An old, divisive argument came back to haunt me this weekend. At an open house, I saw a guy I haven’t seen for a couple of years. Our last encounter did not end well, and we haven’t talked since.
The happenstance of our meeting though, led us to agree to talk about the original disagreement, and left things on a much better note THIS time.
Our initial discord centered on the approach novice voice-actors should take to pricing themselves in the market.
Approach #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.” (and you’re destroying compensation rates for everyone else).
Approach #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.”
#1 is an admonition to newbies about starting out too low and ruining any compensation standards more seasoned voice actors have fought hard for.
#2 is a common-sense business move that long-time pros pass around to each other with knowing smiles.
Rule #2 is the only rule that holds any water.
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?
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 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.
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?