Updated: Nov 21
Let’s talk money
The world of a freelancer is a daunting one. Finding new clients, finding new representation, managing all your business affairs, marketing plans, accounting, invoices, CRMs, studio expenses, etc, etc, etc...the list is long. Figuring out what to charge clients can often times be the tipping point and leave you in your office throwing your hands in the air whilst spouting expletives...I mean, just ONE part of this whole business should be relatively easy...right? Right?
Right! Lemme help
First, what your client is paying for are your services. Services for narration are typically thus: session fee, pickups, usage, turnaround time, file splitting, rush orders, quality of recording and experience. (that's one sexy list)
Areas of service:
Session fee - This is you...doing the work...using that incredible voice of yours and your exemplary acting chops to deliver a product. Usually included in this price is a directed session or editing. Not usually both. If a client wants both, you can add an extra fee. The going rate for a one hour session of narration is $150 an hour.
Pickups - a pickup is when the session is over and your client comes back with a re-written line or maybe you made a mistake in the read. In other words...something needs to get re-recorded. Every voice actor has their own pickup guidelines. Mine are free for the first 48 hours after delivery. Also free for the first week if the mistake was mine (does NOT happen often...I deliver beautiful files, y’all). Thereafter my fee is $10 per line. If pickups are needed 30 days after delivery, a full session fee is charged.
Usage - usage is the fee for what the product is being used for and varies...sometimes greatly. If a client uses words like ‘in perpetuity’ or ‘all cuts and edits’ without a usage fee, go back and negotiate one. Don’t let someone use your voice forever and ever without giving you compensation.
File splitting - some projects can be very time consuming and require files to be split and renamed...it can take a lot of time. If you know beforehand that there will be many files to split, you can include it in your session fee. If not...or if you simply don’t wanna...charging $1 per file is a typical added service.
Rush! - if your client needs the product delivered in less than your usual turnaround time (typical turnaround times are about 24-48 hours) then you can add a rush service fee. Rush service fees can vary depending on the scope of the product. For example, if it’s a medical e-learning and you’re going to have to spend a couple hours looking up pronunciations, a 50% increase in your session fee is warranted. Typical rush fees are around 10% to 20% of your session fee.
Now, everything gets more and more complicated for different areas of voice over (video games, animation, commercial, audio books, etc etc) and then add in the differences between union and non-union...oof...it’s overwhelming. Lucky for us, Global Voice Academy has created an incredible rate guide to ease your mind. I check this guide often...like daily. If you’re lucky enough to have an agent, ask them as well. Negotiating contracts is their primary job...they’re super good at it.
If you are still unsure, the rate guide doesn’t have what you’re looking for or don’t have an agent...ask a pro. Don’t be shy. Many community groups on social media have a lot of different types of voice over professionals and someone out there will have an area of expertise to help you walk into negotiations with confidence. Don't know of a community group? Try Lone Star VO.
A quick word on ‘being competitive’
It’s tempting to under charge...after all...doesn’t that give you a competitive edge? Unfortunately, it doesn’t. It just brings the whole of our industry down. If you have professional training and professional equipment, you need and deserve to be charged as a professional. If this client were hiring a recording studio and an engineer, they’d be charged thousands, so your services are already a bargain. Take a deep breath and ask for what you deserve.
And a quick rule of thumb, even if you’re a brand new newbie, if the company you’re voicing for makes money, you need to be paid the same as anyone else. Trust, you’re worth it.
Now, go make some money, honey!