Whether you’re a voice-over artist, a photographer or a freelance copywriter, sooner or later you’ll have to answer this question:
Is it wise to put your rates on your website?
I used to be vehemently against it, but I have changed my mind. To give you an idea why, let’s explore both sides of the argument.
Business writer and voice-over professional Maxine Dunn describes herself as a savvy solopreneur. Does she think it’s a good idea to post rates? Maxine:
“No! Definitely not! No way! Never!
What if you had a rate on your website that said you charge $600 for something, but the client’s budget was actually $3000? Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Or what if your rate appears too high for a prospective client and you’ve lost the chance to negotiate with them?
I think putting rates on your website makes the client focus on price right away and that’s not what you want. It’s about your value and how you can help them, not appealing to price shoppers. It’s always best to negotiate a rate with a client when you have all the information about a project.”
In an informal poll on Facebook, 88% percent of voice talent agrees with Maxine. 9% was undecided and only 3% (one person!) thought listing a rate was a good idea.
Mara Junot is with the 88%:
When listing rates up front in the past, I found it was much harder for me to make room for any flexible negotiating of fair fees based on specific factors (…). Most top performers and their agencies don’t even have rates in their vocabulary as far as their website is concerned, so as not to create that pre-determined sense of value, especially for the higher-end consumer.”
SELLING A SERVICE
One argument that always comes back is that we’re selling a complicated service, not a simple product. It’s virtually impossible to come up with a standard rate card because we’re dealing with many variables that can all influence our voice-over quote. To name a few:
- the medium (radio, television, internet)
- the market (local, national, international)
- the length, the nature and the use of the audio
- the value of our expertise, experience and reputation
Furthermore, rates can be determined per project, length of script or per word. Good luck fitting all of that on a neat sheet. It will take several pages to cover all the details and who wants to read that?
There’s also this golden rule in sales that says:
“Never mention price until value has been established.”
Once the client is convinced of your quality, it’s much easier to negotiate a decent rate.
Then there’s the element of competition. Do we really want to give our colleagues the information that will allow them to put in a lower bid?
CARDS ON THE TABLE
Arno Lubbinge was one of the first Dutch voice-overs with an online presence. He has always been open about his pricing. He explains why:
“I see no reason to be mysterious about my rates. When I do an online search for a service or product -whether it’s a vacation rental, a vacuum cleaner or a handyman, I have to get a good feeling about it and I want to know what I’m getting myself into. What does it look like? What do others think of it? And lastly: how much does it cost?
I tried to translate that in terms of my situation as a voice-over pro. I book most of my voice-over projects without ever speaking to the client in person. That’s why I think it’s important to come across as reliable and to put all my cards on the table. My voice is a valuable investment and my prices and my demos reflect that.
In The Netherlands it’s mainly the so-called budget voices that post their rates. I’ll be honest with you. I am anything but a budget voice. Of course there are clients who won’t consider me because my rates are too high. But you know what? I’ve never been able to convince these folks that I’m worth it anyway.
I’m not afraid of undercharging a client with a bigger budget. Usually, it’s the opposite. People think my rates are quite up there, which is absolutely true.”
PRICING AS A FILTER
Voice-over professionals are by no means unique. We all need to figure out ways to spend our time wisely. In the past, I’ve spent countless hours with potential clients explaining my services and my rates, only to find out that they had a champagne taste and a beer budget. If you’re in sales, you learn not to spend too much time on unqualified buyers. If you do, you will be paying for it. Literally!
A freelance photographer was asked about posting prices on his website. He was tired of tire-kickers:
“If you want to deal with the people who want to haggle, then you shouldn’t list the prices. This can lead to wasted time spent dealing with folks that in the end aren’t going to make you any money anyway. I have found that listing my prices on my site is good for business. I don’t have to spend a whole lot of time replying to emails from people wanting to know prices. When they contact me, they know what to expect.”
Clients can be clueless. That’s why you need to educate them and manage their expectations. If you’re dealing with customers who have no idea how much your service costs, why not tell them upfront? What’s the big mystery? Have you ever thought of the fact that you might actually lose business because you’re not open about your rates?
A copywriter put it this way:
“When you yourself are shopping for something, don’t you find it irritating when you can’t find a price? Aren’t you inclined to walk away and find someone who’ll tell you what you want to know? I’d answer Yes to those questions, and I have a strong hunch most potential clients (looking for a freelancer) would do the same.”
The owner of a transcription service added:
“When I’m looking for a service I will generally look at lots of different websites to compare prices. If there isn’t a price list I usually don’t bother with the company because I assume that their prices are high. It is also a lot more effort to contact a person to find out their prices.”
But what about the argument that you might be losing money by posting your rates, because a big budget client could be willing to pay way more?
Narrator Jeffrey Kafer isn’t buying it:
“If my rate for something is $300, then that’s what I charge. I don’t charge more if the client’s budget is higher. When I walk into a grocery store to buy bread, the cashiers don’t ask me how much is in my wallet and then charge accordingly.
I actually have a rate calculator on my website that covers all kinds of different types of projects. Once they fill it out, I follow up with an email.”
MORE THAN MONEY
Let’s keep one thing in mind. Just because we’re talking about rates doesn’t mean that price is always the predominant factor in the selection process. Maybe for low-budget clients, but that’s not the crowd I wish to attract. The clients I usually work with pick me because of the way I sound and for my ability to interpret their script. Most of them are willing to pay my going rate and if they’re not, they’ll find someone else.
Should we still be worried that a rate sheet might scare potential clients off?
“For most people hiring a voice over, they’ve put a lot of effort into this production. It’s more important to get the right voice than haggle over 50 quid.
When it comes to voice-over gigs, the majority of the time it’s someone in the middle price range who wins the gig (you know the way you never order the cheapest wine on the wine list, same thing). The law of averages says that you have the best chance of being “average”, so just knock out your quote and don’t think too much about it. The only thing you don’t want to be is the bottle of plonk. Everything else is ok.”
LESSONS FROM THE POOL GUY
You already know where I stand in this discussion. I’m with Marcus Sheridan. Marcus used to sell fiberglass pools until he became a succesful speaker on sales and social media. In a recent article for the Social Media Examiner he writes:
“People like to know how much stuff costs.
That’s just the way we’re all wired.
Notwithstanding, the majority of businesses around the world have elected to skirt the subject of pricing on their websites for a variety of reasons, the most common being fear of losing a prospect before he or she ever contacts the company.
And although this “hidden approach” may have worked in marketing 5 or 10 years ago, I’m here to say that today’s consumers don’t like their core questions to be left unanswered. Furthermore, if we are truly to embrace content marketing and the essence of social media, we must learn to embrace every question consumers ask our company.
In other words, if your customer is thinking it, you should be addressing it. This transparent, common-sense approach is the essence of successful modern-day marketing.”
Here’s my take-away:
Lesson number one: Think like a customer. If you’re not posting your rates because you believe it might cost you business, you’re thinking about yourself and you’re probably acting out of fear. As I said in my previous blog: a winning website is never about you.
Lesson number two: Being open about rates attracts business. Because Sheridan didn’t beat about the bush and started addressing the cost of his pools, traffic to his website skyrocketed. Transparency is a good thing. Customers appreciated the fact that he was open about pricing.
Lesson number three: Be proud of your price. Your rate is a statement about the quality of your product. You offer great value for money, don’t you? Why keep that a secret?
Lesson number four: Fear paralyzes. Confidence gives you wings.
THE PERFECT RATE SHEET
With a fiberglass pool there are hundreds of factors that can determine the ultimate price. When it comes to voice-over rates, there are also a lot of variables that go into the mix. What to do with that?
When shopping for services, most customers like to get a sense of how much things will cost. That doesn’t mean you have to give them a definite number.
Should you decide to be more open about what you charge, I recommend you build in flexibility by either giving a price range or by listing starting rates.
That way, potential customers have a ballpark figure and there’s still room for negotiation. In other words, give potential clients an idea what a project could cost and not what it eventually will cost.
Isn’t that the best of both worlds?
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice