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Clients Seek Low-Ball Quotes?
Respond With These Questions ...

By Terry Daniel
Voice Actor & Coach

Like it or not, we are living in the era of Craigslist.

Someone will mow your lawn for $20. A photographer will shoot your wedding for $100, and so-called voice talents will record a 10-page narration for $50.

This is the world we are living in.

Every profession deals with low-ball inquiries from clients.


You don’t have to like it, but there are some things you can do about it.

I used to get upset when clients would call me up for a quote and then come back to me, telling me they found someone else that can do it for less.

Now, I just ask them a few questions:

1. How important is your business to you?

2. What is your marketing objective with this script?

3. How important is it that you have professional audio quality?

4. Is this person who can do it for less a professional voice talent?

5. Can I provide a sample to you first before you decide?

6. What is holding you back from wanting to pay my requested rate?

7. If I throw in a free voicemail message for your business, will you hire me for this rate?

8. Would you like to hear some samples of work that I've done that is similar to your content?

9. Did you know that 50% of the rate I am asking for is allocated toward my studio expenses?

10. Do you have Toto's first album? (I always throw that in for fun.)


While cost is a factor in any business decision, it should not be the number one objective when hiring voice over talent.

Cost is not the only consideration when you decide to make a purchase. Take car shopping, for example.

Do you look for the lowest price tag or the car that will best fit your needs?


The same holds true with a well-versed and seasoned voice talent.

No matter how hard you try, many will still take the less expensive route, only to be dissatisfied with the quality of the talent and eventually hire a more experienced talent to record the voice over.

In my career, I have had several of these clients come back to me after originally going elsewhere for a cheaper rate.


Thankfully, there are a lot of wonderful clients out there who understand that in order to move product, they will need to hire a professional and pay them what they deserve.

When clients hire so-called VO talents for $20, it shows you what they think of their own business.

The cost should not be a factor, as the end product will result in exactly what you are looking for.


Terry Daniel has been in voice overs for more than 20 years, today specializing in technical and medical narration. He volunteers his services for ASPCA - the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and is managing partner and creative director for the Voice Over Club, a voice over training organization.
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Comments (10)
Jay Lloyd
11/9/2011 at 6:32 PM
Excellent points, Terry. And excellent suggestions from the other pro's commenting on the subject. And, coming from 30 years in the advertising agency business, the concept of "added value" is much more positive than "discounted price." I have a quote on my wall (several actually!) to remind me of positive ways of doing business. Pioneer retailer, John Ruskin (c.1850)said: "I have no quarrel with those who sell for less, for they know best what their product is worth." 'Nuf said, for me.
John Wray
11/9/2011 at 3:36 PM
Most of my ideas about business do not come from voiceover, but rather from other businesses that I have been involved with in my life. I was in the remodel business for about 25 years, and one thing that I've learned is that there is ALWAYS someone out there who will do the job for less money. Then, as now, I needed to be secure in the quality of my work, and just accept that there were semi-pros out there who would do the job for half what I would charge.

My favorite (true!) example: A guy asked me to price some custom cabinets to be built and installed. I quoted him about $3000.

He said, "My nephew said he could do the job for $1500."
"Maybe you should hire your nephew."
"Well, my nephew is very irresponsible, and I don't want him in my house."!
Trish Basanyi
11/7/2011 at 12:00 PM
Great advice, Terry! Paul does have some good points, but I read the article with American clients in mind. However I will say that some of my best paying clients have been overseas and even in some supposed third world countries. So as Terry mentions, it's all based on our personal experiences.....which tend to all be different. But the advice in the article is definitely helpful and any talent should be able to apply it to their own business in the ways that work for them.
Terry Daniel
11/7/2011 at 11:07 AM
@Paul Strikwerda...Most of my clients, I do deal with direct. My business is different. 90% of my annual business is direct. When I blog about stuff like this, it's based on my own experience and what has worked for me. Will it work for everyone? Of course not, but I do hope that a lot of these tips will help when negotiating with direct clients.

I do agree with you about voice talents accepting low-ball jobs. It does hurt the industry. Another reason I am hoping some of these tips will help. It's too easy to just say okay or even walk away. Take the time to negotiate.
Jim Conlan
11/7/2011 at 10:51 AM
Some good points, Terry, and I'm sure they will serve to move some clients who have no education in or prior experience with voice-over projects. Of course, some clients are immovable; either they really can't tell the difference, or they just have to get the low-ball price.
Paul Strikwerda
11/7/2011 at 7:56 AM
Like Terry, I prefer to negotiate based on added value instead of on price. In my experience, most low-paying clients come from a very different place. Literally. Quite often, they are based in countries like China or India.

All over the world, the same goods and services have different price tags based on the economic status of a particular nation. In India, the 2010 GPD per capita was $1,477. In the USA it was $47,184. Needless to say, $50 has a very different value in India. I'm not sure how open Indian clients would be toTerry's questions.

Secondly, Terry assumes we're able to have direct contact with the client. That's often not the case. Most lowball offers come to me via US or Canada-based online job boards. Those sites explicitly forbid direct contact with a client. Forget Terry's list.

Third: I don't blame a Chinese company for trying to get voice talent at the lowest price possible. They're probably working for a US-based firm that has outsourced certain activities because labor is cheap. After all, we all want our Black Friday bargains, so we're driving that demand for cheap products and services.

At the end of the day, I am troubled by three things:

- North American or European clients that are trying to make us work for rates that would be only be acceptable in countries like India;
- Voice casting sites that enable those clients to set these bargain basement rates;
- Voice-over 'colleagues' that willingly devalue our business by accepting jobs at these rates.

In my opinion, those are the practices that are truly questionable!
Jay Webb
11/7/2011 at 7:55 AM
Hmm, thanks for the extra insight, Terry! You've got me considering this a little more. It is always true that clients, on occasion, need a little extra "education." I, in fact, as a client to other businesses need some "education" too, so it stands to reason that this is not a bad thing...I mean, to reason with a prospective client and let them know WHY their low offer won't do.

Thank you, Terry, for the question list (and the article too, of course).
Maxine Lennon
11/7/2011 at 7:42 AM
Great advice Terry...the one thing that concerns me is the desperation some new VO talent have when they enter the marketplace - misguidedly believing that the low rate is the kick off stage for their careers - I think some of the responsibility of this misguided thinking rests with those who have coached new talent - hopefully responsible coaches emphasize the importance to the individual (and the fact that low charging effects all VO talent) that the tool of your trade should never be undervalued.

It saddens me that the big bucks in this business seem to be increasingly going to those establishing themselves as coaches and churning out VO talent that will make 101 mistakes.

Maybe there should be (and maybe there is, I haven't looked into this) some accreditation for VO coaches within the industry that ensures responsibility to the new talent and to others already working in the business?
BP Smyth, Narrator
11/7/2011 at 12:18 AM
I'm no fan of "bottom feeders," and they know who they are. I simply tell them "no thank you" and move on.
Dave Wallace
11/6/2011 at 6:07 PM
I left a similar comment on Terry's blog entry, but I'd just like to affirm that that the suggestions he mentions here CAN indeed work.

The initial rate that a certain client proposed to me for a recent job was, while not terribly low, a little too low for me. So I asked a few of the questions that Terry asked and offered to do their phone message system for free. And it worked!

It also taught me a rather valuable lesson that I didn't think about before. Before, when a client suggested a rate that was too low, I simply replied...

"I'm thrilled that you considered me, but I'm afraid I can't voice this job for any rate below $_______."

And that would (more or less) be it. Prior to Terry's suggestions, though, I never really explained to the client just *why* I couldn't work below that rate. I just said that I couldn't. It never occurred to me to tell them certain things that I took for granted. For example, that half of my fees go towards maintaining my studio. That's true, and it has been for a while. But I never thought to tell the client that.

So never flat-out refuse a potential client's offer if you think their initial suggestion is too low. Explain to them (politely, of course) why their suggested rate is too low, ask them a few of Terry's questions, and offer to do their phone message system for free. I can tell you from firsthand experience that it does, in fact, work.

Thanks Terry!
Dave Wallace
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