When your phone rings or email dings with the tantalizing opportunity for a booking, there are some key things to know and implement to ensure you’re not taken advantage of and can maximize your fee for that job. You won’t always – or even the majority of times – need to quote for jobs. Much of the time potential clients will come to you with a specific budget set, and little or no wiggle room. And that is great, because it takes all of the guesswork out of it. You take it or leave it. The other case when you know what to expect for payment is with union work. There is scale, depending on what kind of production it is. And while there may be some negotiating involved in a final deal for a union contract, there is a floor below which you will not be paid.
That’s not always the case for non-union work. Oftentimes, it can be a race to the bottom with talent fees, so you need to be sharp in your negotiation skills. First things first: know the client’s budget. Every production has a line-item in the budget for the VO talent, so you have to deftly endeavor to figure out what it might be, or at least what is it’s range. And even if they don’t provide that basic bit of info for you, when you do submit your quote, it’s best practice to say something like, “my rate is flexible based on your budget.” That way if your quote is well over their budget, they will know to counter your offer rather than dismiss it out of hand. This also means, though, that it’s always better to err on the high side. Because if your quote is lower than their VO budget, you’ve just left money on the table.
You’ve got to know your floor. Don’t undersell your talents. You will be setting a bad precedent for yourself to whomever you provide a ‘too low’ quote. And since we have a tendency to more highly value things which are higher priced, you may also be devaluing yourself in the eyes of the producer, who may decide that you’re not right for the job after all since you require such little compensation for your work.
Recognize that there is a difference between quoting for a job from an open casting call and one where you’ve been specifically selected to audition, and an even bigger difference when you’ve been booked outright without any audition at all. Once you’ve established a range for which you’re willing to work, it should be reflected from low to high, respectively based on these three scenarios, because if someone really wants you, your leverage for higher payment increases significantly.
Another thing that should influence your quote is the turnaround time required. When a producer calls me on a Sunday evening to produce a session by first thing Monday morning – which happens more often than you’d think – I will try to get more compensation than for something which is booked days in advance, or even for a same-day turnaround during a weekday.
Does the client require any post-production from you – including mixing music or sound effects? There is an understanding, unless otherwise specified, that sessions produced from your home studio will be comprised of fully edited, dry audio that can be dropped right into the rest of the production and mixed/mastered on their end. However, if the client wants you to do any of the post work – you can charge more for your time, and also the cost of whatever music or effects that have to be licensed. This is a unique situation though, and post-production services should not be offered unless they can be provided professionally.
Research the company the job is being produced by (your client) and for (their client). The bigger the company, obviously the bigger the budget will be, and the higher your quote can be. If the gig is a commercial, determine your quote based on whether it’s local, regional or national. Is it going to run one time or over a longer period? Are their multiple spots, etc.? To help facilitate quotes for these kinds of situations, it might be useful to put together a rate sheet, so you can have a quickly accessible framework for bidding on any potential job that comes in.
Tune into my teleseminar on Sunday night, where I’ll delve deeper into all of the above, and talk about additional things to help you quote smart and maximize your earnings.
Alan Schwartz is a nationally recognized voice over talent who has served as the voice for Sprite, Verizon, Smirnoff Ice, and “Alex” from the Mac Operating System, among others. You can find more of his work at ajsvoiceover.com.
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