Q It Up: How do you decide what to charge someone for your freelance voice and/or production work?

q-it-up-logo2Q It Up: If you work at a radio station, how do you decide what to charge someone for your freelance voice and/or production work? If you are an independent, what criteria do you use to set your rates? Do you try to stay close to the SAG/AFTRA rates for voiceover? Do you hold firm to you rates, or is every job negotiable? Do you pay close attention to what others are charging? Please add any other thoughts you have on the subject. We’ve had several requests for this question from producers and talents looking for some place to start when it comes to setting rates. If you wish to remain anonymous, just say so and we’ll keep your name and email address confidential.

Richard Stroobant [richard.stroobant[at]sait.ca], Southern Alberta Institute of Technology: When I started in radio in 1984, the price for doing out of market charges was $150 -- $50 for the writer, $50 for the producer and $50 for the voice. When I left radio in 2006, the price was… $150. Same breakdown. It never changed. Also, in this market, if a station does a spot and another station in the market (not a sister station, another company) has a request from the client to run the same ad from the 1st station, they send it over FREE. There is a lot of sharing that goes on between stations here; not sure what it is like in the U.S. or even other cities in Canada for that matter. I guess the thought process waaay back when there was reel-to-reels was, it won’t happen very much, why not save some time, it will all even out in the end, and everyone can help out each other; it’s easier to dub than do it from scratch. But it also has downsides, like you are helping the competition. Now with mp3 and email delivery, it happens very often here and no one gets any money (writers, producer, and voice people) for their work running on the competition. I’d be interested what other stations do in other markets when it comes to sharing commercials. Do they do it? Is there a charge? How much? Do stations charge for dubs sent to a station owned by the same company in another market? Again, how much?

Todd Franklin [TFranklin[at]miller.fm], Miller Communications, Inc., Orangeburg, South Carolina: Basically, what I try to do is provide a service that’s reasonably affordable to the client while at the same time sticking pretty close to AFTRA/SAG prerequisites.

Steve Thompson [sthompson[at]koolfm.com], OLDIES 1090/105.3 KOOL-FM, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: We have a standard rate card that we follow, for voice, script and production. We trade freely with other stations in our market, and anything outside of market (regional/national) is at the rate card.

It is only negotiable for long term clients that have proven to be a consistent client.

Regarding setting rates: when asked by others, I always suggest that they price the job as if it was their full time gig. I also recommend including how many revisions will be allowed (if any), and the charge for any revisions beyond the agreed to limit.

[anonymous]: I am represented by several talent agents. About half of my work through them is SAG/AFTRA and half is non-union. The non-union work is close to union rates without the residuals.

The work that I get outside of my agents is 98.3% non-union. I try to stay close to union rates for the stuff that comes through advertising agencies, although that’s not always possible.

Often I’m bundling talent in with writing and production. I’m given a budget to work with, take it or leave it.

Unfortunately, non-union talent fees have plummeted in the last few years and clients don’t understand the difference in results that a more qualified voice can give to a production. They only know they can get “a voice” cheap that will do the job.

So, is every job negotiable? Yes. Clients who give me lots of regular work or whose work I really like will get preferential rates if they need them. I don’t pay real close attention to what others charge.

I’ll do voice work for free for causes I believe in. I turn down lots of work.

For someone starting out, I’d advise taking everything you can until you get experience and a track record, then gradually raise your negotiated bottom line.

Steve Cook [audioads[at]bellsouth.net], Audio Adrenaline, Inc.: I do try to stay as close to the standard SAG/AFTRA regional session rates for all the voiceover work done in my studio, both mine and anyone else I employ ($200-250). Unfortunately, that’s not always doable, but it’s at least what I try to quote first... unless I’m sure it’s way out of the prospect’s budget.

As far as projects, like most folks probably, I work backwards based on how many hours I think the project will take to complete AND PROOF AND REVISE (that last part wasn’t a slip of the cap key). One of the biggest mistakes I used to make was not including proof and revision time into my estimates.

Obviously, with a new client or a new type of project, you might not be comfortable giving an exact project Estimate, in which case I always just quote my standard hourly rates for voice tracking ($70.00/hr-two hour minimum) and for production time ($60.00/hr). Just do a little checking in your local area and then price accordingly for your model.

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