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VOICE-OVER INCOME
Female VoiceOver Talent Self-Inflict
Their Wage Gap - A Client's Perspective
June 6, 2019

By Lynne Darlington
VoiceOver and On-Camera Actor
'Hi Lynne, I have an upcoming project, can you audition and provide a price quote? Here are the specs…' 
This direct invitation email was sent to me from an online voice casting website. The invitation was from Diane Cricchio, president of Timeline Video, a digital and broadcast media production company, whom I had met in a project meeting years before.

Timeline Video was seeking auditions from both men and women for a particular TV project. 

I booked as the woman, and we had our scheduled recording session.

After our session, we began to chat - and it was clear that Diane wanted to share something she learned through the online casting process.

FEMALES ASKED FOR LESS MONEY

She told me that there was quite a discrepancy along gender lines regarding the price quotes she received.

The majority of women were quoting $200, and some quoted as low as $50!

The men's average quote was within acceptable industry standard compensation – between $500 and $800 for this TV project. 

Diane was in absolute shock from the lowball offers she received from the women vs. the men for the same project. 

The national gender wage gap crisis is certainly not late-breaking news. It has been an issue for decades ... but a self-inflicted wage gap?!? 

The women's average quote was well below market standard, and in Diane's words, 'insulting to our gender.'  

IGNORED 'LOWBALL QUOTE' AUDITIONS

Diane said she was unmotivated to listen to the lowball auditions because if these women did not value themselves, how could she consider hiring them? 

She had not announced that the lowest offer would get the gig. 

The low bidders did not feel like professionals to her.

SELF-SABOTAGING THEMSELVES

The Institute for Women's Policy Research states:
"Women are the sole or co-breadwinner in half of American families with children. They receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men. In 2017, female full-time, year-round workers made only 80.5 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent." 
I began to wonder: why are women self-sabotaging themselves professionally? 

I asked Diane if I could share her experience and her thoughts. I felt that hearing a client's take on low quotes would be valuable information for our VO sisterhood. 

Diane chose to share her experience to help other women, saying "We women have to support and encourage one another." 

START WITH RATE GUIDES

I have found the Global Voice Acting Academy's Rate Guide to be a helpful resource. It is bookmarked on my computer and I refer to it often. These compensation figures are reasonable starting points for negotiation.

Backstage also has an interesting article written by casting director Kate McClanaghan: What to Charge as a Voiceover Artist, concerning how VO lowballing can present inherent dangers, and why it is a poor idea.

I understand there will always be newbies and those just happy to book, as well as producers with slim budgets.

But please, I implore my low balling colleagues: Know your worth and how it is perceived!   
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ABOUT LYNNE
Lynne Darlington is a voice-over and on-camera actor who has worked on hundreds of projects. Career highlights include working with a three-term governor, and appearing with her sweet dog Sandy in a commercial.

Twitter: @lynnedarlington


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Comments (11)
Lynne Darlington
6/17/2019 at 2:57 PM
I am thrilled that my article has started this conversation! Thank you for your insightful, interesting and thought-provoking comments, keep them coming.

I would like to clarify that I have not been a paying member of any P2P websites and haven't for quite some time. I have kept my complimentary profile on this one particular P2P to continue to receive private invitations which you can receive with a NON paying profile.

Thank you Anne M. Richardson for sharing the timely link to the GVAA, VOAA and WOVO Town Hall meeting discussing the 'State of Our VO Industry'. This video of the town hall meeting is worth watching. Our industry is at a critical crossroads and we all need to hold the line with securing fair and equitable industry rates.

My preference is for my agents/partners to negotiate and secure my rates, and keep an eye on usage; however, the reality is the web has changed the playing field. I am contacted by producers, directors, etc... directly seeking a fee for projects. I pull out my GVAA rate guide and I am good to go! We all have to be vigilant. Let's educate clients and our VO peers about proper industry rates, not audition for the low lying fruit and we will ALL be WINNERS!
Anne M. Richardson
6/14/2019 at 1:13 PM
The revelation that female voice talent bid lower than male voice talent is frankly alarming, and I'm not sure what drives that.

I don't worry too much about a gender-pay gap in the audiobook industry, as I do mostly union work for large publishers. I'm secure in my knowlege that SAG-AFTRA would never negotiate rates that disparage one gender over another.

For what it's worth, World-Voices recently held a "town hall" meeting with GVAA and VOAA, in which the state of the voiceover industry was discussed, including topics related to rates and strategy. World Voices members also have access to several webinars focused solely on rate discussions with top talent in the VO world. Here is a link to the "town hall" meeting: https://www.world-voices.org/News.
Heather Costa
6/13/2019 at 9:18 PM
Absolutely!! If you don't value your worth and price yourself at competitive rates, you're more likely to lose the job for seeming inexperienced or for having a lack of confidence. It's sad to see that women tend to price themselves lower than men, but the only way that'll change is if we make it happen! Thanks for writing this article, Lynne Darlington, I think it's an important discussion to have!
Kelley Buttrick
6/12/2019 at 8:07 PM
Lynne and her client are wonderful for bringing this gut-twisting issue to light! Thank you to them and to VoiceOverXtra for publishing it.

Truly, this makes my stomach churn and blood boil. Recent studies have proven that a female voice is preferred by listeners of both genders in many cases (see a summary here: http://www.kbvoiceovers.com/site/im-just-sayin/), so why on Earth should such a hot commodity not value itself more?

Come ON ladies! Other creative industries are putting their collective feet down (3% Conference, Free the Bid, SoundGirls and others), why aren't we?

As others have said, this isn't just a female/male issue. Lowball rates are an industry-wide issue. We all wring our hands and spend hours on social media lamenting it, but what are we actually doing about it?

Man or woman, I urge to seriously consider your value when quoting projects on your own. Consider your training, your experience, your gear, your business expenses, etc. You're worth it.
Kate McClanaghan
6/12/2019 at 12:38 PM
Amen, to THAT, Lynne! (And thanks for mentioning my article in Backstage. I appreciate it!)

This doesn't surprise me at all! We've all read for years that women earn between 52 - 80 cents to every dollar a man makes. But when it's YOUR call? Come ON! That's how debilitating and polarizing low-balling yourself can be! Regardless of gender.

Proving once again, one of the greatest obstacles ALL voice talent face, like every small business, is pricing. Quoting the cheapest only cheapens YOUR worth. It's not your true value or the true value of the project.

STAND UP to the task at hand and quote 10-15% ABOVE the standard rate (found on either VORG or GVAA's rate guide). That's business 101, whether you're starting out or not!

Trust me, that 10-15% is a comfort zone for negotiation, as well as a net to cover unforeseen charges that inevitably arise for you as a small business owner.

With further regard to the gender issue... here's one for you: yesterday I held a rather massive union casting. For the first time in ages we paraded in the 'usual suspects'. As one 'gentleman' left the booth he (very politely) asked me, "Do you mind if I asked you how much you paid for this place?" He asked this in front of a roomful of talent (all men) as they were about to audition for me.

The room suddenly went dead quiet.
"Yeah, I kinda do mind." I told him.
Talk about awkward.

Tell me something, if I were a guy... would any one even think of asking me how I was able to do anything myself, let alone purchase a home, establish a studio (this is the 10th studio I've built over the years) or run a business? Frankly, it been 20 years since I've been asked something so mindless.

I wanted to say, "It's 2019, you doorknob! Wake the hell up!" I didn't. But, you rarely get the opportunity to audition in front of the casting director/producer on a union commercial project any more, and if that's your best 'plays well with others' move, then FLUNK. Thanks for playin'!

Anyway, aim higher, Guys! You're worth it! I promise! ; )
Bobbin Beam
6/12/2019 at 7:59 AM
The wage gap is self imposed and knows no gender. Every person who calls his or herself a voice actor has unique talent and levels of proficiency at any given time. Some may be very new, or some well-seasoned. Some are doing it full time and earning a fabulous living. Some are just getting by. Others do it as a hobby or as a part time side hustle. Every career ebbs and flows. And the industry continues to evolve at lightning pace. More often than not we are all pressed to negotiate against ourselves. But do it anyway because of desperation to please others or ourselves. Or they’re ignorant and lazy about doing due diligence. There are more people than ever entering the industry every day. Unless you can get union rates there is no industry standard. Unfortunately, not everyone is working at that level and there are as many lowball job offers as those who will accept them. Talking about how much you get on social media is toxic as it invites comparisons. The biggest problem is once one agrees to do the $50-200 gigs, the perception of working for less becomes reality.
Natasha Marchewka
6/11/2019 at 7:25 PM
...and the rate conversation goes on... but, never have we seen such a definitive indication that we are separated by gender. Grateful for this article! Thank you, Lynne. Knowledge is power!

A few things I've noticed in voice over of late that may be part of this discussion:

Desperation - I don't believe there is any gender divide on people paying, and over-paying, for marketing options. With no shortage of marketing "opportunities," most people I know are spending A LOT on various marketing to the point of desperate purchases for the sake of being noticed within the immense competition.

Lack of education or isolated from reality - whether untrained talent, or trained talent with a lack of experience on how to operate a voice over business, rates are a reflection of not knowing what their product and service is worth.

Lack of self-esteem - so, this is where it all falls apart, I believe, for women in the case of voice over. The female voice over freelancer (likely) does not feel worthy of asking for more. Add to the mix - isolation and possibly even desperation, the veil of insecurity falls every... single... time... I am acutely aware of this in myself and am not surprised that it would touch many women I know. (A man seems to rarely have a problem with this. Simply an observation.)

The difference between the female talent in your story and a few VO women I know who are outrageously successful in their business is confidence. Because they have solid training, receive outstanding feedback from clients and coaches, and have remarkable support within our community, the cycle of confidence seems to build and grow. They have their low days, but never question their rates.

I think the secret to improving our rates and our asking power, aside from top-level training and strong, supportive female VO friends, is the confidence to know you can always ask for more than you think and stand strong with your decisions.

Very enlightening article! Thank you!!

Monique Bagwell
6/11/2019 at 1:45 PM
This is spot on and a real eye opener. Great article Lynne! I wonder if this is a 'western' perspective or is it 'international'?

I do agree that we women have a tendency to undermine our value in any business. That's why I love VO Groups like Lisa Biggs: Voxy Ladies and Ganguzza/Nistico: V.O. Boss, because of their empowering messages they offer female VO.

Rebecca Haugh
6/11/2019 at 11:46 AM
Thanks for this story, Lynne, it's very provocative. It's wonderful that your client expressed herself to you, and agreed to let you share the story.

I don't know to what depth this low-pricing issue exists for female VOs, or at what level of voice-acting experience in the female VO side of the business. Your story triggers that desire to know more about if this is a real issue, and how deep it goes. I guess it triggers more questions for me than answers!

Your story gives a feeling that there is an "industry standard." I agree that the GVAA is a good resource, as well as the SAG-AFTRA union rates. But an "industry standard" for non-union? There isn't much of one, particularly after this explosion of freelancing with the internet, P2P websites being pointed to as reasons VO rates for all are sliding downward.

Your story didn't mention what website your interactions initially occurred on. If we really have an industry standard, why was bidding going on? Why are we participating in bidding at all, right? Why doesn't the client simply offer a flat rate, right? But they more often do not....

I have one final thought about the term "self-sabotage," which sort of means these 'low ballers' already know what they should charge but don't. That might not be the case. I think "ignorance" or "uneducated" would be more likely the common situation.

I encourage all VOs to do your homework on VO rates. Ask for help about that when you need it from trusted mentors, agents, colleagues in the biz. IF they know and go low anyway, they are in survival mode and scrambling, OR have such bad audio quality they know they cannot earn more for it.
Annie Sullivan
6/8/2019 at 8:54 AM
Excellent article - thank you! I know, when I had just started out in VO - and even when I audition in genres where compensation values are unfamiliar to to me - it was difficult to know what to charge and scary to know that others may be bidding less, so that I may not get the gig. I quickly learned that, if I don't value myself and the work that I did, that I could not expect my clients to value me, either. Low balling serves no one and only undermines the entire voiceover community - regardless of your gender!
Philip Banks
6/7/2019 at 9:49 AM
"I implore my low balling colleagues: Know your worth and how it is perceived!"

Male and female alike, the majority probably DO know their worth. They fully understand that $50 is not what anyone would expect to pay a good professional Voice Over person but, based on the quality of their work, less than a "Ben Franklin" would still be considered wildly optimistic.

It is not really a gender thing, but the point is well made. It's about people in the market who can't get work because they deliver poor quality performances. Low price is all they have to offer.
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