The High Cost of Lowball Voiceovers


The below article is brought to you by one of our top rated voice talents Ned L.

Under Pressure

There has always been a tremendous amount of pressure in the creative/performing arts and especially the voiceover industry. Time is money and deadlines loom large. Globalization and access to technology that is more powerful and relatively less expensive each year has liberated the marketplace in some ways (access for more actors and actresses via casting websites, ability to work in real time with clients around the world, etc.) but has also created immense downward pressure in terms of both wages and quality. How to navigate what was once a monolithic industry and has now become a hodgepodge of full-time professionals, part-time freelancers, and lowball hobbyists?

The More Things Change…

The old adage is usually true – you really do get what you pay for. There is a plethora of freelancer postings on the Internet that will promise to “read anything for only $5!” On the surface, this is true – and what a deal! They will read (poorly) anything (they don’t care and haven’t developed a specialty) for only $5 (they won’t be in voiceovers long and you will likely end up re-doing your project anyway).

Once, while casting additional talent on behalf of a client, I had the opportunity to listen to audition submissions through several third-party sources. Without exception, the auditions submitted from those offering steep discounts were of lower quality in terms of both performance and production (one memorable submission sounded like it had been recorded from inside a tin can and featured a screeching bird in the background). I ended up casting a voice artist offering a reasonable but professional rate, and everyone was satisfied – the first time.

What is the Work Really Worth?

One of the challenges in this brave new world of declining wages, the independent contractor economy, and the dawn of a new age of automation is for us to figure out just what the value of work is. Consider:

• What is the size of the intended audience/market for the project?
• In what medium(s) will the voiceover(s) be used? (TV, Radio, Internet, etc.)
• How long will the voiceover(s) be used as a part of the campaign?
• What is the expected positive impact (money, prestige, etc.) of the campaign?

These and other questions are essential when planning a project. They will allow you to plan for an overall budget (and an amount allocated for the voiceover work) that reflects the scope and impact of the work.

What is the Level of Service Really Worth?

When weighing rates, what premium do you place on good service? Professional rates are much easier to understand when you connect with a voice actor who:

• Listens and asks questions about your overall project needs
• Engages in script analysis and pre-empts any issues with pronunciation, tone, etc. before beginning the recording work
• Collaborates with you in a professional manner when there is an issue, or even a simple question of different script interpretations
• “Prooflistens” to the work multiple times to ensure accuracy
• Professionally edits and delivers files on time and in your desired file format
• Is clear and upfront regarding any needed script/recording revisions

Lowball voiceover artists don’t do these things. They can’t. They are focused on one thing and one thing only: Volume. For service quality and professionalism, there is a better way.

Seek Those Who Are Invested

When you begin searching for someone to voice your next project, find someone who is going to be invested in the work and in your success. There are too many people “in voiceovers” who are actually just hobbyists. They’ll hook up an el cheapo USB microphone, won’t bother to learn anything about sound engineering or production value, and start calling themselves voice actors. When that happens, our voiceover industry (and your project) suffers.

Seek producers and voice artists who are invested – in you. The right person wants your project to be a huge success. The right person has invested their time and money in good equipment and training. The right person delivers what they promise due to principle, not financial reward. There is a high cost to the lowball offer – and a true professional will demonstrate the value inherent in a fair rate every time.

Good luck in your search!

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