This Just Doesn’t Add Up

by | Mar 10, 2016 | Compensation, VO Business | 3 comments

Buried within the many 50 lb. bags of wisdom passed around at VO Atlanta are two maxims that always bring knowing nods from presenters and their audience of voice-actors.

Rule #1 goes something like this:  “If you set your prices low as a newbie and first-time voice-actor, you’ll never be able to climb out of that hole.  Your client will always expect that same low price from you going forward.”

Rule #2 sounds like this:  “As you grow in your talent accomplishments, remember to raise your rates accordingly to benefit your business, and to reflect your value in the marketplace.”

Rule #1 is an admonition to newbies about starting out too low and ruining any compensation standards more seasoned voice actors have fought hard for.  Rule #2 is a common-sense business move that long-time pros pass around to each other with knowing smiles.


What’s to keep the newbie-becoming-pro from raising rates as they improve their craft? 

Sure, you might lose a client that way, but so could the mature voice-actor. 

Aren’t those the clients you’re better off WITHOUT anyway?

Rule #2 is the only rule that holds any water.

I hate seeing early voice actors underprice themselves and others by taking on decent jobs at a rate that makes the pro cringe.  But let’s go back to yesterday’s blog and the Catch-22 that frustrates all freelancers:  “You can’t get a decent-paying job without experience, and you can’t get experience without a decent-paying job.”

And again, I ask the question:  Where did YOU start out?

I know plenty of voice actors who won’t climb in their studio and turn on their mic for less than $500….NOW.

But I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that wasn’t the case for them coming out the chute as a newb.

Again referring to yesterday’s blog (which BTW got close to 1,000 views)… every smart Newbie has the responsibility to approach their new-found profession with respect and passion…to research going rates, and aspire to that level as quickly as possible given their progress.

There will always be people looking for a job — looking for work — who will take low pay.  But people serious about a career should always be on the lookout for ways to seek higher compensation commensurate with their perceived self-worth.

Just as there are always clients seeking to pay the bare minimum (and voice actors who will take that level of pay), there are also plenty of clients who understand the value of a professional voice actor, and are willing to pay at a higher level.

Shoot high.  Always shoot high…even as a newbie.  Accept what you must to get experience, but don’t stay there, and don’t settle.  (I’d add to that: don’t talk about your early rates too much.)

Job vs. Career.

Which are you?




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  1. Marc Scott

    There are a couple points to consider here…

    1) Why do you even have to tell potential clients you’re new? If you’ve auditioned, and they’ve accepted your audition, why does it matter if you’ve been in voice over for 5 minutes, 5 months or 5 years? I never once told a client I was just starting out or it was my first year full-time, and I never had a single client ask.

    2) I’ve said that once a client hires you for $50, don’t expect to get them to $500, and this has proven true over and over. In my own business I’ve had to let clients go because I simply started out too low “just for this one gig” and then couldn’t get the rates up. Are my rates higher now than they were in five years ago? In some cases, yes. But I set my bar at fair and reasonable rates from the start because I was providing a product that was worth it.

    3) I still question how much of all this discussion has to do with confidence. If you’ve got good equipment and have done your training, you know you can deliver the goods. If you’re desperate for work and grasping at any pay rate to get a booking, perhaps the root of that has nothing to do with rates at all, but rather how you feel about yourself, your ability, your demo, your equipment, etc?

    Confidence, I believe, is something we all struggle with, in one way or another.

    • CourVO


      Thanks for your thoughtful feedback, as always.

      1) I never said you had to tell the client. That’s more or less between you and yourself. So many first-time VO’s sell themselves short on confidence in pricing.

      2) This is the point I mentioned in the article. You may start lower than the seasoned VO on some early jobs…then you ASK for higher pay. If the client doesn’t comply…then you move on. But at least you got a start. You got paid. You had some success. That may be the client you don’t wanna keep anyway.

      3) I think it’s hard to divorce your confidence from early misgivings in any profession. No matter how good the equipment…no matter how much coaching or practice you get…there is still trepidation when starting out. Your closing line was right… and the one before that too “how you feel about yourself”…that’s confidence to some degree…no?

      Thanks again, Marc!

      Dave Courvoisier

  2. Dan Hurst


    Good point in acknowledging that when we start out in the business, we charge less. That’s just normal business. I don’t expect to pay a master carpenter what I would pay a novice.

    The problem is when voice talents that are seeking to build their business, don’t have the confidence or hutzpa to demand better rates.

    All I know is that low-paying clients are far more high maintenance and even mega slow pay than higher paying clients. I suspect it’s because they low-ball their work to their clients. That’s a no-win situation.

    Working for those kind of clients is a drain and a drag on one’s success.

    Do the math: One good client for $500 or 10 low-ball clients for $50 each, and half of them require you to do the job over and over, and then, half of those disappear without ever paying you.

    If you have what it takes to make it in this business, you have what it takes to select your clients. If you settle for less, you deserve what you get.

    I’ve gotten the emails and had the conversations with voice talents who settle for less, and invariably I hear the argument (or similar to this): “Hey, I’m laughing all the way to the bank for $XX jobs.

    No you’re not. And if you think you are you are as full of B.S. as your low-balling clients.


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