Joining the Right Voiceover Marketplace
In the last 10 years we have seen a slow shift in the industry from the traditional brick and mortar studios in key cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles to professional studios built in the homes of voice talents, even in small cities and towns. And with the “world wide web” seeing greater strength and reach in the last 5 years, it has changed even further the game for voiceovers.
With the introduction of online marketplace, voiceover services is now within reach for businesses, big or small, not just from coast to coast but across the world. Professional voiceover actors now have the access to global clientele, thus increasing their presence in the market and industry.
There are several voiceover services websites competing for not just the voice seekers attention, but most especially for voiceover talent membership. Voiceover marketplace sites, or some call it as Pay-to-Play (P2P), varies on some points. It is best to learn more about these points, like membership, rates, and other key information that are vital in deciding on which site/sites to join.
Some sites have different membership offers. You may either join for free wherein you can post your demo, but would only get an opportunity to audition when invited. You will have full access to the site features, meaning an opportunity to receive job posting notices, private auditions and/or higher ranking, with a yearly subscription ranging from $350 to $395. These sites are open to both amateurs and professional voiceover talents.
For another VO site, talents are not able to create a profile on the spot. Voiceover talents instead are asked to submit their demo and fill out an information form. You can create your profile and upload various demo categories once you receive an invitation to be a member. All rates will be discussed once you have been selected. Talents can receive casting notices depending on the client’s requirements, and private auditions. For this site only professional talents can join.
Some sites offer a standard rate that are both reasonable for the client and competitive for the talent. These eliminates the guess work in determining the rates that are typically decided by talent agents, producers, and casting directors.
Others provide rate sheets that can be used as a guide in quoting the client for the project cost. These are general rates that does not include any production or editing costs, character voice fees, translation fees, and other loading requirements. The final cost will depend on how the talent will want to charge his/her fees. Some sites who allow their talents to determine their own fees will include up to 70% mark-up on the final cost.
Top reputable sites have escrow system set up to ensure that once the talent is hired for a project, payment is received, verified and held till completion of the project. Not all voiceover sites offer this payment security, so this should be a primary concern, as these sites cannot and will not be held responsible for the occasional unscrupulous payment practices.
The talent pay-out also varies. There are sites wherein payment is released at the end of the week, others you have to wait on the 1st or 15th day of the month after the completion of the project. The published average turn-around-time from the day the talent was hired to the date of payment for one site is 17 days. Another site releases the payment within 72 hours after the job is closed – this site boasts an average turn-around-time from hiring date to payment of 28 hours.
What You Are Getting
For sites that offer from free to premium membership, what you are getting are tiered depending on your status. For the free membership, you will be allowed to create your profile that can be searched within the site, upload 1 to 10 demos and audition for jobs through direct invitations. For paid memberships, apart from a profile that is featured higher in the search results, you get to upload unlimited demos, get invitations to audition through applicable job postings and through direct invitations, payment security and service support.
As for the professional VO only website, all talents enjoy the same services – creating a profile that is searchable (no priority ranking), unlimited demo upload, get notices from matching job posts, receive private audition requests, get hired directly, payment security and 24/7 service support. They also offer an onsite messaging system and worry free invoicing.
It is also good to know other key information that affects your success when working with these voiceover websites, like the average booking rate, quality of clients, and talent demographic and saturation. All these information can be found in most websites through their yearly performance reports and/or blogs.
Average Booking Rate
This is the average rate a client pays for each booking. A professional site reports that their average booking rate is at $349, this means that a lot of the projects that are coming through are in the $100 to $685 range. A play for all site reports that their project range is at $100 to $500, or an average booking rate of $250.
Quality of Clients
Voiceover marketplace sites opened the doors for small and medium business to employ the services of voiceovers that were only previously enjoyed by big named corporations. Most of these sites have a good mix of SMB clients and high caliber ones like United Airlines, Citibank, L’Oreal and Hyundai. The bottom line is to join a site that would be able to secure a steady flow of quality clients and not let you deal with unscrupulous companies.
These sites have their own algarithm that matches their talent profiles with the client job postings. This determines the invitation to audition that is sent through the individual talents. Though it may sound great to be part of a huge company that boasts a membership of 20,000 or so talents, this may also mean that you are competing against thousands of talents with the same profile as yours. Add to that, you are also pitted against the amateurs who are able to quote a much lower rate, way below the standards of non-union rates. It is always good to know who you are competing with, so don’t hesitate to ask these sites how many VOs that fit your profile you are competing against.
Other statistics like work distribution per gender can be also be a helpful deciding factor. A professional VO site that has roughly 60% Male and 40% Female population has an even work distribution, with 57% of the paid bookings go to Male voiceovers and 43% for the Female talents.
What to Look Out For
More often called low-balling. As some sites give the voice seekers the hand in stating their budget, some talents will take advantage and bid below the rate; or if it is a flexible budget, will bid the lowest possible rate. Stay away from voiceover sites that allows this kind of practice. There are also freelancer platforms that voiceovers can join in where rates can go as low as $30 per project. It would not be good to market yourself on several platforms with a wide range of rates. If you are visible on several sites including freelance websites, the client will definitely hire you for the cheaper alternative. Low-balling is not good for the industry as it puts less value to your work and profession. If it is encouraged by a voiceover site or any freelancer site, the more we would see lower budget projects in the system.
Amateur versus the Pros
In a play for all sites, it is not true that only the professionals are paying the premium rates. There are also serious amateurs who are willing to pay close to $400 to get started. In some cases this is still a cheaper alternative than going on a voiceover training, hiring an agent, distributing your demo and marketing. You have to start somewhere right? But is it good for professionals to play against amateurs? A lot of professionals though do not agree with sites who regardless of the VO’s talent, skill or studio and audio quality of the demos and auditions will accept them as long as they are willing to pay the subscription, and then have them compete against the professionals.
You would want a site that gives the atmosphere of respect and appreciation that established pros deserve. Aside from competing for work with amateurs, you also do not wish to be treated like a beginner bombarded with offers to purchase books and training aimed for voiceover enthusiasts. It may say a lot about the pool of talents on the site and may eventually discourage quality clients from posting their projects on that site.
Membership versus Promotion
If the marketing is focused on talent sign-up and not promoting the talent and what the site can offer the clients, you may also want to steer clear. More members would mean more competition. These sites rely on the premium membership fees for their underlying cost like marketing, support and maintenance, so they would need premium paying talents to keep the site working. Come to think of it, with your premium fee, it helps pay-off the cost to keep guest talents who are in the site for free.
Each voiceover platform has its own merits and downside. You can choose to market yourself alongside amateurs, which can only guaranty a minimum level of quality recordings to clients, or go for a site that pre-screens talents and guaranty a high level of quality submissions to clients all the time. You may wish to go for client set budgets or go for standard rates. Ultimately the choice depends on where you are most comfortable with, where you can get the most opportunities, and most of all where you can be competitive but still get the value for your experience.