Okay, we’ve all seen it, someone on Fiverr asking five dollars for a voiceover. Today we’re gonna talk about why that’s insane and what you should charge for your voiceover work. Here we go.
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Hey everyone, I am Joe Zieja, former Air Force Captain, and now a voice actor and author in the Los Angeles area. I’ve had my voice in thousands of corporate videos, e-learning, commercials, promo, animation, video games, and anime. And when I was just starting out, it was very difficult to figure out what the heck I was supposed to charge people for my work. Figuring out what you’re supposed to charge is a lot easier nowadays because the industry has sort of banded together and tried to figure to, okay, what is it that I’m going to charge people for this service, or this service, or this service? Today were going to walk through understanding what makes up a voiceover session and what makes up the budget for a voiceover session.
Part one, session and usage. There are two things that define what your voiceover costs, and they are called session and usage. We’re going to go over session at first because that’s the simpler of the two. Your session fee is essentially your fee that you get for walking into the booth. For stepping up to the mic, for whatever reason. Even if the client never uses that stuff for anything, you get the session fee. Now this many times is absorbed, is combined with the usage which we’ll talk about in a second. Especially in the union world, and you should mimic it when you’re charging people in the non union world, even if you do simplify it. Your session fee is what you get just for showing up.
The usage is a lot more complicated, and I will say that even today lot of producers and a lot of actors don’t understand what usage is or how to apply it to charging for their services. Usage is basically where and how is your voice going to be used. Is it going to be on a website, trade shows, television, radio? Remember the genres we’ve talked about but in previous videos? Each of those sort of loosely defines a usage of your voice. Usage is broken down into a lot of different categories, but the general rule is the more money that a client stands to gain from your voice, the more money you are going to be charging them for usage. If it’s something that only is going to appear internally on their website, and they’re not going to get any … or I’m sorry, internally, inside their company and they’re not going to show it to anybody, and therefore not going to get any revenue for it, that’s on the lower end of usage.
If they’re going to air it on national television multiple times, and they stand to make millions of dollars for it, then you should be charging them more for it. It is in a very loose sense proportional to how much money the client stands to make from your voice. Another thing you need to consider is how long they’re going to be using it. For web stuff and internal stuff, a lot of it is called in perpetuity, that means they want the rights to use that forever. For digital usage, like certain websites and YouTube channels, now we are starting to see more of a trend towards yes, you can use this online for a year and then you need to rebuy, re up, pay me a holding fee. Those are all sorts of terms that people use to say okay, “After a year those rights are up. You no longer have the right to use my voice. You need to pay me another usage fee to extend it.”
On the broadcast side, which I mean TV and radio, typically commercials run in 13 week cycles, so there are four 13 week cycles in a full 52 week year. If you have a spot that’s running for a year, they’ll probably pay you for four separate cycles of usage. It expires every 13 weeks, and if they want to continue using your voice for television or radio, they need to pay you again. In general, and listen carefully, if a client is asking you for a buy-out in perpetuity, for all media, that’s a bad deal. That means they have the rights to use your voice for anything they want, for any length of time, which if you’re looking at something they’re going to pay you $500 every quarter for a 13 week cycle, that means if they use your spot for 10 years you’re missing out on $20,000 worth of revenue. Heck no. Buy-outs in perpetuity are something that I’m seeing more and more often. They are bad for you, they are bad for the industry, and whenever you have the chance you should push back on buy-outs in perpetuity for all media or learn that you can walk away.
We’re not going to talk about it in this particular video, but in some cases having a spot airing on television can create a conflict, which means that if you want to audition for a union gig in that same category you cannot. If somebody gives you a buy-out, or you offer someone a buy-out in perpetuity on a car commercial, and they just run your voice for 12 years, guess what? That $100,000, brilliant, BMW commercial that would have made your career in the union, you can’t audition for it anymore, because you have a conflict on television. Do not work all media buy-outs in perpetuity. Have you ever charged anyone for a voiceover job? How did you figure it out when you didn’t have the resource like this? Post it in the comments below.
Part two, okay, so what do I charge? This is a very difficult thing to figure out, and there are resources out there that kind of benchmark. In some cases, it’s more difficult to get the client to tell you what they’re going to be using this spot for, because like I said earlier, they don’t necessarily understand usage. Once you get that though, there are resources that you can use to figure out okay, with this usage, this length of time, what should I charge? A couple of them that are the best, actually, the best resource by far I found is The Global Voice Acting Academy’s Rate Guide. GVAA Rate Guide, which I will link for you down in the description below. And I’m going to give you a tutorial of it here in just a second. There’s also SAG Actors’ Rate Calculator, which is sort of in beta and doesn’t give very good results for things like trade shows, web videos, and stuff like that. If you’re really looking for an all encompassing guide, check out the GVAA’s Rate guide, and we’re going to go into that right now.
Okay, here we are on the Global Voice Acting Academy Website, which is gvaa.com. I’ll throw it in the links in the video description below, and I’ll also throw it up here on the screen. The rate guide is right there at the beginning under resources. Also if you type in GVAA Rate Guide into Google, it’s going to take you right here. It’s really easy to use, it’s very simple. Everything is right there in front of you. You can sign up for updates. You can support the rate guide. GVAA’s also a really great resource for lots of other stuff like classes, webinars, coaching. I’ll talk about that in a future video. Also, there’s some demo production stuff that goes up there.
The first thing you’re going to look at is the categories of voiceover, which I talked about in, I think my first video, I talked about the genres of voiceover, and you’ll notice that a lot of these line up to what I was saying. It’s the way that we price out voiceover as well. So you’ve got TV broadcast, non-broadcast, which is usually anything that’s not web but also not broadcast. It gets a little funny. You’ve got e-learning, promo, and imaging; cinema pickups, audio books, all that kind of stuff right here. Now these rates are generaly based on union rates, but scheduled to be, for the most part, just a little bit more flexible.
Let’s take a look at TV broadcast, which you can, and you can click on any of these to bring you anywhere you want, all the way down to radio. Let’s look at TV. It shows you here, on the left, how long you’re going to use it. The heading here shows you how many markets it’s going to go to. If we’re looking at one small area, I’ve done lots of commercials for like a local hardware store in Kansas city, that kind of thing. That’s what were looking at it for here. A local market, one city or state, no major markets, as in not Chicago, not Los Angeles. All that other kind of stuff. And you can see that if you’re going to use it for a three months, you should look at a rate range in between here, and there are some notes that explains what this means.
The GVAA Rate Guide is so easy to use and so comprehensive. It’s gone through so many different rounds of feedback that actors all over the world have given to the GVAA, so it’s just a great guide. It really is like your one stop resource for everything. You’re looking here, okay, so this now we’re talking about a regional market, somebody in New York. Well, let’s say, okay, somebody in Ohio wants to use this for a television commercial that’s going to be broadcast in Indiana, Ohio, and I don’t know, Michigan. All three sates that are somewhat close to each other. That would be considered a regional market. The price goes up and they’re using it for a year, and somebody’s offering you $250 for a one year regional market, you can be like, “Uh, no, that is not an industry standard rate and I won’t work for it.
Remember that you always have the power to say no. I know it can be very difficult, especially when you’re just starting out, but you have to make sure that you are encouraging the industry to stay at fair rates. It’s good for us, it’s good for the economy, it’s good for the industry. There’s lots of, you know, if they’re like, “Hey, okay, I’ve got a TV commercial, it’s local and I have four tags on it, because there are a bunch of different situations where it’s going to be like, “Call this now.” Okay, now we changed our number, “Call this now,” or, “Use promo code,” ba blah blah, each tag is going to be 300 bucks or whatever, it’s all broken down here.
For radio, it’s the same thing for the the most part. You’re looking at where it’s going, and how long it’s going to happen. Then you’ve got radio tags, web usage, how long is it going to be on the web. The thing that I don’t particularly, it’s not always very useful, is when you’re talking about geographic areas on the internet. Now some advertising is geo tagged and geo limited so it’s like we’re only going to advertise this to people on the eastern seaboard, that kind of thing, so that’s getting more specific as ad targeting. It’s more specific on social media.
Paid placement usually means it’s like an ad that runs before a youtube video, it’s pre-roll, it’s something that the person has to watch before they move on. So you see all that stuff is here. Finished minutes, corporate, and explainer videos, kiosk use, everything is here. E-learning, now one of the things you can also do, feel free to send this to the client. This isn’t like a big secret. This is the industry standard rates. It’s based off of union rates and all of that stuff, so when you’re using the GVAA, feel free to forward it to clients. Sometimes they really like understanding what this rate guide is. They may not know where people get prices from, and it is up to us sometimes to educate the client, and the GVAA Rate Guide is an excellent way to do that.
Look it’s complicated, it’s gritty. It sometimes makes people uncomfortable to talk about money, but with the knowledge we’ve talked about in this video, you are much better prepared to approach a client and say, “Hey, here’s what my voice is worth for what you’re asking for.” I know we can’t cover everything about charging for your voiceover in a five-minute video, so if you’ve got other questions please post them in the comments below, and I will do my best to get to them. If this video helped you, let me know by leaving a comment below. Also, give me a like, give me a subscribe, and you will get a new video every single week on how to get into voice acting.
There’s quite a body of content already on my YouTube channel, so feel free to go back and peruse some of the old videos, lots of great stuff there for you. All free, all ready for you to just soak it all in. That’s a wrap for this week. Thanks so much for stopping by, and I will see you in the booth.