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The Voice Over Rate Debate Continues:
Seeing Common Sense And Hypocrisy
March 14, 2016

By Dave Courvoisier

Voice Actor & TV News Anchor

Buried within the many 50 lb. bags of wisdom passed around at the recent VO Atlanta 2016 conference are two maxims that always bring knowing nods from presenters and their audience of voice actors.

Rule #1 goes something like this:
If you set your prices low as a newbie and first-time voice actor, youíll never be able to climb out of that hole. Your client will always expect that same low price from you going forward.Ē

Rule #2 sounds like this: 

As you grow in your talent accomplishments, remember to raise your rates accordingly to benefit your business, and to reflect your value in the marketplace.


Rule #1 is an admonition to newbies about starting out too low and ruining any compensation standards more seasoned voice actors have fought hard for.

Rule #2 is a common-sense business move that long-time pros pass around to each other with knowing smiles.


Whatís to keep the newbie-becoming-pro from raising rates as they improve their craft? 

Sure, you might lose a client that way, but so could the mature voice actor. Arenít those the clients youíre better off WITHOUT anyway?


Rule #2 is the only rule that holds any water. I hate seeing early voice actors under-price themselves and others by taking on decent jobs at a rate that makes the pro cringe. 

And here's the Catch-22 that frustrates all freelancers: 

You canít get a decent-paying job without experience, and you canít get experience without a decent-paying job.

I ask the question: Where did YOU start out?

I know plenty of voice actors who wonít climb in their studio and turn on their mic for less than $500 - NOW. But Iíll bet you dollars to donuts that wasnít the case for them coming out the chute as a newbie.


Every smart newbie has the responsibility to approach their new-found profession with respect and passion - to research going rates, and aspire to that level as quickly as possible given their progress.

There will always be people looking for a job - looking for work - who will take low pay. But people serious about a career should always be on the lookout for ways to seek higher compensation commensurate with their perceived self-worth.

Just as there are always clients seeking to pay the bare minimum (and voice actors who will take that level of pay), there are also plenty of clients who understand the value of a professional voice actor, and are willing to pay at a higher level.

Aim high. Shoot high, even as a newbie. Accept what you must to get experience, but donít stay there, and donít settle. 

(To which Iíd add: donít talk about your early rates too much.)
Dave Courvoisier is an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, writer, producer, voice actor, and the main weeknight news anchor on KLAS-TV, Channel 8, the Las Vegas CBS affiliate. He also writes Voice-Acting in Vegas, a daily blog of voice over adventures, observations and technology, and is author and publisher of the book, More Than Just A Voice: The Real Secret To VoiceOver Success.

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Comments (6)
3/15/2016 at 8:38 PM
I love self producing in my own booth, but I hate the pick-a -number gambit of the job budget range when making a bid with your audition. After all, if the budget range is $100 to $250, doesn't that mean their budget is actually $250?
Tommy Griffiths
3/15/2016 at 4:09 PM
VO talent can jaw-Jack, collude, organize for transparency, proselytize for "fair rates", and pound the war drums as we are wont to do, but as sure as the law of gravity, the law of supply and demand will always dictate price. More and more very talented people are finding their way into VO, as innovation and technology makes production cheaper, and easier than ever. Radio folks, who until a few years ago made good money, will tell you the same story about how voice-tracking killed the radio star.
BP Smyth
3/14/2016 at 8:19 PM
Rates for voice-over services are always a challenge in the marketplace. I say, set your rates and stick to them. Let the lowballers continue to shortchange themselves. Be competitive, and never, ever "low rate" yourself. Trust me, you never want to work for those that are bottom feeders.
3/14/2016 at 7:44 PM
Good thoughts, Dave. One of my first jobs was narrating teaching materials for a federally-funded program aimed at teachers. They paid by the hour. One day I overheard the engineer saying to his assistant, "We sure have a lot fewer re-takes with him than with the other guy we used..." So, I butted in and said, "So I'm here FEWER hours and get paid LESS for being good at what I do?" And he said, "That's about it...which is why we pad your timecard all the time!" And, sure enough, when I compared my Daytimer entries with my check stubs, it was true. Lesson learned: If you're good at voiceovers and don't make mistakes, don't work by the by the job! (But know that there are FAIR engineers around!)
steve hammill
3/14/2016 at 3:35 PM
I'm with those $500++-to-get-out-of-bed VOs; send me to a world-class studio, SAG-AFTRA scale is fine. I find self-producing painful.
Pedro Gomes
3/14/2016 at 2:34 PM
Unfortunatly in Portugal, well known voice over artists practice prices as low as newbies (like me). And newbies don't stand a chance.
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