Pensive young womanDo you base your worth upon a client’s word count?

How do you perceive your time, talent and skills?
In today’s VOX Daily, hear from an industry veteran who knows her worth and isn’t afraid to stand by her rates. Sound like something you could get into? Find out!

True Story on Value

Submitted by Janice Downes
I was recently hired for a job where the client told me flat out “We almost didn’t hire you because your bid was 3 times more than most of the other people who auditioned. But, yours was the voice we wanted and we’re so glad we went with you.”

Perceived Value is the Key
Are you as talent letting the clients dictate what you bid solely for X number of words or minutes, or are we bidding for the client to use our unique voice to benefit their company or product?

A huge red flag for me is when an audition starts with statements like:
๏ “Just a few words or sentences”
๏ “Quick Job”
๏ “Short Script”
That client is already telling you upfront they don’t value your work, and they don’t plan on paying much for it either.
It’s definitely our job as talent to educate each other first on having clear boundaries of how low not to go. Have a flat session rate and make it clear.

If they want you, they will pay what it takes to have your voice on their project. If they don’t, you just made time for a better client who will.
Understandably, many talent will not publicly share their rates, I believe, for several reasons… one being fear of being undercut by other talent, but more importantly, because you absolutely don’t want to publicly post a rate that could be significantly lower than what a potential client may be willing to pay.

Permanent Perceived Value
I remember when I sold radio advertising we always knew what the competition was charging, and then charged more. When a client would say, “But your competition offered it to me for less”…we’d reply, “that’s because they have to.” And it was true. They did have to charge less because they had already made the mistake of giving away their airtime for less that they should have. Their clients now had a permanent perceived value of what they expected to pay for air time, and would never consider paying more after having paid so little.

Know Your Worth
I did a :15 second read for $1000 earlier this week. I am non-union, and have never had an agent. This particular client came to me with a direct offer.
My bottom line is know what your voice is worth.
Never apologize for rate. Never low-ball just to get work. You end up lowering the standards for everyone on what clients think they should budget for voiceover, and worse, you just branded yourself forever as less valuable than your competition.
Janice Downes

Any Comments?

You’re welcome to add your thoughts and share any comments you may have for Janice. Join the conversation and be heard!
Best wishes,
© Balasanov


  1. Janice,
    Thanks for sharing! I wish MORE voice talent would take notice.
    That’s why you’re #1 baby!!!!!!!!
    PS. If that client of yours (who paid $1000 for the :15 spot) needs a MALE voice over, I call “shotgun”. 😉

  2. This lady is dreaming. The worst way to make a living in this business is to overvalue your voice.
    Most clients work within strict budgets and though that one $1000 read for fifteen seconds may come along once every great while, which I believe is almost a rarity for a non-union talent,
    working for volume can bring the most money per year.
    Concentrate on the 40 one hundred dollar reads per week and get that house in the mountains.
    I think everything I do should pay me two thousand dollars per read, but that is not the real world.
    Dave Mann

  3. Hi Dave,
    Thank you for commenting. Perceived value is everything. How can one overvalue their voice if they feel that the worth of their voice and services is equivalent to what they are charging? If a client will pay a premium or simply pay the rate a talent asks without question, they also believe in the value being offered.
    What people charge can also be relative to what they feel their voice is worth to that particular client and their brand. If you were the primary voice of an organization and are associated closely with the brand, your voice means more to the client than words can describe… the voice is at the heart of their company and connects with their customers. Obtaining or maintaining that voice is of the utmost importance for a company whose public identity is shaped in part by the voice that is heard in their marketing and communications with their customers.
    This is not to criticize those who work on volume but merely to suggest that the option to value your voice higher than what others may value theirs at is acceptable. Many find that charging a higher fee can be liberating and allow them to focus mainly on clients who seek them out as a solution and active partner in their branding needs.
    Any other thoughts?

  4. This is obviously one of those viral topics that could be talked to death, but I heartily agree our work (our unique VOICES) have value. I have learned how to just say NO even when there’s not much coming in. And if the client says, “Oh, that’s the lady who charges so much… But she has a great voice, gets the work done in a snap and doesn’t require any recuts.” And your value goes way up.
    And Janice, I’ve been taking those “red flag” words to heart for many years….”just a quick vo,” “take you 5 minutes,” “2 or 3 simple sentences,” etc. STAY AWAY. Also lots of misspellings or poor grammar. Wouldn’t touch that script with a 10-foot pole. Thanks for your great article today!

  5. Stephanie & Janice,
    You both are right “on the money”! If you act like your reads are only worth $100, that’s all you will ever get. And once you go down that road it’s very difficult to change your rate card and demand more.
    Me personally, I would much rather voice (10) $300 projects a week than (30) $100 projects. The $100 clients who lowball are fickle anyway. One and done. And in my experience, they are much more demanding. By contrast, if you deliver a unique, quality VO on a $300 project you are likely to see repeat business from that client.
    All VO is NOT created equal. You get what you pay for. Is a Mercedes more expensive than a Kia? Umm. Yes. They both get you from point A to B, but there is certainly a difference.
    Do you want to be perceived as a “Mercedes” or a “Kia”
    I’ll tell you this, the person who owns a Mercedes is much happier with their driving experience than the dude rolling in a Kia and more importantly, the Benz owner is much more likely to tell their friends, family and co-workers about how awesome their car is. There’s not a lot of buzz (word of mouth) comin’ out of a $100 “low budget” read.

  6. I really appreciated this, (and I can see Dave’s point, too).
    I express gratitude for, and yet gracefully Decline work that is not worth the time and effort it would take to produce, when the budget is not in keeping with my standard. I’ve also negotiated fees in the case of a “start up” and do my Best to work with a client’s budget.
    Our voices and abilities are unique. The “Voice Of” a particular product, company or venture IS hugely valuable.
    To know one’s worth, do one’s best and live in gratitude is good.

  7. Pricing concerns are the same in many other fields. Interior decorators, hairdressers, you name it. It’s publicity, perceived value, lots of hype, holding yourself and your business in a certain realm. Ask life for a penny and that’s what you get. Why does a certain person get $400 for a man’s haircut? Hype and good press mostly.

  8. Great thoughts, here everyone. I’ll look but don’t respond to auditions for lower-priced projects than I’ll work for and hit delete because I am so busy with better-paying work, I don’t have time. I am extremely grateful for being in such a position, for sure. I am completely comfortable with turning down projects that won’t pay what for what I bring to the table.
    Thanks for listening.
    Bobbin Beam, Voice Actress

  9. You can be paid by the word like a chicken-plucker being paid per plucked chicken, or you can be paid according to the value you add to the project, like a star athlete or a star actor or a star musician. The fascinating thing is that some choose to be chicken pluckers.

  10. Time is more precious to me than money. So volume is great to a point, but not if you are working all hours for very little compensation.
    Percieved value is everything. It’s the difference between a DVD with no extra features, and one with deleted scenes and a making of documentary. Same movie. But you may pay a bit more for the ‘added value’ of those features (which you are unlikely to watch more than once).
    Speaking of which, the client is not just paying for my voice. They are also paying for my professionalism, the quality of my work, the fact that I’m easy to work with, consistent, quick turnaround, expertise, etc. No hassles if there’s a revision. Percieved value.
    As your career goes on and you have a proven track record, nobody is going to blink when your rates increase. And clients are also paying for your time, in a way. If someone wanted to pay me $1,000 for a :15 spot, I’d block out the time and read it 1,000 different ways for them.
    Negotiation can also be of use if you are unhappy with compensation a job is offering. Be cordial, but be prepared to walk away if it is not worth it to you. Don’t sell yourself short.

  11. It is so refreshing to see so many people willing to go to bat for their talent, skills and expertise and most importantly TIME! Very happy to read this. I certainly know quite a few talents who for some reason or another have decided they should just bow down to client demands, without any thought as to the value of the service they provide. It always makes me sad. Because if you want respect, you have to respect yourself and everything you offer. No one will just hand it to you. That said, some clients do offer volume and pay less for this, and when the market is uncertain, it can be a stabilizing force in someone’s life. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But it’s important to remember that security has a price; it keeps you very dependent. When you “risk” asking what think you are worth, you may loose a “potential” client from time to time, but you are sending a clear message that you are “worthy” and the universe always rewards those who take actual steps towards their goals, even when it’s tough out there.


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