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Voice Over Rates For Beginners - Can Be Confusing

Apr 23, 2020

What’s reasonable, expected, or completely over the top?

“So, now I’m set up and ready to go, what do I charge for my voiceover services?”

It’s a question that has even the most seasoned voice artist confused, due largely to the ‘shifting sands’ of the voiceover industry… 

Now, don’t get me wrong, the shifting sands I’m referring to, are not the tropical jungle quick-sand type, that will swallow you whole, completely gone without a trace… 

Although for beginners, the industry may feel a bit that way from time to time…

I’m referring to the ‘shifting sands’ of the voiceover market, which currently feels like the only consistent thing about it, is it’s constantly changing and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s changed again by the time you’ve finished reading this article!

Some time ago, there was no such thing as talent websites, ‘pay to play’ sites or online services and the possibility of ‘getting into voiceover’ was a much harder task to accomplish, with limited opportunities reserved only for the chosen few.

In order to get work, you’d need to get booked by a talent agent who’d distribute your ‘show-reel’ to prospective advertising agencies who’d hire you for voice work if they liked your ‘cassette’ and you’d then head off into a directed session (that usually took a few hours) to ‘lay down’ your voiceover at their bricks and mortar soundproof studio on a reel to reel tape!

Fair to say, to be considered talented enough, you’d probably also have experience working on stage or screen as an actor, singer or performer, or possibly even as an on air personality in a ‘cap city’ radio station... Keep in mind, the term ‘freelancer’ wasn’t even thought of yet. 

In those days, you were usually paid per project or paid by the hour and the rates were dreamy! Depending on the project, and how ‘big’ a corporate entity your client was,  

You could be paid up to and well above 1000 - 3000 dollars per project or 500 - 1000 Dollars per hour and all you had to do was drop in, lay down your tracks and then the sound engineer worked his magic and you’d receive a cheque within 30 days… job is done...Great to be a part of the chosen few, right?

Hit the ‘stereophonic tape player button’ fast forward to today,

and what do we have? 

An almost endless array of talent websites, ‘pay to play’ sites or online services, freelancer sites like Upwork, People Per Hour and Fiverr, and endless voiceover opportunities in all sorts of languages for literally thousands of voice artists across the globe!

How did this ‘change’ take place? What happened to allow this ‘shift’ to occur?

Just as Photography, Graphic Design, Sound Engineering, Illustration, Textiles, and many other businesses were completely ‘turned on their heads’ with the introduction of the personal computer in the early ’80s, Although pretty crude, digital recording was born! 

What this meant was singers could record their own songs, filmmakers started to create their own videos and a little further down the track, narrators and voice talent could completely ‘sidestep’ the Agent/Agency model and approach the corporate world and it’s business ventures directly!  

From the ’80s to today…

So many software and hardware programs and products, techniques, and processes have changed since the ’80s… 

I mean, how long has it been since you’ve watched a video at home on your VHS? 

Or had a reason to touch a fax machine... right?

And voiceover services have changed a lot too!

For example, ‘Pay to Play’ sites seem to be taking more of a ‘back seat’ to newer freelancers and voiceover services sites in recent days. The ‘economy of voiceover’ seems to have changed a lot also. Given there are all sorts of levels of businesses and entrepreneurs that are out there, trying to market themselves, it stands to reason, there are many levels of what businesspeople can afford, which means your rates do need to be adaptable but I’d also add, you need to have a ‘walk away’ figure when prices offered to you are too low for you.

My advice is: to look at other voice talents of your experience and select a rate that is:

  1. Relative to your level of experience
  2. Also ‘know your worth’ as a provider of a service your potential client requires.
  3. Your rates must be worth working for, whether it be 5 dollars or 150 dollars, ensure you feel valued because if you don’t you won’t give your best and you’ll feel taken advantage of.

Finally, ask your new potential client what they have in mind as a budget for the project and if you can, work within their budget or discuss whether they can meet your budget… Let’s face it, what can you be compared to? There’s only one you, right?

To your continued overwhelming voiceover success,

Anthony Pica


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