Auditions: Voice123 vs. Voices.com ...
Jennifer Vaughn Compares '09 Results
By Jennifer Vaughn
What does it REALLY take to get jobs through Voice123 and Voices.com, currently the two largest pay-to-play voice-over marketplace web sites?
I recently finished up my numbers for 2009 with my manager - the what's working and what's not measure we do each year - and discovered a trend that may have an impact on how many perceive these sites.
What follows is a glimpse at my experience with these two web sites in 2009. And I believe that both voice-over veterans and new talent will learn from it.
FIRST, SOME ADVICE ...
Veterans: If you are not tracking every single marketing effort, you are losing money.
Tracking and the practice of measuring all efforts annually will assist you in improving upon and rooting out efforts that are not working or are not worth your time.
See below how I've tracked to get my ROI.
Newbies: If you pay the fee for these sites, you should use them and audition like mad.
It will give you experience, but not necessarily the job.
Or choose not to pay for a membership and instead, use their free membership status until you are ready to push hard and audition daily and flawlessly with great quality audio.
Otherwise, you will simply waste your time and money.
BASED ON EXPERIENCE
Before reading on and thinking it's easy to score jobs through these sites, please keep in mind that I:
VOICE123 vs. VOICES.COM
I also track all of my marketing efforts. Here are the 2009 stats for just two of those efforts: auditions and bookings from Voice123 and Voices.com from January 2 through December 30, 2009.
Voice123: Auditioned exactly 221 times, which resulted in 14 closed projects for the year, resulting in $8,550 gross income for 2009. Two were union jobs, and three required ISDN.
Voices.com: Auditioned exactly 480 times, which resulted in 17 closed projects for the year, resulting in $10,405 gross income for 2009. All were non-union jobs.
ANALYZE THIS ...
If you look at this from a logical perspective, I have wasted more than TWICE the amount of my time and energy on auditions for Voices.com, with no "real" equal gain.
Even though the monetary amount is higher, in reality, I'm losing money from my auditioning efforts there. So this tells me I have to choose more wisely in what I audition for on Voices.com in 2010.
I think this is the reason Voice123 put together their Smartcast algorithm, and from that standpoint, it makes some sense - even though I'm not a fan of it since I like to make those decisions for myself.
Here are some other statistics regarding the two sites:
Heard My Demos: Only two prospects contacted me after hearing my demos on Voice123 to cast me for a job from my stock demos, compared to one with Voices.com to hire me for a job without audition.
Personal Audition Requests: Only six prospects contacted me through the system to personally invite me to audition for a project posted on Voice123, compared to eight through Voices.com - to which I pay a premium to give me a bit more exposure.
So that was a bit of a disappoint. But I have to point out that it's not fair to say yet, since I only upgraded my Voices.com account four months ago and can't run a full 12-month report on that until next year.
Total Number of Auditions: 701 - an average of four to six auditions per day! That's free work to try to get paid work. And keep in mind there are never any guarantees of GETTING the work.
THE BOTTOM LINE
All totalled, the combined work from these two web sites brought only $18,955 of income - for auditioning an hour per day, and then doing the actual voice work to obtain that income.
Out of that sum, consider what it cost me to be on these two sites:
Voices.com: $1,000 for my Platinum membership.
So subtract $1,295 from the gross, which leaves $17,660.
WHAT IT MEANS ...
I'd be in serious trouble if I relied on only these two web sites for my income.
This should effectively tell you that these sites should only be a small portion of your marketing efforts.
And if you plan to use these sites, expect to work hard to get the jobs!
Doing this "on the side" - meaning if you have a full-time job at something else - you are not going to be able to put in the time, energy and proposal work that I do to audition.
Let's also point out that these two sites are only two small marketing efforts on my part, out of the 34 that I employ, pay for, and continuously work. Yes, 34 marketing efforts going on simultaneously!
DEPENDS ON ROI
Even though my 2009 income from these web sites is a miniscule portion of my total income, it makes sense to continue using them IF my time and dollar-spent equation works on the ROI (Return on Investment).
And I do calculate my ROI in time and dollars spent.
My closed projects with Voice123 and Voices.com amount to just a tad over 2% of my overall voice-over income annually.
So is it worth it? Yes, if you like to WORK HARD.
In my calculations, it is enough income to keep them in my overall marketing mix.
YOU NEED MORE
But do not make the mistake of putting all your eggs in one basket, or depend on work from just one site or method.
Do not make one, or even three, entities the one answer to your success. Or success just won't happen.
For those using Voice123, you'll find it interesting that about 80% of the leads I actually auditioned for were rated either "Considering" or "Very Likely."
I only use this measure to figure out that 20% of the auditions were a waste of my valuable time. This makes me more apt to be choosier of what I actually audition for, as my time is part of my overall ROI measure on a marketing effort.
It would be nice if Voices.com would allow some kind of feedback score per audition, too, since it helps us determine what to do with our time. That really isn't their job to do this. But it's noteworthy when you do as many auditions as me daily.
WHAT TO CONSIDER ...
If you're a voice-over newbie or debating whether to spend money on a marketplace web site into which you'd put so much work, ask yourself:
Most newbies - and sadly, a lot of voice talent who have been working in the industry for a few years - don't know the answer to these questions; which in effect leads to much of their time wasted with no dollars coming into their pockets.
Your 2010 goals:
ABOUT JENNIFER ...
Jennifer Vaughn has been a full-time voice talent since the early 1990s, entering the field through radio and concert promotions. Most well known for national and international radio and TV imaging and branding, she also voices many industrials, military and medical e-learning projects, and children's audiobooks. With home studios in Florida and Colorado, plus interests in other businesses, she asks, "Who says you have to stick to one thing? I'd get on board! Gotta be a mover and a shaker."
Your Daily Resource For Voice-Over Success
For several years I signed up on the platforms that are spoken here.
Over time I have been faced with situations ... good and sad.
Consider: In Voice123 have a free subscription, because I'm also good at math and also equate the ROI. In voices.com the same.
I've done dozens of castings in voices123, some of them resulted in success, others, the customer did not even bother to open the recording with the custom demo that insisted on have. From what I read in several places, several colleagues go through the same.
In voices.com all castings did not bring any results. The Last forced to a custom demo "live" by a German studio (complicated, the Germans are not easy to please)
Note that I have multiple microphones, adaptable to all scenarios. I have a pre of UNIVERSAL AUDIO, Monster and Mogami cables, and a digital converter top of the range TASCAM, plus a secluded cabin for voiceover!
We try first (source connect) with the microphone CAD E100S. they say that the microphone has a big self noise (lol)
I switched to a microphone MXL model HO VO1 ... had a muffled sound.
I hesitated between Brauner or Oktava, and I opted for the Oktava 105. They loved the sound, but said they had little gain. In my monitor I was at between 0 db and +1 (lol).
Result, I did not realize it was tactic to lower price, or if it was to kill time.
For voice seekers of voices.com I always now propose the same:
They want a personalized demo? Yes, I do, I charge a small fee, which then discount on the final price, if the project is awarded me.
I am a native Portuguese VoiceOver Talent; several times nominated and already awarded, and do not like to spend equipment or electricity for time waisters !
The place where in my case would be and will be investing in the future is called Voice123. This platform has more luck with its customers.
This article is over a year old and I've been on v123 for only 4 months. And if someone like JV is offering this kind of advice. I'm going to retool my marketing efforts and go back to what I do best - good ole' fashioned networking.
I can get work on my own much more readily than using these sites. And it's been a great experience and great practice (and quite often very humbling) - but this experience isn't really putting money in my bank account. I am downgrading my account and I will continue to practice on my own using the scripts they send me. I'd be better off taking my $300 and putting it toward a good voice coach.
Thank you so very very much.
P.S. In case voice123 is reading this. No hard feelings. You customer service is quite honestly very good (excellent, actually)! And I like your site. But unfortunately I'm looking to make a little money along the way. And it's just not working for me right now.
Voices.com schmoozes more and may be the better seller, but I feel they're somewhat greedy and gloss over reality. They charge talent, then have the nerve to almost always take 10% (also credit card transaction fees drive me crazy everywhere. Just charge what you need without the surprise). I'm turned off by their hard, yet genteel selling tactics.
Also the rude poster from 1/20/2010 cannot be a serious contender. He seems more concerned with instant riches and doesn't understand that successful people would not scoff at modest opportunities that allow them to constantly maintain their performance through prolific auditioning and recording. The extra practice turns into commercial gold as it helps secure those more lucrative gigs!
I've done pretty well outside the pay sites through agents, advertising executives, and a great relationship with a popular producer. I also continue to enjoy using Voice123 to maintain a full time VO presence-- recording five or six days a week.
A.Taking the time out of your super busy schedule to write it and
B. Giving crucial information to ALL levels of Voice Over professionals. I will use this information that you so generously provided to help further my own career ambitions.
Scott Larson/KUDL-KGEX Kansas City
SalChris Productions Kansas City
If I would have known what I know now (having read your article), I wouldn't have signed up for a premium membership with Voice123. In addition to the two P2P sites you've mentioned, I also would not recommend newbies to sign up for the SAV Master Class. In my opinion, it's not worth the $3,800. I have not seen a ROI, but will take what I have learned here, from you, and from my own experiences, and move on for a successful 2010.
Excellent material. I've been keeping stats on V123 & Voices.com and my results are similiar in respect to yours. Only I auditioned over part of a year and got a worse ROI. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone in wondering if these site are worth it.
I don't think anything here has changed my mind, however, I think it really drives home the point that these sites should be considered ONLY ONE TOOL AMONG MANY.
Many would-be entrepreneurs thought ... still believe ... that social media was/is the answer to their riches, but spending every waking moment on Twitter is leading not to riches, but to disillusionment. Social media is only one tool among many for marketing, just as the P2Ps are only one tool among many for marketing your VO services. Building a 3-legged table takes more than just one tool.
BTW, the answer to your riches is no secret ... it's right between you ears! Be great!
Cheers - Rick
I don't know what the answer is for someone wanting to break in to VO today. It's a serious profession, and I think Jennifer is spot on with her assessment of the business. We have to be up-to-date with our marketing & our demos and track what works & what doesn't. If we don't respect our time & our business, no one else will.
I am not an amateur by any means. I've been voicing for a number of years and have trained and continue to train with the best in the business. I auditioned my face off and have a state-of-the-art studio with a very clean sound. I simply found it was not worth my money or valuable time invested. I'd rather audition in an actual studio against 20-30 talents, not hundreds or more online. I know other male VO talent in the industry getting no luck online, and without a doubt my female friends land far more jobs than male voice talents online.
I won't renew on any of the sites based on the above, but will pursue my career old school by cold calls, demos, mail outs, etc. But kudos to those of you who make these sites work for you
I've noticed that with the Voices.com minimum of $100, you can see how jobs are valued by the talent. It seems that jobs $250-500 can get 200+ or so auditions, those over $500 as many as 300 or so. Yet, jobs for $100-250 seem to get fewer than 200. My impression is that probably 80% of the jobs offer less than $250. That's an interesting skewing of the numbers and deserves some examination (which I won't do here), but seems to be "cherry-picking."
After reading your analysis I don't feel so bad as far as my own numbers are concerned. It's clear that there is money to be made in this market segment, and while I might not be pursuing all the avenues that you do, it's clear that pay-to-play (or any other marketing endeavor) is not something that one should focus on to the exclusion of others.
I would like to add that breaking even is not making money. Unless one is making at least five times the investment, the marketing endeavor is not worth it. If after one year I am not seeing the appropriate 5x return, I definitely would remove p-t-p from my arsenal.
Thanks again, Karl
Question: Do you actually have an ISDN studio or do you have to record elsewhere for jobs requiring ISDN?
Jennifer wrote: "It would be nice if Voices.com would allow some kind of feedback score per audition, too, since it helps us determine what to do with our time."
For auditions, that will never happen. I do a lot of on-camera auditions and it's extremely rare that I ever get feedback for auditions even after making callbacks. I don't expect that to ever happen with VO auditions. It requires time on the part of the client and once they find and book the talent they want, they could care less about anyone else who auditioned.
For *finished jobs* (as Johnny George said) it would be nice, but that seems unlikely.
Brilliantly presented information and I hope it encourages people to look at how they run their businesses and not dwell too much on how you run yours.
Best wishes for 2010, Philip Banks
Think about this: Just as I look at real estate investments or the stock market on when to buy and sell, in between the troughs and crests, I look at my VO business the very same way.
Sure, your goal is to hit the high points, but that really isn't realistic for the most part. You're more apt to hit on the averages between high and low, as you can't really predict the market's spike or low point, much the same way you won't know exactly how you can predict how much you'll make - average per hour - when you really start bringing in the big bucks.
The law of averages works in any business and helps to offer you a gross income well over a typical voice talent's earnings that is consistent. This is why many businesses offer an array of products and services rather than just one, and they are all at different price points.
Now, that $100/hour you figure I bring in from just the two sites I mentioned in the article is not really $100, because it's being averaged across the day's income and then the week's income. The next hour I bring $1,200, and the following hour $700, the following hour maybe $300, and then one hour may not bring in a dime in new business.
On a day or week of averages, that $100 helps, say, if one hour I don't bring in any new business cash flow. It's simply added to the day's gross or week's gross. The exposure generated from auditions, the favorite status they may add on their dashboard even if I don't get the job, makes up for that low income hour, and I put that into my marketing and promotional column of cost, rather than income.
It's a more constructive way to look at it. There have been one or two in which I don't get that job the first time, but they come back and remember my performance for another job. Plus, let us not forget that repeat business is just as valuable, and you better believe I make those clients repeat customers. That's a goal using these sites.
Now, the amount of auditioning and proposal writing is where you are figuring I'm losing money, but in reality that's marketing and promotion and that is not a hard cost, but a soft, labor cost.
If you don't count what I am associating as my marketing and promotion cost to get a job award, I'm making about $629 per hour from the jobs awarded outlined in just two of the examples I mentioned. This is the real reason I keep them in the mix - the averages/exposure rule I apply to my model.
You have to figure averages or you don't consistently bring in the dough on a positive cash flow basis. Cash flow is A number one first, get the dough in the door. Then very carefully watch your out-flows.
And Mike ... note that I sent auditions on certain jobs most of their database would NOT receive, because I am listed as Union and ISDN is in my studio. So I may get those jobs where 123 may not send those to people not listed in those two categories. And that's just to name two of the biggies.
There are key words also in your profile where their little spider works, too. Uniqueness of what you offer in your profile plays into getting more qualified leads and the excercising of self restraint on auditioning for opportunites that really aren't the core of what you provide.
For example, I delete all telephony jobs that require a custom audition, all jobs where the buyer looks like they don't know what they are doing, and delete anything under $150.
I too wanted to chime in and thank you for such insightful information. I'm sure it took a lot of time and effort to put this together.
I was a paid member of both sites until about 6 months ago, when I chose Voices.com over Voice123. Yes, we have all heard ad nauseum that Voice123 should not penalize you for auditioning too much. However, that was not the reason that I chose not to renew my paid membership. As Jennifer so astutely points out, you have to monitor the all-important ROI. The bottom line was that I was just not getting the return on my investment on that particular site. I may revisit joining in the future, but I have done very well with Voices.com, and with my other marketing efforts.
Thanks again, Jennifer. I try to track everything I do, though admittedly not as well as you. Something to definitely work on in 2010!
Diversifying their income streams is auditioning willy nilly wherever they can without any consideration other than, “If I get this work, it’s money in the plus column.”
I think Jennifer’s “What To Consider” section is particularly useful as a reminder to the experienced and a foundation for the newbie, with P2P just one example. Thanks, Jennifer.
Finally, I like your writing. It's engaging and to the point. I learned something today. Many thanks,
If you want to spend all your time trying to be in the top 25 audition responders just to win a $50 gig and hear your voice on some nobody's web site, more power to you. I'll stick with the traditional gigs that have kept me out of an office cubicle and living rather nicely for 20+ years.
And a (admittedly harsh) note to the leagues of wannabes out there: A $300 microphone and an internet connection do NOT make you a voice actor. Please stop trying to turn our profession into the "Work from Home!" joke that it's becoming.
Sorry for the bitterness, folks, but the advent of the pay-to-plays is turning our profession into Quantity over Quality.
My average was close to yours too, so it solidified my running numbers of ROI with them. And I too agree with your assessment that it would be a positive move of Voices.com to give talent some feedback on their auditions from clients. However, I've noticed that clients on these sites run in, get talent and leave. Getting a feedback rating on a finished job you've obtained, as requested, seems like pulling teeth to some unfortunately.
Thanks for taking the time to offer your insight. THAT was time well spent. JG
You're very welcome but none of it would have come about without Jennifer's initial, generous efforts on this post, so all credit to her. And she seems OK with your weeping. Best always,
Jennifer, you've been in this business for nearly 20 years, and it seems to me that you know what you're doing. I have to agree with Peter: if your goal would be to 'only' make $100 per hour, there would hardly be any profit after deduction of the expenses you listed.
Let's not forget that membership fees to Pay-to-Plays and labor costs are a small part of the overall picture. The joy of being an independent contractor is that you have to pay for everything yourself: health-, dental-, life- disability-, unemployment- and business insurance; sick days, vacation days, holidays, retirement, advertising, bookkeeping, continued education, taxes .. the list is endless, and I didn't even mention our other bills: mortgage/rent, utilities, groceries, car payments, the cost of raising kids (need I go on?).
Freedom comes at a price, and there is a very good reason why - as Peter said - professionals would need to make at least 3 to 4 times more per hour, than what the average P2P voice-seeker is willing to fork over.
Voices.com and Voice123 make most of their money from memberships. For them, more members means more money. If the number of jobs offered would keep up with that, fine ... but we all know that times are tough and that the projects that are available, are auctioned off at bargain prices. Increased P2P membership is only good news to the investors and site owners. The talents, however, are paying the price.
So ... do the benefits of being listed on these sites outweigh the investment? You do the math and let me know!
Thanks for setting up my auditioning biz plan for the year (sorry for the occasional weeping, though). Seriously, great perspective and advice!
I too am a member at both sites, and I too splurged for the Voices.com Platinum membership in the last few months when it came up on special offer. My own approach with both Voices.com, Voice123, and in fact a few others I'm registered with, is that they're a small part of my overall effort, and they’re what I turn my attention to when “traditional” jobs are thinner on the ground.
My own results with both sites over the last couple of years have seen me more than get my money back, but it’s important to remember the number of hours that go into providing “custom auditions” as part of your working week and offset that against the “success” of the money that comes in.
As a British voiceover artist based in the UK, my own approach also involves a big chunk of separating the wheat from the chaff before I even start. Because of the way most of these sites are set up (i.e. in North America) and because most of the “voice seekers” based in the U.S. aren’t clear about what they actually want (many seekers still specify “English – Any”, when what they really mean is “American English – Any”), there’s a bit more detective work that I need to do before I even decide to audition.
If the job states “English – Any” but it’s for a car dealership in Texas, or the script only has figures in dollars, for example, I’ll steer away from it – unless they’ve specified “English – British”. I also go straight for the delete button if the fee is $100 or lower – the investment in time to audition for such a job rarely pays off. More often than not I even pass up the audition opportunity if the budget is “to be defined” (hey, who doesn’t have an idea of their budget? And if you really want the talent to define it then it’s less of a beauty parade and more of a bidding war, IMHO).
What I do see these sites as being useful for is exposure. Every site that I’m registered on, with audio available to listen to, and with links back to my main site, is a useful presence on the web. And that can’t be a bad thing. Is the number of direct approaches I get by having a premium subscription worth the extra over a freebie? That depends on how many of them lead to paying jobs, of course. And that I can’t answer until I’ve done my own calculations for the year…
Best of luck to everyone for a successful 2010! Mike
This was extremely generous to offer up this insight into your experiences with these two pay-to-play services. Your analysis and advice should be well heeded.
The question that came to my mind regarded the true profit and loss of your experience auditioning for these services, comparing the time spent audition with the revenue amassed.
Note, there are only about a billion ways to analyze numbers, but I try and look at these things in the simplest way possible.
$19,000 is not chump change, though I am sure just a part of your income stream (I like your mention of diversification – something I’ve always ascribed to in business and investing). But when I considered the number of auditions versus the revenue made as outlined here, it reminded me to run the numbers as a consultant/McDonald's employee – as an hourly rate.
Maybe like you, I sometimes step back and analyze the management of my time to make sure I am making the best use of my resources. In doing that over the years, I have established (through math, science, astrology and a magic eight ball) an hourly rate for my service/time, much like a consultant. Whether I am doing something for a client or something for my business, the monetary value of the work I do needs to at least meet that minimum hourly figure. Is it always that neat and tidy … no, but with it I know my professional efforts are usually closer to that figure (if not exceeding it) than not.
For expository purposes to my point, let’s say we establish that John Florian’s hourly business services rate as a voice talent came out to $100/hour. That would mean that if a client booked John for any production work (voice, recording, mixing, scriptwriting, mopping, etc.), his base rate would be $100. If John was doing administrative or marketing work, the outcome of that work would show at some point a return equal to or exceeding that hourly fee - that’s John’s goal.
Say that in one year’s time John recorded 701 auditions on a pair of pay-to-play sites with great skill, fine equipment, gobs of experience and his God-given vocal flexibility. And say on average it take him 15 minutes to record an audition each time from the moment it pops on his screen to the time he writes his custom proposal off a template and hits send. That works out to be about 175 hours of his business time in a year just on pay-to-play auditions. Some folks may be able shave some time off or need to add some time, but 15 minutes is where we’ll leave it for now. Is that time well spent?
If John has a base rate of $100/hour, and he spends 175 hours auditioning, John needs to make $17,500 in revenues just to break even. $19,000 in revenues that John earned off those two sites in one year breaks down to $1,500 profit and that percentage depresses John a bit. If we add the fees John paid to be on the sites, his profit dips to $300 and John weeps quietly to himself, John may be heartened if one p2p job turns into a long term, much higher playing client … but that happens less frequently than is desired.
John knows he has to audition, that’s part of most voice talents’ existence – he didn’t write the rules, he’s just playing within them. But because he has an hourly rate, hopefully that helps him analyze more critically the quality of auditions he avails himself of.
Another example – I’m told Voices.com sets a minimum that every job on their site must be priced at least $100.00. For experienced, professional voice talents, that minimum would be at least 3 to 4 times lower than what they would look for in a minimal voice over job. Certainly there are jobs on Voices and Voice 123 that pay significantly more than that.
However, going by what many others have told me at various industry confabs this year (I’m not a member at either pay-to-play site so I don’t know these figures as facts and am stating that here), the project fees on both sites seem to average between $200-300 for jobs that normally would garner a higher fees elsewhere (via professional agents, business to business, non-completive solicitations, etc).
Is it better to compete in a pay-to-play site? A more open market? Or should one participate somewhere in between? Each person has to make that decision based on their own professional and personal goals.
But to reiterate the point you made well, Jennifer, we voice talents must think about what we are doing, how we are going to do it and what we must achieve in our voice over businesses when individually considering availing ourselves of these pay to play services.
Mine is just another way to run the numbers and it ain’t perfect neither.
Best always, Peter