Voiceover and Money, and Money and Voiceover

So, I said I’d talk about money and voiceovers are worth more than this much moneyvoiceover.

It’s a bit of thing, isn’t it? There’s the competition aspect, where people want to be earning more than other people, but at the same time want to have more attractive voice-over prices than other people…. Uh, thanks capitalism. There’s also the emotional/mental aspect of putting a monetary value on yourself as an artist; thoughts like “I’m not as good as x, I should charge less…” or “people don’t have much money at the moment, maybe I should work for free…” Thanks again, capitalism. And THEN, there’s the I’m-running-a-business-and-I-need-to-make-a-profit aspect…. Yes, all my slightly sarcastic gratitude goes to capitalism.

Who loves capitalism? Not me.

However, voiceover is a business, and this business exists in the world, and we can’t ignore money.

I know… real exciting, huh. Who wants to talk about money?

Well… judging by the chat going round the internet, every voice actor and their entire friend-and-family group want to talk about money. So, let’s talk about money!

The thing with being a freelancer is that you’re your own business, and you gotta set your own prices. The other thing is that there are a gazillion other similar freelancers out there setting prices, too, so everyone has to kind of bounce off each other. This is probably Economics 101, idk, I don’t understand economics.

So, you COULD just say, hey, I’m a voice actor and you can pay me TWENTY FIVE DOLLARS for any kind of voiceover you like. You’d probably do okay. You’d probably make a living, I guess? Maybe? But… other voice actors might feel a tad bit irritated because that’s called Driving Prices Down. And you might not mind that you spent 20 years of valuable time learning how to do voiceover, but most of us do. We are valuable. Don’t sell yourself for 25 bucks. Please?

You could ALSO say hey, I’m a voice actor and I charge NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS for any kind of voiceover you like. Well… it’s probably easier to see the flaw with this one… you won’t get many jobs. And unless you can live on $9000 a year with your very inexpensive mini-me, you probs won’t make a living.

So, where’s the happy medium?

She’s in her tent at a spiritual festival communicating with happy spirits….

happy medium communing with happy voiceover spirits

Okay, the happy medium is in a place where your time, training, expenses, living costs and the current market are taken into account to get you sensible, fair recompense for the value you provide as a voiceover.

If you are spending an hour creating a high-quality voiceover, with your expensive professional equipment, in a well-treated studio, using utilities you pay for, and that recording will be used to attract business or add value in some way to a company… that’s worth a lot! $25 is not a lot. $250 is not even a lot, you guys.

Like, do you know how much businesses spend to advertise? Neither do I, but it’s generally somewhere in the region of HEAPS. They do it because the advertisement, with your voice in it, will MAKE THEM MONEY. They are making money from the voiceover you do for them – you deserve a decent amount of that money. Simple.

Now, the obvious question is “but what if it’s a charity or non-profit or a small local business or… I just rly rly, like, like them?”

I’m a fan of giving some people a discount. Like small discount, don’t be silly. IF they genuinely have a reason for a low budget. (Oh, if it’s a cause I WANT to be involved with, like domestic violence support or a charity working to lower sexual assault, I will definitely consider a low fee.) Just being a non-profit is not a good reason. Non-profits often have a lot of money! (Economics 101 again – profit and revenue are not the same thing.)

I had an epiphany recently – it’s OKAY that someone can’t afford you. Me. Whatever. If a business wants to make a video but they can’t afford $300 for the voiceover, maybe – bear with me here – maybe they can’t afford to make a video right now. Since when is everyone able to do everything when we want to?

I want to get my bathroom renovated. But it will cost many thousands of dollars. I don’t have that right now. Should I call some bathroom companies and say look, I can’t afford your prices, I’d like you to renovate my bathroom for $200 please?

NO. That’s RUDE and bratty and they will laugh at me.

they want a voiceover for MOW MUCH?

So, it’s okay that I can’t afford new tiles and a nice big mirror right now. And it’s okay that someone can’t afford a voice actor right now – why can’t we just say so? Easy-peasy – get back to me when you have the funds. No worries!

Long story short – you, my voice acting friend, are worth lots of money. And there are plenty of clients who will pay you plenty. You ain’t going to make a million quick bucks, but you can certainly make good money doing voice acting and I, for one, plan to do exactly that.

If you need some resources to help figure out what different kinds of voiceover jobs might be worth, try the GVAA rate guide, the GFTB rate guide, or the Australian Equity rate card (that one only covers Commercial rates and may be a little out of date, please let me know if you know of a more recent one!) Many agents (in Australia at least) also have rate cards on their website.

I recently put my prices up. Because I’m worth it, baby, she says, swishing her hair and stalking across the room like a supermodel… Please get in touch if you’d like to see ‘em! My rate cards, I mean… why did that sound weird?

Hit the comments and tell me what you think about the joys of being paid peanuts, and/or the delight of putting your prices up!

Images by  @beachbumledford@vesnoi_ and @dmhendr2184  via Twenty20.

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8 comments… add one
  • Dan Garlick Oct 7, 2020 @ 18:58

    I think the biggest hurdle most voiceover people face is appropriately valuing what you do. For instance when I first started in the dim dark late 80s the voiceovers I did were 99% radio commercials as part of my job. Then I moved interstate and started getting agency work which was highly paid in the early 90s (the good old days). Then supplemented by contract TV station voiceovers at a piece rate which was significantly lower. I recall one day I was in the TV station and was booked for an agency to record a major supermarket campaign. The pay for this booking was around $1000. That was for 3 x 30 second and 2 x 15 second scripts. After I finished the TV production guy grabbed me to read 6 x 15 second scripts at $15 each.
    After a year of doing this (and also part time radio station announcer) guess which one had paid the most?

    • Sumara Meers Oct 7, 2020 @ 19:13

      That’s so interesting Dan, thank you for commenting! The 90’s didn’t seem do long ago but I guess times have definitely changed in the Voiceover industry.

  • Joshua Alexander Oct 8, 2020 @ 3:09

    On the money yet again, Sumara! (See what I did there?)

    Great article. Not that I don’t like peanuts, I just don’t like getting *paid* peanuts. Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me, he says…swishing his hair and sashaying across the room like a prancing poodle…

    • Sumara Meers Oct 8, 2020 @ 11:56

      lol I DO see what you did there! 😂 I prefer my peanuts to be smashed up and then served inside a cup made of chocolate… Which I will pay for with the excellent money I’ve earned doing fabulous voiceover. 😁

      I will keep an eye out for your poodle costume in a few weeks Josh. 🐩

  • Ashleigh Mac Oct 12, 2020 @ 19:49

    If Coles and Woolworths got together and had a meeting and together set prices it would be illegal. Yet so many VO people tout that as the right thing to do. “Stick to the rate card” is such an “employee” thing. The internet democratised this industry and if you wish to face the challenge of the new style of operator you will need to do more than tell them how to run their business. You need to stop trying to make them out as “inferior” or not legitimate. If your service is better, or you think your voice is better, or you think you are trained better charge accordingly. But please stop telling others in the industry how to run their businesses. If you are so clueless that you have to use a rate card to price your jobs you are an amateur. I often charge MORE than the rate cards say because the job demands it or my business demands it. Maybe start writing articles that say “Hey I’m pissed off with people stealing my work” or “ hey, I’m so inept in business I have no idea how to meet the market”. The reality is there are a plethora of blog posts about this and not one will change anything. Time to get good at business and voiceovers because there are lots of just good voices out there.

    • Sumara Meers Oct 13, 2020 @ 11:23

      Hi Ashleigh. 🙂
      I’m sorry you thought I was telling people how to run their business. I simply like to remind people that their services are worth good money, and they are entitled to set the prices that will ensure they make a good living reflecting the work they put in.
      I’d rather spend time on my blog encouraging people and reminding them of their value, but if you prefer to call people inept, clueless, amateur, etc… you go right ahead. Have fun with that! 🙂

  • Reece George Oct 14, 2020 @ 14:30

    I went from door-to-door for 20 years talking about the Bible. In that time I knocked on the doors of some very expensive houses. Most of the time, nobody was home in these places except the cat or dog, who I am sure appreciated the fancy house :). When people were home, they were mostly too busy to even talk to another human being, unkind or just grumpy. In twenty years, I never met one person from a big fancy house that seemed to be hapier than me.

    Disclaimer: I no longer believe in God and I now live in a huge old two story house. Fucken capitalism. LOL.

    • Sumara Meers Oct 14, 2020 @ 15:03

      I’m sure those people were working VERY HARD to buy their cats and dogs nice big fancy houses to wait around in all day. 🙂

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