Do you understand voice over rates and the best tactics for quoting on your VO services? Knowing how to quote effectively and competitively is a key business skill for voice actors at all stages in their careers.
In this episode, David explains exactly what rates and rate sheets are, and why rate sheets can help determine how you should quote based on whether you’re doing broadcast or non-broadcast work. David also defines the terms ‘in perpetuity’ and ‘buyout,’ and he outlines our site’s ‘Goldilocks Effect’ (meaning that the actors who quote in the middle of a budget range are the most likely to get hired.)
At Voices.com, we came up with our own rate sheet because we wanted to answer the #1 frequently asked question: how much do I charge or how much does voice over cost?
Explore the Voices.com rate sheet.
About The Voices Experience: The Voices Experience is presented by Voices.com. Produced and engineered by Randy Rektor.
Hi, David here, the founder and CEO of Voices, the website that helps you find voice-over work. In each episode of the podcast, my role is to be your guide, sharing the history of the industry as well as our company, and while at the same time, giving you a behind the scenes look at how things work around here at Voices.com. In today’s episode, we’re going to be covering rates in rate sheets, how to quote effectively and competitively. I know this is a hot topic based upon the number of page views that our rate sheet gets. So we’re going to dive into that today.
So let’s begin by covering really just what is a rate. It’s the amount that you’re going to be charging a client for your voice-over work. Now, if you want to understand more about who the clients are, you can go back and listen to the episode called understanding the business of voice-over, where we cover the job titles, including casting directors, agents, and of course, the various creative producers who are really all the clients. So that’s episode two, you can go back and listen to that and then come back right here.
So the rate is the amount that you’re going to charge the client. Now in effect, it’s the cost that the client is paying for your services and it’s often quoted in a currency most likely US dollars because that’s the default at Voices.com. But if you’re working with international clients, the rate might need to be converted into their currency, such as Canadian dollars, the Euro or Japanese yen. Now don’t worry, this isn’t an episode about currencies or foreign exchange, but I figured I’d just mentioned that.
So for the sake of working on Voices.com, you’re going to be working in US dollars. That’s what you’re going to be quoting in. So then what is a rate sheet? Well, a rate sheet, or sometimes called a rate card, it’s really just a reference document that summarizes how much you’re going to be charging for the most common types of projects. Think of it as a tip sheet or a cheat sheet, if you will. So why would you even want one of these?
Well, it’s going to help you because it’s going to save you doing the math every single time a job comes in. It’ll save you from overcharging or undercharging the amount that maybe you previously quoted a client and all of this is going to save you time. Now, it’s okay that the rate sheet changes over time. You might want to update it maybe every three months or maybe even once a year, and you don’t even have to publish this on your website or even on your profile on Voices.com. Just consider it a reference sheet that you can have for yourself.
Now in Voices.com, we came up with our own rate sheet because we wanted to answer the number one most frequently asked question which was, how much do I charge and how much does it cost? So this is kind of the same topic here, all around rates. And you can see why it was such a popular question because the clients were asking, “Hey, how much does it cost to hire a voice talent?” And similarly, the talent, all of you were asking, “How much do I charge or how much do I quote for any given project?”
So that’s why we wanted to create a rate sheet, but how we went about it was pretty interesting. It’s about more than 10 years ago now, we actually initially sent out a survey just asking people how much do they charge for a variety of categories of work. And we also looked at that against the job data that we had of jobs that were posted to Voices.com. So we really saw kind of two things, what people were quoting through the website, as well as the survey information as well too. And then we rounded it each of those kinds of categories off. We rounded them off into these simple brackets.
We didn’t want to be too prescriptive by saying a radio commercial is just X number of dollars and it was this fixed amount, we wanted to encourage a quoting on the marketplace because everybody, there is such variety in terms of somebody either just getting started or how much they’ve invested in coaching, perhaps how much they invested or spent on the recording studio equipment. And so all of these factor into what a talent is going to quote themselves for any given project. So even within a particular category, as I said, radio commercials or internet videos, there’s going to be a range of what is acceptable. Let’s call it the industry standard rates.
After getting all that information in, we rounded off each of those categories and summarized it into a single document which can be found at voices.com/rates. It’s also a link in the footer of every page on our website. So you can scroll to the bottom of every page on Voices.com and just find rates, and you’ll see the document that I’m referencing here today. Over the course of your career, you’re going to be providing voice-over services to a variety of clients, from radio and TV advertisers, publishers of audio books, and corporate marketing departments looking to launch their new products through promotional videos, and so you need a methodology of how you’re going to be quoting for each of those.
The rate sheet is going to be your final deliverable, kind of how you put all this information together, but how you actually end up at those rates is another matter altogether. So let me just walk you through what that methodology could look like for you. And each of those clients that I just mentioned are going to need maybe a slightly different method for finalizing a quote. So let me just kind of break this down for you guys. Hopefully it’s going to be helpful. So the first decision that you need to be making in terms of understanding the project is, is this broadcast or non-broadcast? Let’s call that the media.
Then with its broadcast, you’re going to have geography, how big is the audience, and then duration, how long is this going to be airing for? Now, all the other work is, let’s just call it non-broadcast and it’s going to be a lot easier to quote because it’s just simply quoted by word or by page. Let’s start off by just talking about broadcast work. I mentioned there’s the media and then geography and duration. So the geography is really the market size. This is the method that’s most commonly used for radio and TV commercials, and the market size is really determined by the audience of who’s going to be hearing the voice-over.
So to make things simple, it’s really kind of three categories within market size. Is it local, regional or a national or major market? And so local and regional, they kind of fit in this like smaller market, if you will, where the area of the population that’s going to be listening to this is fewer than a million people. If it’s a major market or national spot, certainly major market would be like one metropolitan area, New York, Chicago, LA, Atlanta, or multiple of those, in which case it’s really a national campaign. The target audience that you’re reaching with this particular spot is going to be more than a million people.
Now, I noticed there’s a really simple way to look at it, but it’s a way to understand kind of how the impact that your voice is going to be having. So that’s the geography for broadcast work. Then I mentioned, there’s this concept of duration. How long is it going to be airing for? This is often referred to a billing cycle or an airing cycle, a play cycle. So really what we’re getting at here is, you want to consider this when quoting is, how long is it going to be running for this particular campaign?
The shortest campaigns are really one week usage, maybe two weeks, but most often it falls into 13 weeks, which is a quarter, three months at a time. It could be a half of a year or a seasonal license. Maybe it’s just for spring or summer or kind of over the Christmas holiday season. And then there’s a one year license that is often renewable. The longest term would be what’s referred to as in perpetuity. So you might’ve heard that term before that basically means that the client is gaining permission to be able to use this voice in this context forever. That’s what in perpetuity means.
Now, another term that you might see on a job posting that you need to factor into your rates is when a client is asking for what’s referred to as a buyout. So sometimes that’s called a full buyout. They really mean the same thing. A buyout is really a license, a permission to use globally, anytime, anywhere, really all medium. That’s really why they’re buying out the full rights and usage of that particular recording. Unless otherwise stated, most clients are going to assume that they own the rights for the finished product once they are paid in full for your work.
So just be cautious of that, that a full buyout is really you granting worldwide unlimited usage. It’s more appropriate for, let’s call it non-broadcast work such as a phone system recording or an audio book. Those aren’t built on any kind of cycle or there’s no royalties, ongoing royalties paid for a phone system work or a documentary. You kind of produce it once, and then the client owns it thereafter. Commercial work is the only time I’ve ever seen where there’s these cycles, these kind of market size, those factors kind of play into the quote. And then there’s this 13 week, a half year, one year, or full buyout in perpetuity. That’s when those come into play.
So we’ve talked about quoting for broadcast work. Let’s move on to non-broadcast work. This is really every other category of work that’s out there. It’s the explainer videos, the e-learning programs, the phone system recordings, more recently voices for different apps or podcasts. And a really simple way to quote on this is quoting per page. So for lengthy scripts, as I said, such as an audio book or e-learning program, medical narration would be another one technical tutorials. These are best quoted on a per page basis. This gives the client the ability to quickly ballpark how much your services are going to be, and also if the client suddenly adds another chapter to their book or another course to their e-learning program, you can refer to your initial quote that your services were built on a per page basis.
One important element though to keep in mind is having a standard method for measuring what constitutes a page. You might want to outline that one page is a word document in aerial font, size 12, double-spaced. You might need to be that specific. I’ve seen over the years, a few times a client’s try to go single space, tiny eight point font and cram a lot of words into that single page with no margin and no borders. Really what they’re doing is getting a lot more work done under this one page quote per page method. So just bear in mind, defining kind of what a page is.
If it’s reasonable, 10 point font or 12 point font probably doesn’t make all that much of a difference, but also one of those things just to keep your eyes out for. So by having an agreement of what constitutes a page, it’s going to eliminate any confusion and also let the client know what format you prefer to get that final script in before you go and record it. Most of those formats are going to be a word document or a PDF. So that’s quoting per page. Very similar we’ll be quoting per word, which is probably best used on very short scripts such as voicemail messages, maybe a few liners for website greeting, intros and outros to podcasts.
This method just makes it really easy. You can go into your favorite text editor, such as Microsoft word again, open up the word count, discover the total number of words, and then quote, accurately using your per word rate. For all that non-broadcast work that we covered that you can quote per page or per word, you might actually want to have a minimum that you’re charging, just so that you’re not going into the studio to record something because it’s 10 words and, or maybe even just 10 lines, but it’s not going to be $12 or $15 when you kind of run the math.
You’d probably say, “Look, I’m not going to do any work, unless it’s at least a hundred dollars or at least 250, or at least 500.” And you can work your way up as your career progresses as well too. But I know a lot of talent have a minimum that they’re going to be charging irregardless of how short that script is. So that’s the methodology of how you might want to consider setting up your own rate sheet categorized by broadcast and non broadcast, and that’s exactly how we did it here at Voices.com as well.
I mentioned, it’s at voices.com/rates is the document I’m going to be referring to. And so this is a breakdown, really category by category, and we start off with non-broadcast jobs. This is a reference tool that’s used by both clients and talent alike. And as I say, we start off with the non-broadcast jobs, because it is the majority of work that gets procured through the platform. And we actually categorize this into or tier it, if you will, into ranges of minutes. So zero to five minutes, 750 words or less, it’s based on speaking at a rate or a speed, if you will, of 150 words per minutes.
And the suggested budget is somewhere between a 100 to $250. Again, that’s probably about a page of work that is done. That just goes up from there all the way to, call it 40 to 60 minutes. That would be notes of a $1000 for that much of a runtime. So that’s non-broadcast. And then on the broadcast side, we actually have three categories here, television, radio, and internet ads, and then those are by geography, local, regional, and national. And within each of those, you’ll see in this table here that it’s 13 weeks, one year or in perpetuity.
So you can take a look at that rate sheet and that information is available at a glance as well as a downloadable rate sheet for you. It’s in PDF. If you’re interested in getting a word document version that’s editable for you, happy to send that along, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or myself email@example.com and we can get that over to you. So hopefully that’s going to be helpful tool that you can actually customize for your own use. Having your own rate sheet is going to help you quote more effectively when auditioning for work on Voices.com.
Now, many of you know that an audition on a platform like voices includes not just a sample recording of your voice auditioning for the client. It also includes a brief cover letter called the proposal of why you’re the best one for the job and the quote, the amount that you’re going to be charging that client for doing the voice-over work. For too long, a lot of people have believed that, that client is actually going to hire the talent at the low end of the budget range. Now, you know that when a client posts a job on Voices.com, there’s a budget range that they’re selecting for instance, between 500 and $750. So there’s this myth that’s been circulating out there that, “No, no, no. The client’s just going to hire the talent at the low end of the range. So I’m always going to quote at the low end.”
And the belief was that, it’s almost this race to the bottom, if you will, that’s been referred to. But I have to remind you all that our business is based on shared success. I’ve said this a few times on the podcast. We are rewarded and incentivized just like you are to actually have rates be not only fair and industry standard, but to be elevated because we generate our earnings just like you do on a per job and per transaction basis. So there’s no reason why we would be incentivized to actually be driving prices down. In fact, we want to maintain the rates as high as possible, and I believe that’s completely aligned with your interest as a talent as well.
In the research, what we found then was that even though the client had a budget between 500 and $750, invariably, they were hiring somebody within the middle of that range. And my hypothesis here is what I would call the Goldilocks effect. They don’t want to hire somebody too low. Maybe there’s a question of, is this somebody new? Do they have to go into a studio? There’s some hidden fees or some extras that are going to be charged on the backend, and on the high end of the range, look, if you’re over the budget or on the really top end of the range, there might actually be talent who are to their ear just as good, just as qualified, just as skilled, and might be a few $100 less expensive, so hence within the middle of the range.
And over tens of thousands of jobs that we looked at, this was a very common pattern. It seems that the market tends to kind of balance itself out within the middle of the range. And that’s the advice I’d give you. Quoting within the range of the budget that the client states on their job posting form, and then invariably probably quoting within the middle of the range itself. As you can see, determining your worth and your value that you’re delivering to clients for voice-over services that you provide, it’s a very personal choice.
And hopefully that you’ve learned today is that there’s a variety of methods in what you can quote, by word, by market size, whether it’s broadcast or non-broadcast, but to simplify all of this, that’s why you want to have a rate sheet. You don’t want to be redoing the math in your head every single time a project comes in. So develop a rate sheet, use that as a reference, you can choose to publish your rate sheet on your website or not, that’s okay too. But this rate sheet, if you develop it, whether it’s in a word document or a spreadsheet somewhere, it’ll help you quote more consistently, more effectively and more competitively on Voices.com.
Now, if you found this episode helpful, I’d encourage you to leave a review on iTunes. I’d really appreciate that. Send me a question or comment to firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, be sure to in Apple podcasts, at Google podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you’re listening to this show right now. Until then, use your voice to inform, entertain and inspire the world.