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Voice Acting & Insurance / Part 1
Will Personal Insurance Cover
Voice-Over Business Hazards?
 
By Keith Michaels
Voice Actor & Insurance Specialist
 
Lately I have seen many questions on networking sites about insurance matters for voice actors working from home.
 
With several years of experience as a licensed property and casualty insurance agent, as well as a working voice actor, I thought I would share my knowledge with you in the hopes of saving you stress, money, and potentially your business.
 
Now, I think it is a safe bet that you have never read your insurance policy cover-to-cover and then said to yourself, "Gee, that really made a lot of sense!”
 
Here is a little secret: insurance policies are not designed to be understood by the general public!
 
For our purposes, this series of VoiceOverXtra articles will explore the specific areas of insurance that apply to our situations.
 
HELP YOU DETERMINE
 
Working from home or owning a home-based business is the fastest growing segment of our economy. Insurance companies unfortunately are not keeping up with the pace.
 
What I will try to do in my articles is to help you determine:
  • your need for insurance,
  • what type of insurance you may need,
  • the pros and cons of each type, and
  • things you can do to help assess your risk and exposure.
PERSONAL VS. COMMERCIAL
 
In this article, I focus on personal insurance vs. commercial insurance, and which one you may need.
  • Personal insurance is homeowner, rental, or car insurance.
  • Commercial insurance is "business” insurance.
Both are different beasts, and both have their own sets of rules and coverage.
 
So, will your homeowner insurance cover your voice-over business? Let’s find out.
 
TAKE A QUIZ ...
 
Ask yourself these questions:
  • Do I use my car to perform duties associated with my voice acting business?
  • Do I advertise my business on my car?
  • Do clients, vendors, or contractors come to my home to conduct business?
  • Am I asked to sign non-disclosure agreements?
  • Do I have more than $5,000 in equipment in my studio?
  • Is voice acting the source for the majority of my income?
  • Do I provide live event recording services such as school concerts?
If you answered "yes” to any of those questions, you need some form of commercial insurance.
 
HOW MUCH EQUIPMENT?
 
Now, there are two kinds of voice actors.
 
The majority are those of us who have a microphone, a few pieces of equipment to help get the signal to the computer, the computer, the monitors, the speakers, software, and that’s pretty much it.
 
Then there is a minority that has their life savings into their business, with portable sound booths in their homes - equipment that would rival a radio station.
 
Which category you fall into will determine how much insurance you need.
 
SCARY SCENARIO
 
Basic personal insurance policies usually exclude coverage for home-based business, unless it is specifically endorsed on your policy. And even then, the coverage is pretty weak.
 
And your personal auto policy will not cover you if you use your car for business.
 
For example, let’s say you are on your way to a studio to record a session, which you do at least twice a week because they have ISDN.
 
ACCIDENTS HAPPEN
 
You cause a car accident and seriously injure the other driver. The first question any attorney will ask you in the deposition is: "What do you do for a living?” and "What was your purpose for driving that day?”
 
When their lawyer finds out you are a voice actor (they relate that to being a celebrity) and that you own your own business, game over.
 
And when your insurance company finds out you were driving for business instead of "pleasure” - which you noted on your initial application  - they deny coverage altogether.
 
WHAT TO DO?
 
Now you are on the hook for the medical bills and the probable lawsuit.
 
So what do you do?
 
Get a business auto insurance policy.
 
Maybe the occasional trip every six months to the studio in town doesn’t warrant the expense of a business auto insurance policy, but if it is a regular occurrence, or you use your car to transport equipment to off-site events to do recordings, you really need to think about it.
 
DOCUMENT CONTENTS
 
When it comes to your "stuff” or contents, your homeowner policy should be adequate.
 
My advice, though, is to document everything with video or photos. Have it appraised. And send a copy of that information to your insurance agent.
 
However, if you are in the minority that I talked about previously, with your life savings invested in your studio, you will need to speak to your agent about attaching a "property schedule” to your policy.
 
HOMEOWNER POLICY LIMITED
 
You see, homeowner policies - basic policies - only give you a percentage of your home’s insurance limit to cover your stuff.
 
For example, if your home is insured for $200,000, typically your stuff or "contents” coverage is limited to 10% to 20% of that figure.
 
Will that be enough to replace all of your belongings and your studio equipment?
 
My best advice to you is to speak to your insurance agent. Don’t be afraid of them. Sure, some are shady looking, but most really care about your situation. They can help you determine what is best for you.
 
And if that doesn’t work, send me an e-mail!
 
 
ABOUT KEITH ...
 
Keith Michaels is a 25-year veteran of broadcasting and voice acting, and owns Keith Michaels Voice Imaging in Tampa, FL. He is also a licensed property and casualty agent. After leaving broadcasting in 2002, he started a new career in commercial insurance, but always maintained a home studio to stay active. He currently works full-time as a voice actor and producer.
 
 

 

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