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Business of VO: Budgets

Think your client’s budget is a bust? That budget is money in the bank! Being able to work within a client’s budget & make them happy is SOOO BOSS! We discuss the fun & finer points of budget-work and offer up their own strategies and secrets for showing any budget who’s the boss.


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. The Bosses LOVE a good deal. Who doesn’t?

  2. Talk to a client about the budget – even those with lower-end rates – you may be able to negotiate terms that make everyone happy.

  3. Sometimes a client has a budget and there really isn’t any wiggle room.

  4. When a budget can’t be affected, is there some other gain to taking the job?

  5. A client that promises more work needs to back-it-up with a commitment or information that makes that additional work tangible – otherwise they probably don’t have the work.

  6. E-learning regularly means repeat business. The client won’t want to change voices midway through a large scale training project.

  7. Have a plan for low-dollar work – relying on it to gain experience or boost your career is typically unwise and does not come with the results you may have hoped for.

  8. Stand firm on broadcast jobs from large companies that offer low rates.

  9. Be flexible with large companies that offer low rates in the non-broadcast sectors.

  10. Knowing and understanding the scope of a job can help you to see the potential future for work.

  11. A picky client with a low rate will become tiresome.

  12. An accommodating client who expects the minimum of you for a lower rate may be a good long-term client.

  13. Editing and or finished files are a good negotiation tool for those with a low budget.

  14. Retail understands how to manipulate a consumer into believing they got a deal.

  15. Discounts are never really discounts – and we don’t advertise them publicly.

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Full Episode Transcrip

>> Today’s voiceover talent is more than just a pretty voice.

>> Pretty voice.

>> Pretty voice.

>> Pretty voice.

>> Today’s voiceover talent has to be a BOSS.

>> BOSS.

>> A BOSS.

>> A BOSS.

>> Join us each week for business owner strategies and success with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabrielle Nistico, along with some of the strongest voices in our industry.

>> Rock your business.

>> Rock your business.

>> Rock your business.

>> Like a BOSS.

>> Like a BOSS.

>> Rock your business like a BOSS.

>> Rock your business like a BOSS.




Anne: Hey everybody. Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my budget-loving/conscious bosstie cohost.

Gabby: I’m incredibly budget savvy. I’m a maxxinista, no doubt.

Anne: Gabby Nistico.

Gabby: Hi. I love a good sale.

Anne: I love a good sale.

Gabby: I love coupons, I love clearance.

Anne: I think we all love a deal, don’t we?

Gabby: My husband knows that if we walk in to a store, and there’s a clearance, he’s just like, [beep] we’re gonna be here a minute. Love a good deal.

Anne: [laughs] We all love a good deal. Love a good deal. You know, speaking of deals, the other day I had a client that was trying to make a deal with me. You know the negotiation process that we’ve talked about so lovingly, it occurs to me that we should talk about the whole concept of client budget.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: Because I think sometimes we just dismiss if perhaps our clients aren’t on the same page as we are in terms of our rates and negotiations. There is a budget typically involved in a project, and sometimes that budget is not where our rates are, and we have to weigh a lot of different things to consider maybe perhaps, even if the budget is lower than we anticipate, is it a job that we might consider doing for a lower budget?

Gabby: I never rule anything out, unless the client is upfront with like a cataclysmically low rate. I don’t rule anything out. I go, let’s talk. Let’s see if we can bridge the gap, let’s see if we can make everybody happy. We have to be firm in our worth, but that doesn’t mean that we’re in flexible with meeting the needs of our clients.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: Does that make sense?

Anne: I agree with that. I also agree with, one of our guests recently said that sometimes it really is true that a client has a budget and there really is no wiggle room for that budget.

Gabby: Hi, Philip.

Anne: [laughs] Philip Banks said that.

Gabby: Are you listening to us, Philip? We love you.

Anne: Yes. We do. Really it is something that I on occasion have had to really think about myself, what is the worth of that job that may or may not include the monetary value.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: Is there a chance for more work? And well, there’s a whole other podcast right there. [laughs]

Gabby: I think we should talk a little bit about that right there because that seems to be the golden ticket that’s dangled right in front of our faces. It’s the client that always wants a better rate and then but backs that up with “I have so much more work for you.”

Anne: Yeah, usually that’s a clue when they say that.

Gabby: Yeah, honestly usually that means they’re full of it.

Anne: I think when they don’t mention it, Gabby, is when they might actually have more work for us.

Gabby: In a weird way, yeah. And I’ve seen this happen an awful lot. To me, here’s the thing, if they’re vague, vague doesn’t work. Right? If it’s maybe an advertising agency or a production company or some other middleman, and they’re telling you “oh, but I have loads of work for you,” no, they don’t. They can’t guarantee you that. They like the idea of booking you a lot, and they like the idea of maybe having you be a very active person on their roster, but they don’t actually have a client commitment for you. Now on the other hand, if you’ve got a specific client saying, “hey, we want to make you our voice, we run X number of commercials each year, we do this many sessions, this many pickups, and here’s the buy schedule, or here’s the broadcast content,” they have metrics, they have material to back up what they’re saying. Then –

Anne: Absolutely.

Gabby: – play ball.

Anne: In corporate, e-learning, there’s always the possibility of a job that has modules that need updating.

Gabby: Oh God, yeah.

Anne: And that’s not something they even need to dangle the carrot so much. It’s just, it’s kind of an educated guess, as you see the budget coming in from the company, if they do a lot of work, and you feel like there’s going to be modules that need to be updated, you know, or every year they’re doing new modules for the same topic, that sort of thing, that I think is something to definitely take in to account if you do have a client that comes back to you with a budget that’s lower than you anticipate.

Gabby: I don’t do nearly as much e-learning type of work and narration work as you do. However the handful of those types of clients that I’m serving right now are all repeat business, every single one of them. They come back, and typically it’s because yeah, the initial project is big.

Anne: Yeah, and they want to have the same voice, they don’t want to be breaking up – especially with the e-learning, because they don’t want to break up a course – or they might want to break up a course with different voices, but that would be a planned thing. That would be like you have multiple characters in an e-learning course. If you are a sole voice that starts the course, I think midway through the course they don’t really want to change voices if they can help it. And so therefore it behooves you to understand a little bit more about your client and the work they have and the potential for work, added work down the road. And also, Gabby, I think there’s also the added possibility of some sort of a benefit that may not be monetary that will really help you in other areas of your business. It may help you to grow other areas of your business if you get skills in voicing in a particular genre. And so therefore they can help you get more jobs down the road.

Gabby: Yeah, I think that one has to be very, very strategically planned and mapped though because the general perception of beginners seems to be if “I take this cheap job, no pay job” – I love now how Voice123 has just for fun jobs. Don’t even get me started. “If I take those, you know, I’m gaining experience.” I even have people sometimes on my YouTube channel that will become trollish and say things like “well, why should I take a job for $15 if X, Y, Z?” And I’m like “no, no.” Because there’s, that’s just a smattering of potentially free or lowball work. There’s no end game there, there’s no strategy behind “let me infiltrate this potential area, sector type of client,” whatever.

Anne: Well, alright, Gabby. So here’s a question. What about a brand who, on the outside would appear like they would have money and a high budget, but who really doesn’t? That’s happened to me more than once. Would you consider that job because of the brand association?

Gabby: I stand firm. I just, I refuse, and I’ve had it happen many times, and it’s becoming more and more common in the broadcast world. These giant, publicly-traded companies that are like, “oh, well we can only pay X.” No, no. I just don’t believe that. That’s where I draw that line. Now if it was that same company going “hey, we’re sponsoring an Alzheimer’s walk or you know, some kind of charitable endeavor, and we have this one single project that’s gonna be nonbroadcast maybe running on the Internet, and we don’t have a huge budget,” that I’ll believe. If this is their own branding and advertising, uh-uh.

Anne: It gets tricky. There are some brands you would think would pay a substantial rate, but they have lots of work. You don’t necessarily know that. They’re not making you a promise of that work, so there it becomes something that’s very tricky. What I really want our listeners to understand is that every case is so different, and it’s hard, I mean, to make that decision, the client saying they have a budget. There’s a lot of thing that you may or may not know about what’s the future of that job and how you play with that client. It can make or break a relationship, and that’s always scary to people.

Gabby: One of the distinctions I make there is that, to me, there’s a big difference between the singular end client and again a roster situation, whether it be a studio or again agency, small company. Here’s the thing. I have yet to meet a small company that has a rate card that, you know, I might look at and go “mmm ok, it’s a little low.” It’s not quite where I’d prefer things to be. But “a little low” I will always take a chance on, and I’ll say, “let’s give this a shot, let’s see what happens, and we’ll reassess in so many months.”

Anne: Absolutely. I think that’s a great piece of advice, Gabby.

Gabby: I’m on a couple of rosters that I have repeatedly heard voice actors say, “oh yeah, no, I don’t like them. Their rates are kind of low,” or “I took a look at their rate card,” and I’m like, “guys, they pay me a salary every year by themselves.” One company. That one company pays me more money than I made in radio the last year I was in it.

Anne: That’s a great point, Gabby. I’m on rosters as well where the work is pretty much standard, the work comes in, and it’s not the rate I prefer, however, gosh, I’ve been with a couple of companies over five years each.

Gabby: I think what goes along with that is ease of use. If a job is really a pain in the ass [laughs] and too picky, and too particular, and has too many intricacies to what they need and what they want, you’re gonna get increasingly frustrated with the discounted rate. But if it’s a company that goes out of their way to make the lives of their talent easier, and they push jobs along –

Anne: Such as editing. That’s a big consideration.

Gabby: Oh God, yeah. I mean, I have some of these companies, I’m like, I will work with them all day, every day because the sessions are 10 minutes, 15 minutes, done, nothing to it.

Anne: Mm-hmm.

Gabby: Heck yeah. Like sure. I have no problem with those. And again because there’s high-volume and it’s consistent, it’s fantastic.

Anne: Yeah, let’s just step back, and I want to readdress that to make sure everybody understood. It took me a while, right, because when somebody would quote me, I didn’t even consider, because I had done my own editing for so long before I started getting directed sessions. So in the beginning it wasn’t a thing. Really I did a lot of jobs on my own where I was editing all of my own material. And then I think as I gained more experience, got more clients, and started doing a lot of directed sessions, it now becomes a choice. You know, is this going to be, ok, you may pay per hour or may pay per session, may per job, but does that include editing or not? That’s a big factor to consider if it includes editing.

Gabby: There are many times, many times I’ve entered an email, and for a lower dollar than what I’m used to, and that is my number one question right there. With or without editing?

Anne: Exactly.

Gabby: How may I send you the file? If they tell me as is, don’t touch it, don’t do anything to it, mistakes and all, send it through, I’m like, “right on.”

Anne: And I won’t.

Gabby: Oh, I won’t either.

Anne: And that’s the thing, guys. Don’t.

Gabby: Every breath, lip smack, cuss word, you’re getting all of it. Have fun.

Anne: You’ll get the session people to. You know? I’m not even taking out the responses.

Gabby: Nothing, nothing. If my dog barks –

Anne: As a matter of fact, as soon as you step out of the studio, save right to Dropbox, give them that link, boom, we’re done, thank you. Invoice is sent. So guys, don’t forget about that possibility. [laughs]

Gabby: Today’s edition of “Voiceover Divas” has been brought to you by VO BOSS.

Anne: Bam, invoice sent.

[both laugh]

Gabby: But you know, it’s so true that really – I mean, look, it’s all about maximizing efficiency. There’s another possibility here, and it’s a little controversial because some people don’t like the idea of a discount or of us putting ourselves on sale, right, things like that, but I always say at some point we have to take a little bit of a cue from retail and service, and go, “wait a minute, Anne, you’re a smart shopper. You’re a smart consumer. I like to think I’m as well.”

Anne: We opened by saying how much we loved our deals and we loved our coupons.

Gabby: But here’s the thing… why? When we go into the department store, when you go shopping, when you go wherever, grocery store, right? The buy – the BOGOs, the buy one, get one’s, the buy one, get one 50 off – Do we really believe we’re getting a deal?

Anne: I’ve always said… alright. I do love Bed Bath & Beyond. But remember they would send the 20% coupons?

Gabby: They still have them. They still have them.

Anne: I even now have the app. Right? I pay a yearly fee to get 20% off everything I buy, and I go to Bed Bath & Beyond because I can get 20% off. And it’s so funny because you look at prices and go, “well, they marked them up 20%.” [laughs]

Gabby: And there’s the million dollar right there. That’s it. So you go, “hold on a second.” Retail knows exactly how to play this game. They’re taking an item that’s not worth the MSRP, the full sticker price anyway, marking it up to then mark it down.

Anne: And therefore you get the customer the value.

Gabby: Exactly. They never had any intention of selling it at its full stated price. Kohl’s is a great example of this. People think they get massive, monstrous deals when they go there. You get some. That’s the thing. You go, “well, wait a minute, can’t we kind of do the same thing?”

Anne: Yeah, hello. It’s a perceived value. Right? So I could say to a client, “I typically charge X, and so yeah, you know what? For 22 pages, yeah, I’m fine, let’s, let me give you a bit of a discount and yeah. Let’s do it for this amount.” They love it. All right, we’re done, Gabby, that was the show.

Gabby: But here’s what’s crazy. This is where it gets difficult, and I feel for people on this because so many people have that mindset of like “you don’t do that, you don’t put the voiceover on sale, we don’t discount. We don’t do this.”

Anne: I always say I don’t go on sale.

Gabby: Right. It looks cheap, it looks tacky, but there’s – that’s just it. We’re not talking about a public thing.

Anne: Not publicly saying “I’m cheap, come get my 20% off all voiceovers today.” No, it’s not like that. It’s a negotiation with the client.

Gabby: This is no different from the car salesman who pulls you aside and goes “you know.”

Anne: “Let me go talk to my manager,” and he comes back.

Gabby: “I like you. And because I like you, I’m gonna try to get you that new set of tires, for free. Hang on.”

Anne: “Let me go talk to my manager.”

Gabby: It’s the same thing! Guess, guys. There’s no manager. There’s a room in the back where the coffee pot is, and there’s like six salespeople who go back there and talk to one another, and they go, “hey, ‘manager.’” “Yes?” “Can I –” “Yes.” “OK, great.” And then they like finish a cup of coffee and then come back and talk to you.

Anne: Oh my gosh. Gabby, I’m seriously looking at a script right now that is talking about, “are you tired of thinking something’s free –

[both laugh]

Anne: – when it’s really not?” I mean, that’s not actually the script, but that’s the whole idea. It’s literally the first line I’m looking at right now.

Gabby: Oh my God, that is so funny. We’re part of this. We’re part of that whole mechanism of consumerism, and yet we don’t even think about how to apply those practices.

Anne: It’s all about the sale. We talked about – and we don’t even think about sales, guys, typically in voiceover. We’re not thinking about voices or our business where we’re selling things, but yeah, we’re selling. Perceived value to the customer is everything.

Gabby: [laughs] Just this morning I had an e-learning/narration client, whatever, that had come back to me, repeat work and said, “Gabby, what would you charge for this?” And I looked at the script, and I went back, and I went back into my invoicing of course because I needed to see what I charged them last time.

Anne: Always, step number one.

Gabby: And I looked. And what I was staring at was I was like, huh. Ok. I had a roughly 10-page job that I had done for about $2500. And I looked at that, and I looked at the 1.3 pages she sent me this morning, and basically wrote an email where I said, “you know, I’ll tell you what. I’ll go ahead and waive the studio fee and do this for $350.”

Anne: Nice.

Gabby: I would have charged $350 anyway! [laughs]

Anne: Yep. Perceived value, exactly.

Gabby: All I did to get to $350, Anne, literally all I did was look at the $2500 invoice, and go “well, comparably what’s gonna be acceptable here?”

Anne: Well, I’m gonna tell you that I have a rate sheet, right? It’s like a la carte menu items.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: Think about, your hours worth of finished audio is such, is a particular value. And then you go down from there. Right? Let’s say 45 minutes is worth this, 30 minutes is worth this. By the time you get to five minutes, the a la carte price is always higher.

Gabby: I have never once though, ok, in now three seasons, I have never heard you say that you have a rate card.

Anne: Oh, I do. I have a rate sheet that I guide – that guides me on my –

Gabby: But nobody ever sees it but you.

Anne: No, I’m the only one that sees it. And I go and I adjust it, right, I adjust it per client. That’s where the whole like – “you know, I typically would charge you this, you know, this a la carte price, but because I’ve already done work for you, I enjoy working for you, and I love our relationship” –

Gabby: “I can do you this solid.”

Anne: Exactly. “I can do this for you,” you know, boom. And then every once in a while, you know, the perceived value too is like, if there’s a one line pickup that has not been accounted for, maybe they come back to me a month down the road, and they’ve been a good client, no problem, it’s on me, it’s on the house.

Gabby: Exactly. We have talked about that before, yes, for sure. That’s just good relations.

Anne: Generates good will.

Gabby: Three seasons in and I just learned something new about you.

Anne: Wow! Oh yeah.

Gabby: Anne Ganguzza has a rate sheet.

Anne: The secret rate sheet.

Gabby: Secret rate sheet.

Anne: The secret rate sheet. And it’s funny, because you’d think I’d have it memorized, but it changes, by the way, every year. The rates change. They adjust for the cost of inflation.

Gabby: You’re a busy lady. There’s too much [beep] in your head to worry about memorizing a bunch of numbers, I’m sorry.

Anne: There is! Because I get a lot of work from my website, people will approach me and say, “how much would you charge me for this?” And so budget inevitably comes into the discussion. Right? The first or the second email, I’ll ask “do you have a budget,” there you go. If they say no, then I quote my price. And then they’ll come back and say – I’ve had a couple people this week come back and say, “oh yeah, I have a max budget of…” I’m like you could have said that in the beginning, but guess what? They’re playing the game right along with me. Guys, they play the game, so you got to –

Gabby: That’s the key, guys. When Anne and I talk about rates, and holding fast, and honoring good rates, yes, but we’re still business owners. We’re not dumb. We’re never going to immediately turn away or shut the door on a potential opportunity or a long-term relationship. We’re always going to leave that open. And yes, sometimes the budget is the budget, and you make the right decision for your business in that moment that day.

Anne: I do want to make one other comment about how budgets can work in your favor. I actually do some contract work with a very large company, and their contract pays me a per hour rate that most people would shudder and say, “oh, no.” However, they allocate thousands of dollars per contract year to me. And so what happens is my jobs just take longer, get it? Right? Well, it just takes me longer to complete those things.

Gabby: Sometimes I have producers who are just super fast, super efficient, and they get me their numbers, and I’m like “mm no, pad that a little.” Add some time, that was too fast.

Anne: That’s exactly what it is.

Gabby: Big shout-out to our sponsors.

Anne: Yes, our budget-loving sponsors. [laughs] Who doesn’t love a good deal?

Gabby: I’ve got to give high-five to right now for this because they have their new D-Cypher rate card that they have been working on. And it’s not even a rate card, guys. It’s literally a program that allows a client to plug in their information, put in the parameters of their job, and it generates a budget.

Anne: Have you tried it, Gabby?

Gabby: I have.

Anne: Oh, I’ve tried it, and I’ve compared, and I love it, you know why?

Gabby: I know!

Anne: Because there’s room. There’s room for negotiation which is amazing, guys.

Gabby: Very well put together, very smart.

Anne: Oh brilliant. Brilliant.

Gabby:, go check it out if you haven’t yet. Take a look at the D-Cypher rate generator.

Anne: And become a member. And of course the best deal I know for quality connection.

Gabby: Especially when it comes to ISDN, don’t even get me started, holy hell.

Anne: As a matter of fact, I’m gonna connect with my client right after this via ISDN with ipDTL.

Gabby: ipDTL saves us a boatload every year. One of the things it’s saved me in the last years is time.

Anne: Oh God, yeah.

Gabby: I don’t have to drive to the studio. I don’t have to go places. I don’t have to spend money on gas. I don’t have to sit in traffic. That’s an amazing thing.

Anne: That’s actually my next session is, I don’t have to drive to the studio in the middle of the day where all the traffic is.

Gabby: So nice.

Anne: So instead of taking four hours to do it, I literally can do my job in like 20 minutes because I’m connecting via ISDN to my studio. So guys, if you want to find out more, go to

Gabby: Have a great week, everybody. Talk to you soon.

Anne: All right, see you next week. Bye!

Gabby: Bye!

Announcer: Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your hosts Anne Ganguzza and Gabby Nistico. All rights reserved, Anne Ganguzza Voice Talent in association with Three Moon Media. Redistribution with permission. Coast-to-coast connectivity via ipDTL.