Man high jumping over a poleWhen work is harder to come by, have you found yourself lowering your rates to remain competitive, or have you been sticking to your guns to ensure that the bar doesn’t drop?

How do you cope with the “out of work blues” when you hit a dry spell?
Robin Rowan presents us with her thoughts on this issue and would love to hear what you have to say!

How Low Will You Go?

Taking jobs for less money
By Robin Rowan
I spent two weeks in February looking for a job. I am a full time voiceover talent, and this was the longest stretch without a job in eight years. It was scary. Finally, one of my regular clients came through with a hefty job, but everyone hits panic phase occasionally.
You immediately start questioning your talents, your rates, your abilities, and finally, your decision to get into this crazy business and think that maybe it’s time to get out. Okay, so I never got that far, because I simply cannot imagine doing anything else.

What do you do when your regular clients are nowhere to be found? Most of us (maybe all of us) subscribe to one or more web sites for job leads. How can you be selective when you just need work? What’s the lowest you’ll take? $200? $100? Any amount??? Sometimes I feel as if clients on these sites are taking advantage of our desperation. Are you biting?

I remember one job lead recently where the posting stated that they were already on their third voiceover talent and still couldn’t find anyone who was competent. Read on a little farther and you’ll see that the job, which was something like 6 1/2 HOURS of finished work, was paying $1000. Do they not understand WHY they couldn’t find a competent voice talent for that kind of money?

When no work is coming in, do we sacrifice everything we’ve worked so hard to get? Maybe. Because if you were a top-level executive and got laid off and spent a few months looking for a job, you just might accept that construction job paying $12 an hour to have something coming in. So it is with voice work. If I didn’t take that $200 job, I’d be sitting here with my business principles intact and not working.

I always use the example of being a newbie on one of the voiceover sites and finally auditioning for a job that paid what I considered to be chump change. I got the job, and the client turned out to be CitiMortgage, CitiBank’s real estate arm. The price for the job was the rate per minute, which suddenly looked a whole lot better. That was 2005, and I’ve been happily doing all of their online training since.

So how do you cope with the “I got no work” blues?

All the best to all of us who have the best jobs in the world!
Robin Rowan has been a full-time voiceover talent since 2001, self-employed as a writer and voiceover talent for 20 years and in the voiceover industry for more than 30 years.


  1. Great article!
    Instead of spending time “questioning your talents, your rates, your abilities, etc”, I would spend the time getting creative with marketing. There are so many ways to think out of the box when it comes to promoting yourself.
    I’m not saying that Robin was doing this but I hear from a lot of voice talents that sit around and complain that it’s too slow and do nothing about it. This is the *BEST* time to get out and market yourself more than ever.
    I am pleased that it worked out for Robin. Nice blog! 🙂

  2. Pretty cool post. I just found your blog and wanted to say
    that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Anyway
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you post again soon!

  3. I have hit a very dry spell, after a couple of years being moderately busy in voice-over work. I welcome some advice on the proper ways and means to promote myself, beyond headshots, resumes and passing around demo CD’s and DVD’s.
    Thanks for any good advice.
    Pastor Steve B.

  4. Great insight, Robin. I’ve lived long enough to know that one should never say ‘never’. Situations, predicaments and the unexpected can make a dollar bill look as big as a bedspread. However, that does not mean we should not continue to audition, tweak demos, practice your favorite character OR cheapen the hardwork and ethic that got you this far. There must be standards to honor-whether by commited vo artists or their customers. I honor the need for quality vocal interpretation and so I position myself with the talent and technical expertise to deliver that. Those who seek quality vo will most likely honor your commitment to their success and not be afraid to pay for cost-effective quality!

  5. Greetings All Y’all,
    I find this topic being hashed over on several of the VO blog sites. Being relatively new to the VO game, I’ve felt it a more prudent position to remain mute and learn, than to open my mouth and remove all doubt that I have a very foolish streak. That being said however, I feel compelled to throw my spare change (yep, exactly two cents worth) at this one.
    I’ve found the majority of folks generally joining this conversation are those who have been full time VO’s for a while, have repeat clients and agent(s) that throw work their way on at least a semi-regular basis. Like Robin said, she had a repeat client who threw here a ‘hefty’ bone. That’s great, but what of those who don’t have any repeat clients with ‘hefty’ bones. Which by the way is who I generally don’t hear from concerning this conversation. Those like me who are trying desperately to get a toe in the door without getting it slammed shut and walking away with a limp.
    Those of you who have done this for a while and have been responsible with your income, perhaps have a little something to fall back on during times such as these. Those just starting out have more than likely spent some pretty decent cash for training, demos etc. and are now flying a plane held to together with a shoestring … and no parachute.
    How low will I go … depends on how hungry I am. It also depends on whether or not the work offered is challenging and I would benefit greatly from the experience … placing remuneration a little lower on the priority list.
    I guess my final point is this … I believe in my abilities. I believe in the folks who have helped me hone my craft, but the stark reality is this … I’m a new kid on a block well traveled by old pros. I’m glad the old pros (for the most part) don’t want the jobs that pay peanuts. Heck I don’t want many of them myself, but if it’s peanuts that will keep me alive until I can have steak …..
    I’ll take ’em whole, shelled, salted or unsalted!
    Ran Alan Ricard

  6. Thanks for posting this, Robin!
    A great talent in his field– but recently “cut” from his company’s management roster, this friend-of-a-friend is now managing kids at a local retail store. Scary-but-true that he had to “give in” to get even a little $$– despite the big swallow of pride.
    I’ve been on the casting side and know desperation, have worn the producer’s hat and understand impatience, and am a fledgling voice actor learning to balance credibility with the need to land a job. The fact is that small budgets expect amazing results, and those gigs can leave a bad drunken one-night-stand kinda guilty shame in your head.
    A small-time fledgling in voice acting, I am becoming much more aware of the need to adopt a standard of pay which keeps your name in a higher class of talent– someone who “doesn’t get out of bed for less than [fill-in-the-blank]”. Of course, I still have a full time studio job– I’m a producer for a smaller-sized prod house– so the voice over cash is almost all reinvested in growth and not required to live.
    Currently, I don’t accept new clients who pay below some stiff expectations… and so far, so good. It’s weird. Never have I felt entitled to command superstar fees, but as soon as I raised my target, I raised my confidence & success rate with higher-paying gigs. And– while fewer– those jobs made for a 2009 Q1 beatdown of the entire ’08 vo income. That kind of business growth in these times can sure inflate a dude’s ego.
    I sit on the fence, however, about what each person does to survive. When it’s YOUR family, YOUR rent/mortgage, it requires you do whatcha gotta do. I’m reminded of a recent story about a bat-wielding would-be convenience store holder-upper who (when a shotgun was pulled on him from under the counter) began sobbing and confessed he’d lost his job and was desperate to feed his family. The clerk gave him $40 and a loaf of bread and let him go.

  7. I always put my prices up in a recession. Never fails, people with less money to use want to allocate it to fewer, higher quality products.


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