Charging fees for voice work is normal… Right?

As a professional voice talent, it is customary to charge a fee for voice-over work. Not only is it customary, it’s essential to put bread on the table for your family.
I would say that this is true for the vast majority of professionals and individuals who aspire to go into this line of work, unfortunately, there are a few apples out there who want to give away voice-over services for free or at ridiculously low prices.
How is an honest professional to feed their family, pay for electricity, and balance their finances with corruption stowing away at the very point of sale?

This is an issue close to our hearts at InteractiveVoices because our service is built upon a business-to-business platform, connecting buyers and sellers of voice-overs.
Before we move ahead, I want to identify the differences between those who actually hold credentials and make their living from recording voice-overs and amateurs who liken themselves to professional voice talents. First of all, the professional, as is his or her right, sets business standards for themselves and charges fees for their time, work, and skills. This person is also talented and capable of meeting the needs of their clients on creative, technical and business terms.

On the flipside, someone claiming to be a voice talent is missing the mark and misleading clients. Their knowledge of performance, packaging a product, and invoicing clients may be limited. Not only that, they often don’t know the worth of a voice-over and charge far less than they should, disturbing the delicate balance of the trade both online and offline.

The jobs falling into the hands of eager amateurs are usually small and local in nature such as telephone recordings and radio commercials.Whether a job is large or small, high paying or just enough to get you through the week, voice-over work is indeed the bread and butter of the professional voice talent. When aspiring voice talent give away voice-overs for free, they are generally doing it to build up their portfolio and voice-over resume.

Is there a better way for them to go about gaining experience without working for free? Are there any programs available that exist for this purpose?

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. Greetings. I’m an aspiring voice-artist who occasionally gives away voice-overs and performs work at ridiculously low prices. This is for exactly the reasons you suggest, to build a portfolio and hopefully a career. I don’t feel as you do, however, that it cheats those of you with a great deal of experience out of any work. We’re essentially talking about two very different sorts of markets.
    Most of my work is done for those who would/could not pay the rates that a seasoned professional would charge. They’d simply forgo any services and do-it themselves. My clients are generally Internet broadcasters and podcasters who want to add a different voice to their work. Most operate out of pocket and their work doesn’t generate any real revenue. Your clients probably tend to be a bit more upscale, and willing to spend the kind of money that you charge. Their expectations are a lot higher, and rightfully so. As a new talent, I don’t expect that I could do many of the jobs that you do because your talent is reinforced with time and practice. While I offer the highest quality voice work I can, I definitely admit that I’m still learning the ropes.
    The point is that I don’t think that I’m any threat in the major markets (yet). I, and others like me are simply filling needs in an emerging market that someone of your experience couldn’t, for many practical reasons, primarily their lack of budget.
    Stefan Fargus

  2. Hi Stefan,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and welcome to VOX Daily.
    I visited your website this morning and viewed your voice-over rates.
    The problem that professionals would have with your service is that you don’t specify that you are an aspiring voice talent on your website. Without conveying that to your clients upfront on your home page / rates page, the rates appear to be professional rates when they are not.
    The other danger you might face is that by charging rates such as those posted on your website, the clients that you acquire will be less likely to pay you more money for your services once you become a professional voice talent.
    I invite you to take a look a the Standard Rate Sheet, linked from this post.
    We took a poll and asked professionals what they think the minimum cost of a professional voice-over should be.
    Any comments?
    Best wishes,

  3. Stefan makes some good points about clients who simply aren’t able to afford “standard” rates; there’s nothing wrong with that, and I believe most such parties know that, when the time comes and budget allows, bona-fide professional VO services will cost more.
    I’ve done a few free projects for fun or to help out a friend here and there. My rule of thumb for doing “pro bono” work, however, is: Don’t work for free unless everyone else involved is also going unpaid. (Even non-profit organizations have budgets!)

  4. I’m a former college top-40 DJ that last did radio in the early ’90s.
    I have to say that I’ve done quite a few VOs for free (and I have a family member that’s a pro and a coach).
    I’ve done them because I CAN. I’ve had two strokes in the last two years (at only 36) and after a summer of physical, occupational and (gasp) speech therapy I CAN do voiceovers.
    And they get what they pay for. If they’re not happy they can gladly pay a pro. I don’t claim to be a pro but I don’t claim NOT to be a pro either. I do list what I’ve done on my website and offer demos, as well as the testimonials from the people I did them for. Always with their permission.
    They aren’t going to major markets, usually web or podcasts. Okay, well one went to Armed Forces Radio in Baghdad (how did I not see that’s what GREEN ZONE RADIO was?), and one or two went to the New York City market, but to a small AM station out on Long Island… on a show that aired at midnight Saturday morning… then moved to evenings on Sundays…
    I just happened to get into doing them AFTER I first got sick and was home a lot. It turned out to be good speech therapy for me. I had plans to go back on the radio here in St. Louis at a station owned by the local YMCA as a way of getting back into radio. But I like the voiceovers better. More creativity as I produce the whole thing at home.
    I am sure that EVERYONE here can sympathize with this: it’s also great to hear my voice on the radio again. I always request clips of my stuff in action.

  5. Hi, Stephanie!
    I agree with Stefan’s points and I can also see the argument behind yours. However, my situation fits somewhere in between. My voice over-over experience extends back to the early 1980s, which is when I first joined the radio industry. Since then, I’ve had plenty of experience, working at multiple stations and holding a couple of positions as production manager. I’ve also done my share of voice work for media outside the realm of radio. I consider myself a professional voice-over artist.
    However, I’ve been out of the radio industry for the past four years or so due to its constant instability, so I’ve opened my own production studio to do freelance work. The problem is that despite my years of expertise, I still have to build a name for myself. So I have to basically start from scratch as a beginner would. That’s why I, too, offer my services for much cheaper than an established VO person. But I believe I would be doing myself a disservice if I presented myself as an aspiring talent. I want my potential clients to know that I’m experienced and capable.
    Jon Lawhon

  6. the market has changed. 10 years ago the differents between pro and start up was the equipment used. today great souding vo’s can be created with a small investment for equipment. great voice talent is not rair. i come across people every day wth a+ voices and if only 1 in 20 can read a script right then i still have plenty to pick from. in the end if i can have a vo done for a few bucks and the client likes it .. then that is who i will use. this concept of paying more just to keep prices artificialy high is crap. a good voice will bring a better price due to demand. but don’t think most will make a living on just a voice like you did in the past.

  7. Interesting. I’m seriously considering starting up a website to offer free VO as long as the clip is only 10 seconds or so. I would do this as a hobby that might start paying off as I get my pipes back (radio and public speaking background that has gotten a little rusty). I don’t feel any remorse that I might be robbing someone of any work. Our society is built upon capitalism and competition. There is no argument that will convince me that I should tread lightly on the established VO paradigm. If it drives prices down, that’s called “market forces” and is a part of the terrain. Just because somebody has been doing this for a while doesn’t mean that they somehow have some ownership of the trade. I would suggest that the easy availability of computer equipment that can do very passable recordings is just one sign that people need to start thinking creatively.
    I wish everyone the best, but the type of thinking that I think I see here is unhealthy. Don’t assume you can just continue to do what you’re doing without the world changing around you. I guarantee you, it will.
    Crazy Ron


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