The Voiceover Artist Price Squeeze

Last week I wrote up a spoof voiceover job and put it on Elance. To me it was very obviously a spoof, but I was surprised that some people took it literally; even more surprised that some actually bid on the work.

I don’t have the wording any more – someone reported it and it was removed, but it was titled “Voiceover Work Required For An Absolute Pittance”. The description went along the lines of “We require a voiceover artist who is prepared to provide us a voiceover for a couple of dollars. Literally. No more. I mean, it’s only talking out loud into a microphone after all”  and “We expect the best and we’ll obviously need limitless revisions and treat you with a passive aggressive attitude – but you’ll still buckle and bid anyway, won’t you?” and “Start your application with ‘I have read your post, died a little inside but i’m still up for working for you for a pittance” or words to that effect.

The intention was to use a little humour to reach out to the hundreds of voice artists who would have read the job, to make a point. A little industry activism if you like. The parody was very obviously to highlight the collapse in prices and devaluation of the commercial voiceover line of work as thousands take the advice of ‘earn yourself an extra income’ tipsters, and buy themselves a microphone and set up shop on freelancer sites. Couple this with the creeping in of producers stipulating what they’re prepared to pay, often proposing insulting suggestions of $10-$20, and people taking them up on their generous offers.

So I guess you could say I was parodying those producers. Having been popping onto Elance and similar sites for some time when it gets quiet for some years now, i’ve seen a massive shift. Once upon a time they were nice quiet areas where you’d pretty much guarantee yourself a job from a handful of postings. Naturally, these sites would grow in popularity, and the nature of a competitive and bidding market would have driven prices down – but when you have just one job by a cheeky videographer accepted at $10 who has named his price, you’ll get the next producer thinking it’s okay to try his luck; and then the next and so on. Until producers who once happily paid a larger fee, think ‘why should they?’ So who’s fault is it? The voiceover artist. No one but the voiceover artist. The voiceover artist sets his or her price when he or she bids.

So I wanted to gently mock those individuals with my spoof job in the hope that the irony would ring a bell, but unbelievably, I received bids. I deliberately over-cooked the parody so that people wouldn’t bid. But they did. One was incredibly obsequious in trying to get the ‘job’, yet when I let him down gently and informed him it was simply a spoof, he turned pretty vitriolic, reported me, and the post was taken down. Despite only having two jobs on Elance, registering an income total of $25, I had wasted one of his bidding credits and he wasn’t happy. Ironically this was the guy I was trying to reach, it would seem.

I received some brilliant spoof bids written in a similar tongue-in-cheek tone and reassuringly a lot of messages of support and solidarity from voice artists who feel the same. It’s probably those who’ll be reading this…

So I’ll be preaching to the converted in pointing out the value of a good voiceover – it doesn’t need to be done. Even the voiceover artists bidding $15 for a job (unless of course they are atrocious and have an appalling set up) know full well they are under-charging and that what they are providing to people who can’t do it themselves, if done excellently, will add incredible value to their product or project. Let’s not pretend voiceovers take an age to produce; they don’t, but they can often be of exceptional commercial value, and every time someone good bids on a job offering up an ‘absolute pittance’, they are taking the piss out of themselves and everybody else involved in providing commercial voiceovers. An excellent voiceover is a commercial commodity that shouldn’t be underestimated. The poor ones won’t get the job; but the good ones will – and some of those good ones are offering this commodity for next to nothing.

So, whilst I was making my point and insulting everyone on Elance, I bid on a couple of jobs. That’s why I go there. If a job is offering up a pittance, I ignore it, which is why I visit these sites less and less as they continue to eat themselves. But I thought ahead to writing a blog and thought I might demonstrate how to get a job on one’s own terms and not the terms of one of those who want something for nothing.

So here goes…

I applied for a job entitled ‘Voiceover Artist Required $20’.

This gent had put his price on our work ($20). So I bid $100my price for this job. A cheap price at that, in my opinion. I wrote a nicely tailored pitch (none of this copy and paste malarkey that I often fall into the trap of) and waited, confident in my ability to fulfill his brief and confident in the examples i’d sent through to him.

Capture Capture1 Capture3Capture4Capture5Capture6


Capture8(nb. The time stamps are US times. I’m in the UK – I wasn’t trying to leave work at 11am!)

So I did. It didn’t take long. This is no audiobook, ELearning prgramme or TV commercial. It’s a quick job for a simple online project that will be used to generate money for the client. I don’t need to pretend it will take ages (something a lot of voiceover artists feel the need to do to somehow justify a good fee), we both know the deal – I have something he wants, that’s of value and he should pay for it. At $100, frankly he got a bargain. And at that price I wasn’t coming in on Saturday or hanging on whilst they fiddled about as Friday night approached – I held the cards. If they were prepared to pay for it I would have offered more leniency – but they weren’t, so I wasn’t.

And here’s what he thought..


As long as they are not let down by what they receive at the end of it all, don’t bow to demands that are outside of the remit of the work – like bidding for work and then being asked out the blue to record it on a Saturday in unnecessary conjunction with a videographer, for example.  Doing this is as devaluing as bidding $20 for a voiceover.

He gave me five stars for every aspect on the feedback form, apart from the four stars he gave me for the price. But as you might have guessed – I don’t really care 😉

Today I have set up a Facebook group called ‘Gloves Off Voice Artists’. Come and join and tell us what you think:


About rosko123

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