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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Voice Over Jobs: How Much Should You Charge?

The second question I am asked the most is "how much does a voice actor make?" (the first is how do I get into the voice over business? but that's for another day). The answer is really the old piece of string one, which is not very helpful I know. So I want to spend some time going through rates with you which I hope will give you a little more perspective.

I want to begin with a warning: voice over fees are not set in stone. You are very much a freelancer competing on the open market, meaning you set your own rates and what I am going to say is for guide purposes only.

I also want to add that the British market is very different from the American one. In the US there is always a distinction between (higher) union and non-union rates. This does not apply in the UK. Our union, Equity, has lost much of its bargaining power in the last thirty years which means a more liberal market and an individualistic approach to pay levels.

It also means that here in Britain you do NOT need to be a union member to do voice over work, allowing new voices to enter the market more easily.

Let's start with commercials. Rates for a network radio commercial are not going to be the same as fees for the local market. If your work was being broadcast on a small community radio station, the suggested fee could be as low as £17 for 30 seconds. If that very same ad was airing on a national station such as Classic FM or TalkSport, you would be paid much, much more perhaps £300 - £500.

TV commercials are similar, but the fees can be even higher. The interesting point about many adverts is they are made up of two elements: the basic session or studio fee (BSF) and the usage. A typical BSF
might by £200, but the buyout could be as much as a £1,000 per year. So if you recorded a commercial that was being aired for two years, your fee would be £2,200. Not bad for an hours work.

There are huge variations on this because usage payment is based on the number of channels the ad is being broadcast on and the size of those channels. ITV carries much more weight than Pick TV, for example.

The burgeoning video game market is equally diverse. A small independent outfit may pay around £150 for the use of your voice for an hour, but the big guns have much more money to splash around. One of my Voice Over MasterClass students recently earned £800 from EA (Electronic Arts) for a small amount of work which was never used. This gaming giant could afford to remunerate her handsomely, because they have a huge development budget allowing them to experiment with different voices and pay them for the privilege.

Corporates and E-learning are two areas that have seen massive growth in the last few years driven by new technology and the internet. Again fees vary enormously depending on the company concerned, but a good guide is £150 - £250 per hour of your time.

Audiobook work is a case where you need to be careful when quoting. A top line company may offer £90 per hour of completed audio, but you should bear in mind it may take you at least four hours to record just one hour of the finished product. This attractive fee suddenly becomes a more modest £22 per hour.

Before I sign off, I want to mention that this charging guide is not designed to be prescriptive and is based on my own personal experience. It is very important that you develop your own ratecard and always give yourself room to negotiate.

Gary Terzza is a voice over coach  based in London

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