Are Your Voice Over Rates Too Low?
Think - Maybe It's Your Own Fault
By John Melley
Voice Talent & VO Business Coach
This may ruffle a few feathers, but let me start it off by asking a question:
Do you hesitate, or feel a slight lump in your throat, when responding to the question: "So what are your rates?"C'mon ... we've all felt it at one time or another. If you're a member of AFTRA like I am, rates are set for certain productions and you just say those are the contracted rates when people question you. (By the way those rates are minimums. You can ask for more.)
If you're not in AFTRA you don't have that "crutch" - and then there are freelance projects that fall outside collective bargaining, plus projects like script writing, production/editing and consulting that aren't even part of an agreement.
So you're on your own.
WHY THE HESITATION?
Like I said, we've all felt that hesitation about rates at one time or another, but WHY?
Why do we feel at all self conscious about stating what we want to make in exchange for providing our gifts and talents that will help a client grow their business, sell a product or bring their project to life?
I believe you shouldn't feel that way as long as you know you are providing your best service and performance to your client - and you live up to your agreements.
I think a lot of the hesitation comes from our background, our personal experiences with money, family, friends and societal/cultural attitudes and conceptions about money.
WHAT I MEAN ...
Let me share a story I heard from Rabbi Daniel Lapin last spring at a conference.
He was discussing societal attitudes about money and how the use of language can subtly influence us. Here was an example:
How many of us have heard someone say they "Want to Give Back"?
The concept of giving back is interesting. "Giving Back" implies that you've only been taking and that you're finally getting around to offering something in return.Rabbi Lapin asked us to hold up a $ Dollar bill and then asked us if we mugged somebody in order to get it.
Granted, it was a bit of an exaggeration, but he made a good point. We provide a service that someone has agreed to pay us for. There has been a fair exchange, and if you treat your clients right you'll leave them feeling they got more than their money's worth.
DONATING VS. GIVING BACK
Please understand I'm not saying anything against donating and supporting organizations and causes that are important to you.
That is a GOOD thing to do because it is something we CHOOSE to do with our money.
What I'm trying to point out is the language we use matters. "Donating" and "Giving Back" may be the same side of the coin for some people, but I think there is a difference for the reasons I mentioned above.
BAD RAP FOR BUSINESS
Pop Culture and news also have an impact.
Business in general has been portrayed very negatively in the media over the last few years and our political leaders on BOTH sides have seized upon it for their own uses.
Yes, there have been some scumbags taking advantage of people, and we ought to lock 'em up and throw away the key.
But we all know most of us aren't "too big to fail." We want to put food on the table, pay the bills, take care of the kids, save for the future and yes, we have dreams of things we'd like to do, places we'd like to go, things we'd like to have.
There's NOTHING wrong with that!
BUT 'THEY' WILL SAY ...
But it all has an impact. It provides the backdrop for comments you hear from family and friends like, "Oh, well he/she owns their own business, they must be rich."
And questions like:
We're on this Earth for a short time to LIVE! Money is simply a tool for us to do that. We all want to be rich.
Want proof? People spend $ millions every day on lottery tickets hoping to become rich. We are working in a field that isn't run of the mill.
We choose to work in Voice Over following our dreams. We do it in addition to our other job(s) until we can do it full time.
Most people won't do that.
I had friends tell me to "Hang it up and come have a beer." I'm glad I have the career I have now instead of those beers I could have had then.
PROTECT YOUR THOUGHTS
Be vigilant about the thoughts, comments and perceptions the people around you have about money and how they might impact your mindset in building your business.
Go for it!
Do you have examples of people making comments about your rates? Do you hesitate when quoting an amount for a project? I'd love to hear your comments (below).
John Melley is the Commercial Production Director for CBS Radio Boston’s award winning Mix 104.1 (WBMX), and a nationally recognized voice over talent, having performed voice over for Irving Oil, Hewlett Packard, United Technologies Corporation and countless others. He is also a marketing consultant for business owners, specializing in coaching voice talent to grow their businesses. He believes a rising tide lifts all ships and helping other voice talent benefits the entire voice over profession.
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