Your Time Is Worth Something: Not getting taken advantage of Sept 5, 2018 2:58:02 GMT -8 Brittany Ann Phillips, Jeff Werden, and 7 more like this
Post by Lady Stardust ★ on Sept 5, 2018 2:58:02 GMT -8
Recently, there's been an influx of casting calls in other sites around the Internet that are asking for exorbitant amounts of work from their voice talent (full audiobooks, narration scripts of thousands upon thousands of words, 24/7 availability for rush jobs, etc.) and are offering ridiculously low rates - to the point of being insulting. This is especially dangerous because a lot of aspiring talent who do not know better see the dollar signs and think "paid project - this'll be a great opportunity!" without realizing that some of these "opportunities" are downright exploitative.
But how do I know what this stuff's actually supposed to pay? I have no idea!
To give you an idea... here are the general industry standard rates for various types of work: voratecard.com/
The VAC also has a community project called the Indie Rate Guide for lower budget online-based projects: voiceactingclub.com/rates
Now, let's be real. Many startup/indie producers cannot afford to pay industry rates as they are getting their projects off the ground and therefore may be advertising in online communities... but it does give you an idea of just how much certain projects may be trying to lowball you.
I'm just getting started, though. I am excited for work opportunities. How do I know if it's worth it for me?
A simple way to do this is to look at the cost versus the amount of work involved. (Be sure to factor in any editing time - especially for long-form narration, editing will add a significant amount of extra work time and many clients will expect you to edit the recordings to at least the point of being clean and free of mistakes.)
For example... if a client posts a casting call offering $100 for 20,000 words... a young and aspiring voice talent might think "$100 is a pretty good amount of money - I could buy a lot with $100! How bad could 20,000 words be?"
Well, let's break it down. That rate would average out to half a penny per word. As opposed to a more standard rate of 25-30 cents per word. And keep in mind that doesn't factor in your editing time, either. Or possible retakes. By the time you're done, you could end up making less than minimum wage (and FYI, voiceover works on a completely different scale than day jobs.)
But wait, how come sometimes unpaid projects are considered acceptable? What makes something like this different?
Unpaid projects can offer a great way for amateur/aspiring talent to practice and gain confidence and experience in doing voiceover---provided it is a mutually beneficial relationship.
What do I mean by mutually beneficial relationship?
Let's say that John Doe is an animator in training looking to make a short animation for a class project that will then be uploaded to YouTube. John expects to make little to no money off his project and is mainly doing it for the sake of experience/completing an assignment/showing off something he's made. Being a student, he can't afford to pay out of pocket for voice talent, so he posts a casting call online for people to help him out. Amateur voice actors are excited to have their voice in something and get a credit/something to put on their online resume, and it gives them experience and practice recording and delivering voice files. In a situation like this, both the talent and the creator ideally walk away happy, hence a mutually beneficial relationship despite no money being exchanged.
But then let's take our other fictional client, Mark Smith. Mark is the lead developer for a big mobile game that is going to be sold on the app store and is expected to make quite a bit of money in microtransactions. He posts offering his lead voice actor a lump sum of $200 for an estimated 10 live-directed recording sessions of 2 hours each.
"Well gosh, $200 is a lot of money when you get down to it," says a hopeful voice actor. "And it means I'd get to be in a video game, as a main character!"
Again, let's break it down. Mark wants 20 hours of recording time for the lead actor in his game. He is paying $200 total. That means $10 an hour.
"But $10 an hour is actually a little bit more than minimum wage in my town and I sure like it better than working at my retail day job!"
True! But again, rate structures for VO work differently. Since this is a game... consider that the industry standard rate for nonunion video games is $200-$250 per hour, usually with a 2-hour session minimum guarantee. Now you can make the argument that Mark's company is a startup developer and maybe can't quite pay that... but it really puts into perspective how ludicrous it is that he can't even pay 10% of the industry standard hourly rate to his talent, even though he fully intends to make money off his game.
Do you see how these two situations are a bit different?
But isn't offering some payment, even if not ideal, better than nothing at all?
Sometimes. Again, if it's an up-and-coming content creator just trying to get their stuff off the ground, offering a token payment on what would normally be an unpaid project is usually fine and good. But when it's a project for commercial use, sometimes offering heinously low pay can be seen as more insulting than offering no pay at all.
Think of it this way. In the US, a tip of 15-20% is considered standard at restaurants as long as the service was decent. If someone leaves a few pennies or a nickel on the table, that's generally considered more insulting than not leaving a tip at all, because it communicates "I know I'm supposed to compensate you for your service, I didn't forget, I'm just making a point."
How do I know if "exposure" is actually worth it?
Do a little research. Look at their social media following, general engagement, track record of past projects, etc. This may sound shallow, but if they are attempting to pay little to no money but offering "exposure" as a reward, you need to decide whether that exposure is actually worth your time to work on it. Occasionally, even professional talent may decide to lend their voices to something just for fun because they think it looks like a neat project, but what that means is that they have decided the benefit of being part of the project outweighs the time/work involved. You need to make that decision for yourself, too.
Well, I don't mind working for a really low rate, as I need money and have bills to pay. After all, it doesn't affect anyone but me, right?
It's true that virtually everyone needs to work and make some sort of income in order to sustain themselves, so in the end, it's still up to you whether or not you wish to take on projects that are exploitative in terms and rate. But one thing to keep in mind is that the more creative professionals (voice talent included) are willing to accept well below acceptable pay for gigs, it devalues what everyone's work is worth, because clients think "Well, all THESE talent are willing to work for this rate, so why aren't you?" As unfortunate as it is, many clients see things purely in terms of doing business and will try to get away with paying freelancers as low as they possibly can. Because they know that somewhere, someone is willing to take the job. I am convinced that there are clients who would offer a grand total of $5 for a fully edited audiobook if they knew somebody would take it.
But on the other hand... if everyone stands up for themselves and does not submit for work that pays insulting rates, clients will be forced to reconsider and offer something more fair.
At the end of the day the choice is still in your hands, and if you desperately need the income to make ends meet, that's understandable too.
Things you may wish to consider when making a decision...
- Where will this project be distributed? For example, will it be on a large channel with millions of subscribers? Or a low-key pitch for something they hope to do in the future?
- Will the "exposure" I'll likely get from this project actually be worth it (in terms of potential new clients, increased followers/fans, etc)
- Is the client making or planning to make any significant amount of money for their project? For example, if it's a game project, are they going to be charging per Steam/app store download or for microtransactions? If so, you should be getting paid!
- Are they paying the rest of their team? (writers, artists, etc.) Remember, actors are a part of the creative team too!
- How much total time would be involved in working on this?
- What would the deadlines be like? (If the client wants you to be available at their beck and call 24/7... they need to pay accordingly.)
- How much editing do they expect? Do they want multiple takes? Each line in a separate file? Any processing? Lots of revisions expected? All that stuff takes extra time.
- Who is behind the project? Is it mainly one person just trying to make their artistic vision come to life, or is it actually a company/team (even a small one?)
- Do they expect a long term commitment from their actors? If they want their actors to be available for ongoing future work, they need to understand that if they pay dirt rates, they'll likely have to keep replacing their actors once they move on to bigger and higher-paid projects.
Okay, I'm not happy with the rate but I really want to do the project. Should I still audition?
You can still audition, but be sure to communicate clearly up front what your expectations are regarding the pay. You could say something like, "I think your project looks interesting so I am submitting my audition for it! Keep in mind, however, that I would be asking something closer to my standard rate of $x per (hour/line/word). Please let me know if you'd be willing to negotiate!" Many times they may disregard your audition, but you never know---if they realize they get what they pay for, they might be willing to counteroffer for a quality talent!
The bottom line: be informed.
What you want to do is ultimately up to you. But learning to think critically and weigh the amount of work versus the reward you'll get is important, even when you're up and coming. And that means you're less likely to end up getting stuck in a situation where you're far in over your head with a big workload and find out it's not really worth it in the end.
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