On February 11, 2011, VOICES.COM released new numbers testifying to the success of the company.
There’s every reason to congratulate the owners, David and Stephanie Ciccarelli. They proudly announced “$39,290,580 in Total Earnings by Voice Talent at Voices.com.”
Some commentators concluded that the data in the report are a summary of this company’s past year in business, but Stephanie Ciccarelli states:
“These numbers are based upon the last several years of data we’ve collected at the site.”
What does she mean by that?
Voices.com has been in business since 2003, starting as “Interactive Voices”. In September 2006, Interactive Voices became voices.com.
The new report speaks of:
“155,915 All-time number of jobs awarded to voice talent.”
In 2011, voices.com stated on their About-page that they are “creating 6911 job opportunities on average, each and every month.” My calculator tells me that this adds up to an average of 82,932 jobs per year.
How did voices.com arrive at 155,915? The verbiage “All-time number of jobs” suggests that they started counting from the very first day of business. Was that in 2003 or as of September 2006? Let’s do the numbers:
155,915 : 7 years = an average of 22,273 jobs per year (2003-2010)
155,915 : 3 years = an average of 51,971 jobs per year (2007-2010)
And what about $39,290,580 in total earnings? Is that also “based upon the last several years of data”?
It’s impossible to put these numbers into proper perspective if we don’t know what time period we’re talking about. That’s exactly the problem I have with most of the numbers coming from voices.com. I’m not saying that they are pulled out of a hat, but they lack clarity and context and they don’t always stand up to simple scrutiny.
The same can be said about their “Annual Report on the Voice Over Industry.” It is not compiled by an established, independent market research firm, but by the CEO of voices.com, David Ciccarelli.
As long as we cannot independently verify the numbers, or get a clear sense of the time period during which these data were collected, I choose to look at these reports as marketing tools, more than anything else.
Stephanie Ciccarell broke down the $39,290,580 in Total Earnings by Voice Talent at voices.com.
“On average” -she writes- “a voice talent made $252.97 per job” using their service.
I haven’t been keeping track of the voices.com numbers over time, but it would be interesting to see whether or not the average payment per job went up or down since 2003, and if so, by how much.
Stephanie Ciccarelli concludes:
“10,000+ people have earned a respectable income from doing voice overs with Voices.com serving as a key part of their marketing strategy.”
Once again, the numbers are vague and note that the term “respectable income” is not defined.
Here’s one scenario:
Let’s assume a talent lands one job per week on voices.com at $252.97. That would bring in $13,154.44 per year.
The talent decides to use the voices.com SurePay escrow system, at a 10% fee per job, costing him $1315.44. This brings the gross income down to $11.839.00. Subtract 10% for expenses and we’re left with: $10,649.10. Subtract from that amount $1504 in self-employment taxes and we arrive at a grand total of $9,149.10.
Would you call that a “respectable” income?
The 2011 Federal Poverty Guidelines of The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services puts the income level at $10,890 for a one person household.
Of course this is a theoretical example. Some voices.com jobs pay a lot more and some pay a lot less. No professional voice-over talent should entirely depend on one source to generate leads and make a living. At the same time, not everyone will land one gig a week using voices.com. Stephanie did write:
“10,000+ people have earned a respectable income from doing voice overs with Voices.com.”
In his analysis of the report, colleague Peter O’Connel comments:
Taking the Voices.com figure ($252.97), as a P2P industry average – that figure, I believe, doesn’t reflect what the voice over customer market “dictates”.
I believe it reflects what the voice over customer market “can get away with” with the help of the pay to play (P2P) business model.
ADDING IT ALL UP
There’s no doubt about it: voices.com has become one of the market leaders in online voice casting. That role comes with responsibilities. Market leaders have the clout to be trend setters and “power pricers”.
Voices.com has become more than a neutral playing field where supply meets demand. It has developed into a game changer that can write the rules of engagement by dictating the terms and conditions.
One of those conditions is “a minimum project posting requirement for any job posted publicly and this amount is $100.” By the way, this doesn’t mean that a voice seeker can’t go any lower than that. Voices.com states:
“If your budget is lower than $100 then you may post a job privately using the Request Quote function within our search engine or you may email talent directly with your project details and budget.”
Critics feel that the Pay to Play business model is in part to blame for the steady decline in voice-over rates and professional standards. Peter O’Connell:
I don’t believe or financially support any service in which voice talent “pays to play” i.e. pays a subscription to receive auditions. I believe such services lower the rate expectations of potential clients because so many voice talents who swim in the pay to play pool low ball their rates out of what I feel is a kind of sad desperation for revenue of any kind.
The pay to play model negatively impacts the voice over business and its practitioners, in my opinion.
It has been suggested that if voices.com is really interested in their members making a “respectable income,” they should start by raising that $100 minimum rate immediately.
Secondly, as of 2015, voices.com claims it has a global network of over 125,000 members. I used to be one of them. I think the members should expect and demand a lot more transparency and accountability when it comes to numbers.
As voices.com so aptly pointed out: they did not make $39,290,580 in total earnings.
Their members did.