VOICE OVER RATES: Is your voice only worth a happy meal?

(( we're talking about it also on our facebook group ))

There needs to be a standard rate for voice actors when doing local/regional/national spots. Far too often I am seeing talent sell themselves short when working as independents. I am talking $75, $55, and $35 for fully produced spots! Are you crazy!!!

You should get $100 just to sneeze on the recording.

What bothers me is that I'm seeing others sell produced spots for the same amount or close to it. At the absolute lowest I would start at $200 (local) for voice only for anything :15 & under, and double it (at least) for a produced spot. Trust me, it'll make both you and the client swallow a few times in the beginning, but then, the client will understand that it costs to be the boss, and you will eventually realize that it was partly your creativity that drove the masses into the event, establishment or sold the product. Why ruin your voice for cheap??

When I personally charge $600 for a produced spot, I will take half down before starting along with a simple, written agreement.

This way you're not waiting to get a jump, and left holding a doggie bag from the fast food joint, while the clients drives off in his CL-Class from a fine dinner atop the tallest building in town.


I'd love for you to honestly share your rates below, and maybe others can offer suggestions to squeeze the extra dollar from the client...

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Comment by judy kameny on February 26, 2011 at 11:04am
Thanks, Joe!
Comment by Joe Van Riper on February 25, 2011 at 5:02pm
I doubt that you brought it about with your response.  Consider;  you acted very professionally in your reply and didn't try to play any games.  Therefore, the job most likely went away for one of two reasons: Either the client really did pull the rug out from under prior planning, or somebody over there is hiding their real reasons from you... very unprofessional. Either way, you are probably better off. Respect is a two-way street. Good luck with the next one....
Comment by judy kameny on February 25, 2011 at 1:10pm
Thanks, Joe.  I did just that, and was sure to be diplomatic about the way I worded it, explaining that although it's less than my usual rate, it would be fine for this project since I'd be happy to work with him.  A short time later he came back and although he was very nice about it, he said that "unfortunately the client has decided to go in a different direction."  Wondering if I shot myself in the foot, or if it was just coincidence, since I know that this happens all the time anyway. 
Comment by Joe Van Riper on February 23, 2011 at 10:12pm
Honesty is my favorite policy when dealing with rates in unusual circumstances.  Take the job if you really want to do it, but express your concerns to them and let them know you're making an exception in their case this time. See if there is any possibility of getting enough volume of work in the future to justify cutting your rates. Just be nice, and tell them straight out how you feel about it. They should respect that, and respond accordingly.
Comment by judy kameny on February 23, 2011 at 9:46pm

Hi everyone,

Most of my work has been through my agents, so I'm trying to get a feel for rates out there as a freelancer.  I was just offered a job at what seemed like a pretty low rate to me. They asked my rates and I asked them what their budget was. It's a vo for a 90-second animated website (after doing some homework this looks like a respectable operation with some impressive credentials). I guess my question is - do I tell them that even though that's lower than my usual fee, I'd like to work with them so that will be acceptable... or do I keep my mouth shut to get in the door, say that's fine, and charge more for any future work with them?  I would like to take this job, so I don't want the rates to be a deal-breaker. 



Comment by Joe Van Riper on February 9, 2011 at 10:24am
Anybody who pays by the hour rather than by the job doesn't care about quality. As a seasoned professional, I seldom have a job last over an hour... even long format, non-broadcast!  A "newbie" will take forever, and wear out an editor getting the same job done.  Why should he or she get paid more than me for taking longer to get it right?
Comment by Tim Powell on February 7, 2011 at 10:12pm

There's a place in Orlando where they pay $30 an hour. Flat fee. No limit on VO work. A friend stopped by after going by and doing TEN :30 sec spots... I pointed out that that was $3.00 per spot.

(Roxanne - you don't have to put on the red light.)

Don't laugh too hard at the the  spraypainted guy swinging the "we buy gold" sign next time you drive by - he's making 3X as much money as you are.

And I think I respect HIS choice over yours!


It's insane.

Comment by Dane Reid on February 7, 2011 at 10:59am

I recently got a call from a client at 10 pm who wanted 3 fully produced commercials by 10 am the next morning. I said ok. He texted me back at 11:27 pm and said This....

"Before I send it over are you gonna match the other guy 3 spots for $500"

I replied by telling him my rates and assuring him you get what you pay for. Then I went to bed

Comment by Jon Bailey on November 10, 2010 at 12:21am
I know one guy that was the voice FOR a happy meal and that was Tom Kane's Halloween Happy Meal spot! ;) Great post!
Comment by Tim Powell on October 21, 2010 at 7:35pm
Here's my "jumping off spot" for rates: http://www.edgestudio.com/Voice-Over-Rate-Card.htm
Edge does a survey to find out what the going rates are - and posts these rates for both clients and talent.
They also have a great Words-to-Hours chart that helps when pricing long-form reads (audio books, etc.)
I have had pretty much the same rates for a decade, only now I also am expected to do all the engineering, as well..
Radio spots: $225 for a single market, $350 for regional, $750 for national outside of NY and LA, $1500 for larger nationals including NY, LA, Chicago, etc.
TV spots: $375 for a single market, $500 for regional, $1000 for national (or current SAG rate)
RAdio Tags are Included for the first market, $25 for additional small markets, $50 for regional, $125 for NY, LA, Chicago, etc.
Narrations: $375 for the 1st hour, $125 for each additional half hour. (one hour minimum)
Extras, like ISDN connections or additional studio access are added on.
Audio books - depends on the length - these are the hardest to price. The words to hours converter helps make an estimate. I usually OVER estimate and then charge for actual time - rather than the estimate. Clients seem to like it that way.
If I can get MORE I will, and if they balk I always ask "What's your budget" to see it there's anywhere to meet in the middle.

BTW, I've turned down a LOT of low-ballers for a variety of work. Even if it's 20 spots and they're only paying $50 I STILL have to turn it down. Once you lower your rates you will NEVER get them back up again.

The only "bargain" rates I offer are for PSAs, charities or Educational Institutions. I have one college that uses me exclusively for their media, radio and TV, and their budgets have been slashed over the last couple of years - so if they call and can do it all in one session and they do the editing, I let them have it at bargain-basement prices...

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