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Doing Voice Overs For $5? Ugh.
Lowball Pricing Is A Bad Dream

June 24, 2013

Editor's note: You're killing your long-term income potential if you offer crazy lowball pricing for your talents, like this at fiverr.com. Below, the author argues that following your "Field of Dreams" is the wiser career direction ...

By Terry Daniel
Voice Talent & Trainer

Another tirade here about fu#%! lowball pricing? Yes, well - bear with me. Here's another perspective ...

In the voice over industry - and amongst professional services in general - it is important to have a "Field of Dreams" perspective on quality.

What do I mean by that?

Well, if you are familiar with the Field of Dreams movie, you probably already know where this is going, but for those who do not: Field of Dreams was a hit 1989 Kevin Costner movie about a farmer who follows the guidance of a mysterious voice to plow under his corn in order to build a baseball field.

The voice uttered one of the most famous movie quotes of all time, "If you build it, he will come."

The farmer's wife allows him to go through with it, but they both later regret the decision when they realize that no is coming to the baseball field. They are broke and about to lose everything.

However, that is when Kevin's character, Ray, starts receiving visitors who were actually dead baseball players from the early 1900s. The voice provides Ray with guidance to help these players fulfill their long lost-dreams and goals.

SO RAY'S CRAZY?

Other people believe Ray is crazy, because he's the only person who can hear the voice and see the players, so friends kept urge Ray to change his mind, replant his crops and get back to making money as a farmer.

However, Ray ignores them and keeps moving forward, helping these players fulfill their dreams.

Toward the end of the movie, Ray's dream is fulfilled as he is reunited with his late father, followed by thousands of people driving to the field to watch the game, making it a huge success. 

RELATE TO VOICE OVERS

What in the world does this movie have to do with lowball pricing in the voice over industry?"

Regardless of the type of work we do, we need to focus on providing quality work for quality pay. It is very easy to get so caught up in the playing the game of numbers that you forget about what is truly important.

There are so many lowballing parasites feeding off the voice over industry now that it can be extremely difficult to survive in this industry.

And many people have decided to drastically reduce their prices and become one of those parasites just to be able to make a little money.

LONG-TERM BAD IDEA

Even though lowballing may seem like the key to immediate success, many voice over talents find out the hard way every year that it is not. 

If you focus on building a quality business, then you should not settle for anything less than quality pay for the hard work and consistent effort you bring to the table, day in and day out.

Sure, there are potential customers out there who looking to spend as little as possible.

But  we need to be willing to stand our ground and be fully prepared to defend our work, refusing to compromise or jeopardize our quality standards just to be able to work for a client who clearly has no respect for quality standards.

CHEAP IMITATIONS

You can't expect to find a diamond in a shop that only offers cubic zirconia, and you should not expect to purchase a brand new vehicle that runs great from a salvage yard.

Therefore, why would a customer expect to receive anything other than cheap imitations and junk from a lowballing voice talent? 

This is the picture that we have to be willing to paint for prospective clients who are "shopping around" and "weighing their options" - and are leaning toward hiring the lowballing talent. 

HOW TO RESPOND?

When a potential client tells me something like,
"Well, Mr. Lowballer is willing to do this work for half of what you charge,"
I reply,
"You would not even be able to receive half of the quality that I can offer you, Mr. Customer, for half of the price!" 
We have to be confident in ourselves as professionals.

Instead of whining about lowballers, we should be reminding clients why they should stay with us.

QUALITY DELIVERS MORE

Remind your clients that quality does not comes cheaply.

For instance, even though a client may pay more upfront for quality, they will get exactly what they need the first time around instead of being forced to pay even more on the back-end to have a lowballing contractor's work fixed or replaced all together. 

Think about it like you would a poker game:

A lowballing contractor wants to make people think that they have the perfect hand, but is really just a great bluffer. 

Don't fold your cards! Continuously raise the stakes until the bluffers are forced to reveal their cards.

If a client expects quality work, they should focus on investing in the right sound.

SEEK QUALITY CLIENTS

I would rather market my services to 10 quality clients that each lead to thousands of dollars of work than pursue thousands of clients who only want to pay me 10 dollars. 

Believe in your work. Believe that what you can offer to your client is worth every dollar they pay - even if it is a little more than they expected to pay upfront.

This is how you will be able to achieve the success and longevity that you have been dreaming about since you began your voice over journey. Don't let a lowballing client make you think otherwise. 

And for the record, yes Ė I do like Kevin Costner movies, but that's not the point here.

Use this movie's perspective to clear out the field of corny lowballing clients, and instead, plant seeds that will allow you to cultivate a field of dream clients who will offer you high-quality pay for high-quality work for years to come!
------------------------
ABOUT TERRY
Terry Daniel has been in voice overs for more than 20 years, today specializing in technical and medical narration. He volunteers his services for ASPCA - the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and is managing partner and creative director for the Voice Over Club, a voice over training organization.
 

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Comments (15)
David
4/16/2015 at 1:49 PM
Terry, I recently posted this story on another online voiceover talent's blog as it highlights an even darker side to Fiverr than what you present here.

"I should weigh in about my experience with Fiverr, you might find it interesting.

"I am a semi-retired voiceover artist of 30 years. I have a pro studio in my home and an audio engineer that works for me a couple days of week (he is also semi-retired and has worked with me almost his whole professional life). A while back a friend of mine said, since you were 'winding down' why you donít try out Fiverr, help out the small guy and make some pocket change.

"Being a bit altruistic and curious I tried out Fiverr. I quickly got many jobs and was making some decent pocket change doing a lot of quick little jobs. I could knock out a bunch of these small jobs in about an hour's worth of work. I was still getting a few bigger jobs in through my agent to keep me 'in the loop' but not too many as, like I said before, I was semi-retired and my wife and I were doing some traveling, etc... The one thing positive about Fiverr was that I did not have to constantly audition like many of the author 'online voiceover sites' which, in my opinion reduce the cost/time ration way down.

"Most of the clientele on Fiverr are honest and are small businessmen or women that need the help (churches, civic orgs, mom and pops, etc...), and I don't mind.

"However, one day I noticed something about a picture and mannerisms of one of the buyers that struck a familiar cord with me, as though I had worked with him through an agency before. He claimed to be a small businessman and had me do a few 'movie trailer' style voice overs describing a few car models, clearly meant to be used as mixed in background cuts. I thought, well maybe itís just a local car dealership needing some help. I didn't think too much about it until I did some investigatory work and sure enough a few weeks a later some of my voice cuts were being used in several television commercials in a western regional media market.

"Knowing who was behind the jobs I immediately ceased working with that particular client, told my agent, who also did some checking as well, to confirm my suspicions.

"There is nothing in the Fiverr TOS to prevent this or to give recourse. I do not view this just as the voiceover artist's problem. There are several 'pros' that are working on Fiverr in the same capacity as I. What Fiverr has done to the market is cutting both ways, from the top down and the bottom up. There are higher end clients (producers) that are patronizing Fiverr and saving beaucoup bucks. I do now attempt to screen as best as I can the work that comes in., although it is hard to do. Even though the amount of work I do is small in comparison, I suspect it is happening across the board. It will eventually ruin a good thing. Just my two cents worth or Five Bucks worth."
Mike Greenpea
6/28/2013 at 1:24 AM
Ditto what Rick Riley Said! +1
Daryl Smith
6/27/2013 at 10:58 AM
This is an issue for anyone in almost any line of work. It all starts with your own perception of self worth. For example, I spent many years in the sign business. Having previously worked for two local sign companies, I struck out on my own at the age of 20.

From the onset, I laid out a couple of rules for myself. Number one, Don't go after clients that I know are presently customers of the other two companies. If they come to me, that's different. Number two, don't be afraid to charge...in fact, make sure that you charge at least as much as your competition.

By adhering to both of these rules, I gained the respect of my clients and I maintained a great working relationship over the years with the other two companies. We worked together and helped each other by keeping our pricing consistent. I could have easily said, "I don't have the overhead of the other two, so I can charge less." But why?

Sometimes a higher price gives the customer the feeling that they are getting something exceptional. Of course, it doesn't hurt to be prepared to provide the exceptional if called upon to do so. Wasn't there just recently an article here where the author compared Hershey's kisses to Godiva chocolates? The moral of the story was that the packaging and marketing of the Godiva brand created a higher perceived value for what was essentially the same thing...chocolate candy. So what brand are you?

A man walked into my sign shop one day and said, "I'd like you to letter my truck. If you give me a good deal, I'll send a lot more work your way." I don't remember my exact words, but I do remember expressing something that my grandfather once told me when he said, "You can't eat promises." Besides, I knew that if I did his job too cheap, everyone he sent me would be looking for a cheap deal as well.

Here's another example. My brother owns a carpet and upholstery cleaning company. His competitor across town brags in his yellow page ad that he is the most expensive carpet cleaner in town! Naturally they would eventually run across each other at some point. When they did, my brother asked him, "Why would you put that in your ad?" His rival told him that people perceived his services to be superior because he charged more than everyone else, and consequently, he had more work than he could handle!

So whether you're a voice actor or some other type of entrepreneur, don't be afraid to put a higher value on your work. Don't scab the trade for all the rest of us. You have an investment in your training, your equipment, and your experience. You are in business to make a profit. Let the bottom feeders find somebody else. Like I always say, there's a butt for every seat. Somebody once asked me, "Which would you rather do, 10 ten dollar jobs or 2 fifty dollar jobs?" I think the answer is obvious.

Dan Hurst
6/25/2013 at 9:40 PM
I offer one of two responses to potential clients who tell me they can get their project done for half of my rate. If they are kind, and/or even professional in the way they converse with me, I simply thank them for having taken the time to consider me. If they are belligerant and/or insulting, I say something to the effect of "No doubt you can find someone to do the job for much cheaper, just as I'm sure your client could find someone to do your job for much cheaper. I'm just not in a position to do that. Thanks for taking the time to contact me."

I'm not in the business of saving my client money. I'm in the business of making my client sound good. I learned a long time ago, it's not about how much I charge, it's about how much my product and service is worth. If my product and service isn't worth $500, it isn't worth $5 either.
Terry
6/25/2013 at 12:35 PM
Jim Troland: Interesting comments, Jim! First off, I don't make a ton of money doing seminars because I don't do any. I do coach, but I am more of a mentor and I never guarantee success to anyone. I merely provide the tools and compass.

I wrote this article in an attempt to shed some light on a topic that's pretty popular right now, and to point out the fact that there are plenty of clients who will pay good rates for good quality talent.

Attacking the author personally does nothing for either one of us. I can take constructive criticism about the content, but please don't assume you know more than you do about my mentorship program.
Lee
6/24/2013 at 6:52 PM
I think the decline in the job market is to blame, as people look for ways to make more money quickly.

From another perspective, I am an actor, but I don't hear the professionals complaining about amateurs and amateur dramatics groups. Of course, most actors want to be famous, but the pros know that not many will. Also, if a pro starts getting bad press/reviews/box office figures, they will be replaced by an upcoming star. In other words, they need to keep being good to stay at the top. Acting is open to anyone and everyone, but few will make it to higher levels. Payment is worse. Many jobs are unpaid, and I see voice-over work creeping into the same directories for no pay. So it's not always the talent, but also the job provider setting a low or no rate at all.

It starts with students claiming poverty, and then it's start-up production companies with few funds available, then they get bigger and still want to pay zilch.

Hopefully the voice-over world won't turn into a freebie fest as well.

I agree with Jim and his comment about hypocrisy, though. Saying that, all of the articles on here are advertising.
Jim Troland
6/24/2013 at 3:11 PM
When Mr. Daniel refers to "parasite low-ballers" who make it "extremely difficult to survive in this business" I'm confused. Everyone in the voiceover biz is aware that technology has flooded the field with untalented, unexperienced wannabes. And, THAT's what makes it so hard to survive. The "newbies" almost HAVE to be "low-ballers." And, it's Terry Daniel...among others...who is one of the most aggressive marketers of "How To Get Into Voiceovers" seminars. He's making good money attracting his own competition! As well as our competition! He's contributing mightily to the very problem he's railing against! Anybody else see the hypocrisy in all this??
Rick Riley
6/24/2013 at 11:52 AM
The only flaw that I see in your assessment is this scenario:

"When a potential client tells me something like,

"Well, Mr. Lowballer is willing to do this work for half of what you charge,"

I reply,

"You would not even be able to receive half of the quality that I can offer you, Mr. Customer, for half of the price!"

You don't know that. He may or may not, offer quality work at that price. IMO, I wouldn't put down his work in trying to bolster yours. I would say something like, "I understand bottom lines and appreciate your consideration. If for some reason it doesn't work out, please contact me. I'd be happy to honor my quote and complete your project."

Again, that's only my opinion. I'm just not one to diminish someone else in promoting myself. If in fact the work is substandard, he'll find that out on his own. If the work isn't substandard, then he will have gotten himself a deal and you will have made yourself appear wrong in your argument.

I'm all for trying to keep prices in parity, but I can only control my own. I see so much of this concern in VO, in worrying about the other guy. I don't see this in any other business. I'm ALWAYS looking for a deal. If I want a landscaper who's an artist, I'll have to pay the artist's price. But if I don't need the artists, I'll shop for a guy that can dig some dirt and plant some trees. And I don't think that landscape 'artist' is emailing every other landscaper, telling them to not offer any 'deals.' The artist knows that if they want HIM, they'll pay HIS price.

I look at VO the same way. There's lots of guys who 'do' what I 'do.' But if they want it done by me, with 'my' voice and style, they'll pay my price.

I guess my bottom line is, winners don't look behind to see what everyone else is doing. Winners focus on their goal. The people I work for would never dream of going to 'Fiver' to complete their project. If you focus on your goals in becoming a true Voiceover 'Artist', the 'fivers' of the world will stay right where they are... in their own little world, out of the way! Which in essence, is right where you want them.
Lee
6/24/2013 at 11:17 AM
I have seen them, too. What does worry me is that many of them on Fiverr claim to be professionals with years of VO experience. That being the case, and them being so good, why are they struggling to keep their top-end clients?

The Fiverr club cannot be blamed for that, as there are always markets within markets. But for professionals to be offering such low rates, newbies such as myself should be paying the client on that basis.

What I have noticed, though, is that the $5 VO often turns out to be for an unedited 1-minute raw file. Editing +$10, a certain file type +$5, etc. In the end that $5 job becomes $40+.

Where I think the Fiver club might get unstuck is when a full-paying client sees their ad of Fiverr for the same product. I am sure there will be a few phone calls to find out why.

There are also one Pound shops all over the UK now. Yeah, I can buy a mini camera tripod for £20 from a camera shop or £1 one from a pound shop. The £1 tripod might work for a short time before it starts slipping and tilting, while the £20 tripod works fine. On the other hand, I can buy a bottle of Pepsi for £1.30 or 2 for £1 from the Pound shop. Now I'm getting the same top quality product for less than half the price, but other shops still sell plenty of bottles for £1.30 each.
Marie K
6/24/2013 at 10:40 AM
Thanks for the great reminder, Terry. I started my business lowballing, and it is nice for the experience, but after awhile those clients come back and want the same prices. I found that raising my prices, not only weeded out some of the "problem" clients, but also showed me that my work was well respected by those clients that come back time and time again for my services. It has taken a while, but I have definitely moved forward and seen upward success with my business!
Paul Strikwerda
6/24/2013 at 10:17 AM
Well put, Terry!

Those who cannot compete on value have nothing left but to compete on price.

jennifer dixon
6/24/2013 at 9:11 AM
This is America where dollar stores and big classy stores survive because of the market. Some of us seek out bargains where it doesn't really matter about lasting quality, some of us seek out lasting quality where it does matter and we often shop at either store when we choose. It is all a matter of choice and personal and professional preference. If there is a perceived need there will be someone out there to fill it. This fear that I am diminished because someone else does something different is my own problem and needs to be addressed personally. As a professional person I try to do the best I can at all times and expect others to do the same. It is hard not to be judgmental but it is important to allow for diversity in everything within reason - dollar store or Neiman Marcus? Choice is yours!
Fred Humberstone
6/24/2013 at 8:03 AM
Terry, You make a great point and don't forget, as a service provider on fiverr.com one dollar goes to fiverr.com so the talent gets $4 and you have to guarantee your work. If the client is not satisfied with your $4 voice over, you have to do it all over again for free! If someone were to compare my cost for service against anyone on fiverr.com, I would simply remind them that if they thought they would be satisfied with a $5 dollar VO, they would not be calling me!
Reuven Miller
6/24/2013 at 3:27 AM
Terry, what you're saying is "right on the money," to use a trite but appropriate cliche. However ... in many cases it's an uphill learning curve vis-a-vis the client - who may not be able to discern any appreciable difference between your professional delivery and that of Mr. Lowball. Certainly not enough for him to justify the considerable price differential. That, combined with a market where everyone is watching the bottom line, makes Mr. Lowball's offer even more tempting for a client to turn around and say to you, "What you're saying may be true, but this other guy is good enough." There has to be a point in such a transaction where you see that you're making no headway. The hardest thing then, rather than lowering your price, is to walk away.
chris
6/24/2013 at 1:58 AM
Amen. Nice article.
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