Dear potential clients,
Please do yourself the favor of not requesting VO talents do your voiceover for less than it costs to buy lunch. I'll spell it out for you below...
There's a minimum amount I need to make to use my time wisely, just like you. To help you determine minimums I'll make a handy guide. First it depends on what you're looking for. Looking for prompt, professional service, handled effectively, efficiently and done right the first time or errors quickly dealt with? Then the minimum amount you should expect to spend is the average cost for a date night - dinner and a movie with a date/spouse/significant other. And yes that includes the wine, popcorn and soft drinks. If the talent is especially good and timely, it includes appetizers, dessert, an apertif and the tip as well. For those who aren't good at math - that means you start at about $100 in the middle of nowhere and work your way up to the national average of about $125-$150 for average middle America, $200+ for metropolitan areas and over $300 for major metropolitan areas. Note I said 'minimum'. Just like a restaurant, the cheaper the date is, the less the budget will be. If you take a risk with someone who is a beginner, then you cut out portions of the evening as you would on a date that may not be going so well. Let's say you're looking for a meet and greet - maybe a coffee house to see if you even match up, followed by a simple meal if things go well - then we're in the $50-75 and up range. By the same token, if this is a week’s to month’s long project and you want to have me at your disposal – we're talking about the type of budget Richard Gere used in "Pretty Woman" – so several thousand to several hundred thousand. A girl's got to make a living after all.
Do not make the mistake that we are simply speaking or reading. For years, or decades, we have invested time, finances and hard work to craft the words handed to us with skilled delivery. We balance more than just punctuation, motion and energy into our delivery. To learn the difference between our craft and 'reading' - attend your average High School or College English class on the day they are delivering oral reports, or reading aloud. If you think we are speaking, think back to the last conference, corporate training or presentation you attended. Been awhile - I invite you to view this entry in a Toastmasters boring speech entry. It's quite indicative of the 'average speaker': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiBsTwZ9UL0
In addition, we have also invested in purchasing, and learning how to use, equipment and software to insure that you receive a quality product. We make few to no errors, and correct the ones we do. To appreciate the difference in someone who properly uses the equipment in front of them, from someone who doesn't, call your local driving school. Ask to ride along with a few average teenage drivers who have just received their permit and can measure driving time, in hours, with single digits. Our equipment (microphones and mixers), hardware (computers, studio and the other ‘stuff’ that holds and contains everything) and software also require occasional maintenance, repair, updating or outright replacement. We have overhead costs for those– just like your business.
Unless it's a spec project, with a potential payday later, no one will (or should) do your production or voiceover for 'Free'. Not because you can make them 'great business contacts'. Who would want to make business contacts like that? The basis of that introduction would be, ‘Hey use this clown – they did it for free for me.' No thanks. No one will, or should, do your voiceover for the glory of being listed in the credits either - though some of us will do it for a non-profit group or educational purposes. To appreciate this 'free or credits' offer, extend it to an electrician. Ask them to rewire your house for contacts or credits. Would you trust the rewiring job of that electrician? Don't need rewiring? Extend the same offer to a lawyer or accountant. You will, no doubt, receive a cold, hard, stare until you change your mind. The local television or radio station, you may advertise with, may have conned you into thinking that your production, voiceover and music are free. You should know that the bulk of the cost is the equipment & overhead, production music, salesperson's cut and in-house talent expenses (in that order) and only a small fraction is spent on actual 'air time'. In-house talent is also very hit or miss – mostly miss. Just because someone knows enough about the latest and greatest celebrity or music, and how to run the radio station, it doesn’t mean they have anything invested in helping your company succeed. A VO talent has much investment in your company as you are their sole client focus for that moment in time. Radio and TV in-house talents are often doing a 'rip and read' of several commercials in a row - meaning they've never seen or practiced the script before, or looked at a pronunciation guide, and will read them all in a row - with no different inflection on a monster truck ad than a family restaurant ad. Then they (or the production director) will throw the client jingle, or several year old canned music/effects, behind each one and load it, breaths and bad takes often included at no extra charge, for airplay. This is done in a fraction of the amount of time it will take a professional to record your script and believe a few good takes have been laid down for safety - before doing a few more good takes for editing.
We also didn't produce our own demo, those who did are generally easy to point out. As professionals, when we needed our demo created, we hired people to assist us with scripts, use licensed music that's from this era and recorded on equipment that's at least as good as our own. Most professionals are also cautious to not record on equipment that’s so different it's not representative of what we can deliver for you. As part of that process we were pushed hard by a producer, an experience that most VO talent can’t help but hate to love – because it allows us to do even better than we did before those sessions. We also audition constantly. Occasionally that audition is stolen. Occasionally we catch those who steal our auditions and those clients can face civil and criminal penalties – and they also pay much more than we would have originally charged.
By each of use spending wisely on the *right* people for our products, we can both rest assured that we will have a much better chance to reach the people we are seeking, that no one is being taken advantage of and that we both have favorable reputations in our fields.