What Are You Worth?

Before I get into today's blog, I just want you to go listen to Charlie Adler's demo. Not that this has anything to do with what I'm about to write. It's just incredible, inspiring, and makes me want to mess myself while crying in a corner practice even harder to be a better voice actor. Needless to say, a lot has changed in the voice over industry in the last ten or so years. The same tools and technologies that make work easier to find than ever are the same tools that make that work cheaper to produce. Recording equipment gets smaller, more affordable, and easier to use every day.  Pay to play sites open the doors to pretty much anyone with cash to burn, both on the "client" and "talent" side. However, I don't want this to be another blog about how Voice123 and the Blue Yeti are signals of the end of the good old days; there's enough of that out there, and I don't necessarily agree with it anyway. Good work is still out there, still pays well, and still requires savvy and talent to seek out and perform.

It's important to figure out what you're worth, how low you're willing to go, and how much of your time can be spent on a sliding scale. Therapists have sliding scales, even the really, really amazing ones, so why shouldn't VO actors? For the right client, I'm willing to bend my price. Up until recently, that list included pretty much anyone who haggled with me. I'm done with that. I have too many clients that don't pay enough to be worth my time anymore, and now I either have to renegotiate my rate with them or drop them. And believe me, it's very hard for me to turn down work.

Your rate card is going to be difficult to determine at first, but once you have it, stick to it. This means your rate on Voices is the same rate as on your site, too. Most agents' work comes with a budget attached, so this doesn't really apply so much to that, as long as your agent isn't bringing you work for peanuts, which in my experience almost never happens.

Obviously when you first start out, you want to get as much work as you can to beef up your resume and get your name out there, but you have to be aware that once a client gets used to paying you a certain amount, asking for more later down the road can be hazardous.  Setting your rates early on and sticking to them will ensure that you don't fall into the trap of taking any job at any price. That's not what professionals do. Take a good long look at what you're able to do, look up the union rate sheets, and alter them accordingly. It shows that you know what you're worth. The clients that balk at a reasonable rate and try to shake you down usually aren't worth keeping anyway.


Don't Like Voices or Voice123? Check These Sites Out.

Pay to play sites are here to stay. Voices and Voice123 rule the roost for now, but they have some of the highest yearly fees and lowest quality gigs around. They're the Wal-Mart of P2P's; no gig turned away, no budget too small. Sure, there are more gigs than you could possibly ever audition for, but after being on Voices for about nine months now, I'm frustrated by the sheer number of postings with incredibly poorly written copy, or "sample" scripts that comprise entire 500-word plus projects, or hilariously microscopic budgets (I know I'm still a rookie, but I'm not doing a national TV spot for 100 dollars and neither should you). Voices has been a decent learning experience if nothing else, giving me access to tons of active copy that occasionally does lead to paid work. However, there are other sites out there that are definitely worth exploring and possibly investing in. #1 - e-Learning Voices/Commercial Voices

These sites are run by VoiceOverXtra's Rick Gordon. These sites target specific fields of VO, maintain small rosters of vetted talent, and encourage clients to select talent based off of their profiles and demos rather than have everyone compete through auditions.

#2 - Kingdom Voices

Having a niche is crucial for anyone's business. Kingdom Voices deals only with faith-based voice projects. Again, they vet their talent and keep their rosters small, something I think all working VO artists would want in a site. While I don't have personal experience with the site, their annual rate is much lower than Voices and the profiles allow for videos in addition to audio demos. Worth checking out if you want to work with faith-based communities.

#3 - United Voice Talent

While it's not the prettiest site in the world, I'm frequently invited to UVT auditions, all of which are well worth the time investment. Their pay structure is based on "talent hours", which are reflective of current union rates. It's audition based and you're not allowed to contact the client on your own, but at least the rates are fair and you're not inundated with hundreds of postings that aren't worth your time. Talent, again, is pre-qualified and there is no yearly fee. If you're in the VO game already, this one's pretty much a no-brainer.

#4 - The Voice That Speaks Volumes

Ms. Tish, a great voice talent in her own right, recently got into the casting game with this site. It's still very new, but being a talent herself, her approach takes the talent into consideration. With no fees, quality auditions, and personal email invites to pre-vetted talent (are we seeing a trend here?), Ms. Tish really seems to be moving in the right direction. I've already started seeing auditions for some great projects from Ms. Tish, and I look forward to seeing where she goes next.

#5 - Voiver

Voiver is still in beta, but I'm very excited to see where this one goes. They're handpicking talent and have some very promising features in the pipeline. Without giving too much away, they're changing the way the talent interacts with the client. Usually these sites operate in relative anonymity. I rarely talk directly to a client with Voices, rather I just get a yay or nay dispensed through the booking agent. Just because we're working online from home studios doesn't mean we have to through out the old way of doing things. I have high hopes that this site will really get it right when it comes to building lasting professional relationships, rather than simply getting a project done as cheaply as possible, as seems to be the case with Voices and Voice123.

Hopefully, with all of these sites taking a smaller, more personalized approach to the P2P (or F2P, as some of these are now) business model, the big names will finally get the hint that they need to screen their talent, screen their clients, and offer more reasonable rates. Of course, a balanced approach utilizing all of these tools, as well as the traditional routes of casting agencies, mailing campaigns, cold calling, and good old fashioned word of mouth are all needed to be successful.

Know of any other casting sites worth talking about? Let me know at voice@rexanderson.net and I'll add them up here.