You Get What You Pay For
There are quite a few things about this industry that even after decades of work, never ceases to amaze me or make me chuckle.
Not long ago, I had an online chat with a potential client. They were a post-production company and wanted a voice for two to three minutes of finished animation. They stated there would probably be one or two revisions to the work as we progressed. They wouldn't tell me anything about the project, other than that I would get the rough script and send them the finished audio.
The Screen Actors Guild session rate in the New Media / Interactive category "for any single Interactive Platform performance of up to Three Voices during a Four Hour Day" is $809.30. Now, I've chosen not to join the union, which allows me to work on any project without worrying about violating any of their rules. As a result, I position my standard rate to be considerably less than the union rate card. I could tell that this client was a low budget operation, and I know what it's like to run a production on a shoestring, so I was willing to come way, WAY down on my rate to help them out even further.
They wanted to offer me $10.
I thanked them for considering me and wished them a fantastic day.
I'm happy to help out low budget productions. I'm happy to donate my time and services for needy causes. I'm happy to negotiate my rate to something more manageable to keep the project moving forward and help the client out. But ten bucks for a two minute animation? Not a chance. I shudder to think who they will end up getting, but I'm not losing any sleep over passing on the job.
With the continuing evolution of technology and the advent of pay-to-play and freelance websites, the VO industry has undergone a monumental paradigm shift in the past few years. Clients can shop around for the lowest possible rate because anybody with a USB microphone and an iPhone can call themselves a voice actor and low-ball their way into the job. But when that person records in what sounds like their bathroom and delivers the lines only slightly better than a text to speech translator, the client is not going to be happy.
There will always be clients looking for the absolutely cheapest means to an end, and there will always be people who are willing to work for pennies. But in this business... ESPECIALLY in this business, the adage "you get what you pay for" really holds true.
About Rob Marley
A Los Angeles native, Rob is an accomplished voice talent, coach, producer and writer now living in the hill country of Austin Texas.