What cost low cost?
I’m sure you’ve screamed that when you’ve heard what a voiceover can earn for voicing a TV spot for a major brand; many thousands of pounds in a matter of minutes.
And I’m sure you’ve been agog at how little some, supposed professionals will record 200 words of audio for any use, in perpetuity for $5 via certain websites. So, who’s right?
Well, the truth is, pricing in the voiceover world can be confusing. I charge e-learning work by the word, TV commercials are based on TVRs, radio is based on listening figures, negotiated with the stations/producers by Equity, IVR can be charged per prompt and the internet is basically the Wild West! Plus there’s all the acronyms to get used to; IVR, TVR, BSF etc.
So how does it work?
All too often when I quote new clients reasonable, fair prices they tell me they can get it cheaper by going to various dubious websites. These places are stuffed to the gills with people offering voiceover services at crazy rock-bottom prices. So why shouldn’t you just use them?
I hope this blog will help clients understand why paying more makes sound business sense, as well as helping new voiceover artists understand why experienced artists rates are higher.
It’s all about price vs. value. Here are my five top reasons why experienced voiceover artists give you real value for money.
1: Experience delivers
I’ve been doing this a long time. So I make it look easy. That’s experience.
It might take a beginner twice as long to record the vocals on a corporate video. The director may have to coach them on every sentence. It might even mean you have to pay them more, as you haven’t managed to do the job in the allotted studio time. Now, beginners have to start somewhere. This isn’t about doing them down.
But I’m talking about value.
I can have a brief conversation with the client about the tone/style/energy they’re looking for, think about the audience it’s designed for and usually nail the job within the first few takes. If they want it 30 seconds faster without sounding rushed, I can do it. Or, if they want it professional, but friendly, energetic but at a slow pace, authoritative but not aggressive – I can do it. That’s experience and that’s added value.
That ability to give an uncertain client options, to work fast to keep studio costs down, to be able to take direction and build on it; all of that is what you’re paying for.
2: Time’s a ticking
Obviously part of the cost of the voiceover is how long the job takes. Again, the added value with an experienced professional is that I’ll often complete the job within the first or second read, so recording is fast. And as an experienced editor, I’m saving you time there too. Less time, less cost. Simple.
3: Does it have to be SoHo dahhing?
You’ll always need to record the VO somewhere. Usually a client will have to hire a sound studio (and engineer) which the VO will travel to.
I have a home studio which adds huge value to my clients.
I’ve invested time, energy and thousands of pounds in building a broadcast-quality audio booth. My studio is so well insulated and quiet that I don’t require any post production or noise removal. What you get is perfect clarity and all the warmth and depth you’d expect from a fully acoustically treated professional space. It has all the latest kit for recording and editing and involving the client. You can listen in live to session via Skype, Google Hangouts, ipDTL, ISDN, Source Connect Now or good-old-fashioned land line.
In comparison, there are VOs out there who have cheap mics, shove their head under a duvet and hope. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, you can hear the difference.
4: Your colleague with a ‘nice’ voice is just that
There is a world of difference between ‘Susan from Accounts who’s got a nice voice’ and a professional voiceover artist. Just listen to most small businesses voicemail messages. Susan may be clear, but she has no charm!
Voiceover is an art form. It’s not just talking. The subtle vocal manipulations required to nail the exact tone a client wants, in the exact time to fit the visuals takes talent. And hard graft. I’ve trained for 14 years (I never stop learning) and so, I can work in e-learning, corporate work, character and accents, advertising, drama and more. Each sector of the industry needs different vocal skills – and that’s before we even start to talk about the business of managing a home studio and all the audio kit.
5: Where? When? How? Usage counts
How the content I voice will be used and distributed has a huge impact on the final cost. This is the bit most people get confused about or forget. It’s all about how many people will see/hear it and for how long. So, a commercial for Coke during the X Factor final will cost more than a commercial for a local plumber on a small local radio station at 4 o’clock in the morning. It’s about exposure.
We use the term ‘buy-out’ a lot. A client is buying the right to use our voice for a specific purpose for a set amount of time. If I voiced a massive and distinctive campaign for Tesco they would have to give me a generous buyout to compensate me for the fact that no other retail brand is likely to use my voice for a long while, as I’d be associated with them.
So, that’s why usage costs vary. But if you’re reaching more people or requiring exclusivity, you pay more. And that’s fair.
So where does that leave us?
With a simple choice. And it’s a choice we all make, whatever we buy. You can pay less and risk getting a poor product or pay more and be sure you’ll get what you need. My family has a saying, ‘Buy cheap, buy twice’ I think that applies here. Pay for the experience, knowledge, skills and facilities you need – and you won’t regret what you’ve spent. Go cheap, and that’s exactly how it will sound.
Everyone wants a bargain. And sometimes we’re willing to take a risk on a lesser-known brand to get that bargain. And that’s fine if we’re talking about your favourite soft drink. But as professionals, with clients, deadlines and little room for a miss-step, going cheap is a risk that’s just not worth taking.