I’ll be honest with you: voiceover artists are kind of expensive. I wanted to say that upfront to dispel any illusions that you’re about to read an article about how to get a bargain - as with all things, you are getting what you are paying for. If you read my article on whether or not you need a voiceover artist, you might remember my analogy of a voiceover artist being the frame to a sports car. You spent a lot of time coming up with the message and the content, and you want someone that’s going to deliver it with maximum impact.
When you’re paying for a voiceover artist, you’re not just paying someone to read a script. That’s like saying that you’re just paying a dentist to brush your teeth, or you’re just paying an artist to rub a colored pencil against a piece of paper. Anything sounds simple and easy if you reduce it down to its base parts. Voiceover artists are freelancers, creatives, and masters of nuance and communication. Some of the single most powerful people in ancient Roman and Greek society were orators. Delivering a compelling message in a compelling way is crucial to a return on your investment.
So, how do you determine a fair rate for a job? This is probably one of the most confusing topics in the entire industry, because rates seem to fluctuate at total random. Is there a method to the madness?
I do think, however, that I can break this down into simpler components. When determining a fair rate, it’s based on three basic attributes: usage, distribution, and length.
Usage: How is this going to be used? In order to determine a good rate, I need to know if your project is internal/external facing, and the medium on which you will be presenting it. There are different rates for TV, Radio, internet, audiobooks, e-learning, and games. Also, how long will the spot be used? Typically broadcast commercials are for 13-week “buys” but can be longer or shorter. This will affect the price. Good talent do not do in-perpetuity buyouts for broadcast media - if you are asking for that in your casting, many top talent will probably pass for several reasons.It’s also going to be tough convincing a talent that you can’t afford to pay them a good rate if you’re making a five-to-six figure media buy for national television.
Distribution: This is mostly influential for broadcast, since internet usage is global, but a local TV/radio commercial doesn’t pay as much as a regional or national. The more people in your potential audience - and the higher your media buy is for that medium - the more you should be ready to pay your voiceover artist. I’ll also include brand popularity in this as well. If Coca-Cola contacts me for a non-broadcast video, I will expect them to be ready to pay a higher rate than a simple kickstarter that needs a video.
Length: This is mostly applicable for non-broadcast, but you need to know the length of your script. A five minute e-learning video should not be charged the same as a two hour e-learning course. The longer the script, the higher the fee. Some talent charge by word, by minute, or by hour with a minimum. You should never expect talent to budget by page. Font sizes and spacing can change the amount of work radically.
There are, of course, other factors that might influence your voiceover artist’s quote. The experience of the actor, the timeline (I will charge more for rush projects or projects that need to be completed over a weekend). I also charge differently based on whether or not the client wants a live session where they can direct me. There will be another article soon on live direction methods, and another on tips when directing a talent live.
In the simplest of worlds, I would refer you to the actors’ union (SAG AFTRA’s) rate sheet, but sometimes it’s not so simple. Contracts are always advancing as mediums change and evolve, and it’s better for you to be on the leading edge than the trailing one. Otherwise, the single most comprehensive rate guide that I’ve ever seen can be found at the Global Voice Acting Academy, which you can see here. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but once you consider the things I’ve said here, you’ll be able to find a ballpark that any talent would be comfortable with as a starting place for negotiations.
If this has been helpful to you, or you have questions, please feel free to comment below! You can follow my blog by signing up at the top of this page, and you can get more updates via Twitter and Facebook.