Avoid the squeeze – stick to your rates!

Posted May 19, 2016 by

Ever been tempted to quote lower than your rate card dictates? Don't. What talents don't always understand: You are not only hurting the voiceover community – it will be you that suffers most from shooting too low.

Here is the story: There is this German voice over talent that has been with bodalgo for years. He's been in voice acting for decades, a very experienced voice with a "very experienced" rate card.

He once told me: "See, Armin, I don't book a lot of jobs with you, I'm too expensive for many clients. I can't be bothered with a 15-minute piece unless it pays 1,000 Euro." (Yes, that's right: He asks for 1,000 Euro for a 15-minute e-learning piece. He has a Don LaFontaine-like voice. And a similar rate card, too, it seems).

Still, he auditions for a lot of jobs because he does not care about the budget suggested by the client. He looks at his rate card and quotes accordingly, although he knows there won't be too many success stories ahead. "But when I book a job", he continued, "it screams".

There are a lot of similar examples. And they show impressively that one of the myths in the voiceover industry simply is not true: "Voice seekers always go for the cheapest talent."

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Budget squeeze

Shooting low in your offer can be tempting, especially when you are desperate or in the beginning of your career. The truth is: It is neither necessary nor clever to do so.

Being cheap will not get you anywhere. In fact, you will hurt not only yourself but also the entire voice over community. Why? Let's take Jimmy here, for instance. Jimmy is desperate. That's why he shoots low to nail a job eventually. After a little while, Jimmy books a job (that he would have gotten anyway because he was the right voice for it) and is happy. The client is happy, too, that's why he books Jimmy again. And again.

Jimmy and his client work together well for a few months, when Jimmy decides that he is no longer happy with the tiny budgets he maneuvered himself to. So in a brave attempt, he presents his "true" prices to his client who in return does not book Jimmy ever again as he can (and will) not understand why he should pay more suddenly. Instead, he searches for the next voice over talent desperate enough to make the same mistake as Jimmy.

The aftermath: Jimmy has lost his only client that he still could be happy with if only he stuck to his rates in the first place. But what's even worse: He also gave the client an entirely wrong idea about voice over rates in general.

It is extraordinary hard (in fact: impossible) for a talent to raise prices once tiny budgets have been established. There is only one way to avoid this dilemma:

Stick. To. Your. Rates.

But there is more to this. Let's take Sarah. A client, inexperienced with booking voice over talents, offers her a job for a budget much higher than she would usually ask for. It's tempting to cash the "extra" in, but what should you really do?

Stick. To. Your. Rates.

Being consistent is not a one-way street. The rules are the same no matter if the budget seems too high or too low: You always stick to your rate card. Because the chances are that your client will find out about the fact that he paid too much which will be especially hurtful when you established a long term relationship. You do not need to be the brightest candle on the cake to imagine what the client will do next.

Now: Are there clients with smaller budgets than others? Sure there are. I do not blame them. There will always be companies or individuals that need a professional voice over talent but can only shop the bottom shelf. The important takeaway is: If you spot a fixed budget below your rate card – don't lower your prices. Don't audition. Delete the job and be done with it.

Everything else is not the right solution.

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Reader's comments Your thoughts

Stuart wrote 1 year ago
I ignore posted rates. Things have gotten so ridiculous, my attitude is what they want to pay is none of my business. Their rates aren't my rates. I only care about my rates.
There was a job posted the other day for a corporate training video, for a major multinational apparel company. The rate was 40 dollars for 10:00. Insane. I sent my links. They were excited to get me when I explained that my rates are different than theirs. I stated my rate, which wasn't in the same universe obviously. They accepted it. Yep. And they loved the work, and are very happy.
Jan wrote 1 year ago
It's the same for any freelance creative - I still have a few clients who pay far less than others, simply because they were some of the earliest ones and I needed to get myself established.

As long as they supply a decent amount of work that's still OK. The trick is to build up a client base that pays you what you feel you're worth at that point in time - i.e. market rate. At that point you can let the lower paying clients go (or try to up your rates in a friendly way... if it doesn't work then it's no biggie any more.)

I also agree with not taking the complete piss with inexperienced clients - if you value your reputation in the market, and want a long-term mutually profitable relationship then it's far better to be honest...
Julie Williams wrote 1 year ago
I like to leave the bottom feeder jobs for the newbies. I fully support them working cheap as they get experience and refine their craft for the real work.

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