Civil Rates! Secrets of an Agent Man – Volume 4

The voice-over webisphere is all abuzz because a new online casting site – voicejockeys.com – is offering $55 a spot to voice talents and will take 50% (!) commission on that already lucrative fee.   The site works like many others out there in that talents “pay to play”.  That is, it’s free for producers to cast off the site; it’s the voice over talents who pay a subscription fee to get access to jobs being cast. 

In an upcoming post, I’ll share my thoughts on this business model but to the point of this entry, I’ve seen web forums and a Linked In group discussion (which reached over 100 posts) tackling the voicejockeys “situation”.  VoiceOver Extra has posted an ongoing series from Robert Sciglimpaglia (www.voiceoverxtra.com/article.htm?id=4r9qn51f), a voice-over talent/lawyer who says he is “negotiating” with the folks at Voice Jockeys, presumably to remind them it’s not 1953 (I like the idea of a voice-over talent/lawyer – he can sue his own clients when they don’t pay!)

This mass hysteria over the idea that some entity is trying to get services for a really cheap price – as though the concept was just invented in 2010 – got me thinking it’s high time for another installment of Secrets of An Agent Man, this time on the subject of rate negotiation.

As more and more voice talents work for themselves, with or without representation, the skill of setting rates and more importantly, sticking to them, is almost as integral to the business as the voice itself.  As a voice talent agent, I should have some thoughts to contribute in this area. 

What follows is the Voice Over Canada rules for rate structure and negotiation.  Note: I encourage all producers who hire voice talents from my agencies, PN Agency (www.pnagency.com) and Ethnic Voice Talent (www.ethnicvoicetalent.com) to stop reading now.  It’ll just get boring for you.  Nothing to read here.  Move along.

1)Do not be afraid.  If you have a price in mind, stick to it.  The worst that can happen is the client says no and you end up slightly malnourished that month.  But at least you still have your soul!

2)Never give your price until you get at least have some idea of the specifics of the project.  Ideally, get them to quote first so you can either attempt to find a middle ground or at the very least, laugh uproariously.  Or maybe they are completely on the same wavelength as you with regards to a fair price.

3) No seriously, wait as long as possible to name your price.  You’re always after INFORMATION.

4)Never quote based on the phrase, “there is going to be a lot more work after this one”.

5)Low budget stuff is low budget for a reason – because it’s crap!  Unless it’s charity of course :)-

6)If there are typos in the first client e-mail inquiry and/or general sloppiness, you can almost always expect that same approach all the way through the project.  Ex. The phrase “Oh we forgot 4 pages of the script” after you’ve already submitted the finished audio with your invoice.

7)People always want to work with someone they like so if at all possible, stay friendly, with a sense of humor, even if it’s a “tense negotiation”.

8)The client is NOT always right.  If someone isn’t following the general rules of “being a decent human being”, there is no reason why you can’t tactfully point this out to them.

9)You’re a professional.  Price yourself accordingly.  Take yourself and your work seriously.

10)Don’t take yourself too seriously.  You’re just a voice talent, you’re not performing brain surgery or working for Doctors Without Borders.   If I’m wrong about this, I tip my hat to you!

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