Voice Acting

Can Non-Union Work be Converted to Union Work? YES! It can!

Are you a SAG-AFTRA talent trying to find work at Voices?
Thinking about joining the union but don’t want to lose out on all the non-union work?
Many of the jobs posted at Voices are non-union, yet we have numerous SAG-AFTRA voice talent on the site.
How is this possible?
With a little extra effort a voice actor can remain honest with their union and still accept non-union work by turning it into a union job. All without causing additional work or hassle for the prospective client.
Joins VOX Daily today as Voices talent member and professional voice-over coach, Mike Brang, explains how it’s done.

Can non-union work be converted to union work? YES! It can!

By Mike Brang
For voice actors that are working under SAG-AFTRA contracts it can sometimes be a challenge to procure voice over work and stay “legal” by working within the parameters of the union. There are by far more non union jobs than union. With a little extra effort, and if the job meets certain criteria, you may be able to convert that job to a union contract, and start contributing to your health and pension benefits.
And the best part is… the client doesn’t even have to know about it!

So, What’s the Criteria?

There are 3-key points. First and foremost, the compensation must be adequate enough to cover union scale in addition to the health and pension benefits that SAG-AFTRA requires; which is just shy of 16%. You also need to ensure that you are operating as a business and have the required insurances in place. If you aren’t operating as a business, don’t worry. There are numerous 3rd party services that can act as your production company and will take care of ensuring those things are taken care of. This will add some cost to the overall job bringing your total to scale plus roughly 42%.

Next, and this is a biggie, you need to be the producer of the content. This means that the finished product that you send off to the client is the final piece that will be used – nothing will be changed, added, altered or edited.
If all of these factors are met, you can then sign up as your own signatory under SAG-AFTRA and flip that job.

What Jobs are Easy to Convert to Union?

Some jobs like commercial work, animation, web content, etc. don’t lend well to converting to union work — and that’s okay. There are plenty that do! Think about IVR jobs. There is minimal production necessary and the delivered file is the usually the final product. How about audio books? The dry, normalized read is all that’s needed.
Another great thing about these categories is that the union scale requirement is very reasonable and usually meets the pay range set forth by Voices, and it even includes the percentages that we discussed earlier!

What if I Want to Join SAG-AFTRA but Haven’t Met Their Criteria?

Working towards those vouchers? Stop!
There’s a simpler way to get into the union and you only need a little imagination to do it. Well that and the initiation fee, of course. If you check out www.sagaftra.org and head over to the “New Media” portion under the contracts tab, you can sign up and become a union signatory. After doing this, you can create a quick webisode of something fun, Taft-Hartley yourself, and you’re in like Flynn. Just make sure your content is not selling something or educational – it must be for entertainment purposes.

As voice actors, we want to be able to do what we love and get paid a reasonable wage while we do it. Now you can continue to do that while earning money towards your pension and benefits under the union contract.
I hope this article was helpful to all that took the time to read it. Don’t be shy! Feel free to drop me a line anytime with questions!

About Mike Brang

\With over a decade in the industry, Mike Brang has voiced countless projects for clients all around the world. He has worked with major brands like McDonalds, Verizon, Starbucks, Toyota and Ace Hardware – to name a few. Mike also coaches up and coming voice actors both locally at his Ventura County based studio, as well as via Skype and phone. He even assists students with how to be successful on Voices! Mike is represented by Mike O’Dell at BBA Talent Agency in Burbank, CA. and is a member in good standing with SAG-AFTRA.

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  • Avatar for Dave Wallace
    Dave Wallace
    October 15, 2013, 11:52 am

    Hi Lin,
    Thanks very much for writing this! I was already familiar with this info, but now I will have a place to point to whenever somebody asks about using a payroll company as a signatory.
    For what it’s worth, to anybody who’s reading this and curious about where to find such a payroll company, I personally recommend one called Falcon Paymasters. I’ve been using them for a while now and they rock!
    Anyways. I also didn’t know about the method you mentioned of joining SAG-AFTRA…clever! I’ll be forwarding this article to a friend of mine who has been wanting to join the union. Although, quick question on that…I was under the impression that someone couldn’t declare themselves as a signatory, and that the union outlawed that a few years ago because there were actors claiming fake jobs in order to qualify for health insurance. Is that incorrect?
    Either way, thanks again for spreading this info, it’s very important for people to know. Far too many people don’t want to join the union because they’re unfamiliar with how easy it often is to convert non-union work to union work.
    Kind Regards,
    Dave Wallace

  • Avatar for Mike Brang
    Mike Brang
    October 18, 2013, 12:19 am

    Hey Dave!
    Glad you liked it! Awesome recommendation on the signatory service. I use Bonefide Productions. My rep is Teresa Hand and she is amazing.
    As far as being your own signatory, as long as you are a business with all the requirements that the union requires, you can be your own signatory. The union may not like it, but it’s totally legit. My production company uses Bonefide as a signatory service, but I too am a sig. for new media.
    Thanks again for chiming in!