Voice Actors: Why You Should Always Give 100 Percent – Carrie Olsen Voiceover
Carrie Olsen Voiceover

“I don’t turn on my microphone for less than $250,” Flo the Pro said.

“That sounds nice,” thought Newbie Ned. “But right now I make $18 an hour at my day job. So anything more than that is an upgrade for me.”

As a new voice actor, it’s hard to imagine turning down a job because, according to industry standards, the rate is too low. Especially when that “low rate” is higher than what you’re used to making at your day job.

Though it’s a hard pill to swallow, some new voice actors will turn down a job so as to keep their standards high. Some others adopt the mindset that they will take anything that comes their way in the early days, in the hopes of raising their rates once they’re more experienced.

But this post isn’t about which jobs you should or shouldn’t accept and why.

Because however you choose to engage this situation, there is one thing you need to make sure you do. Whether you are voicing a national Toyota ad, or doing a student project with a rate so low you regret taking it on, give the job 100 percent of your effort.

All experienced voice actors have had those jobs that they either naively accepted because they didn’t want to miss an opportunity, or that seemed like a great opportunity at first, only to become a nightmare situation once they got into it. When you find yourself in one of those situations where you wish you had just passed on the job altogether, you are still a voice actor. Which means you are still a representative of this industry and should do your best to represent it—and yourself—well.

[clickToTweet tweet=”No matter what, you should do your best to represent yourself–and this industry–well.” quote=”No matter what, you should do your best to represent yourself–and this industry–well.”]

Here are some examples of less than ideal situations you may come across (by the way, these situations happen in all industries that have freelance workers, not just voiceover):

  • You took on a project without getting all of the information from the client, and it is more involved than you initially thought
  • You took on a new type of job you thought you would enjoy, but it turns out to be more draining than enjoyable (for example, you agreed to do an audiobook for the first time, but the long-form nature and extensive editing did not agree with you)
  • The client changed their mind on the script several times, causing you to have to re-record the job each time
  • The client wasn’t clear about the tone they were looking for on the project
  • You didn’t clearly define your re-record policy, so you had to negotiate with the client on how to charge for them mid-project

In my first year as a voice actor, I accepted a job that paid too little. I think the rate was about $60. The job was only to read three short sentences, so it’s not like it took me a long time to do, but I felt funny accepting a job that I knew should have paid more. Aside from the low rate, I actually had a great experience with the client. They were appreciative and loved my work. They said they might have more work for me in the future. I didn’t have my hopes up, and this wasn’t especially exciting to me because I didn’t really want more low-paying work, and I had already decided that if they offered me more work at rates similar to the rate of that first job, I would say no.

I didn’t hear from the client for months. But when I did, they had a much larger project for me, with a much larger budget. I was thrilled that they reached out again and eagerly accepted and completed the job. It turns out that the first low-paying job they offered me was an exception, not the rule, and that the jobs they normally produce are much bigger and pay more. Over the next couple of years, they sent me consistent work at above industry standard rates. Today, they are one of my most consistent—and high-paying—clients.

The moral here isn’t that you should take on work that doesn’t pay well. I think you should avoid that if at all possible. But if you do find yourself doing a job that you would rather just get out of, you should still do your best work. Even if it never leads to anything else, at least you will feel good about your service. And you can have confidence that all of the voiceover you have put out into the world is work you can be proud of.

And, of course, if the job does end up leading to other, better opportunities, awesome.

Note: If the client has mislead you, that is a different situation. In this post, I am only referring to jobs in which you either knew the job was worth more than what you agreed to do it for, or jobs in which you failed to get clarity on what the job involved.

Carrie Olsen

I'm a full-time professional voice actor and voiceover business coach. I have done work for Taco Bell, REI, BNSF Railway, Bank of America and ESPN to name a few. I dreamed up this community of voice actors to connect, grow, learn and get mentorship from each other. We're the most dedicated group of voice actors on the net, and we're here to help each other build and sustain profitable voiceover businesses.

  • NJ says:

    Hey Carrie! Did my recent project (thanks for your help btw) inspire this week’s blog post?
    The recording wasn’t the hard part (and I am guilty of not getting all the info before I accepted) it was being out of my depth with particular file conversions…and software and changes…and yet more changes. I wanted to quit, but did my best and conquered another production hurdle! Experience (especially the bad ones) is the best teacher…excepting yourself of course!

    • Carrie Olsen says:

      Hi NormaJean! No, actually your recent project was not the inspiration for this post, but I can see how your situation was similar to some of the ones I described. A recent project of mine prompted me to write the post 🙂 I think you handled the situation extremely well. And one of the main points of having a voiceover community is to be able to ask questions when you’re not sure of something. IVR is different from other voiceover genres, so it’s absolutely understandable to be out of your element the first time you take it on. I’m glad you persevered! And I’m sure, even with the setbacks, the final product is work you can be proud of. And I’m glad you reached out! Always glad to help!

  • Hello Carrie! I worked in radio for 24 years doing on-air and recording work, which was very fulfilling. Seven years ago, though, I started doing theatre which made me realize that acting was what I truly loved. Nineteen days ago, I launched my own business, which has been both terrifying yet exhilarating. The wide range of auditions so far have allowed me to pursue many types of voices, both “normal” and unusual. Last week someone asked me what I do for a living, and with a sudden swell of my heart, I said, “I’m an actor!” I’m so excited to see where this takes me 🙂

    • Carrie Olsen says:

      Sean! I’m so excited for you as you pursue your dream of acting, and I’m so glad you stumbled across this corner of the internet so we can connect! The hardest part is taking that first step. So, good for you for sticking it out there and taking it!

      All my best,

  • Hi Carrie, I love hearing from you! I am such a novice at editing my voice over tracks. I don’t think I can get it to broadcast ready. How do you do it? I watch YouTube videos, I speak to experts and I feel I’m out of my element. I want to do a great job and make a product that customers will love, but they just don’t sound great. I have great new equipment and a new laptop. I’m using Audacity on a Windows 10 program. Please help!!!

  • Cynthia says:

    Hey Carrie..

    This off topic in regards to this article. I’ve read your story about your beginnings in voice over..I often re-read it to re-focus and re- inspire myself until i can get the initial startup costs for website membetship etc.. such as voices.com I find it hard to part with $350 or more to join a vo job website..it goes without saying my basic living expenses are my priority deducting from $ that is stressful. Any suggestions on how to get started on s less expensive way ..
    Thanks Carrie!!!

  • John Wray says:

    Hi, Carrie–

    I’m currently taking your internet course on e-learning. Thanks for a lot of great information!

    I do know something about jobs that ended up feeling like I’d been out wading at the beach and was suddenly hit from behind by a wave that was way bigger than anything else I’d seen that day. For example, an audio book about the search for cures for extremely rare diseases (a mixture of interesting human stories with lots of very dry medical stuff). Got the job through ACX. The estimated book length was 9 hours. Actually came in at 16 hours. On top of that, the writing, which included dozens of parenthetical phrases, was often unclear when read, so I had to rephrase a lot of stuff. I got it done, and they were very happy with it, but if I’d known those things before I’d started, I probably wouldn’t have sent a demo.

    But that’s not the worst one. About 7 years ago, I’d just moved into a new place when I signed up at Voice 123. After submitting just one audition demo, I began hearing all kinds of street noise on my recordings. I thought it over and decided that what I needed to do was to get a suitable space soundproofed, and then go back to work. At that time, Voice 123 would send an automatic e-mail to let you know about suitable auditions. I ignored all such e-mails and set to work. About a week and a half later, I got an e-mail, not from Voice 123, but directly from the client saying, basically, “Do you want the job or not?” I had gotten a job offer from the ONE demo that I had sent! It was to record 20 pieces ranging from about half a page to several pages. The job paid $1000.00, so of course I had to take it. I e-mailed back to say “Yes! I will do this! Thank you! Send me the copy and I’ll start right away!” I was too insecure to even ask for an extension on the deadline, in spite of being a week and a half behind schedule. Oh yeah, my studio wasn’t exactly ready yet. Cutting to the chase, two days later I actually did start recording. Long story short, I worked my butt off day and night, learning about editing, clean-up, and proofing on the fly, and somehow got it done. They are now my favorite ongoing client. So I guess you can sometimes get through a trial by fire without actually burning up.

    Thanks again for the excellent e-learning course.

    John Wray

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