“It will look so good on your resume”
“This might lead to regular work”
“We’re a start-up business”
“It’s such a small project”
“This is an Indie film”
“It will only take a few minutes”
“You’re new and we want to give you a chance”
“Even if you don’t get the job, it’s still great practice”
“You’d be perfect for this… I wish we could afford you”
If you’ve been an active job-seeking member of the voice-over community for… about two weeks, I’m pretty sure these ‘teasers’ have been thrown out at you a few times. They’re getting old quickly, don’t you think? Or are you still falling for them? Be honest!
These days, clients are getting even more efficient by leaving these phrases out. Now it’s just:
“Manhattan-based attorney’s office in need of a male voice for their website. Budget $100.”
Are you kidding me? These attorneys won’t even pick up the phone for 100 bucks. So, why do they expect us to work for a hand-out? Is it perhaps because many of us call ourselves voice-over ARTISTS?
MISCONCEPTION ONE: Artists don’t work. They just enjoy their hobby.
My wife, a professional flutist, had just finished an exhausting wedding gig: a ninety minute Mass followed by a two-hour cocktail party. All in all she had had two breaks: one to rush from the church to the banquet hall, and a ten minute bathroom break during the reception.
When she came back to get a refreshment, some guests looked at her as if she was stealing from the buffet. One of them even walked up to her and whispered: “Aren’t you supposed to be playing?”
At the end of the engagement, the mother of the groom walked her out and said it had been “lovely”. She sighed: “I used to play the flute. It must be wonderful…. being able to play music all day long.”
When my wife discretely asked for the paycheck that should have been handed to her at the beginning of the day, the groom’s mother looked shocked. She said: “Are you telling me you’re actually getting paid for this?”
Some people just don’t get it, do they? Whether we’re musicians, writers, web designers or voice-over artists, the opportunity to do the things we’re passionate about, should be enough, don’t you think? Well, why don’t we ask Alex Rodriguez about that? Perhaps he’d be satisfied with getting the keys to the Big Apple and a fat World Series ring.
MISCONCEPTION TWO: All you need in this profession is a computer, a microphone and an Internet connection, and you’re in voice-over business. Small investment. Huge ROI (and you can even do it in your PJ’s!).
Well, well…haven’t we heard that one before? If it were that easy, tell me who is paying for your:
- hours spent finding work
- continued education
- sick days
- paid holidays
- union dues
- health insurance
- dental insurance
- disability insurance
- life insurance
- business insurance
- invoices that never get paid
- … and all other joys that come with running your own business?
Remember, all of the above (and more) has to come out of that job that you almost accepted for $100. Do you even know how much money you need to make in a year, just to break even? How about in a month? How much per week… per day? That’s just to cover costs. How about making a profit? How about saving a little for a rainy day or for college?
If all of this is a little overwhelming and intimidating, let me reassure you. This does not have to be your life! If you don’t have the drive now, do not waste any more time. If you’re not prepared to run your career as a for-profit business, you still have plenty of options… to name a few:
1. Stop posing as a pro and leave the market place to those who are willing to be professional. Stay an amateur instead. No pressure.
2. Get a ‘regular’ job with benefits
However, should you decide to become a professional solopreneur, start acting like one! Don’t do anything else before you take the next step: figure out what your basic minimum hourly rate must be, based on cost, billable hours, and the profit you’re comfortable with.
Of course it would be a little presumptuous to tell you what to do. Some people just don’t want to spoil their hopes and dreams by facing reality. These are the folks that purchased a house they can’t afford because they thought they could swing it. And now they’re paying for it.
Some people are more comfortable playing the victim or playing the blame-game. Others use excuses such as: “I was never any good with numbers”.
Sorry, but I’m not buying it!
If you’re not a numbers person, ask a friend to help you out; find a mentor, hire a pro… There are business coaches out there who’d love to have your voice on their AVR in exchange for their advice. It’s often better to have an impartial opinion from someone who is not in love with your dream. Have a business lunch with them, and bring your calculator and a note pad.
Third, make a small investment and get “The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed“ by Joseph D’Agnese and Denise Kiernan. This was the first book about money matters that I actually enjoyed reading. It felt like I was getting advice from friends who knew exactly what situation I was in. Joe and Denise offer very practical, down-to-earth strategies in a language anyone can understand, and they’re actually very funny too!
So…. next time a voice-seeker holds up one of those carrots I started this article with, imagine yourself walking into a restaurant and telling the waiter:
“I can’t really pay you full-price, but if your food is any good, I’ll be sure to spread the word.”
Please let me know how that worked out for you.
And if that did not go over so well, try going into Home Depot, hoping to get 75% off that professional pneumatic drill.
“And why would we do that?” asks the manager.
And then you utter the magic words:
“Well, it’s only for a small project….”
And finally, would you be willing to do me one last favor, please?
Once you’ve figured out your desired and minimum hourly rate, look at that $100 voice-over project again, that you were just considering. You know, the one that “will give you great exposure”.
Now look at your hourly rate again.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS Many thanks to artist N.C. Winters for giving me permission to republish the comic strips. Find out more about the work of N.C. at the artist’s site and at Freelance Freedom.
Tami Ross says
Great post Paul. As someone hiring the voice talent it always makes it easier if the talent knows what they are worth. I know my budget and sometimes I can’t afford every talent that sends me a demo, but I’d like to think there are no hard feelings when it’s discussed upfront.
Lisa Rice says
Thank you, Paul. Every freelancer should bookmark this page and refer to it often.
Hi there, great post, and very true… I turn down a lot of work ( luckily I accept a lot of work too, at better rates) because of the reasons above.
What we need to do is to flood the internet with stories from buyers who had very bad experiences because they went cheap, as well as good experiences from those who paid professional rates.
Paul Strikwerda says
That’s a great suggestion, Adam. The comment section after each article is usually a good spot to post those stories, and I warmly welcome contributions from my readers. Not everybody is comfortable sharing their learning experiences on a global forum, and for some it’s much easier to write about their successes.
Whether we dare to share or not, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for fair compensation and say “NO” to clients who want to treat us like monkeys by offering us peanuts. In fact, the one article that has attracted most readers so far, is all about the ‘power of a positive NO’. Here’s the link: