What Got Me Thinking….

I recently did quite a lot of holiday spots for a really good client. What makes the client a “good” client? Besides that they are lovely to work with, they send me consistent work more than every month, almost every week. This month, instead of my typical monthly invoice, this client sent so much work that I had to send multiple multi-page invoices! That’s what kind of month it was with them. But, in one phone conversation with this delightful and pleasant client, a usage issue came up. These were telephony spots. Instead of paying me for each spot for each location, I learned in conversation that after the holidays one message was going to be used across many locations, but it seemed clear that the client had no understanding that they had crossed a major line with usage. While I might be able to record the phone greeting in one recording session, the usage was no longer the same and the rate would need to be adjusted. For me, this new information about the usage of my voice was a pretty big deal. It also exemplifies why it is so important to actually speak to clients whenever possible and not do everything via email. Put simply, when you hire a voiceover talent for a job, the rate you pay includes both the recording session and is also for usage of that actor’s voice for the agreed upon amount of time.

Explaining Usage

When a professional voiceover actor talks about the usage of his or her voice, they are typically talking about three aspects of the deal: what the scope of work is, how long the work will run, and the market the work will run in. So, commercial work bills out at a very different rate than telephony. Within commercial, tv and radio have different rate scales. Understanding the type of voiceover the audio is being used for is the first step in the usage discussion.

Next, sometimes the length of run time effects the usage of the voice. Another way to say the same thing is: how long am I using this audio for? Is this radio ad running for 6 weeks, 13 weeks, or 6 months? Is this a tag for a tv spot? Is it an explainer video going on a website? Across all genres of voiceover, the person hiring the talent needs to determine the length of time for usage. If usage needs to be extended that can typically be arranged.

Another major component in usage is the market where the voiceover is being used. A voiceover in a major metropolitan area like Los Angeles or New York has a much greater intrinsic value than one running in a small town in West Virginia. Even with telephony, an on-hold message running in one office for one month in Texas has a much smaller value than a message running across several states on the West Coast.

The Session Fee

The recording session is part of what makes up the rate when paying a voiceover talent. You are not just paying for the actual time in the studio, but you are paying for their expertise as a recording artist. The fee includes the years of training and on-going professional development that they have had. It also includes access to their costly and necessary professional, broadcast ready recording equipment. From microphones to pre-amps, each piece of machinery makes a huge difference in the quality of audio that the voiceover artist delivers, and that is part of the fee that you pay.

Revisions and Pickup Policy

The rate that you pay a voiceover talent should always include revisions and you should know and understand your client’s policy on pickups before you start working with them. Performance errors should always be covered. I give tiered estimates but most clients choose an option that includes at least one round of pickups.

Who the Client is Effects the Rate

Again, this is all a part of usage. Who the client is does effect the rate. A huge international company should pay more than a small mom and pop and pop store. The usage of a big client versus the usage of a small client is different because they have different respective audiences and followings, so it follows that their rates should not be the same, irrespective of the level of excellence of the voiceover actor they are using.


We all wish clients understood how our rates were structured all the time. We also wish everyone had our best interests in mind for every booking. Sometimes as the talents it is our job to educate our clients about the rate structure. This may not be fun and may be totally awkward, but failure to do so will result in ongoing rates problems and inability to maintain industry standards.