How To Ask For A Raise When
The Voice Over Budget Is Low
March 7, 2014
By Paul Strikwerda
The project was perfect. It had my name written all over it. Better still, I didn’t 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?” It would certainly be nice to add another prestigious brand name to my portfolio. And if they liked me, perhaps they’d hire me at a better rate next time.
Seconds later I knew I wasn’t 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. It’s a test.
Assume I’d say yes to what they were offering right now. I’d 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. They’d rather take what’s 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 didn’t 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. They’re also unprepared. Let’s start with that.
KNOW YOUR WORTH
The first lesson in "Asking for a raise 101” is to know what you’re worth. That means doing your homework. Some colleagues are more diligent than others.
Take the folks who don’t have a clue how much they should charge. As a result they are practically asking for peanuts.
I don’t believe that every lowballer bidding on a specific freelance job is purposely trying to undercut the competition. They’re offering to do it for less because they believe their rate is perfectly reasonable.
They’ll tell you: "A hundred bucks for a two-minute voice over is good money. It beats bagging groceries at the supermarket.”
FREELANCE APPLES & ORANGES
What they forget is that they’re comparing apples and oranges. Voice actors don’t 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:
Uneducated and inexperienced freelancers can leave a lot of money on the table because they’re 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?
Here’s the thing. If you’re going to ask a potential client to increase the budget, you need to know how much you want and why you want it. Don’t assume the client will understand.
Tell him or her why you believe you deserve it.
CLIENTS CAN TELL
How you present that information is even more important.
If you’re just trying to get a few extra bucks out of the deal, but you haven’t convinced yourself that you’re worth it, you won’t get anywhere. Clients aren’t stupid. They pick up on all the non-verbals.
If you’re not confident that you should be paid a certain amount, you will sound insecure. You’ll use words as "perhaps” and "maybe.” Your voice will quiver and go up at the end of a sentence as if you’re not really sure of yourself. You’ll 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. You’re stating facts. You’re not opening the door to a discussion. Your fee is your fee. Period.
I’m not asking you to act like an arrogant jerk. I’m simply asking you to stand up for yourself. Be respectful and keep it businesslike.
What you’re actually doing is selling. You’re telling the client:
In my case, I didn’t 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, there’s 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. You’ve done your homework. You know what you’re worth and you’ve stated your case with confidence. Be ready to be rejected.
Should that happen, don’t take it personally. It’s just money and you’ll get better job offers.
Besides, if you get a sense that there’s 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
Don’t quit the game while you’re still playing. If you really feel that there’s no wiggle room, don’t 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.
Don’t be surprised if the client gets back in touch once they realize that your rate wasn’t so bad after alI.
IN MY CASE ...
I didn’t 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 didn’t take much and it didn’t take long for me to negotiate an amount I could live with.
That doesn’t 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 isn’t paying for it. You are!
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.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgWeb: www.nethervoice.com
Double Dutch Blog: www.nethervoice.com/nethervoice
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