Working for peanuts – not prime rib

This isn’t a detailed scientific study. This isn’t even a controlled experiment. It’s just an observation of a single occurrence. And yet every voice actor in the industry has seen something similar. They know this is going on and they know it’s causing the slow decline of the voice actor’s salary and the cheapening of our image as highly-trained professionals.

It’s called ‘lowballing” — the practice of bidding extremely low on a project in the hopes of landing the gig — and it really does hurt!

Here’s the latest occurrence I stumbled across…

On a voice over job website (which shall go unnamed) a client (who shall also go unnamed) posted a job for a 1-hour narration. The budget listed was between $350 and $500. About one week later that same client posted another 1-hour narration job. But this time: a budget of $50 to $100!

Think about it from the client’s point of view…

If you (as a voice seeker) post a job with a budget of, let’s say… $350, and then you get offers to do the job for as cheap as $50, wouldn’t you then set the budget of your next job to only about $50? I don’t know about you, but I certainly would!


If everyone is willing to work for peanuts,
then why would a voice seeker offer prime rib?

Everybody wants to get a great deal. And if there are talented voice actors out there willing to sell themselves short and bid ultra-low, then why wouldn’t voice seekers take advantage of it? If voice actors are always quoting a low price, then why wouldn’t voice seekers start stating that their budgets are smaller than they actually are?

Now YOU think about it…

For MANY projects, the voice over is just as important as any of the visual elements. And some projects don’t even have the visual elements! Your voice will help companies sell thousands and sometimes millions of dollars worth of their product or service. And they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank at the great deal they got from the voice actor.


Come on, people! Why would anyone take our profession seriously when we ourselves are willing to accept table scraps as payment for professional jobs?

6 Comments

  1. Three comments:

    1. Lowballers know exactly what they’re worth.

    2. This job (along with the budget, was approved by the nameless voice casting site; a site that puts out a suggested (or shoud I say “suggestive”) rate sheet, reflecting a very different pay scale.

    Members should ask themselves: are these sites acting in my best interest or in the interest of the voice seeker?

    3. If you pay peanuts, you get….

  2. Hi Paul!

    Very good comments. I too sometimes wonder what planet the VO casting sites are on (I also wonder what planet some voice actors are on.) It’s really sad how so many spend the time and energy to become trained voice actors only to sell themselves way too short.

    People in other fields spend years studying in college, then gain experience on the job. These people usually can get paid pretty well. And if they work and study more, then raises, promotions, and more benefits come along.

    What does the working, striving, and constantly training VO actor have to look forward to these days?

  3. I’ll tell you, David: Undercutting colleagues and clients lauging their heads off as these ignorant voice people fight one another over crumbs.

    Hey… it’s just beer money, isn’t it? It’s a free country. We want things for next to nothing or -preferably- for free. That’s the power of the free market. Hail to the lowest common denominator!

  4. Unfortunately, those undercutting don’t realize the destruction they are causing. It may be beer money to them, but for many of us it’s a solid career just like any other. As you know well Paul, we’re not playing around.

    Also, it really burns me up when I see voice seekers writing their job proposals in a very condescending tone. Not all do it. But I’ve noticed an increase. It’s almost as if the voice seekers think that by posting their voice job (at some ridiculously low price) that they are bestowing some kind of great generosity upon us “little” VO actors. There is no way in hell that I’ll audition for those. And those that do audition, they’re just giving confirmation to the voice seekers that their behavior and opinions are correct.

    This is one reason why I treasure my steady clients. We both have a professional understanding of what quality means and the value quality brings to the both of us.

  5. As Dr. Phil always reminds us: “We teach people how to treat us.”

    Over the past two years I have written numerous blog post on this topic, so I in danger of repeating myself . One of my most popular articles is:

    “The secret to landing any freelance job”

    Here’s the link: http://wp.me/pBTtY-Vr

  6. I cancelled my membership today at . I came to the realization that even if I was the best for the job, there were 100 other people auditioning for each job. The chances of my read even being listened to were slim. And that amount of competition is just not worth my time. And then, as you put, the icing on the cake was how little voice seekers were willing to spend, and then comparing that to the masses who were still auditioning. To quote Mugatu from Zoolander, “I Feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”

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