…an Educated Opinion

by | Jul 30, 2015 | Compensation

opinionYou might be sick of talking about VO rates…I promise I’ll find other VO things to write about…but this week’s blog seems to belong to this topic.

The spectrum of online responses to the compensation issue reveals why this is such a tough nut to crack…why there may not be any definitive answers that fit all situations. Which brings me back to education, and why I said Monday in my article about SpeakPage, that “… WoVO is actively pursuing a program of educating its members to accept this sort of rate only with open eyes….”   In other words, there’s a known context/consequence to your action.  What’s a low rate to one voice actor might be just enough to meet the mortgage for another voice actor.

That’s…your business.  

BUT, “open eyes” means you’ve at least considered the argument for negotiating a higher rate.

It reminds me of a smart rewrite to the old adage: “Everyone has a right to their opinion”.


Everyone has a right to their educated opinion.

Reaction to the discussion this week brought out some hurt feelings.  In one forum, a respondent claimed that although he was earnest about seeking a career in VO – and following a wise path to that goal – he often felt the pressure of mean-spirited pros looking down at him for accepting what he considered to be beginner rates… rates that allow him to get the experience he needs so that he can be worthy of the higher rates.

Others seem to agree that they felt they were being judged for a rate that they thought “fair” for their needs, reflecting the particularly tough freelance tiger to tame.

Another voice actor felt that rates were more immovable, and the client doesn’t know if you’ve just started in the biz or not… they just hear a voice they like for their job.  Why go out of your way to tell them you’re a newb if they understand the price they’re willing to pay for professionalism?

Yet another VO friend wrote me email to say:  “…the voice talent in a fly over state (or distant from NYC or LA) needs to fill up the gas tank, pay a phone bill or the internet provider and often has to do that with crumbs they can scrape up in this now highly-fragmented industry.   If the talent holds out for a fee on par with the larger cities, those bills or invoices might not get paid. Five $150 jobs that week might make the mortgage payment.  Cost of living is much lower in some areas of the country and a living wage means different things to different people.  It doesn’t make them wrong for accepting a lower rate. It may mean their cost of doing business is much lower…”

Fair enough.  Point made.

Reacting to the math offered by Peter Stacho in justifying the rate being offered at SpeakPage, another astute observer of our industry wrote to tell me:  

“…while the prospect of guaranteed work at $100/hour can sound enticing, (at 8 hours a day-5 days a week you are looking at almost $200k a year,) what gets lost is that while, yes, guaranteed money might seem to beat auditioning, the end goal of a VO career shouldn’t be to fill 8 hours a day at $100/hour. E-learning rates can be well over $1,000/hour, and internal narrations often pay $250-500 for what amounts to 15 minutes of actual work. While auditioning can be tedious, if you book enough of these clients over the years, a talent will ultimately generate a self-sustaining flow of business that can easily fill up 8 hours a day at well over $100/hour, (or certainly more than $800 per day.)
I know this isn’t realistic for everyone for one reason or another, but for those who have the talent and the drive, there is still the opportunity to monetize this business at a very serious level, even without top union commercial money…”

This is why I appreciate the sentiment Paul Strikwerda shared in his contribution to the rates roundtable this week.  Paraphrased, Paul’s point is that each of us needs to take control of our own business/destiny/career.  Depending on P2P’s or agents or clients leaves the control in someone else’s hands.  YOU should have the control.  YOU should be setting your mark.  It’s that “have-a-spine” argument.  

  • Ask questions when digital buy-out issues come up
  • Negotiate upward always
  • Seek ethical answers that promote fairness across the board
  • Remember that others are affected by your rates decisions
  • Educate yourself as to what’s possible in each work opportunity

I’m willing to accept that there will be a complete range of needs and experiences for the many thousands of people who call themselves voice actors.  No “one size fits all” rule will ever work.  

Just be educated about it.  Be willing to respect (and appreciate?) what others are trying to do to raise the bar…take the high road…and plug the leak in the dike.




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