It’s an interesting question and one that has a multitude of answers dependant upon the context in which the question was asked but I’m specifically thinking about your worth as a Voice actor and in a wider sense all of our worth as a Voiceover industry…
I had an interesting experience recently when I got involved with a potential job via Twitter, the tweet was looking for male voice actors for a TV programme to be broadcast on a major TV network.
“Great” I thought and slung my name into the hat, unfortunately that was where the excitement ended when I got the e-mail through with the details. On initial inspection all seemed interesting, the project sounded cool, the script had potential for some great fun and the broadcast platform was second to none so what was the problem?
It was this “We don’t have a budget for voiceover, but we can offer great exposure”, my heart sank and into the professional dilemma I went. I won’t mention the production company or broadcaster involved but suffice it to say we’re talking major coverage!
Now some of you may not think this deserves to be a dilemma, “It’s XYZ broadcaster, of course do it” and that was in there amongst my initial thoughts, especially as someone relatively “new” to the industry but something I read a long time ago stuck in my mind “Always remember what you are worth”. As an industry, Voiceover has changed enormously over the last 5 years with a massive influx of new talent and an equal explosion of opportunity. My twitter feed is full of “Voiceover Masterclass for $20”, “How to make easy money from home doing VO” and yet that’s not me or most of my colleagues. I’ve spent significant sums investing in kit, going to courses, reading books, training with coaches and hours upon hours perfecting reads, voices and acting so I circle back to “What am I worth?”
Ultimately the conclusion I came to was that I am worth being paid for my craft and actually even more so for such a large broadcaster. To think that a show that was in it’s 4th Season and being broadcast on such a large platform has “no budget for voiceover” is to be quite frank insulting, so ultimately I turned it down, sure it was a difficult choice but my gut says it was the right one and I hold my head up high.
So why to blog about it, well two main reasons; one because the chances are as a VO you’ll come across a scenario like this and second because it’s a very interesting issue that pertains specifically to the “creative” industries.
A quick search on the Internet and you’ll find painters, illustrator’s, photographers, actors all complaining of similar stories of being asked to do work for free in return for (never guaranteed) exposure. At this point it’s worth clarifying however that I will do free work, in fact my very first gig was free and my second for a tiny radio station paid £20. What’s important is what that work is! A charity appeal, sure, a student video, absolutely, a prime time TV programme broadcast nationally…… and the reason for that is simple, if we don’t defend our worth we’re not worth anything.
This appears to only be something that is prevalent in creative industries, perhaps it’s because we all tend to be so passionate it’s easier to take advantage of our desires to please. Think about it, you’d never say to your plumber “I can’t pay you to install that toilet but I’ll tell all my friends about it” so why should we accept that attitude?
As VO is a close knit community I know that other’s received the same e-mail reply that I did almost word for word (including the compliments…). I know that ultimately the production company will probably find another VO to do it for free and that’s the problem, as a whole we need to stand up and shout “We know what we are worth!”