How Much Do I Charge?
Heck if I know! Nah… just pulling your leg though admittedly this is not a straightforward answer.
Like with any professional service, be it an electrician, plumber or hair stylist, prices vary by the quality of the professional, the equipment used, the service requested, etc.
In the case of narration, a few things need to be kept in mind:
If anyone could do it, your profession would not exist. Voice acting is very much like acting (except Hollywood is less strict about our diet) in that you need a certain personality, the ability to deal with a variety of clients, handle criticism, be directed and often rejected. You need some charisma and pizazz, but also business acumen, all of which, and certainly together, have value.
You should also remind yourself that if recording on the iPhone sounded as good as your booth, you wouldn't get jobs. If everyone knew how to remove clicks and breaths, knew software and hardware – they might be able to go it alone, but they are busy running their business and don’t necessarily have these skills or the time. Finally, if you've invested in a booth, equipment, training etc. like any other professional, you need to pay and maintain your skills and equipment, which all have value.
Yeah Cindy, get to the point, you say?
More variables to consider:
- The medium - which means it could be a TV ad, Internet, radio spot, phone system, etc.
- The market - in other words a local TV ad is worth less than a national and far less than an international one for example.
- How long the script is (which you may measure in words or time).
- The type of narration – audio books, movie trailer, video game, documentary, training manuals, whiteboard presentations- oy – you get the point right?
- How long will it take you to do the work? Will there be edits in the future? Will you offer free pickups?
Okay, now you’ve given all that some thought but you still aren’t sure what to charge. I understand. I had the same problem. My tips are based on my experience so take them with a grain of salt, but when I began, if I wasn’t getting a job with a prestipulated rate (from a P2P for example) , but one on my own (word of mouth, my website), I charged fairly low rates. I needed to get in the game, see what my perceived value was, and attract repeat business. I generally also asked what the budget was, tried to get a sense of what the client had in mind, and if possible stay within their budget.
As time went by, however, and I further invested in acting classes, provided multilingual services, added translation and built a proper studio, my rates went up. I was also able to turn down business without as much guilt because I knew that as my value increased often times the caliber of clients and jobs also increased. That is not to say that I am not flexible – I’ve actually done free work for causes I believe in or charged nominal rates for someone who needed it then and would certainly come back when they had more work.
While it is a personal decision what you charge, think about the fact that low-balling on a website for example, in the end hurts the whole industry because the value of voice over comes down. Bad enough non-union already makes less; bad enough there is stiff competition. If you head into something like Voices.com and begin bidding far less than others on the jobs, the next time the client comes to that website they will assume that what they paid last time is the norm, they will locate the lowest cost talent and guess what? Chances are they will get what they paid for (like your narration when you first began – less than what it is today for sure), and now that client may not even want to come back to the website because the talents he clicked on were not that savvy, professional, clean sounding and so forth… you see the potential spiral here right? You’re killing the whole industry by trying to snatch all the attention for yourself and in the end you lose too.
Okay so I am done. Off you go without a straight answer -- you set your prices as you see fit but take these guidelines if you are inclined, which have been worked out by folks who are well entrenched in the industry.
P.S. Lest I forget these important details:
The price you quote by and large includes your studio fee, a level of quality control which means you provide a noise free, professional, edited, proofread, well pronounced (researching pronunciations when needed) and proof-listened to (if that term doesn’t exist it should) your script.
You may want to gently remind your client what they are paying for.