How Much Should I Charge for Voiceover for Beginners? 4 Things I Wish I’d Known

How to set your voiceover rate? How much should I charge is one of the most contentious topics in the voiceover industry.

There are many factors that comes to play to determine your voice over pay rates. And if you’re a beginner to the voiceover industry, this can be daunting to try and figure out what to charge, since there’s no such things as a standard rate.

The only rates that are considered standard are the Union rates. Since you’re just starting out, the likelihood of you booking a gig for a union job is slim. These are the highly coveted jobs where you need to pay and belong to a union. Known in the US as SAG-AFTRA, Canada as ACTRA, and in the UK as Equity. 

Think ‘A-list’ entertainment work where the standard minimum rates are predetermined. These jobs are highly competitive.

However, if you do land a union job. Good on you! Just remember that if you join the union, you need to vow you will not take on any non-union work. Thus, contact a trusted agent to help you negotiate and ensure the work and pay is worthwhile.

Whereas, non-union work is an open market. It allows you to set your own rates, do several jobs a day even though it might generally pay less. The entry to barrier is easier to gain valuable work experience albeit it is still competitive, just not as competitive as union roles.

There’s also something in between union and non-union called Fi-Core but that’s another article for another time.

To not further complicate things, in this post let’s look at how to set your Non-Union rates, specifically:

1. What influences voiceover rates?
2. What are some considerations and questions you should ask yourself & answer honestly?
3. Voiceover Rate Lingo you should know
4. Where to find industry voiceover rates guide to assist you in setting your rate as a beginner

Voiceover is a type of art form, and art is subjective. Also, let’s not forget everyone’s skills, experience and artistry is not the same. Some are better than others. Every actor is different and every job is different too. So what are the factors to consider?

When it comes to rate, you have to evaluate the potential opportunity against the following factors:

  1. What type of voiceover work?

       i.e. commercial? Corporate narration? E-Learning?

     2. How will the audio be used?

     This is also known as usage, which is a critical factor in determining voice over rates. If the recording       will be used in commercials, or in a widely distributed medium such as on screen, online, radio this         is known as broadcast. Often there’s a higher cost associated vs if it is non-broadcast, where the           audio will be used internally within an organization.

     3. How long will the audio be used?

      This typically applies to broadcast usage. Will it be aired for 13 weeks or a couple of months or                a year?

     4. What’s the size of the project?

      For example, is it a long-term project where you’ll get consistent work from the client? Or is it a                one-time project? How long will it realistically take you to complete?  

      If you’ll be getting regular work, you can consider a lower rate, as typically this is more cost                      effective as you can spend less time marketing and getting new business, because we know how          much more time and effort it takes to land a new client.

     5. Who is the client?

     Is it a non-profit organization or a well-known brand?  If it’s an indie project or a client that doesn’t         have significant budget you can take this into consideration and quote a lower rate.

      6. Do you need to visit and be in a studio, or can you use your home studio?

      7. What are the deliverables?

       i.e. Will it be a live-directed session? This can be done in studio or remotely (in your home studio).           Often when client requests a live-directed session, you do as the client say live and deliver what             they want in a block of time (a session) where you get to just be a voiceover actor. Once the job is         done, you’re not involved with the post-production (i.e. clean and edit the audio).

       Or, will you be directing, producing and editing the audio yourself?

       If it’s the latter, be sure to ask the client if they want a raw (not edited/ processed)  or clean                     finished audio. Depending on the type of work, (typically e-learning) you may also be asked to split         the files.

       Regardless, you have to factor in the additional time and responsibility around it so you’ll want to           factor this into your rate too, in case you need or want to outsource some of the post-production           work.

       These are things you’d want to take into account when figuring out what you should charge for a           job.

Now on to some questions you should ask yourself and answer honestly

  1. What’s your voiceover experience?

      i.e. How long have you been doing voiceover? 1 year, 3 years, 5 years? Are you full-time or                        part-time? 

  1. How do people perceive you in the market?

      Have you got work to show? What are your demos like? What’s your social media presence? What          type of work do you work on?  Who are your clients?

  1. Where do you live?

     Depending on where you’re based you may have to charge a slightly higher rate because the                 standard of living is higher than other places.

  1. How’s your financial situation?

      Have you met your financial targets for the month? Quarter?  Can you offer a discount or are you            hungry for work?

  1. The potential opportunity is it going to be easy to do? or is what the client requesting going to be challenging and take a lot of work?

Another thing to consider is if you’re new to the industry, will it help you build your portfolio?

 

BuyOut: 

refers to a flat rate which “buys” the right to use your voice recording wherever, however and whenever they want. This goes in hand with ‘in perpetuity’ where the client pays you a flat fee so that they can use your recording forever. For any broadcast usage, you’ll want avoid this.

Retainer: 

An agreement in which the client pays a set amount per agreed upon period to compensate you for on-going work. Monthly retainers are the most common. You’ll want to consider setting a maximum amount of work the client is allowed to ask for per agreed rate and period.

Per Hour vs. Per Finished Hour:

Per Hour is an hourly rate charged based on the length of time you spend at the studio recording.

Per Finished Hour rate includes time spent cleaning up and processing the recording, leaving you with complete clean edited audio.

Per Project: 

a one-off payment rate for a script, regardless of the time spent for the completion of a project.

Per Session: 

also known as Basic Session Fee (BSF), is a flat rate some people charge for the time you spend in a studio) regardless of the number of projects recorded during the time you’re in studio.

Per Spot: 

charging a set fee for each commercial spot.

Pickups: 

words, phrases, or sentences that need to be corrected or edited after the initial recording because you may have mispronounced it, or the client is asking you to re-record in a different tone or variations. 

You’d set the expectation as to what type of pick-up is included free of charge (i.e. if you made a mistake) and what would require an additional charge, i.e. more than 2 sentences or a complete rewrite of the scripts.

Residuals: 

Additional payments typically apply to union commercials if the work is broadcast and aired above and beyond the initial fee.

Scratch Track: 

a temporary recording that is a “place-holder” for the final voice-over. It helps the production team design and guide what their vision of the final product will be.

Session: 

also known as a recording session is the time spent in a studio for a recording. If you leave the studio and return later to work on the same project, it’s considered a new session.

Now that you have some background and the basics of voiceover rates, you can see that figuring out your own voiceover rates is an art in itself.

The key thing to remember is you have to approach it as a business.

Ultimately, your rate is determined by your talent and experience, the competition, and what your goals are in voiceover. From how you want to grow as a professional to the type of work you’re wanting to do, to the income you’re looking for.

Remember, each time you achieve your goal, and as you continue to develop your skills and talents, build relationships, your portfolio, and increase your clientele, you can slowly and steadily increase the rates you charge.

So where can I find industry voiceover rates guide?

On my resource page look for the header Voiceover Rates’. There you’ll find a list of non-union to indie rate guides to help you set your rate.

Refer to the rate guides as a ‘suggested reference’.

At the end of the day, keep your perspectives in place. Set realistic flexible goals.

After viewing the reference guide, price yourself accordingly based on the following factors:

  • Your life circumstances
  • Where you are in your voiceover career
  • Your voiceover goals

 

Don’t quit your day job if your circumstance doesn’t allow you to. This way you’re less likely to undermine your worth. Know your worth. Value yourself, and set your fees that feel fair, reasonable, and right for you.

 

Photo by: loufreKelli McClintock

Girl Reflecting in Field

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