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VO Compensation: everybody talks about it, but…

Posted in For Beginners, For Pro's by Administrator on the October 31st, 2017

By Jim Conlan

You’ll find this discussion on any given day, in any given forum, online or in your own community: voice talent compensation is the pits.

I think we have a pretty good idea of the problem; my intention isn’t to go into that today. What we need are solutions.

For starters, I should mention that I don’t believe in win-lose scenarios. I’m not interested in fomenting rebellion. No T-shirts or shots across the bow. Instead, I’d like to suggest that perhaps we’re looking at the problem from the wrong perspective. Consider the following:

1. We’re in a relationship business: the clients who value us the most are the ones who know us best.
2. Those clients are happy to pay us what we’re worth.
3. Repeat business is much more likely from clients with whom we have such a relationship.

What’s the problem, then? Well, I can tell you what mine is: I still occasionally seek work through the painful and disheartening process of auditioning. And who are these auditions for? People I don’t know; people who often are looking for a deal first, good talent second. It should be no surprise that they don’t pay well.

So if you feel you’re underpaid, ask yourself these questions:

• When am I compensated fairly for voice-over projects?
• What sort of client generally compensates this way?
• How do I get booked for most of these projects?
• Where do the bulk of these projects come from?
• How can I increase the number of these projects and reduce the rest?

I can tell you what my answers are. I’m fairly compensated (paid according to traditional industry norms) by clients with whom I have a relationship. Meaning they know me and I know them. They have no problem paying me what I’m worth, because they know they’re going to get value for what they paid. In return, I make sure I stay in touch with them. And perhaps most important, many of these clients are local.

Conversely, the projects I don’t get paid well for are often (not always) those I audition for. They are not local. I’m an unknown to them and they to me. I may never work with them again, even if I do get the job.

This isn’t always the case, of course. I’ll audition for a project if the fee is posted upfront and it’s within my acceptable range. Naturally, given the huge numbers of talent with whom I’ll be competing, this is not a high-probability game. I audition and move on.

If you have an agent, you have an advantage; they will hold the line on acceptable fees. But remember, the job of getting work is up to you, not them. You can’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring. Luckily, I have a great agent: Pastorini-Bosby Talent. They make sure that, however I get hired – directly or through them – I get properly compensated. And my repeat business with these clients is exceptionally high.

The wild card in the business is, of course, audio books. Few of us happen to live in New York, or near an audio-book production company. If we’re serious about doing audio books and want to be compensated fairly, we’re going to have to market ourselves to the high-paying players. Otherwise, we’ll simply have to take our chances with auditions.