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Business of VO: What Should I Charge?

We get irate when people ask about rates! If you want your coin-purse to overflow with voiceover riches, then you’ve gotta grow a pair and learn how to quote a job! Other voiceover actors and industry rate guides can’t do it for you. In this episode of VOBoss, we want you to stop searching for the ‘magic’ number to charge and instead learn the skills necessary to quote your own damn rate! You can do it – we believe in you!


Quick Concepts from Today’s Episode:

  1. The industry is flooded with posts, forums, emails, and inquiries asking what to charge.

  2. There are so many new voiceover applications that simply don’t have metrics and data, yet.

  3. A rate guide is only a guide. And they can’t account for everything.

  4. You have to know what your time is worth, how long a job will take and a comparable usage to generate a number.

  5. You must engage your client in a conversation that will reveal the job details needed to estimate costs.

  6. How long? When? Where? Those are the minimum details.

  7. Metrics for social and streaming media do not yet exist for the masses, but they are coming.

  8. Until then you have to have your own guideline.

  9. Assume that your quote will be counted and that there will be room for negotiation.

  10. Let your client know that there is room to negotiate.

  11. Ever profession has pre-determined costs and a way to calculate the value of a job.

  12. However most all service providers have an estimated rate for the ‘unknown’ of diagnosing, problem-solving, and the unexpected.

  13. Set your terms and state them clearly.

  14. No business transaction is permanent and life-long – so why are we accepting in-perpetuity voiceover?

Referenced in this Episode

Direct links to things we brought up ++

Recorded on ipDTL


>> 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.

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Anne: Welcome, everybody, to the VO BOSS podcast. I’m your host, Anne Ganguzza, along with my VO BOSS bestie, gosh darn it all, Gabby Nistico. [laughs]

Gabby: Hi, hi!

Anne: Gabby, Gabby, Gabby. The question of the day that I see over and over and over again, and I’m sure you do too, right, in all of the voiceover forums, how much –

Gabby: The question of every day.

Anne: How much, Gabby, how much should I charge?

Gabby: Oi.

Anne: [laughs] I get that question so many times – if I were to charge [laughs] a nickel every time.

Gabby: What I find funny is not only the people that do that, but they of course caveat the post with “I checked the GVAA rate guide, and –

Anne: And they’re frantic. They’re frantic! You know, Gabby, my first initial response is, because everybody’s frantic, right, when all of a sudden they’re like, “oh my gosh. My client just contacted me and they want to know how much I’ll charge. Can you please just” – and then they need me like instantaneously to tell them, right, without me knowing much of the details what in goodness gracious they should be charging. I just have to sit back and go, wow. [laughs] There’s so many answers. So many answers floating around my head, but first and foremost yes, the GVAA rate guide, if it’s not there, which I think – I love the GVAA rate guide, Gabby. I know you do too.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: It’s a wonderful, wonderful resource. But hey, guys. It’s your business, right? Sometimes you just got to go and quote and pull it out from we don’t know where. [laughs] Or maybe I do know where but I can’t say it.[laughs]

Gabby: Guys, we’re in so much new territory, right? There’s so many new applications for voice, things that are not tried and tested yet. Rate guides, any rate guide is only going to address things that are repetitive and that have metrics and data that can be pooled together to come up with averages.

Anne: And it should be noted that it is a guide, guys.

Gabby: Yeah, it’s not set in stone, right?

Anne: Correct.

Gabby: There’s something to be said for you as the individual, the actor, the service provider. You have to have a general sense or understanding of what your time is worth, a metric to use to be able to determine the length of time that would be needed for this particular job, and then something to compare it with for usage category, even if it’s again something that’s somewhat new may be something you haven’t done before. And with that, you’ve got to have at least some rough ideas because, Anne, you’re right. The fact that people panic, and they think that there’s some –

Anne: Oh my God, magic number.

Gabby: Yeah. There’s some set-in-stone thing that they’re missing, I get the same thing. When my talent do that to me, my students or friends, and they go, “what do I charge,” the email they get back is me playing 20 questions.

Anne: Right. Me too. [laughs]

Gabby: There’s a point in time where at the bottom of those 20 questions, I have to like – I don’t mean to be passive aggressive, but –

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: I end up saying something like “this is the conversation you should be engaging in your client to determine this.”

Anne: Yeah. Sometimes guys, really, I mean you just got to bite the bullet. Sometimes there is no answer. There is no right answer. There’s no wrong answer, there’s only an educated guess, and sometimes you just grow a pair and quote. If I can say that, just quote. How many times, Gabby, have I done that, I don’t know. I have no idea. Right? What do I charge, oh my goodness. You can make an educated guess. You can research the market. You can make a baseline off of another rate guide, but sometimes there is no baseline, and you just have to ask those 20 questions, those very important questions which are “how long, where,” essential questions that you need to ask.

Gabby: When.

Anne: Once that is given to you, you then take your best educated guess.

Gabby: Look, I spent 10 years in casting, and I can tell you that only about one out of every three jobs was by the book, standard, easy to look up, you know, grab the SAG-AFTRA guide, find a number and go with it. Everything else essentially we were arbitrarily making up a number.

Anne: And especially now, right, the wild west of streaming digital media? Oh my goodness.

Gabby: I don’t want to make it sound like there’s no science in it. The science comes from your own experience and your own again, sense of your worth, or in my case in casting, it was the worth of the talent that I was representing, but a lot of times we would go, “I don’t know. Let’s throw this number out there and see what the client takes.”

Anne: [laughs] Exactly. Exactly. “I have no idea. Alright. Let’s try this.” That’s me, right? And you think I think, it should be noted, right, when we talk about the wild west of digital streaming media because of the fact it’s so difficult to tell how many impressions are made – let’s say in online streaming video, right – it’s hard for us to know how many times have people seen that video or heard that voice. And because on the backend, the logistics, they’re still being developed, it’s like baby technology.

Gabby: Oh yeah.

Anne: However I will tell you that, I think most of you that know me, my husband works in artificial intelligence now, and there are programs now being developed, rest assured, being developed that can track the amount of impressions so that you can get, you know, ratings back when ratings were a thing, Nielsen ratings, and how many times, how many people have watched your show and how many people have listened – it’s absolutely coming, guys. It’s coming.

Gabby: Yeah, I mean and it does exist in broadcast and that’s it, Anne, you’re right. It is being developed. It is coming for the Internet. We’re just not there yet.

Anne: Oh, it is. And when that happens –

Gabby: And not just the Internet. Streaming media, yeah.

Anne: Yeah, exactly. When that happens, you’re going to have a much better idea as to how many times and where your voice is going to be heard, which will help you in terms of the quoting and –

Gabby: In the meantime.

Anne: In the meantime, you’ve got to be brave, guys. You’ve got to be courageous. And if it’s not there, you simply have to state it in your terms. Again, when, where, how much and absolutely have to be specified in your specs when you’re quoting.

Gabby: If you view the negotiating process as just that, a negotiating process, you have to assume that whatever number you throw out, the client is going to respond in kind and at least give you some idea of either, “oh, that’s reasonable” or “that’s way more than I expected.”

Anne: Mm-hmm.

Gabby: And you take it from there to then maybe renegotiate the quote. And if you’re concerned about that, there’s a really easy way to handle it, which is that after you pick your number, and that same email, in that same phone call, you can say, “well, I’m thinking that X is fair. But if your budget requires something else, we can talk about that.”

Anne: Yes, let me know. That’s always the second or third negotiation point, Gabby, you bring that up. That’s exactly what happens. It’ll be “OK, so here’s my quote. Let me know if that fits within your budget.” That’s like my golden – alright, we’re done with the podcast, right, it’s my golden – I just gave it away. I just gave away, that’s it, my golden sentence: “let me know if it fits in your budget.” It is that simple. Then they come back and you start to work that number.

Gabby: Because you know you brought up Jerry, and we both love talking about our husbands. I’m going to bring up James for a minute. He was an auto mechanic for many, many years. This happens all the time in other professions. It’s not just us. Mechanics have these various guides and technologies that they can use to vet the cost of a job, the cost of the parts, the cost of labor. It’s kind of already precalculated for them, which is why when you drop your car off and you say, “OK, well, it’s my alternator that needs changing,” they can tell you exactly to the penny how much it’s going to cost beforehand. However [laughs] he fixed cars for close to 20 years. The number of times he came home and would tell us a story about the hilarity of the person who goes, well it’s making a ru-ne-ru-ne-ru-ne-ro-na-non noise [laughs]

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: Or there’s a clunking or this sound or that sound, in the world of automative anyway, that then is called diagnostics, meaning we don’t know what is wrong with it.

Anne: Right.

Gabby: We have to figure it out.

Anne: Ah yes, good point.

Gabby: So diagnostic labor, it’s OK, it starts at this price.

Anne: Yep.

Gabby: We can’t tell you where it’s going to cap because we don’t know how long this is going to take.

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: So why are we any different?

Anne: It’s true.

Gabby: In a sense?

Anne: It’s very true.

Gabby: As long as you have a script in hand, you can reasonably estimate the length of time.

Anne: Yes, absolutely.

Gabby: So as long as you know that –

Anne: And then you just need to define the other terms that are super important. One of the most important things now is maybe length. That “in perpetuity” is like that evil, evil phrase that people say. No matter what it is, broadcast, nonbroadcast, whatever it is, I give it a length. “These are the terms and this is the cost for one year.” Right? And then what happens after a year? Well, you renegotiate the contract. Then the next question is, Gabby, “well, how do I know that they aren’t using it past a year and how do I check?” Well gosh, guys, there’s that answer we’re looking for. Again sometimes you just don’t know and sometimes there’s ways to check. It’s like, how many hours will it take to diagnose what’s wrong with my car? Right? It’s an estimate. But you don’t always know the answer, but sometimes you just have to – in good faith hopefully, you know, these people aren’t going to run the ad for longer than you’ve specified, but you know what, there’s going to be better ways to track things, and there’s ways you can track as well. You’ve got to get the numbers out there. You’ve got to give your client a quote. But I think the more detailed you can be in that quote, where, when, how, you know, how long, is the better off you are.

Gabby: You know, we talk about the “in perpetuity” thing an awful because it’s bothersome.

Anne: It is.

Gabby: We don’t like it, that’s for sure. “In perpetuity” is just, that’s not BOSS language. That’s not BOSS at all, and so that’s kind of I think why Anne and I both are so against it. But I want to kind of maybe you know throw out a slightly different way to look at it. When you go to Best Buy, I don’t know, and you buy the extended warranty for a product, you’re given terms, right, one years, two, three, maybe five. There’s no such thing as a warranty in perpetuity. There’s no – you know, very rarely is it like a lifetime blanket. You can’t take your iPhone from 2004 and – “it broke. I need help. You guys are going to fix it, right?” That’s not how that works. I have no problem making that comparison to a client. It’s kind of in that same vein, you know, that usage. There has to be a cap.

Anne: And I think, Gabby, where I specialize in a lot of e-learning and narration, where it was never even like discussed before, in perpetuity. It was always like nonbroadcast, you know, internal use.

Gabby: Buyout, yeah.

Anne: That was always, it’s always a buyout, right? And so here’s the deal. Lately [laughs] I’ve not come to think that way, right? Because now with the Internet, with the advent of the Internet, and things being able to be forward facing, right, public, to people on the Internet, I, now I absolutely still – it’s just in my quote, right, in my quote, and “all prices are good for blah, or not for – use for internal only, not for web use.” That’s the other stipulation would be not for public web forward facing use. That’s another statement that I would put in my quote.

Gabby: Smart.

Anne: Yeah.

Gabby: Graphic designers do the same thing.

Anne: Mm-hmm.

Gabby: It’s not any different.

Anne: Yup.

Gabby: So do photographers. You can go to Google right now, and you can search for images that are usable without licensure. And that’s great, and then you can also search for ones that are usable with restricted conditions with them.

Anne: Absolutely.

Gabby: Modified conditions. I mean, so again, it’s that kind of, what should our industry be –

Anne: Different?

Gabby: – terribly different, yeah. Your approach should be somewhat similar. It’s again, it’s that valuing your work and what went into it.

Anne: Well, and I think too, Gabby, it’s people who are fearful that when they put that number out there, you know, the other party is going to be like, “ha, no way. What are you, insane,” or that sort of a response. The more research you can do, the better. I would say, please don’t put a number out there that’s not realistic. There’s got to be something that’s similar. A lot of times it’ll be narration based, and so I’ll base it off of narration numbers. It might be narration that needs to be changed every month or something like that, but I’ll start, I’ll have a base somewhere – if I don’t find it on the rate guide, but somewhere close to it. And then I’ll make my own set of circumstances or, you know, it’s for this long, for usage here, not for use here. Basically that goes in my quote and in my invoice.

Gabby: I’m going to play devil’s advocate for one second on that. When I was in casting, there were times when I would have a rough idea of what the average cost of something might be based on past circumstances, and then sometimes I would call a particular voice actor, and their quote or their requirement for the job would be way, way, way high. I would go, “oh man, this client’s never going to go for this.” They’re like, “it’s just not going to happen.” And then, you know what? It did.

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: It only took a couple of times for me to see people take the bait so to speak on a very high dollar job before I realized, “you know, huh.”

Anne: There’s a perception there.

Gabby: It really is all relative. Some clients are willing to pay more.

Anne: Yup.

Gabby: And there’s an irony to that tipping point, meaning some clients are always going to be willing to pay more and pay top dollar, and then there are some clients that no matter what you do, what you say, what you offer, are always going to want rock bottom prices.

Anne: Always, yeah.

Gabby: So you don’t really know until you grow pair –

Anne: Yup and start using [laughs]

Gabby: Yeah, and start kind of playing with it.

Anne: Yeah, exactly.

Gabby: It only takes that one time for you to go, “uhh yeah, based on recent work, you know, I’d say this looks like about $2000 or $3000.” And you’re thinking “there’s no way. They’re going to run.” And they go “yeah, that sounds great.”

Anne: Exactly, exactly. If you remember when we talked about negotiation not so long ago, it really is is start high because if you start with the lowest number, there’s nowhere to go.

Gabby: Yeah.

Anne: If you start – maybe not way high, but you know, if you start in a realm that’s reasonable, again, what you’re worth, right, add to that. And don’t be surprised. A lot of times I’m pleasantly surprised when people take you up on your offer, and also, Gabby, there’s that perception that, you know, I don’t, I just want this to be taken care of, and people see that cheaper price, and they don’t go for it. There’s a lot of people that actually react that way. I know when I’m shopping for products, you know, and if I want quality products, I’m like, “mmm, you know, that number looks way too low to me. I don’t know, it’s odd.” The other day I had a job quoted, and you’re familiar with the job quoted, and it was a little on the low side, and it made me worry that maybe that job was not going to be as quality as I needed it to be. Or they were going to come back and then nickel and dime me for the rest of the money that I thought that I should be paying. And guess what, I didn’t take them up on that offer because they were underpriced. [laughs]

Gabby: Sometimes you just have to throw a number out there.

Anne: Yeah. It’s OK.

Gabby: Yeah, please remember that in the end, the answer to “what should I charge” is really, “what do you need to make?”

Anne: Well yeah. It’s your business too. Remember that. It’s your negotiation, you’re the one in control. So go ahead. It’s not like, what does everybody else charge? It’s no, this is your business, what do you want to charge for this service or for this product? Boom.

Gabby: Exactly. Keep in mind we don’t have tangibility. Right? We’re not – what we do is not sold by the pound, the gram, the ounce, the, you know, whatever measurement exists in the worlds of consumer goods. So yeah, service is a completely subjective process. Use that to your advantage.

Anne: I could talk about that all day. Anyway…

Gabby: Ok. We can.

Anne: [laughs] Big shout-out to one of our favorite sponsors, ipDTL, that allows Gabby and I to come together every week to talk to you guys about all the stuff we love to talk about at VO BOSS. You can find out more at

Gabby: And of course we want to talk a little bit our latest sponsor who just got launched, and Anne’s got her profile set up, and I got mine set up, and we’re ready to go. It’s, “your voice, your way,” ethical, fair, transparent. Give them a shot, guys.

Anne: Have a great week, guys. See you next week.

Gabby: Bye!

Anne: 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.



[dog barking]

Gabby: You shouldn’t be embarrassed about that. Hold on. Shut up. No. [dog growls] Noo-wah. Stop sassing me.

Anne: Noah.

Gabby: No-wah.


Anne: Who’s eating?

Gabby: I’m having candy because my throat is dry.

Anne: Oh. One of my clients just sent me a five pound tin of chocolate chip cookies. It’s so bad. I’m a chocolate chip cookie whore. Sorry, but I am.

Gabby: Wow. You know, I’ve that on tape, right?

Anne: [laughs] It might be an outtake.

Gabby: I mean, I might just edit out chocolate chip cookie, and then we’ll just go with whatever we have left.


Anne: So. [laughs]

Philip: But you can ask me what you like. It’s fine. I’ve no delusions of adequacy.

Anne: [laughs]


Anne: Gabby? [laughs]

Philip: Don’t wake her up. She was fine.

Gabby: Yes, Anne?

Anne: I lost my whole sense of like closing out the show here.

Gabby: We have to, we have to do sponsors, so go ahead and do ipDTL, and then I’ll do

Anne: Ok, ok, thank you.


Anne: It’s good to say scrotum.

Gabby: Oh. Scrotum.

Anne: What’s their name? Socrum?

Gabby: Scopic. Scrotum…

Anne: [laughs]

Gabby: Oh my God. Oh my Lord.

Anne: [laughs] This is not an outtake, trust me. I’m on my AT2020, cannot put in my outtake.


Anne: OK, let me get myself in the booth.

Gabby: Get in there! Get in the damn booth.