voice over marketplace, voice overs, Voices.com


Comments


    I like the fact that you are addressing the budget issue, Stephanie. It's great to know Voices.com is on top of all these things. As providers, we are as invested in the clients as you guys are, and we want them to be informed and comfortable when they post jobs. Great article!

    Posted by:

      Thank you for this excellent article. I find it hard to believe that talent would send negative messages to clients regarding their fees. Anyone who is a true professional knows that this is not a proper way to do business. I am sure we have all been on the buying end of a deal where we did not know the market value of a product and were, perhaps embarrassed to offer the first number. This is the position of many Voices.com clients who seek a voice over for a small job. They do not deserve negative feedback. Furthermore, the benefits of being a premium subscriber are far more valuable than the rate that is paid. Members may market themselves on a professional level and reach a wide audience. I could go on, but let me just sum it up by saying Voices.com rocks!

      Posted by:
      • Jill Tarnoff
      • April 28, 2010 9:09 AM

        Regarding audio book rates, $200 may be a union rate -- but that's without editing. The editing factor is huge -- even for someone proficient at both reading and editing. Also, the complexity of the material, the prep time involved in developing character voices, researching accents and/or specialized terms, or just reading the whole book ahead of time has to be factored in when quoting.

        Posted by:

          Thanks Stephanie - good summary.

          I do have one request for the "Job Filters". They would be much more useful if we could filter by price and job type.

          For example, I may be fine with a $100 job for a telephone voice mail, but $100 would not be acceptable for an audio book.

          As it is now, I would have to keep the $100-$250 range checked if any potential job fell in that range.

          Just a suggestion for future development.

          Thanks,
          Joe

          Posted by:

            Always a lively discussion when rates are concerned. I have taken the liberty a few times after careful consideration to post a rate amount that is higher than what the client is offering for the job. Case in point: the 42,000-word audiobook yesterday with a budget of $500 tops. Since I've read several audiobooks, I posted a higher amount and stated that I had read audiobooks for Audible and Harper Audio. Just stating my experience and this is what I charge for that experience. No negativity, no 'your rate is too low,' no hard feelings either way. I'm glad you spent a good bit of time on audiobooks in today's blog, since rates offered can vary drastically. There has also been a good discussion of this subject in the Voice Actors Group on Linked In. Thanks again!

            Posted by:

              Thank you for this thoughtful and indepth look at rates, Stephanie. As a relative newcomer to VO and professional narration, this is most definitely an area of concern and discomfort for me - so I deeply appreciate you sharing your thoughts and the Voices.com process with respect to setting rates, how the client's perception of ROI on voice over affects their perspective on budget, and particularly the focus on the quandry faced by audiobook narrators when trying to not price themselves out of the market, yet also not undercut themselves in the end. Thanks again and keep it coming!

              Posted by:

                Thank you all for your replies and comments!

                @Scott: I appreciate your support :) Thanks for being the first to speak!

                @Jill: Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I'm grateful that you took some time to provide some comments for Voices.com, too. Thank you!

                @Diane: Little did you know at the time but you have inspired a follow up article going live this afternoon on quoting for editing! Thanks a million, Diane. It's lovely to hear from you.

                @Joe: Very good ideas presented here. Thank you very much for suggesting that there be a way to filter auditions both by budget and application. David mentioned something in the huddle earlier with regard to what you requested, stating that some elements of filtering in the redesign of the site (TBA) will incorporate features and benefits that may be similar to what you are hoping for.

                @Robin: Great response! I'm pleased that you shared how you respond to clients with budgets that are lower than what the going market rate is. I love how you give them facts and not feelings and keep it professional. Brava :)

                Posted by:

                  Apologies if I misinformed anyone about audio book recording rates. I was asked that perennially difficult question in any branch of the voice business "What is the usual rate..?". There is, of course, a huge range of rates but as I do know that one publisher has negotiated a basic union rate with AFTRA in a certain part of the country for professional narrators I quoted that as an example. As Diane pointed out - it is per finished hour for studio work at this publisher's studios. Obviously many other factors come into play when quoting for yourself.

                  Posted by:

                    Hi Simon,

                    Thank you for dropping by! I think it is good that you said $200 per hour of finished audio because the door was opened to further explore other items that can be billed for. What I neglected to mention, and I apologize profusely for this, is that editing is separate in terms of breaking down an overall quote. That is one of the reasons why I published the follow up on editing :).

                    For anyone who may be reading this who is new to quoting, there is usually a fee that you charge simply for dry voice recordings, that is to say recordings that only feature your voice without production elements such as music, etc.

                    Great conversations! Thank you for chiming in.

                    Best wishes,

                    Stephanie

                    Posted by:
                    • Stephanie Ciccarelli
                    • April 28, 2010 3:55 PM

                      Stephanie, thanks for opening the discussion on rates. Knowledge is power and the more both the talent and the client understand about rates the better. Just this afternoon I auditioned for a job on Voices where the budget was $250-$500 but the word count was zero. I believe both parties would be better served if everyone knew up front how much work was involved for how much money. Clients should have to post an honest estimate of their word count, page count or the number of finished minutes in their project.

                      Posted by:
                      • Mike Forrester
                      • April 28, 2010 6:21 PM

                        To further clarify -- dry voice is the norm for audiobooks, but editing audiobooks is still time consuming because of the length involved. Any other bells and whistles, which are unusual except in full cast audio, I would refer to as full production. I'm glad Simon commented since $200 per finished hour is low (too low) when the narrator is also the director, producer, audio engineer and editor on it. Most engineers here in NYC area ask $50 an hour just for the dry voice editing. There are more and more self-publishing authors out there who are not accustomed to hiring voice actors and have no idea what's involved, so the rates they expect to pay are often very unrealistic.

                        Posted by:

                          True Story on Value: I was recently hired for a job where the client told me flat out "We almost didn't hire you because your bid was 3 times more than most of the other people who auditioned. But, yours was the voice we wanted and we're so glad we went with you."

                          Perceived value is the key. Are you as talent letting the clients dictate what you bid solely for x number of words or minutes, or are we bidding for the client to use our unique voice to benefit their company or product?

                          A huge red flag for me is when an audition starts with..."Just a few words or sentences", "Quick Job", "Short Script" etc. That client is already telling you upfront they don't value your work, and they don't plan on paying much for it either. It's definitely our job as talent to educate each other first on having clear boundaries of how low not to go. Have a flat session rate and make it clear. If they want you, they will pay what it takes to have your voice on their project. If they don't, you just made time for a better client who will. Understandably, many talent will not publicly share their rates, I believe, for several reasons....one being fear of being undercut by other talent, but more importantly, because you absolutely don't want to publicly post a rate that could be significantly lower than what a potential client may be willing to pay.

                          I would love to see the real numbers that would come out if talent (who are booking work) had a place to anonymously post their rates where only other talent could see, along with some specific examples of "good jobs", not to average together with everyone else this time, but to get a virtual peek into individual voiceover businesses to get a more accurate snapshot of the big picture.

                          I remember when I sold radio advertising we always knew what the competition was charging, and then charged more. When a client would say, "But your competition offered it to me for less"...we'd reply, "that's because they have to." And it was true. They did have to charge less because they had already made the mistake of giving away their airtime for less that they should have. Their clients now had a permanent perceived value of what they expected to pay for air time, and would never consider paying more after having paid so little.

                          I did a :15 second read for $1000 earlier this week. I am non-union, and have never had an agent. This particular client came to me with a direct offer. My bottom line is... know what your voice is worth. Never apologize for rate. Never low-ball just to get work. You end up lowering the standards for everyone on what clients think they should budget for voiceover, and worse, you just branded yourself forever as less valuable than your competition.

                          Posted by:
                          • Janice
                          • May 5, 2010 1:56 PM

                            Whew.....always an interesting discussion and kudos to Stephanie for bringing it up.

                            I look at the union minimum rates as the "national standard rate". Now, if a client were to go with a union talent they would pay, at the very least, minimum scale, agent fee of 10%, studio time, residuals and contribute to health etc., so the client would actually be getting a very good deal if they accepted the minimum union rate card amount.

                            Now, having said that, my "experience" has been that clients don't go the union route because they want to save money and want a buy out. Therefore, in an effort to approach this in a balanced way (for me), I will often offer the union minimum rate or within 10-20% of it (depending) and provide the value added service of fully editing the audio and process if desired.

                            I will say that I try hard not to let a few dollars stand in the way of beginning a business relationship – repeat business is about 95% of my workload and there are times that looking to the big picture has provided great rewards.

                            Union minimum scale is a great starting point for the non-union talent, I think.

                            Posted by:

                              Great topic. I look forward to checking the links & comment indepth later on. This very topic has been on my mind lately actually. We in the UK seem to have different pricing expectations - our session fees are higher on the whole, so it sometimes stumps me as to what would be a fair rate from the US client's perspective on this site for instance, & a fair rate for me of course. Studio work here is given the right treatment, adhering to session fees & buyout etc. But these online platforms are a different kettle...

                              Then there is the question of 'perceived value' as mentioned already. I am wondering seriously, without any offence intended, whether this is recognised by most clients. I do get the impression that since the advent of such platforms, the business has been devalued considerably by people offering substandard service for almost nothing.. sort of like your Walmart for voiceovers (I do rate Voices.com above others, & that is why I am a member). There seems to be general recognition within the industry about rates being affected all over.
                              *I think perhaps clients need to be made aware of the value of a good professional voiceover*. I am immensely irritated by posts that begin "This really won't take you a long time, short script, lack of experience not a problem" & then go on to list totally unrealistic expectations for their particular read/brand/distribution etc, that are completely out of sync.

                              I have taken to adding a wee clause where I state my normal session fee & then suggest a rate for their project, just to give them an idea that it doesn't come for free. I'm not underselling or undercutting, just adjusting. It has & hasn't worked so am wondering whether to go bargain basement on the rates altogether!!

                              Posted by:
                              • Sini
                              • May 26, 2011 5:43 PM

                                Thanks for a GREAT article. The question of rates seems to be a thorn in the side of many a voice-over actor - partly because it appears that many clients seem not to appreciate just how much work goes into producing a voice-over.
                                Not only does it take time to produce the actual assignment, including recording and editing, if required, but this comes after years of blood, sweat, and tears; training and practicing, workshops and seminars: all of which amounts to a huge investment in terms of time and resources.
                                I was actually told by a (potential) client that, as my rates were $120 per hour and they wanted a three-minute finished recording, that they would expect to pay only $6 for the job! (Needless to say, I refused the job...)
                                Which brings me to the point of VALUE. We must hold dear the value of our own work, in order for clients, in turn, to do so also. And, to be fair, the majority of clients will value our work - especially when we point out to them that it has certain value TO THEM. If we behave in a business-like manner with clients, they will usually reciprocate.
                                Finally, one well-known client of mine once remarked that I was "very good... but expensive". My reply was, "John, I may be expensive... but I am very good."
                                Stephen James - Pres, The NOLA Voice Talent Foundation, Inc.

                                Posted by:

                                  Good article, Stephanie.

                                  With regard to audio book recording, Diane Havens is spot on. The only way that I would do an audio book would be if I was in another studio with someone else doing directing, editing, and QA.

                                  Usage is an area you did not mention. It would be good to have the terms of use and duration of use clearly defined with an explicit mention that using the VO for something other than agreed to, requires additional fees based on the additional use.

                                  Having producers lift my VO from one job for multiple, other uses has been the most common and troubling issue in my many years in the business.

                                  When big corps are involved, a letter always brought a prompt resolution. For the others, the union successfully executed on most of the illicit use cases.

                                  Posted by:
                                  • steve hammill
                                  • May 27, 2011 5:23 PM

                                    As a Native Spanish Voice Talent with a 20+ years career, I've seen throughout these past couple of years how Voices.com has been differentiating from Voice123.com. I'm a member of both websites and, believe me, the gap is becoming huger and huger.

                                    Voices.com has demonstrated that they VALUE their talents. At the end, we are the ones who make in so many ways this website work and be profitable. It's a matter of giving and taking, but with a fair, ethical way of exchanging professional interests. Voice123.com, on the other hand, has been creating tools against their talents, such as the "Low Budget" option for potential clients who don't pay a dime for publishing their ads on that website.

                                    The "Low Budget" option has been a matter of abuse lately on Voice123.com, to the extreme that you find production companies willing to pay $100 for a one hour documentary to be broadcasted on National TV in a Latin American country. This pushed me to send a letter to the Main Boss of Voice123.com, asking why they don't monitor this type of abuse and defend us, talents, of such disgusting situations. At the end we are the ones who make money at our expense, aren't they??? Their answer was that as soon as talents respond to that type of ads, they will keep on being published. In other words, they don't care to put our profession on the right spot, they just care about making money and that's all.

                                    That's why I'm seriously considering about leaving Voice123.com.

                                    I really want to congratulate Voices.com for their wonderful work, for their real dedication at the time of offering an excellent service, both to talents and to potential clients. I had the chance to meet Stephanie personally at Voice 2010 last year and it was an unforgettable moment. Voices.com with these guidance and references show that they RESPECT our profession to the most, and that's something is worth to make even better with all our support.

                                    Warm hugs from Tampa to you all!

                                    Simone Fojgiel

                                    Posted by:

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