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What Rates Should A Voice Over Newcomer
Charge? Ask Yourself These Questions ...

By John Melley

Voice Actor & Coach

The subject of "Voice Over Rates” is a hot one, particularly for people new to voice over. After my recent article, Are Your Low Voice Over Rates Too Low? Maybe It's Your Own Fault, I received several questions/comments.

Here’s one from a new voice talent. My thoughts on his questions follow:
Dear John,

I'm new to voice over work and thus do not have a lot of context to what a job should cost. I know how much I would like to make, but I also know that if I ask too much I may lose the job and at this point gaining clients and experience seems to be the priority.

At the same time I'm working on a presentation narration project that has turned out to be much more work than I expected and I am hesitant to go back to the client and ask for more money. I'm sure that with time I will learn to better gauge how much work a project will take, and thus bid more appropriately.

Love to hear your thoughts on tips for those of us new to this line of work. Thanks for the great article. - Sincerely, Tim

Hi Tim,

Yes, it's a "chicken/egg" question on rates for new voice over talent.

Most talent look at what they should charge for voice over rates from a clean slate – like they should start really low.

You need to ask yourself a few questions. For instance:
  • Did you ever start a new job where you were doing the job for the first time, but someone thought you were capable of learning it so they hired you?
  • Did you work for free, or did they pay you?
Most folks get paid. Yes, it might be lower to start and it could increase with experience, but you got paid something.


Same thing goes for voice over. You need to ask yourself a few more questions. And answering them honestly can help you determine your comfort level with your rates.

I have found that most discomfort about what people should charge comes from being unsure of something; be it experience, level of comfort with the material (do you know anything about the subject matter you're recording) or attitudes about money, etc.

So ask yourself:
  • Do you have enough voice over training to deliver a good performance of the material you're being asked to record?
  • Can you deliver it to them as promised?
  • Why did the client pick you? (This is key. Did you audition and were you selected from a group of auditions? Was it your style, and do you have the "sound they're looking for"? Or were you selected because you gave them the best bid?)
  • Was a budget discussed prior to recording?
  • Was there a negotiation on rates beforehand?
If you can confidently answer "Yes" to those questions, then charge something you're comfortable with - knowing you're new, but don't plan on staying there too long.


Beware: You can get trapped. This can become a problem especially if the same client comes back to you for another project and they expect a similar rate.

It's only natural for them to do so. You'll need to up your rate or else you'll end up resenting the work. (Kinda what I'm hearing in your narration project.)


Tim, as for "Going Back and Asking For More $," I'd stick with what you quoted for them on the narration project and do it for what you agreed to.

But at the same time, I don't see a problem with saying something after they've approved your work and give you a compliment on it. I'd say something like:
"Thanks. I enjoyed the project and learned a lot from doing it. I must say it took quite a bit more than I expected. I'm new to voice over and editing so I'm learning what different projects take in terms of time. I'd love to be considered for other projects, but I'll have to be more realistic in the amount of time it takes when I quote you a figure. I hope you can understand that."

Pricing can be a great positioning tool.

Higher prices impress people. "Gee they must be really good."

Here's the caveat. You've gotta be able to back it up. If you charge a higher fee and you deliver a so-so performance, you're cooked - and rightfully so.


Finally, to put a completely different spin on this: If you've had any work experience you're probably knowledgeable about something.

You bring that knowledge and experience with you. Don't discount that.

What am I saying? If you're an expert in candy making (or whatever background you come from), then consider doing VO projects in that arena.

In that world, people won't question you and you can get the rates you want because you're already an expert and you're expanding your product offering.

Then you leverage the voice jobs from those projects and build your rate base for other types of projects from there.
John Melley is the Commercial Production Director for CBS Radio Boston’s award winning Mix 104.1 (WBMX), and a nationally recognized voice over talent, having performed voice over for Irving Oil, Hewlett Packard, United Technologies Corporation and countless others. He is also a marketing consultant for business owners, specializing in coaching voice talent to grow their businesses. He believes a rising tide lifts all ships and helping other voice talent benefits the entire voice over profession.


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