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Click here for part one.
The black SUV was slowly making its way through the worst winter storm on record.
“Anatoly, at your service,” said the driver as he reached out to shake Max’s hand. “But my friends call me Stoly. You know… like the vodka.”
“Pleased to meet you, Anatoly,” said Max. “Thanks for taking me to my presentation in this blizzard. I really appreciated it. One question, though: are you sure this is legal? I mean, don’t you need some sort of permit to drive people around like this?”
“What do you mean, permit?” replied Stoly. He sounded a bit agitated. “This is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Right now, I’m the only one brave enough to take you to your presentation in this snow storm. Do I need a permit? Give me a break! My parents didn’t leave the Red Square in order to deal with more red tape. All those rules and regulations are in place just so some pencil pusher can stick his nose into my business.”
Max had clearly hit a nerve. Anatoly went on with his rant:
“If there’s one thing responsible for the American Dream, it is the free market. We have a government for the people, by the people. I think it’s time for big government to start trusting those people to make the right decisions and not interfere in our lives. The entrepreneur is the backbone of the American economy. If we’d need a permit for every single thing we wanted to do, we’d never get anything done.”
Max remembered discussing the concept of a free market with his startup coach. The man was a genius. He could explain complicated concepts in simple terms.
“Before we come to any conclusions,” said his mentor, “we really should identify what kind of market we are talking about, and what we mean by free. It’s so easy to speak in generalizations and pretend we understand one another. When we do, we usually don’t.
First of all, there is no such thing as a single market. Rather, it is made up of a great number of small markets, serving different segments of our economy.
Secondly, people talk about these markets all the time, as if they were solid, static entities we could take home and put on a shelf. In reality, these so-called markets are more like our health. They are the fluid result of many factors and influences, and they adapt and change constantly. They’re like living organisms. We are all part of those organisms, sometimes as buyers, and sometimes as sellers.
The cumulative result of millions of individual decisions is what makes these many markets move. Even one small decision has the potential to impact the whole.
Now, some of these markets have become so complicated that humans alone can’t handle them anymore. Take the stock exchange. Most of today’s trading is no longer handled by shouting overachievers in weird blazers, but by computers. Does that make Wall street freer, or more dependent on whiz kids, software, and algorithms?”
Max said he had no idea.
“Let me ask you another question, Max.
Do you remember what happened on May 6, 2010 at 2:45 PM?”
Max shook his head.
“I’ll tell you!
The United States stock market crashed when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged about 900 points in the biggest one-day point decline in history. It was called the Flash Crash, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) blamed it on a computer algorithm used by a trader to determine how to execute a trade.
Within 13 minutes, some $40 stocks were selling for a penny a share, until a market circuit-breaker paused trading. Regulators later undid those bizarre trades, calling them ‘erroneous.’
On June 10th, 2010, the SEC approved rules that require the exchanges to pause trading in certain individual stocks if the price moves 10 percent or more in a five-minute period.
Let me ask you, Max: is that still a free and independent market, or are we talking about intervention in order to prevent shares from becoming worthless, courtesy of a computer glitch?”
Once again, Max was silent, as his mentor went on.
“Now, think about what fuels our economy: crude oil. An important benchmark for crude oil prices is a weighted average of prices for petroleum blends produced by the OPEC countries. OPEC constantly tries to influence that price by increasing and decreasing production. We all know what happened in 1973 when oil ministers agreed to an embargo.
Again I ask you: is this the famous free market people are always touting, or are prices kept at an artificial level and used as weapons in an effort to influence political decisions and certain economies? Think about what’s happening right now.
Led by Saudi Arabia, OPEC decided in 2014 to wage a price war with low-cost producers in the U.S. and elsewhere in a bid to defend market share. Since oil prices began collapsing, oil companies have sacked hundreds of thousands of workers, and slashed investment budgets.
But there are other factors that influence how much or how little we pay at the pump.
The yearly maintenance of refineries influences gas prices. A blast caused by a few individuals at a pipeline in Nigeria can cause the price of petrol to explode at your local gas station. We might long for energy independence all we want, but for now we’re as interdependent as never before.
I guess what I am trying to say is this: because we’re so connected, markets are never completely free. Contrary to what some republican presidential candidates want us to believe, we’re not living on an island.”
“I understand all of that,” said Max. “But when people talk about the free market, don’t they typically refer to a market free from government intervention?”
“Here’s my take on government intervention, Max:
Too much of it is called dictatorship, and not enough of it leads to anarchy. You pick.”
“I can’t tell you how many times the argument it’s a free market has been used to defend or excuse the most appalling working conditions and low wages on this planet. Just because humans were born with free will and have the power to exploit one another, doesn’t mean they should. Sometimes the administration has to step in to prevent the greedy from taking advantage of the needy. Is that big government overstepping its boundaries, or a matter of society upholding basic human rights?
One could argue that the institution of federal minimum wage is a form of intervention in the labor market. It started when government tried to control the explosion of sweat shops in manufacturing industries. The sweatshop owners were thought to have unfair bargaining power over their workers, and a minimum wage was proposed as a means to make them pay fairly.
Some might say that sweatshops are a thing of the past. Well, on a different but related note, tell me: What’s one of America’s favorite non-alcoholic beverages?”
“It must be coffee,” answered Max.
“Correct,” said his coach. “A few years ago, Starbucks finally started selling Fair Trade coffee, and for a good reason. We don’t always realize that agriculture workers in the coffee industry often toil in what has been described as ‘sweatshops in the fields.’ Many small coffee farmers in Africa and South America receive prices for their coffee that are less than the costs of production, forcing them into poverty and debt. To become Fair Trade certified, an importer must pay a minimum price per pound, allowing farmers and their families to make a living wage.
Laissez-faire economists might frown upon fair trade, but here’s the underlying question: whom is the market supposed to serve? Is this market some amoral, illusive, impersonal entity that cannot be influenced, or could the players in that market actually have an effect on how decent business is conducted?
Are people to serve the market (at any rate and at any cost), or do we want to have a market that serves the people? Should we intervene in that market by setting certain levels that are considered to be fair, humane, and reasonable, or should we leave the market alone?
Our economy is still recovering from the subprime mortgage crisis that was -in part- the result of an unregulated, greed-driven market that left so many homeless. Just because people were able to get a mortgage with no money down, doesn’t mean they should have.
Cars used to have no seat belts and smoking was allowed everywhere. Then the government stepped in to prevent intelligent people from doing stupid things. Yes it’s intervention, but for a good reason.
My belief is that the ideal market -if we can even speak of such a thing- should serve the people. If a market leads to desperation exploitation, it becomes an issue of ethics, and adjustments should be made.
I realize that I’m painting a picture with broad strokes, Max, and you’re free to disagree. So, why don’t we bring this discussion back to rates? After all, that was what we were talking about. Here’s my question:
Would you rather be paid a fair rate, or a market price?”
* * * * *
As Stoly skillfully maneuvered his car through the snow storm, Max noticed something disturbing. In some boroughs the streets were much more accessible than in others. How could that be?
Suddenly, bright headlights appeared out of nowhere, and they moved straight toward their SUV.
“What the heck is that?” screamed Stoly as he quickly turned the wheel.
“That, my friend, is government intervention,” said Max, as a huge snow plow drove right past them. “Why aren’t they out in full force in every neighborhood?”
“It’s been a long winter,” replied Stoly. “Some municipalities started running out of funds, especially those that paid the drivers by the hour. They found out that if they paid the snow crews per amount of snow removed, a lot more got done in less time. The folks that got paid per hour took their time. It’s human nature. Plus, some of the lowest bidders turned out to have the worst equipment, and it took them forever to get the streets plowed. You get what you pay for.”
“When I was young, the whole neighborhood came together to clear the streets and sidewalks,” said Max. “It was actually fun, and we got to know one another. Senior citizens and others who were too weak to plow didn’t have to worry about a thing.”
“How about now?” Stoly asked.
“I’m afraid it’s every man for himself,” said Max. “People clear their own little bit of sidewalk and make sure others don’t park in their spot. There’s an eighty-year old woman on our block who can hardly leave her house, let alone clear her walkway. One day, two teenagers knocked on her door, offering to take care of the snow for her.
She was so happy that these young gentlemen were ready to do a good deed. That was before they told her that it would cost her ten bucks. She said to me that she could barely afford her medication, let alone ten dollars every time there was snow on the ground. But hey, it’s a free market!
Meanwhile, her next door neighbor has one of those gas snow blowers. He was clearing his own sidewalk when she asked him if he’d be willing to lend a hand. He said that he’d get to it, once he had taken his wife to the nail salon. Then he forgot all about his neighbor’s sidewalk, so I took care of it.”
Stoly’s SUV slowly made its way through town, until it stopped in front of an office building.
“This should be it,” said Max as he gathered his stuff. “Will you wait for me? I do need to get back to the airport.”
“If you insist,” said Stoly.
“Great,” said Max. “Would it be okay if I pay you on the way back?”
“What do you think?” asked Stoly with a big grin on his face. “You pay me now, my friend . This is the US of A…
There are no free rides.”
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS Next week I’ll bring you the final installment. Click here for part 3.
What if you advertise yourself as a pro, but you’re still learning on the job;
What if you wonder why you’re not booking, but you’re too cheap to hire a coach;
What if you’re too lazy to look things up, and count on your community to bail you out;
What if you think you can break into the business on a shoestring budget;
What if you’re convinced you can crush the competition by undercutting rates;
What if you feel that no one has your back, but you refuse to join WoVo;
What if “What’s in it for me?” is your motto, and you don’t care about your colleagues;
What if you expect to make money, but you don’t know how to run a business;
What if your Pay-to-Play acts unethically, yet you don’t raise your voice;
What if your client pays dirt, but you bend over backwards anyway;
What if you are totally exhausted, but you never take a break;
What if you love to complain, but you never contribute;
What if you don’t believe in yourself, yet you hope others will…
Well, I’m really sorry, but I cannot help you. You have to help yourself, and up your game if you want to become a pro.
Pros know what to do. That’s what they’re getting paid for;
Pros never stop learning. Even the best work with a coach;
Pros are proactive, and do their own homework;
Pros invest in quality, and are willing to pay for it;
Pros know what they’re worth, and charge accordingly;
Pros stick together, and belong to the World-Voices Organization;
Pros look at the bigger picture, and care about community;
Pros are business savvy, and price for profit;
Pros speak up when they’re treated with little respect;
Pros work with clients who recognize their value;
Pros take care of themselves, knowing they can’t give what they don’t have;
Pros aren’t whiners; they are winners;
Pros are poised, and self-assured.
Pros realize that talent entitles them to nothing. It challenges them to do everything.
And above all, Pros know that success is the result of many small, intelligent steps, taken in the right direction.
Success can’t be rushed. It can’t be bought. It can’t be forced or faked.
It has to be learned.
It has to be earned.
Every. Single. Day.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS Be Sweet. Please retweet!
The basement of the church office was bright and open. The aroma of fresh coffee was wafting in the air as Agnes -a woman in her late sixties- brought in a plate of homemade snickerdoodles. In one of the adjacent rooms, a radio was playing Songs of Praise.
“Oh Lord, deliver us from evil,” seemed to be the hymn of the day. It couldn’t have been more appropriate.
“Ah Agnes, it’s so good to see you,” said Father Andrew, who’d just come back from his early morning jog. “You never come empty-handed, and you know how we all love your baking!”
“Well, let’s hope we have some people to enjoy these cookies,” Agnes said. “Do you think anyone will show up?”
“You’ve got to believe, Agnes. You’ve got to believe. That’s what this place is all about,” said Father Andrew. “This will be the very first meeting of its kind, so you never know, but I have high hopes. Over the past few weeks I have heard from so many people, and they seem ready to take the plunge.”
Andrew, or Andy as he liked to be called, began to arrange some chairs in a circle. He had no idea how many he would need, so he stopped at twelve. How biblical!
Ten minutes before the meeting was supposed to start, the first participant showed up. It was a middle-aged, nervous-looking guy wearing a Yankees sweatshirt, a baseball cap, and dark sunglasses.
“Well, someone’s got to be the first,” he said, as he walked in. “This coffee smells so good. May I?”
“Help yourself,” said Agnes.
“I love my morning coffee,” said the man. “And you know what they say: The best part of wakin’ up … is Folgers in your cup.”
And as he spoke, both Father Andrew and Sister Agnes looked at each other.
“I’m the pastor here,” said Andrew, extending his hand. “I’m glad you could come. Your voice sounds familiar. Have we met?”
“Oh, I get that all the time,” said the man. “I’m John, by the way. We’ve never met, but I’m pretty sure you have heard me before. Let’s see… Have you seen that commercial for the new female Viagra? It came out last week.”
“Not really,” answered Andrew.
“I have,” said Agnes with unusual enthusiasm. “I’ve seen it a few times. Is that where I know your voice from?”
“You, bet. That’s me,” said John. “One day it’s all about having fun in the bedroom. The next I’m selling a cream that can cure athlete’s foot. Welcome to my world!”
A young woman entered the room. “John!” she cried. “I didn’t know you’d be here. I thought you weren’t doing that thing anymore. Aren’t your agents keeping you busy?”
As the two were catching up, Father Andrew whispered in Agnes’ ear:
“Is it just me, or does that young lady sound like she just walked out of a cartoon?”
“You’re right,” said Agnes. “She does sound like a character from a show I watch with my granddaughter. It’s about tiny, obnoxious superheroes. I’m telling you: this is going to be one interesting morning.”
The next person to come in was an unassuming, short fellow with a babyface. He did his very best not to be noticed, but Agnes spotted him immediately.
“May I offer you some coffee, young man?” she asked.
He looked at her for a moment, and said with a booming voice:
“In a land before time…
one woman embarked on a journey
that would change her life…
From the people who brought you “Heavenly Creatures”
comes a story of love, longing… and caffeine.
Rated PG 13.
Coming to a theater near you.”
“I take that as a yes,” said Agnes.
Within minutes, more people arrived, and for some reason, the atmosphere seemed grim.
“Please grab a seat,” summoned Father Andrew. “I know you’re all eager to get started.”
He looked around the circle, making eye contact with everyone in the room.
“Welcome to our first meeting. So glad you could make it. I wanted to start with a reading from Exodus, but I chose a short prayer instead.”
All of a sudden it became very quiet.
“Oh Lord, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
The courage to change the things we can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
“Amen,” answered a few.
“Now,” said Father Andrew, “you’re all here today because you feel powerless, and a part of your life has become unmanageable.”
A few participants nodded.
“Many of you believe that you can’t live without that which has had such a grip on your life for so long. Yet, you feel that the time has come to let go of what no longer serves you.”
“Hear, hear” mumbled one of the participants.
“I know all of you have paid the price for years and years, and have wasted many hours, desperately seeking, and desperately hoping for something that rarely came. Am I right?”
“Oh yes,” said the girl with the cartoon voice. “I was such an idiot.”
Father Andrew stood up and said:
“Don’t feel bad. You are not alone. By being here, all of you have shown that you’re ready to become a member of a new group. A liberated group. And here’s the good news, people: You don’t need a credit card to join. I’m not going to ask you to set up an online profile either.
The only requirement for membership is that you have to have a desire to stop using what you’ve been using. Is that clear?”
Everybody seemed to be in agreement.
“I noticed that some of you know each other, and others don’t. Before we start sharing our experiences, let’s introduce ourselves, knowing that you cannot change what you don’t acknowledge. So, as you state your name, please tell the group why you are here.”
Father Andy looked at John, and said:
“Since you came in first, perhaps you’d like to start.”
John took off his sunglasses, revealing deep, dark eyes that hadn’t had much sleep. He sighed a deep sigh, filled with sorrow and regret, and said:
“Hello, my name is John, and I pay to play.”
And the group answered in unison:
That morning, Voice Actors Anonymous was born.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS Next time I’ll blog about how voices.com has added insult to injury by the way it has responded to the criticism of the past few weeks. Click here to read that story.
Who would have thought a short piece on leaving Voices.com would hit such a nerve?
I certainly didn’t.
If you’ve looked into the ongoing debate about Pay-to-Plays, you know my story didn’t really add any new info. Yet, it was widely read, shared and discussed.
As I am typing these words, this article has been seen by almost 1,500 people in less than a week!
Something’s clearly brewing…
Not everyone agreed with what I had to say, so today I just want to talk about a few points that came up as people started reacting to last week’s blog. Here’s one of the comments I got:
You really zoomed in on all the negatives in your story. That’s not fair.
Well, people don’t break up because they’re getting along just fine.
Voices.com does an outstanding job promoting their own business. I don’t need to do that for them.
You shouldn’t generalize your personal experience with Voices.com and present it as “the truth.”
I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I added the following PS to my story:
“Keep in mind that this blog is only a reflection of my opinion based on personal experiences. I encourage you to draw your own conclusions and invest in what you think is right for you.”
As a VO talent and blogger, it is my job to be outspoken. This blog is my platform to express my ideas based on my subjective perception of reality. I never pretend or aspire to bring my readers THE truth. By definition, a blog is based on opinions and not on undisputed facts.
Go find your own truth!
Having said that…
Read the rest of this story in my new eBook. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.
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:
Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click here for the paperback version, and click here for a Kindle download.
Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek.
If you don’t know what your clients want and need, you’ll never be able to give it to them. Paul Strikwerda
Throughout my career I have really tried to educate potential clients. Yet, almost every day I get the same old question:
“How much do you charge for a 2 minute voice-over?”
As if we’re talking about a pound of sugar or a gallon of milk.
I really can’t answer that question, but if you think you can I’d like to know:
What are you basing your answer on?
In the absence of specifics most people start making things up.
Take it from me: Do not assume you know what your clients want.
Amateurs make assumptions. Professionals…
Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.
“I’m being offered $200 to narrate a 120-thousand word audio book. Do you think that’s a fair rate?”
“A client wants me to record a movie trailer for $150. Should I do it?”
Not a day goes by without someone asking these types of questions on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
Sometimes I stick my neck out and I respond to these questions, especially when I get sentimental and remember the early days of my career.
I was young and unafraid and incredibly ignorant. Back then there was no Internet. Picking brains became my specialty.
On other days I’m not so sappy, as I remember the kind words of my business coach:
“If you’re a Pro, you know what you’re worth. If you’re not, go do your own homework! You won’t learn a thing if I hand you everything on a silver platter.”
He was right.
These days, getting info has never been easier. Search Google for voiceover rates. You’ll get about 5,600,000 results in 0.52 seconds. How’s that for starters?
Bringing up rates usually spells trouble. Talent likes them to go up. Clients love paying less. Where to begin?
The Freemarketeers will tell you to leave everything up to the unregulated forces of supply and demand. After all, it worked well for subprime mortgages, didn’t it? The Interventionists fear a free fall for all. They want rates to be regulated.
Unfortunately, it’s not that black-and-white. Voice-Over rates reflect many variables, and unless you belong to a union or you have an agent, it can be tough to put a price on your pipes.
Enter a parade of Pay-to-Plays. You pay for the privilege of being offered the opportunity to audition and bid for projects, together with thousands of other privileged colleagues. Here’s the catch.
As a member, you often have to subject yourself to an agreed price range per project deemed reasonable by that site. Whether or not you choose to accept that range depends on your personal Price Floor.
A Price Floor is a point below which a product or service should not be sold, or else you’d incur a loss. I bet you anything that most people reading these words right now, have no clue what their price floor actually is.
Be honest. Do you?
A EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE
If you’ve read my work before, you know that I have written about U.S.-based voice casting sites and their perceived influence on dwindling voice-over rates.
On January 8th, 2008, a new player entered the market: Bodalgo. Based in Germany, Bodalgo is the brain child of a man who once had a very boring job as the deputy editor of Penthouse: Armin Hierstetter.
Armin’s no dummy.
He studied the existing P2P’s carefully, as he set out to take the good and improve the bad to create something beautiful. Unlike similar sites, Bodalgo is available in German, Spanish, Italian and English (American and British).
Now, if you think that you can buy your way into Bodalgo, you are wrong. No matter the credit limit on your Visa Card, if you sound like crap, you can’t join the club.
Bodalgo caters to clients from all over the world, but because it’s based in Bavaria, it’s a gateway to the European voice-over market. This brings me back to rates. How does Bodalgo compare to its American counterparts?
I (PS) decided to check in with the boss: Armin Hierstetter (AH). Here’s a transcript of the interview.
PS I just saw a project posted on your site in the 100-250 USD range. It made me think: Is Bodalgo going in the direction of its American counterparts, or did I miss something? Has $100 always been the minimum?
AH In USD the minimum range starts at 100 dollars (the Euro has a 50 to 150 minimum range as – for example – a local radio spot in Germany is usually 50 to 55 Euro).
If jobs are posted that are budgeted too low (intentionally or not), Bodalgo contacts the voice-seeker suggesting what we believe is a fair rate. Sometimes the voice-seeker sees our point and is willing to raise the budget, sometimes not. If the voice-seeker does not agree on increasing the budget, the job simply does not get posted. Period.
Of course, we hear many times:
“What? You want me to pay 250 USD for a job that is done in five minutes? You must be insane, you [censored]”
Well, depending on my mood, I sometimes try to explain why voiceovers cost what they cost (knowing that with these types of folks it really does not help at all in most cases), or I simply press the delete button and go on with whatever I am doing.
PS Bodalgo’s been in business for a few years now. What’s your overall take on how voice-over rates are established and where they are going?
AH There are many factors when it comes to rates. Here are few of them (this is by no means meant to be a complete list):
- Uniqueness (most important if you ask me)
- Recording skills
I see a link between equipment becoming more powerful yet more affordable, and declining voice-over rates. Let me share three trends with you:
1. The costs for your own studio are coming down, so you can make this beneficial for your clients as well;
2. Because many talents build their own studios, there is much more competition which also leads to lower prices. That’s how the market works.
PS Sorry to interrupt, but clients are saving money due to the increase in home studios. They no longer need to pay for studio time, an audio engineer/editor and a director.
It is my impression that these savings are simply pocketed and not passed on to the voice talent. In the end, we end up doing more for less. Shouldn’t this give us some leverage to raise our rates?
AH I fully understand that voice-seekers already save a lot of money because they’re used to getting the finished audio from the talent without paying for a studio.
I want to be honest with you. I really think that’s one of the biggest mistakes talents have made for a very long time: They did not charge properly for the studio work, only for the rate as a talent. It will be VERY difficult to change this to an approach where talent charges their normal rate plus editing costs;
3. More and more people of the type “My friends all tell me I should host a radio show,” buy a Shure SM58 microphone and think that their laptop recording is God’s gift to the audio world. Untrained amateurs seem to flood the market.
What’s worse, there are many voice-seekers out there that listen to crap demos thinking they are actually good, because they don’t have a proper recording at hand to compare.
But one thing is for sure: Bodalgo will never start to accept amateurs. Yes, there are a few talents with Bodalgo that have just slipped through the net that might not have passed if I had been pickier the day I activated their accounts. Still, the level of Bodalgo’s talent is much, much, much higher than with any other Pay2Play site that we’ve come across.
PS What’s your advice on how to best play the game? Everybody loves to win an audition, but not at any rate. Do you expect voice-over rates to go up any time soon?
AH If you ask me, the reasons why rates should go up are purely to be seen in costs of living. If those prices would be stable, I’d say it’s fair to assume that our rates would stay stable as well.
With financial markets facing the issues they face at the moment, including all the effects like higher inflation, increased costs for energy, food, rent etcetera, I think that we’ll see rates rising over the next years to cover the rising living expenses.
PS Inflation correction keeps rates at the same level. Talent won’t be making more just because the number on a check is higher. If we wish to increase the amount of money coming in, we need to compensate for the rise in the cost of living, and add e.g. 10% to whatever we’re charging.
AH Well, U.S.-based talent benefits from the weak dollar when paid in Euros by Euro-Zone clients. The opposite is true for Euro-Zone-Talent paid in USD. U.S. clients will not accept higher USD prices just because of exchange rates. It’s really just bad luck for us Euro-Talents.
So, to cut a long story short: Yes, I see higher rates over the next years. But this is only because everything else will go up in price as well.
PS So, how can we best prepare for the tough years that are ahead of us?
AH 1. If you have not done so already, invest in your own studio.
2. Buy the good stuff (like Neumann or Brauner for mics, for example) as it will serve you well many, many years. Personally, I would no longer waste money on analog equipment. I would solely buy digital stuff (like the TLM 103 D from Neumann).
PS Quality equipment is essential, but owning a state of the art camera does not make one a top-notch photographer.
AH I do appreciate that a cool mic does not make a great voice talent, but this is not where I am coming from at all. I am just a firm believer that successful talent simply needs both: A well-trained voice and great equipment to deliver high-quality audio. There are too many Samsung USB mics out there in my opinion.
I know, of course, that those top shelf brands are pricey. But when you look at what you (and your client) get for the money – it turns out to be an excellent investment.
3. LEARN HOW TO RECORD PROPERLY!!! It’s really, really, really (I mean it) horrible to hear how bad, bad, bad many of the auditions are recorded (hiss, bad miking, bad levelling, bad everything). Use proper headphones to proof-listen your recordings and be super critical about the work you deliver. [Armin insisted this should be printed in bold]
PS Can Bodalgo keep both voice-seekers and voice talent equally happy, or is that impossible?
AH That’s easy: Our main goal is to attract more and more voice-seekers that post sanely budgeted jobs. We want to provide them with the easiest solution available to find high-quality talent without paying any commission. That way, both sides will win.
PS Herzlichen Dank, Armin.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
Is your freelance business going down the drain?
Are you sick and tired of rejection?
Have you had enough of wasting your time on auditions, bids and proposals that never lead to anything?
Perhaps it is time to make frustration your friend. Be sure to add a strong dose of disgust to the mix. According to success strategist Jim Rohn, disgust is one of the four emotions that can lead to life change. Rohn:
“The person who feels disgusted has reached a point of no return. He or she is ready to throw down the gauntlet at life and say, “I’ve had it!”
Once your frustration has reached a boiling point, it is time to make up your mind. Are you throwing in the towel, or are you going to take massive action and turn your business around? If you pick the last option, the next question is: HOW?
Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.
At the bank I once worked for as a trainer, they had a saying:
“If it’s about money, it’s never funny”
Ain’t that the truth! To that I added my own adage:
“Show me your bank account, and I’ll tell you how you lead your life”
Bankers and accountants probably know more about you than your therapist. By analyzing the way you spend your money, they can tell whether or not you lead a healthy lifestyle, if you’re a good planner, and if you can resist instant gratification.
On blogs and networking sites, money is a popular theme. People want to know how much to charge, whether or not they should spend $399 on a membership of a particular site, and if it’s OK to discount services… the list is endless.
Recently, I found myself caught up in a discussion about on-line freelance job sites like Upwork and Freelancer.com. These sites can connect you with prospective employers from all over the world, and help you find projects that are not listed on the familiar voice-over casting sites.
However, when I looked at the average bids some of our colleagues put in to get voice-over work, I was stunned. If you think that doing a job for $100 is stretching it, wait until you check out sites like guru.com. Your jaw will drop to your knees, and that’s not a good thing if you’re in the voice-over business.
Some people are justifying this downward trend by pointing at the current economic climate:
“Times are still tough. We all have to tighten our belts and do more with less. The only way to still get work is to lower our fees.”
I’m not buying it! Are you?
As I was paying a stack of medical bills, I had a realization. Do our doctors lower their rates because the economy still isn’t doing so great? Would a nurse take care of us at half price? Is a baker going to charge less for his loaf of bread, or would a plumber be willing to show up and take a 40% pay cut? No way. If anything, their fees increase every year to keep up with the rate of inflation.
Then why do some of us feel the need to put themselves up for grabs in the bargain basement?
Remember: once you’re in there, it’s so hard to climb out. Forget how the economy is doing for a moment. If you subscribe to the notion that you often get what you pay for, why are you selling yourself and your colleagues short? What are you afraid of? A certain two-letter word?
THE HARDEST WORD
Top negotiator William Ury wrote a book called “The power of a positive No”. For some of us, that powerful word is one of the hardest in the language. But when we’re saying “No,” we’re asserting ourselves, and we’re affirming our boundaries, whether it’s in an intimate relationship, or in a business relationship.
Being an independent contractor means that we have to have a good sense of what we’re worth. We have to have the guts to stand up for ourselves (and each other), and say “No” when faced with a bad deal. If we don’t, people will inevitably take advantage of us.
Let me rephrase that: If we don’t dare to say “No,” we are allowing others to take advantage of us. Or, as Dr. Phil puts it: “We teach people how to treat us.” Here’s an example.
Did you know that I used to be a non-denominational wedding officiant? I could set my own fees, and every now and then a newly engaged couple would tell me that they were on a shoestring budget. Before I knew it, they were practically begging me to lower my rate.
In the beginning -when I didn’t know any better- I fell for it big time. I wanted to be liked, and I felt sorry for the couple, as I remembered the times I had to nickel and dime. Guess what… I paid for my lack of backbone, until I had learned my lesson.
First of all, these couples turned out to be the most demanding couples I had ever worked with. I’d give them a finger, and they would ask for the entire hand. I’m all for underpromising and overdelivering, but within reason. If you’ve seen some of the Bridezilla shows, you know that not every princess is as sweet as her Daddy believes her to be.
Secondly, these ‘shoestring weddings’ often turned out to be the most lavish events I’d ever be invited to. Apparently, other vendors had not fallen for the couple’s story of woe. As soon as I had learned my lesson, I encouraged my brides to price officiants out. I’d also tell them that low fees are usually a red flag. It either means that an officiant is just starting out, or that he or she might not be able to offer as many services. I would tell my couples:
“You can’t expect a gourmet meal at a fast-food price.”
When I started to put my foot down, something amazing happened. As soon as I decided to charge a fair fee, people started taking me seriously. Sure, I lost a few weddings due to price, but my limited time on earth is too valuable to have to deal with haggling Bridezillas.
THE SECRET TO MAKING BILLIONS
Author William Ury recalls a breakfast he once had with Warren Buffet, one of the most successful investors ever. Ury writes: “He confided in me that the secret to creating his fortune lay in his ability to say No.” Buffet said:
“I sit there all day and look at investment proposals. I say No, No, No, No, No, No -until I see one that is exactly what I am looking for. And then I say Yes. All I have to do is say Yes a few times in my life and I’ve made my fortune.”
So, let’s learn from Buffet and promise each other to teach our clients how to treat us.
Say NO to rates and fees that insult your unique talent, your professionalism, your intelligence, and your experience.
Economists tell us that the only way to get out of an economic slump is to start spending again.
If anything, we should start making more, not less.
For that to happen, you need to assert yourself. Or, as I like to say:
“You sometimes have to put your foot down, in order to get a leg up!”
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice