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What Should You be Charging as a New Voice Over Artist?

So, you’re a fresh new voice over artist, you’ve got a sweet home studio set up, you’ve nailed your niche and you’ve found some solid spots to look for work. Now just what the hell do you start charging people for your fine services?

The short answer? I can’t actually tell you what to charge for voice over work. Well, that was a short blog, thanks for reading! See ya later!

No, seriously though, this is because like any other freelance industry, you’re operating in the free market. You’re free to charge whatever you see fit or whatever you think is fair pay for fair work.

I found this incredibly difficult initially, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I was somewhat remiss in always doing my research, and in learning what to charge I was no different. I daren’t mention what I earned for my first ever project, but let’s just say I wasn’t exactly rushing out to buy my first Porsche afterwards. I could have maybe been able to afford the pencil and paper to draw a picture of a Porsche though…

However, we have to start somewhere, and what better place to start as a benchmark than the industry standard rates?

Standard market rates and equity guidelines

Below I’ve linked to two excellent sources for rates, provided by Gravy for the Brain and The Voice Realm. These are typically the industry standard rates for voice over artists, and in an ideal world these are the kind of rates you’d like to be charging for every job.

Now, as a new voice over artist you might not think you’d be able to charge these sort of rates. I certainly didn’t. I had a definite imposter syndrome in my earlier days, I just refused to believe someone would be willing to pay me this much for something I’d only just started doing.

However, it’s good to come at this with a professional mindset. If you’ve done your ground work and the quality of your recordings is up to standard, then you’re well within your rights to be charging these sort of rates straight away.

Here I am raking in the pittance I made from my first ever voice over gig.

There’s also that old adage of paying peanuts and getting monkeys, and you definitely don’t want to start off with a cheap mindset or you might be stuck there for a while.

That of course doesn’t mean there’s no wiggle room, especially in the early days when you’re building up experience and learning the ropes, which leads me to the next piece of advice below…

Work to the client’s budget and the situation you’re in

Like I said above, the average market rates are a good jumping off point, but there’s a few other issues to note:

· How large is the audience? Is it right to charge the same for a podcast intro that has 1000 listeners as one that only has 10?

· What about clients that bulk order? What kind of discounts to they get?

· How complicated is the script and will it take a long time to do?

· Do you need to proof read the script?

· Where is the client based? There’s a lot of work now becoming available in emerging markets such as China and India, would you be expected to charge UK standard rates for these projects?

· What level of quality are you able to produce? Do you need to think about doing smaller projects for small clients to build experience? Should this be at a lower rate?

One example I have would be a brand new start up I started doing work for early last year. They needed video to build their business but didn’t have a large budget. By offering reduced rates I not only built a long term relationship with them and the video production company they were using, I showed that I could be reasonable and reliable and have since gotten a lot more work from them with increasing rates as they grow. Their success is my success. (Wow, that sounded a bit Gordon Gecko, but hey ho).

In addition, the production company now sees me as a go to person and someone they can introduce more start ups too. If I hadn’t initially offered those discounted rates and went for industry average, it may have been a one off job and I’d have never seen them again. Instead by working within their budget I now have a long term client out of it.

For me, these long term relationships are a lot more important for voice over artists than always charging industry rates 100% of the time.

So, one tactic I use is to simply as the client “What’s your budget?” Nine times out of ten they’ll know exactly how much they want to spend, and you’d be surprised how often that comes close to industry average (and sometimes above it).

This also wonderfully takes the pressure off you a bit and puts the ball more in the clients court, if they come back with an offer you’re not comfortable or you don’t think is fair, then you can always turn down the gig.

It essentially comes down to do you want to turn away work because you’re not getting the exact “standard” rates?

Final advice? Trust Your Gut

You’d be surprised how often that gut feeling is correct on something (my gut feeling incidentally helped me buy an excellent pair of pyjamas the other day actually).

You basically want to start roughly at the standard rates, apply any special circumstances to the situation (like the ones mentioned above) and if it feels right, you’re basically set. There are some voice over artists who will never deviate from the standard rates, like, at all, and that’s certainly their prerogative. I just feel that personally I’d be missing out if I wasn’t open to look at every opportunity that came up.

Some of my most interesting work has come from taking a chance on something crazy, taking a lower rate and rolling the dice. At the end of the day, it’s all about personal choices, what you want out of life, and for me, making sure my days are kept interesting is just another reason I chose this VO path!


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