This week I want to talk about turning down work when the pay offered is too low for the job you are being asked to do. This is a tough, but important, issue you need to come to terms with sooner rather than later. You should set a rate for yourself for which you will not go below no matter what the job is. Why do this? Because by doing so you are setting a standard for your own worth as a voice over actor. You didn’t spend all that time and money creating the groundwork for a voice over career, only to bust your butt for $25 or $50, did you? No way. Your talent and ability are worth a minimum that you need to set and stick to. It needs to be an amount that you feel comfortable with, and an amount that will rise commensurately with your time in the business and with the cost of living.
If you work for less than the amount you set, you will have sold yourself short, you will have demeaned the worth of your abilities, and you will have set a new LOWER standard for your work in the voice over market. People who lower their fees often end up finding only this kind of work, working harder for less money. Do this too often and you will become the person producers and casting directors go to when they have a need for that VO actor who will work for almost nothing. Then, when those same producers and directors have a bigger budget, they will seek out the voices that charge more for their services because they can. But darn, you aren’t that person anymore, remember? You may have been, but they’re not thinking of you in that way anymore. That’s why you have to align your fees with that of a professional, whose work is specialized and not easily duplicated. What do lawyers, doctors, CPAs, plumbers and car mechanics charge as a minimum per hour? Is your ability worth any less?
Believe it or not there are “VO artists” out there offering to do a finished commercial for $5 to $20! Excuse me?!!! For every job I do that pays $1000 it will take Mr. $5 silly person 200 jobs to make the same money! Even if Mr. $5 silly person had 200 jobs coming in every week, and he could finish four of those jobs in an hour (good luck!) he would have to work 8 hours a day, 6 ½ days a week in order to make that $1000 that took me maybe three hours to voice. That works out to a little over $19 an hour with a half day off to do your laundry. Remind me again, is that what a lawyer or a mechanic or a garbage collector makes?
Now an inadvertent consequence of your charging less and less for your work, is that, after a while, companies will expect to pay less for voice over work across the board, meaning you are lowering the price field for everyone, except for those few voice actors who they will continue to go to when they want that voice worth paying good money for. But remember, you’re not that voice, at least not in their mind. Now if you want to grab their attention and grab that work from competitors you’ll have to charge even less, until one day you and everyone else will be Mr. $5 silly person, or worse, you’ll end up working for free, trying to make money advertising everything from dog food to lip gloss on your VO website. Talk about integrity.
What we offer with our voice over skills is something very few people can do well. Let potential employers know this in an upbeat way, by telling them they are getting a persuasion specialist to represent their product, not just some Joe or Judy off the street. Ask them if they think their product is worth that kind of expertise. And if they try to nickel and dime you, politely let them know you aren’t that kind of business person and turn down the work. It’s very possible that by doing so you will have left them with the impression that you are one of those A group of voice over actors, the ones they pay real money to. And you are a part of that group, right?
Next time we’ll talk about one more reason to turn down work.