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'Budget' Is Not A Curse Word ...
Always Ask Your Clients @ Money

By Terry Daniel
Voice Actor & Trainer

Wait, WHAT?  Budget is not a curse word! 

It’s a term that we should all become comfortable with using frequently.


All clients have budgets to work with and we should get used to getting them to talk about it.  Remember, this is not a hobby that we are doing for free – voice over is our business!


Since money is a necessity that all people in business have to deal with on a daily basis, it should not be an uncomfortable topic that we try to avoid when speaking with our clients.

Based on responses that have been gathered from my conversations with other voice talents, we all get a little reluctant sometimes when it comes to asking a client about their budget, and even more so when it comes time to discuss our rates with them! 


So how can this hurdle on the track toward closing a deal be effectively overcome?

First, when it comes to a project, you never want to oversell or undersell your services to your clients.

And the only way to accomplish this is to know the client's project budget for voice over. 

Otherwise, you more than likely will not get the results that you are looking for.


For example, if your client sends you a 10-page script and you immediately give them a rate off the top of your head,  you are taking a huge risk that could only be of benefit to the client. 

How so? 

They would either be joyful because you have made their selection process a lot easier by removing yourself from their list, or because you just gave them the deal of a lifetime that would end up costing you more than what you’ll make from doing the job!


Just the other day, a client sent me a three-page script for a narration. 

Since I wanted to ensure that I gave her a fair and friendly rate, I politely asked her about the budget set for the voice over. 

To my surprise, it turned out that her budget was about $500 MORE than I was originally going to quote her.

Of course, you don’t want to come back and say, "Sure that sounds about right!” However, you can certainly come close.


Unfortunately, it does not always work out this way. Sometimes the client’s budget is far lower than what you were going to quote them. 

At that point, it is up to you if you want to work within that budget. 

Much has been written on how to set voice over fees - and about the proliferation of lowball rates. (See VoiceOverXtra articles.).

If you haven’t done so already, read over those articles and educate yourself to be prepared when these situations arise.   


We all need to work, but it is also important for us to try to set and maintain the standards for fair and reasonable rates in this industry.

Therefore, please be careful when agreeing to do a five-page script for only $50. 

"Budget” is not a dirty word. Get used to the word and implement it into your daily vocabulary!

Our clients are comfortable talking about money for their businesses, so we need to be just as comfortable (if not more so) when talking about money for ourselves.

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 (6)
Rosi Amador
2/2/2012 at 10:45 PM
Having been a professional Latin singer with my own band and an agent for my own music and other Latin ensembles for 25+ years as well as a VO actor, I found that this is always a dance and it all depends on your grace in this dance.

In the VO world, as in my past chats with performing arts center directors, I always try to find a way of saying what my usual rate is (my asking rate), and I promptly add that depending on whether or not this is a job that is likely to keep recurring, or in the name of establishing a longterm relationship with this client (which I make clear I always prioritize), I can certainly be somewhat flexible.

If itYs a genre of VO work I especially love, I will usually say something like "You know, I really don't want money to be the obstacle here, because I am passionate about voicing documentaries, or museum audio tours, or "fill in the blank" - so let's see what the most you can come up with and make me a proposal. I want this to work for us both, and I want to keep working with you in the future."

Then comes the negotiation: there are many ways of dealing with this part depending on how badly you want the job. Sometimes if they tell me upfront it's a limited budget, I give a first-time "discount" and I politely tell them I'm giving this discount to "get the ball rolling," which leaves the door open for raising the fee the next time. Since my clients nearly always come back for more, I'm fine doing this if I really want that kind of gig. There's also a way you can offer to do a bit less if you charge less - which makes sense only if they have editing capabilities, of course.

But if you have to do it all, then you really have to weigh your options, and sometimes just let it go, and know in your heart of hearts that doing so will open the door for other, better paying work that you love, or time to do more marketing to get those jobs you long for! You win either way, really, in the long run.

Underselling yourself often does your reputation no good and makes it harder for other professional VO's, so let's just ... not do that. Or consider it your "benefit' gig and save it for really special causes. Otherwise, charge what you're worth and just ask for it in a very friendly but confident way.

Be willing to negotiate down a bit, so give yourself a little cushion at the top to do that, by quoting high enough. In my experience, ever since I raised my fees I'm getting better work, and when I lower it, it's for outrageously beautiful work that I feel honored to be a part of, so why would I turn it down?

Thanks for posting this, Terry. Great discussion and opportunity to share our strategies and thoughts.
Peter Katt
2/2/2012 at 1:00 PM
Bob Souer described a wonderful approach in a session at the last Faffcon: "What's the largest amount of money you can pay me and still feel like you're getting a good deal?"
2/2/2012 at 12:58 PM
I agree generally, but will also remark that I don't think it's a good idea to ask what is their budget up front because it may feel to them that you are going to adjust your rates to their budget. This can be very distasteful to a first-time potential client, particularly if they are from Europe (my exp). US and Indian clients tend to focus on price, so with them I can jump to it quicker.

My suggestion would be to ask details about the project itself, expectations about the VO deliverable and previous client experiences - all in the context of giving them a proper rate to meet their expectations. After a bit of discussion, you can offer a ballpark to see if it fits their budget. One approach among many.

I have also found that those who don't want to have the discussion are not generally the kind of client who does VO often, nor are they often my kind of client! Hope this helps add to the conversation.
Debbie Irwin
2/2/2012 at 12:50 PM
Hi Terry;

Do you have any magic language that you use to ask the $64,000 question?!

"What kind of budget are you working with?"

And what do you say when they volley the ball back to your court?!

Jim Conlan
2/2/2012 at 9:16 AM
Wow, lots of useful info in a small space. This goes into my "pass-along" file. Well done, Terry.
Roy Wells
2/2/2012 at 8:43 AM
Excellent advice, Terry. Several times, to my regret, I was on the losing side of a quote because of the desire to ensure my profit margin. My position with the client was lost to another in the "low-ball effect."
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