Category Archives: freelancing

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.

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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..

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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: https://www.facebook.com/groups/579257278807934/


Comparing The Major Freelancer Sites

Amongst a number of other guises, including the whole marketing thing, I am a voice artist. And it is as a voice artist that I dip into these freelance sites, but there are all manner of jobs on them all broken down into categories and sub categories from design and digital art, to animation and proofing jobs.

So, whether you are a web designer or a singer, bear in mind what I do and why I use these sites as my experience may differ from yours… I am seriously going to paraphrase here – don’t expect breakdowns into the sites’ intricacies, you’ll simply have to trust my judgement then go for a nose around yourself. Right, blogs with long rambling intro’s never get read, we all know we read the title then look for the first bullet point, so without further ado…

1. Elance 8/10

Elance has been well constructed and makes you feel most comfortable whilst using it. Incredibly, particularly when you consider how many designers work through these sites, a lot of freelance sites tend to feel dated, but Elance doesn’t. The UI is pretty slick and the features are way better than most. The pop out dialogue box works well and finding work in your specific genre is easy. Little touches like having a store of your demo files to simply attach to a proposal at the click of a button is nice and having a massive limit to how many files you can use is perfect as well as a massive individual file size limit. It all works nice and smoothly, has the freelancer in mind and this is the one I go to first. Top billing.

2. Skillpages 8/10

This is gathering momentum and looks like the way forward for freelancers. It’s essentially a social network for work but without the horrible boundaries that makes LinkedIn so bloody frustrating. No fees for a start, Skillpages let’s you advertise a position or role for free and similarly respond to other’s jobs. They don’t want to muscle in and hijack your chosen and preferred methods of communication and let’s you handle your own business. It is without it’s own system to protect both parties in terms of the transaction, but let’s be honest, that’s all a façade created by these websites to warrant the fee and to keep it all in-house. I’m pretty sure we are quite capable of protecting ourselves in a business transaction without the need for a big bro watching over us anyhow. Definitely check it out. One of the reason’s it’s not toppling all these other sites is that it’s a little on the quiet side and you don’t have the immediacy of job turn-arounds as you do with these other services, but a quick look round this week suggests it’s definitely getting busier and I have now had work through it and have turned to it to advertise two roles – one of which has been filled and the other is looking good for applicants so far. Let’s just hope there is something in place to stop those darned spammers who jump on this kind of free loveliness. Go and sign up and give it a go.

3. oDesk 5/10

This is favoured by India and the East. As a guy based in the UK my bids can’t compete with the simply enormous amount of bidders on there. This doesn’t mean I haven’t had work from oDesk but I tend to give it a wide birth. The favoured hourly rate just doesn’t suit the voice work either – for my line of work you have to bid for a complete product. It’s filled to the rafters with freelancers prepared to work at an exceptionally low rate and people expecting work to be done at that kind of rate. I find the bidding perplexing – you’ll have a guy asking for people to work at an outrageous $5 per hour for something and then you’ll have people bidding a fee for the completed job and some bid way over what he has asked for – it’s a bit of a mess and if I can, I forget about the site and venture in when times are hard. It is a pretty good functional website and it may suit certain genres and industries, but not mine, but if you have a “voice talent” sub category, you should cater to it.

4. Freelancer 5/10

It’s no Elance but it’s not too far off in terms of the site’s functionality but there are lots of little niggles. There is a strange “bid and then PM (personal message) your files” approach which makes no sense at all and just leads to people bidding with “Please see my PM for details.” If you have the job list for your industry you can’t work off that list simply, you can’t open the jobs in tabs for example. You can only get one file at a time over to the customer too. But perhaps most importantly you should be  aware that Freelancer take their fee regardless of whether you get paid or not. When challenged they will tell you that they are merely acting as the “introduction” service and that the dealings between you and the employer are nothing to do with them. That could be translated as “we don’t give too much of a shit, just as long as we take our lump of the transactions going on round here.” If you win a job for $1000 your account will immediately go to -$100 as Freelancer immediately take their 10% fee; if the employer gets cold feet, deletes his account and runs you are left with a $100 debt to Freelancer and ironically NO contact details for the guy who ran because Freelancer frowns upon sharing contact info! Why not a compulsory 100% escrow or why they can’t take their fee from the transaction, I don’t know. When it comes to withdrawing your money, if you want to use Paypal they inexplicably charge you $1 for withdrawals in dollars and £1 ($1.60!) for withdrawing in GBP. Why the difference?! It’s suspiciously random (ie what is the fee for exactly? If it’s an expense for them, then Freelancer should have one cost that is equal across all currencies). That’s anasty little sting in the tail after your work is done and if you have a lot of transactions going on, particularly when you have fees for each job, potentially a subscription to the service and Paypal’s own over-inflated fees on top, it all adds up. The profiteering runs right throughout the service and it’s score has suffered because of it.

5. People Per Hour 4/10

Hmm. They’re working on it. It still has some way to go to catch up but they have recently reached out for feedback in a big way (see the red feedback tab on the right side of every page). It doesn’t feel as old skool as it did a few months ago but someone seriously needs to get hold of that logo; it feels like an 80’s supermarket! Aside from the aesthetics it has some major issues that you can’t get passed. For me as a voice artist for example there is no “audio” category so jobs are strewn across categories such as “design” or even “secretarial” but you can only bid in a small set of categories so I can’t even get to the jobs without fiddling with my categories! When you bid for work you have an upload limit of an utterly ridiculous 2mb (it was 1mb up until a couple of weeks ago!) so when it comes to showcasing media files – you’re stuffed, and if you link to a hosted file, the link isn’t even live leaving clients baffled. Lots of these minor/major gripes make up a big one; but they are working on it apparently.

6. Guru ?/10

I don’t know how this has evaded me for so long but I have just discovered it and early indications are very positive. They don’t look uptight about you making contact off the website which is refreshing. The threats from all of the above about daring to make contact on Skype, for example, isn’t solving a problem and is very off-putting. I need to get to grips with Guru but so far it looks up there with Elance and could eventually turn out to be a regular spot for me; particularly as the site is the first to differentiate between male and female voice jobs (note to all freelancer sites please also do this, and differentiate between accents required and character or commercial work – it’s far deeper than just “voice talent” and would help us enormously).

Honorable Mentions

Office Cavalry New to the scene. While the interface looks nice, the horrific stereotyped characters on the home page is enough to put anyone off and it’s dead quiet!

Freelance Just seen it whilst Googling – think it has just launched. Looks like a fresh look and really quite promising but no apparent audio category (on a personal front). Is this PPH reincarnated?!

Google+ Will it trump the lot? It certainly has the potential to. Keep a close eye on it; particularly as its business elements get launched.