Well, sure, a $500 commercial and a $50 commercial may have a difference of $450…but that’s only a small part of the story.
If you are a business that seeks professional creative talent (voiceovers, graphic art, anything) on a regular or even semi-regular basis, you should remember there is much more to a quoted rate than just dollars. In fact, dollars are merely a sign of underlying value – or lack thereof.
That’s not to say that the more expensive a service is, the better it is; we can certainly all point to circumstances that prove otherwise. There is something to be said, though, about what makes up a rate, what goes into it, and what needs to be removed in order to make that rate lower.
Behind the scenes of voiceovers
I’ve heard many folks claim – falsely – that voice work is easy because you just ‘speak into a mic.’ How hard can it be, they say, you’re just reading! These people don’t understand the importance of tone, timing, inflection, energy, and dozens of other factors that go into voicing a script in order to make the most of that script.
They don’t realize the necessity of reading a script before recording and correcting typos, misspellings, and punctuation and grammar errors. They don’t understand why a line might need to be recorded two or three times and then edited together to make it sound like one line. They certainly have no idea what ambience, mouth noise, plosives, sibilance, proximity effect, or a noise floor are.
And they probably don’t care.
But you know what? If you hire someone to voice a corporate video, on-hold messaging, or some other project, you don’t need to know these things, so you really don’t need to care.
That’s why professionals like me exist – because we DO know these things and we DO care! More on this in just a minute…
Voiceovers and photography – the easiest jobs in the world
Last weekend, I was speaking to a professional photographer who has been working in the business for a couple years and is still trying to build up her portfolio. She told me what she normally charges for certain projects, which is slightly less than average, and then followed it up – almost sheepishly – with why she felt justified charging those rates.
“People just don’t know all the work that goes into it!” she said, exasperated. Just one on-location event, she explained, requires time spent prepping the schedule, knowing who to take pictures of and when, who they want the pictures taken with, what activities during the course of this event need to be captured, and any other bits of pertinent information.
Then there’s culling the hundreds of photos taken to pull the best ones, editing and touching up those pictures, and making sure every photo she sends to her client looks as good as possible. And of course, the gas driving to and from events, the cost of her equipment and materials, and the fact that she actually needs to make a bit of a profit to keep doing it.
She said when she quotes a few hundred dollars per hour, some people will scoff at the cost. Others who do hire her will often be calling her up the next day, wondering where their photos are.
“They think I’m just there, taking pictures – they don’t realize everything else that’s involved!”
I told her I knew exactly what she meant.
Lower rate = less services?
Getting back to why professionals like my photographer friend and me exist…it’s because we worry about the details that others don’t. As I thought about all the things I provide under the umbrella of my rates, it occurred to me that if I was going to lower my rates considerably, I would need to forego some of the services I provide. Otherwise, I would be working, working, working non-stop for less and less money.
Personally, I didn’t like that option.
If I charge $300 for a 15-minute corporate video narration, I’m going to provide script prep (checking for errors, stressed lines, etc.); I’ll record the audio on professional equipment at the sample and bit rates requested; I’ll edit mistakes, clicks, and plosives (those annoying ‘pops’ when someone utters a word starting with “P”); I’ll sweeten the audio, if requested, with EQ, compression, or delay effects; I’ll mix it all down and send it to you in the audio file format of your choice (.wav, .mp3, .aiff, etc.); and with the exception of long-form narration, I can usually have it back to you in less than 36 hours.
All for $300. I’d say that’s a pretty fair price.
Due diligence and buyer’s remorse
So when I see another voice talent charging only $50 or so for the same thing, I have to wonder what it is that I’m providing that he or she is not. What part of the service is being dropped or diminished, so that the talent can make such a low rate profitable? Do they not have the time or experience to be able to prep a script? Are they not using professional equipment? Do they even know the difference between sample rates and bit rates?
Do they care??
More importantly, do you care whether or not they care?
If you do…research who you are hiring, and don’t hire on price alone. If you come across someone with a rate that seems high to you, spend some time thinking about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into a rate like that, and then compare that to the super-low rate your found on one of those quick-and-easy freelance websites.
Perhaps you’ll find someone who does a great job and you’ll get a great deal. Perhaps, instead, you’ll wish someone else had done it.
Or worst of all…perhaps someone else will need to do it.
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