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YOUR INCOME / PART 2
How To Draw A Line In The Sand
For Pricing At Online Casting Sites
April 13, 2015

By J. Michael Collins
Voice Actor & Coach

See Part 1: Why Online Casting Sites Are The Future Of Voice Over, But Low Rates Don't Have To Be

How do we achieve a voice over online casting world of fair pricing and motivated talent?

First and foremost, we draw a line in the sand on pricing. We collectively and publicly agree to never charge a per-project price below a certain level.

I have my number in mind, and we should begin a conversation on a figure that represents the minimum value of our talent and skill.

I believe that only through collective refusal to work for less will we be able to effectively establish a permanent fair pricing model. If clients have no choice, they will pay.

Let there be no doubt that any business with the budget to secure airtime or produce an internet video or casual app game is fully capable of compensating the talent who will add final value to the product in a manner that reflects the profit they will derive.

Companies pleading poverty are pleading falsely.

ASSERT PRICING POWER


Whatever has happened in the past, let us declare a new day in our industry, and refuse to work for anything less than a minimum number that reflects our training, our investment, and the quality of our work.

I believe we can achieve a consensus on a figure, and I will be the first to publicly pledge to abide by it. I encourage and challenge my fellow talent to do the same.

In addition to the professional minimum, we should work together with organizations like World-Voices to develop standard non-union minimums for different types of work, and we should educate our peers when they are not adhered to.

The message of talent pricing power should be shouted from every rooftop.

We should also utilize the online casting sites thoughtfully, and be aware that there are ways to maximize our profitability through them, and protect the value of our work.

DEBUNK THE MYTHS

There are many myths being propagated about the terms and policies of the online sites. Allow me to address some of the more harmful ones.

There is a common belief that it is the policy of the major sites that every project must be surrendered in perpetuity in all media to the client. This is not necessarily true.

For instance, Voice123 states clearly that you are agreeing to a final price for the work based on the terms posted by the client. This means that if they list that the project is for national TV broadcast, you are surrendering lifetime rights in that medium.

However, the language is clear in that you are only surrendering the work for the indicated usage. If it were optioned for radio, internet, or other usage, you would be well within your rights to bill for additional compensation.

Obviously, it is up to you to monitor this, which is tricky, but the language is not as broad as people think.

YOU CAN ADD CLAUSES

Furthermore, you are perfectly able to add clauses in your proposal limiting rights, and can add language indicating that accepting your proposal binds the client to those terms.

This last point is even more relevant to Voices.com. The sixth point in their terms of service states that all projects are full buyout unless otherwise agreed in writing.

A student of mine recently encountered an issue with a client who used those terms to hold him to a very low fee for national broadcast rights. I contacted Voices.com about the matter, and they agreed that while the boilerplate TOS language is the default rights agreement, we are welcome to add language in our proposals that supersedes the standard terms.

Therefore, despite common belief, on both of the major sites we retain ultimate control of our product.

... AND DIRECTLY CONTACT CLIENTS

There also exists the often repeated canard that Voices.com does not allow you to contact the client directly, and that SurePay is an evil mechanism to keep you from ever getting at the golden goose of repeat direct business. This is wrong in two ways.

First, while Voices.com does not allow you to include your contact information in your proposal, based on talent feedback to that policy they explicitly agreed to allow us to post our contact information on our profile pages.

I have been hired directly from my page outside of the system hundreds of times, as have many of the other leading talent on the site.

Furthermore, once you book a job on Voices.com, you are given the client's contact information under the "Payments" tab, and they are given yours.

I have been personally told from people at the highest level of the company that their policy is strictly that any job posted to Voices.com should be completed through SurePay, but that we are more than welcome to contact the client directly after the job has been booked and work with them outside the site on other projects.

Contrast this with the policy of some of the secondary and freelance sites, and it looks downright benevolent. Heck, even agents don't let you take full fare from your client after giving them 10 percent of the first job.

So long as this policy doesn't change, Voices.com is showing a very balanced approach to preserving their financial interest - which is their job - and being reasonable with those who generate their profits.

Moreover, Voices.com has taken the lead in at least setting some sort of minimum, with no work running through the site for under $100 gross. While we need to move this number upwards for the sake of our collective prosperity, Voices should be credited for at least holding this line.

HAVE DEEPER POCKETS

Let me be clear: The online casting sites are not on your side. They are not against you either. They are not good or evil, wrong or right. They are simply marketplaces where we trade our wares, and like any vendor at any marketplace, we pay the rent so that we can make a profit.

In this industry, there will always be hands in our pockets. Our duty is to make sure our hands are deeper in theirs.
------------------------------
ABOUT J. MICHAEL
With almost 20 years as a professional voice over artist, J. Michael Collins has worked with many major world companies, brands, sports leagues, and organizations. In addition to his work in the classic, agency-based world of voice over, he has established himself as a leading P2P (pay-to-play, online casting) authority. He is a top-grossing talent in the online marketplace, and also a voice talent coach and demo producer


Email: jmichael@jmcvoiceover.com
Web: www.jmcvoiceover.com


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Comments (9)
J. Michael Collins
4/20/2015 at 1:02 PM
Hi Peter M,

Thanks for your comment.

I'm not a lawyer either, but I highly doubt antitrust issues would apply to individuals agreeing to set minimum standards of professional conduct. That certainly would not have been the intended purpose of any such laws.

All the best,
J. Michael
Peter J. Marx
4/15/2015 at 10:12 PM
Interesting article, but a cautionary word about "collectively and publicly agree[ing] to never charge a per-project price below a certain level" and "collective refusal to work for less." It's probably far-fetched, but it seems conceivable that under certain circumstances this might constitute an anti-trust violation. I pretend to no expertise in anti-trust law, and could be dead wrong on this (I'm an attorney who also does VO) but you might want to look into this question before organizing for any such agreement, and then adjusting your activities as appropriate.
Taylor Stonely
4/15/2015 at 9:15 AM
I will also take the pledge to hold the line on prices!
J. Michael Collins
4/13/2015 at 3:01 PM
Hi Peter,

Thanks for taking the time to offer your considered comments. Your perspective is always appreciated.

My solution to the question about T&C's, etc... is simply to add language in my proposal indicating that acceptance thereof constitutes agreement to whatever terms are laid out by me within, and whatever limitations are indicated in the job posting of the client. Any reasonable person would assume that a client hiring a talent through a site has taken the time to read the proposal of the talent before parting with their money.

I would respectfully disagree that these sites are becoming irrelevant to professional talent, especially with regard to the primary sites, where earnings among top bookers can be quite substantial indeed. In fact, I would argue (and have) that as the business model develops over the coming years, more and more quality business will shift to a method of hiring that is as free as possible of hoops to jump through. This necessarily means that it is incumbent upon us as talent to move the dynamic of the online casting space towards a quality-driven model, and not, as you accurately pointed out, a paradigm based on, "A high volume of low-grade work," as you see with freelance sites and the Fiverrs of the world.

In any case, your input and wisdom are always valued, and may you continue to have abundant success.

All the best,
J. Michael

Peter Bishop
4/13/2015 at 1:49 PM
The main thrust of the article seems to be "take control"... which I applaud wholeheartedly. However, sometimes it's easier said than done... the owners of some of the sites will state "you can do xxxx." but in reality there are barriers which make it impossible without making calls and/or jumping through a bunch of time-consuming hoops (or breaking the TOS)... which do nothing to help service the client in a fast-paced industry.

One item which is difficult to resolve is the whole acceptance of terms (the lifetime buyout for all media BS). The only way you can legitimately enter into a dialogue with a prospective client is to accept the job as offered... then go into conversation with a counter-offer on terms. This is not good business practice. The alternative is to call customer support to act as an intermediary... again... who needs that hassle?

When accepting a job, I need to clearly add my own T&C, and pass it back to the client... not get into a back-and-forth which slows the process. It's as simple as adding a check-box that states "Accept standard T&C* Y/N ... the N option allowing submission of your conditions. It doesn't even have to be a "dialogue" (because that can't be allowed)... just a statement of alternate T&C. The response, "That's too difficult to program" is a bunch of BS.

There are many other issues where professional talent has been yessed-to-death for years and promised web-based options (e.g. the on-going issue about the ability to employ union talent via a paymaster). It is clear that the focus of many of the P2P sites is a high volume of low-grade work... they do not want to service the needs of professions who care about broadcast cycles, union work, etc.

However, you promote playing the game with your own rules... and this is a good thing. But I can't help but think that these P2P sites are becoming increasingly irrelevant to professional talent.

Best Regards,
Peter
J. Michael Collins
4/13/2015 at 12:19 PM
Hi Gary,

Thanks for your comment.

I'm fairly certain their TOS language was intended mostly for convenience. I'm very pleased that they are open to talent stating their own terms in the proposal. I have negotiated numerous jobs on Voices where I have been paid on a cycle basis, so it definitely is possible....you just have to make your policy clear.

Regards,
J. Michael
Gary Terzza
4/13/2015 at 10:08 AM
A powerful manifesto, J. Michael. It's interesting how voices.com effectively make talents sign away their buyout rights. This does not appear to be the case with Voice123 - I have seen several UK based TV commercials (and indeed been awarded a few myself) where there is a BSF (basic session fee) and usage
payment.
J. Michael Collins
4/13/2015 at 9:30 AM
Hi Don,

Thanks for your comment.

While it didn't come up in the article, I often include a clause in my proposals online (especially for regional or national work with larger brands), that breaks my fee into 13-week, 1 year, or buyout pricing, each increasing incrementally. I definitely agree that we should not reflexively accept buyout terms, and the the 13-week cycle should be used more for broadcast, streaming, and pre-roll spots.

I do feel, however, that we vastly underestimate the pricing power we hold, and that setting standards as a community is the first step towards guaranteeing a bright future for those who take the time to build a sound business based around their talent.

All the best,
J. Michael
Don Leslie
4/13/2015 at 4:08 AM
Just a couple of things that I'd like to toss in the ring. You make no mention of residuals; I think they're absolutely essential if one is to establish a career in our business. Going the constant buyout route can be a killer. Be very careful setting minimums for they all too frequently become maximums, and in all areas of our work. And lastly, for now, your description of the power we wield as talent is a touch hyperbolic. I have served on too many contract negotiating committees to believe otherwise. For that description to be accurate, the union community would not chose so easily to go fi-core, or simply work off the card. I know very little about your casting service but I wish you luck and success with it. Cheers.
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