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How To Ask For A Raise When
The Voice Over Budget Is Low
March 7, 2014

By Paul Strikwerda
Voice Actor

The project was perfect. It had my name written all over it. Better still, I didnít even have to submit a demo. It was mine!

There was only one problem: the budget. It was a bit low.

I asked myself: "Shall I do it anyway?Ē It would certainly be nice to add another prestigious brand name to my portfolio. And if they liked me, perhaps theyíd hire me at a better rate next time.

Seconds later I knew I wasnít making any sense. Big brands have big budgets. Even for voice overs. And every sales person on earth knows that the first offer is never the best. Itís a test.

Assume Iíd say yes to what they were offering right now. Iíd set a precedent. Why would a client feel inclined to pay me more next time? 

If I really wanted this job, there was only one solution: I had to ask for a raise.

WE'RE AFRAID TO ASK

Now, if you ask the average American worker what they fear most, it is negotiating salary. Most people feel lucky to have a job or a job offer. Theyíd rather take whatís on the table, than risk losing everything.

If we are to believe recent polls, less than a third of respondents say they negotiate salary after receiving a job offer, and that number is going down every year. One-fifth of U.S. workers never even bring it up. Almost half of the people who were interviewed didnít bother to ask for a raise during an annual performance review.

What does that tell us? 

When it comes to asking for money, people are terrified and insecure. Women more so than men. Theyíre also unprepared. Letís start with that.

KNOW YOUR WORTH

The first lesson in "Asking for a raise 101Ē is to know what youíre worth. That means doing your homework. Some colleagues are more diligent than others.

Take the folks who donít have a clue how much they should charge. As a result they are practically asking for peanuts. 

I donít believe that every lowballer bidding on a specific freelance job is purposely trying to undercut the competition. Theyíre offering to do it for less because they believe their rate is perfectly reasonable.

Theyíll tell you: "A hundred bucks for a two-minute voice over is good money. It beats bagging groceries at the supermarket.Ē

FREELANCE APPLES & ORANGES

What they forget is that theyíre comparing apples and oranges. Voice actors donít bill for their time or for how many customers they can serve during an eight-hour shift. They get paid for their expertise and their experience.

You cannot compare the salary of a steady job with benefits to the unpredictable position of a freelancer who has to build things like health insurance and a pension plan into his rate.

A freelance fee also has to pay for:
  • the many hours spent looking for work,
  • marketing, materials used,
  • rent of work space,
  • an internet connection,
  • a smart phone,
  • a laptop,
  • continued education, et cetera.
Those are expenses that employees with a nine-to-five job donít have.

Uneducated and inexperienced freelancers can leave a lot of money on the table because theyíre bidding blindly. They plug in a number without bothering to check how much others are asking for similar services.

That, by the way, was how I knew that what this client with the perfect project was offering, was not enough.

DO YOU DESERVE IT?

Hereís the thing. If youíre going to ask a potential client to increase the budget, you need to know how much you want and why you want it. Donít assume the client will understand.

Tell him or her why you believe you deserve it.
  • Make clear how much work is involved.
  • If heís offering a local rate for a nationwide commercial, explain that a greater reach comes with a different price tag.
  • If the job requires hours of editing, let the client know that you have to build that into your fee.
Communication is crucial. Providing your client with information is just one part of the negotiation process.

CLIENTS CAN TELL

How you present that information is even more important.

If youíre just trying to get a few extra bucks out of the deal, but you havenít convinced yourself that youíre worth it, you wonít get anywhere. Clients arenít stupid. They pick up on all the non-verbals.

If youíre not confident that you should be paid a certain amount, you will sound insecure. Youíll use words as "perhapsĒ and "maybe.Ē Your voice will quiver and go up at the end of a sentence as if youíre not really sure of yourself. Youíll cave after the first objection.

COMMUNICATE WITH CONFIDENCE

If, on the other hand, you feel strongly about your case, your voice needs to reflect confidence. Youíre stating facts. Youíre not opening the door to a discussion. Your fee is your fee. Period.

Iím not asking you to act like an arrogant jerk. Iím simply asking you to stand up for yourself. Be respectful and keep it businesslike.

What youíre actually doing is selling. Youíre telling the client:
  • Trust me! Buy me!
  • Would you rather buy from someone who sounds confident or from someone who doesnít sound sure of whatís he or she is doing?
CAN YOU WALK AWAY?

In my case, I didnít need a confidence boost. After all, the client had contacted me, and of all the voices they could have picked, they wanted me to do the job. That put me in a stronger bargaining position.

Still, thereís always the possibility that they could go shopping for a cheaper voice. That brings me to lesson number three:

Be prepared to walk away from a bad deal. Youíve done your homework. You know what youíre worth and youíve stated your case with confidence. Be ready to be rejected.

Should that happen, donít take it personally. Itís just money and youíll get better job offers.

Besides, if you get a sense that thereís a willingness to continue the negotiation, you can always try to meet in the middle. Know your bottom line and give them a new number.

STAY IN THE GAME

Donít quit the game while youíre still playing. If you really feel that thereís no wiggle room, donít waste your energy. Thank the client for contacting you and refer them to a colleague whom you know charges even more than you do.

That will give them something to think about.

Donít be surprised if the client gets back in touch once they realize that your rate wasnít so bad after alI.

IN MY CASE ...

I didnít have to go that far that to secure my perfect project. All I needed was a brief email exchange.

Based on the word count, I told my client how long it would take me to record his script. He was new to voice casting and had no idea it would take that many hours. After checking in with his supervisor, he accepted my quote and that was that.

Looking back, it didnít take much and it didnít take long for me to negotiate an amount I could live with.

That doesnít make me special. Anyone can do it, yet, not everyone will. It depends on your mindset. 

Realize this: If you leave money on the table, it means your client isnít paying for it. You are!
----------------
ABOUT PAUL
Paul Strikwerda is a 25-year veteran of the voice over industry whose Nethervoice service features German and Dutch voice overs, translation and evaluation services. Born in Holland, he has worked for Dutch national and international radio, the BBC and American Public Radio. Although 90% of his work is in English, Strikwerda also records in Dutch, German and French. Clients include Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and the Discovery Channel. He also publishes an informative and entertaining blog, Double Dutch.

Web: www.nethervoice.com
Double Dutch Blog: www.nethervoice.com/nethervoice


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Comments (10)
Lance Blair
3/8/2014 at 10:16 PM
Agree with all this, Paul! It takes time to do a longer script right, even if you're a master at cold reads and editing. Another thing I tell clients is that they aren't just hiring me by the word or by the hour - they can count on me to fix last minute script revisions and be there to perfectly match the tone in future sessions - and I won't nickel and dime them about any of that. It's value folded into the rate.

That said, I've grown my business in two ways: standing firm on rates with larger clients, but also welcoming lower rates for producers I can trust that want to work with me on an ongoing basis. I especially work for people like this if I think they're extremely talented: if they make beautiful, dynamic work with terrific scripts that give me something I can sink my teeth into, I'll take the lower rate. However, I can't do low rates for longer projects that eat into my studio and marketing time. Like you said, an hourly rate doesn't merely cover the voice over talent's time in the studio, it covers all the time you are out of the studio. The work never stops when the mic is off.
Spencer Eden
3/8/2014 at 4:07 PM
Great article! Saving this one to Evernote!
Kent Ingram
3/8/2014 at 2:54 PM
Another great one, Paul! It took me a while to understand what you've said, here. I tell potential clients that I like win-win outcomes and that I'm willing to negotiate, but only up to a point. As much as I might like to be selected for a gig, it isn't worth it if my time and labor are going to be bottom-of-the-barrel in talent fees. I'm confident enough to walk away from a gig, if I'm going to get low-balled.
Leah Frederick
3/8/2014 at 1:10 PM
I'm printing this out and posting it above my computer. A great (and timely) reminder! Thanks, Paul!
Guy
3/8/2014 at 1:06 PM
Great post. Never be afraid! In life we should all haggle. Either up or down.

I am busier with more jobs than ever before and always negotiated. My regulars know my worth and respect that and still come back. Everyone is happy.

Just make sure you deliver 100% if you have negotiated upwards and exceed their expectations. They write on Monday asking can it be done by Wednesday. Deliver same day or next day at the latest. Let them start editing with it straight the way.

Guy
VoiceoverGuy.co.uk
James Alburger
3/8/2014 at 1:05 PM
Excellent points about some of the critical aspects of success... and those are to simply know your worth, be confident, and ask the question. I know far too many voice actors who settle for only what is offered and are reluctant to ask questions or be willing to walk away. Thanks for the great tips, Paul.
Karen Gerstman
3/8/2014 at 12:58 PM
Thank you so much for passing this on! Fantastic!
Bob Marini VO
3/8/2014 at 12:58 PM
This is a brilliant piece of writing and advice I do religiously!!!! (and have for 30 years!) Thank You Paul!!!
Ken
3/7/2014 at 9:55 AM
Thanks Paul, well done. If I understand you correctly, when negotiating it's important to:

A) KNOW YOUR VALUE and exactly why you are asking for more. Conversely if you were in a sales situation, selling your car for example, the value of each concession you give in reducing your price (i.e. $100 off because it needs a new battery).

B) SPEAK WITH CONFIDENCE and know exactly why you charge what you do for services. Having done your homework allows you to speak with confidence and power. Be polite, be professional, be calm, knowing that you know. Knowledge is power and thinking ahead is underrated.

C) BE COOL WITH WALKING AWAY knowing this is a powerful position with options. Walking away opens up that proverbial space for new opportunities, money, love, bigger, better, different, to fill that space. And if not, you get to enjoy the tranquility of peace of uninterrupted, quiet, space, which can be best of all.

Good stuff Paul, thanks again for the reminders.

Ken
MassVoices
3/7/2014 at 5:25 AM
Great article, Thanks you !
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