If you’re new to the voice over world, you’re probably looking to get any experience and make any amount of money to recoup the cost of equipment and training. You might have even posted your services on Fiverr, the site where anyone can get almost any task done for the paltry sum of $5.
Well, read this recent article from The Atlantic. I’ll wait.
The story covers a few different industries, but the one I find most interesting is about a former SAG-AFTRA voice talent who discovered how hard it is to make a living offering VO reads on the site.
When I was new to the business, there wasn’t a clear path to finding career and/or financial success, and guess what? There still isn’t. It’s not that kind of business, and it never will be. You have to find your own path to success.
But I’m here to tell you (and this article backs me up) that Fiverr is not that path.
Unestablished users with no reviews or reputation have to charge the minimum rate allowed, which is five bucks per job. After the site takes their commission and PayPal fees, you’ll earn a whopping $3 from a $5 booking.
That isn’t earning. It’s begging.
Let’s do some math.
If you spend $100 on a USB mic, $50 on converting a closet to a booth and say, $50 on a pop filter and other miscellaneous essentials to call yourself part of the VO business, you’re looking at a $200 investment. This, of course, is unrealistically low as there are other costs associated with starting any new business not included with those numbers. Let’s say you also took a class. Call that $300 which again seems optimistically low. You’re all in for $500.
To earn that back at $3 a pop, you’d need to book 167 jobs.
To earn $17,000 per year, which is the best that former SAG-AFTRA voice talent could do with Fiverr, you’d have to book 5,667 jobs.
That. Will. Not. Happen.
I’ve been a full time actor and voice talent for over 20 years. I’ve done over 4000 jobs for over 500 clients. In two decades.
During my first years in the business, I knew if I worked for next to nothing, it would be virtually impossible to raise my rates down the road. I’m sure that’s the hope shared by a lot of voice talent on Fiverr, that eventually, they’ll build enough credibility to warrant charging maybe $25 instead of $5 per project (which is still virtually nothing).
But honestly, do you think that’s likely? Fiverr is for buyers who don’t want to spend much more than the site’s namesake, so since other voice talent will still be charging the base rate, when talent do try to make more, their clients will abandon them for cheaper labor. After all, Fiverr is designed to drive down the cost of labor. It’s designed to pay you as little as possible.
This is part of a larger problem.
Fiverr’s not the only player in the race to the bottom of the voice over industry. There’s a certain pay-for-play site with a reputation for charging talent buyers high rates, but hiding that number from the talent, quoting them a lowball rate so the site can keep the difference. This amounts to an obscenely high commission for work booked through them, and talent don’t even know they’re paying it.
Ask any nonunion talent agency and they’ll tell you about the ridiculous rates some multinational corporations offer talent for a service that used to net VO professionals thousands of dollars. Some agents post stories on social media, and some are appalling, like the internationally-known brand that offered talent the job of being their “voice of” for $1000 per year.
Which is like stealing.
SAG-AFTRA members can avoid all this nonsense. In my book I write extensively about the benefits of union membership for actors and voice talent, along with detailed instructions about how to join, how the union’s residual system works, and how talent can know when the time to join is right.
And I provide a free download of SAG-AFTRA’s rate sheet. You can see for yourself exactly how much each type of job pays: commercials, narration, everything. If you’re nonunion, you’re leaving all this money on the table.
And if you’re on Fiverr, just know that you need to think bigger.