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Explaining To Voice Over Clients
How You Charge What You're Worth

March 28, 2014

By Matt Forrest

Voice Actor

How much are you worth? More than you realize…

Whether you are voice over talent, a children’s writer, photographer – or do any type of freelance work at all – you have, at one time or another, probably had to explain your rates to someone.

You’ve had to explain why you charge what you charge. Or explain why you can’t do something for free.

At a recent monthly SCWBI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) critique group meeting, one of our members, an illustrator, was telling us how frustrating it can be when she tells prospective clients her rates, then has to explain why she charges those rates and why she can’t accept low or no-budget projects.

One of the lines she hears all too often is:
"We can’t pay much, but it’ll be great for your portfolio!”
She also gets this:
"We expect this will lead to more work!”
Or this one:
"You charge HOW much? But it’s just drawing.”

Do these ring any bells?

"You charge HOW much?" I told her I get that all the time – and nearly every voice artist has. It can be frustrating, indeed.

We talked about attitudes and expectations of clients and how to find a balance between keeping clients happy, attracting new ones, and maintaining rate integrity. Then, following our meeting, one of our other group members shared a video that helped really put things in perspective.

Knitting: it’s a lot like voice over. And a lot like writing. And illustrating. And photography. And teaching music. And any other kind of skilled work.


The video our fellow member shared was recorded by a woman named Jess who does "knit-for-hire.” That is, people pay her to knit sweaters, afghans, and other items - and Jess states in the video that she loses a lot of people when she tells them the cost of a custom-made, hand-knitted sweater.

Just like voice overs and children’s publishing, there is more to the craft than simply "reading” or "writing.”

As Jess explains, there are a number of factors which can determine the price of a knitted sweater: type of yarn, type of stitch, patterns, sizes, swatches, etc. I have to admit, even though I didn’t know a thing about knitting, I knew exactly what Jess was saying and why she felt the need to post the video.

I encourage you to watch this video, and see if you immediately feel a kinship with her, as I did:

Surprised, aren’t you? I have to admit, even though I didn’t know a thing about knitting, I knew exactly what Jess was saying and why she felt the need to post the video.

So be proud of your craft! Be proud of your rates!

And if you’re looking for someone to voice or produce a project for you, or write something, illustrate something, or knit something … please understand, we’re not trying to make more money than we need.

We’re just trying to earn what we’re worth.

A voice over artist and commercial copy writer, Matt Forrest spent 25-plus years in radio, writing, and producing numerous award-winning commercials, before stepping into the realm of professional voice overs in 2003. He has also had several poems published in various independent collections, and one of them, "Apple-Picking,” was nominated by the Young Adult Review Network (YARN) for a Pushcart Prize. Matt is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).


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Comments (2)
Elizabeth Holmes
3/30/2014 at 1:59 PM
Matt -- As a knitter and a VO, I *love it* that you used this video as an example of how to explain the unseen aspects of creating a beautiful finished project. There's so much more than meets the eye. (Or should I say ear?) THANK YOU!!
Jason Culver
3/28/2014 at 5:29 AM

Thanks for sharing your experience. Perhaps a more effective perspective would be to emphasize to the prospective client that they are paying primarily for your talent - and skills to a lesser degree. Unfortunately too many (even some among our ranks) confuse skills and talent - thinking they are the same.

Very briefly, skills can be taught, acquired and perfected; while talent is innate, you're born with it, either you have it - or you don't, it's in your DNA; you can't teach it (you can only mold it and refine it) otherwise anyone who had the desire could will themselves to be brilliant.

With that explanation as a backdrop, the next time you encounter a low-baller, ask them how much they paid for one of their favorite songs - then ask them how long it lasted. How much they paid to see their favorite band perform, their favorite opera, ballet, or dancer. How much they paid their doctor to deliver their child?

Without, being antagonistic, or confrontational - I think you will get your point across - and, I would hope, gain a new client.
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