American Voice Over for International Clients: What are Fair Rates?
As a mid-atlantic voice over talent for international American English media, I market my services to countries in every continent. Well, I haven’t had a reply from Antarctica yet; and so far I haven’t worked for African clients (but I am actively seeking clients in Nigeria and South Africa). My first clients outside of the United States were in Canada, Mexico, Germany, UK, and France. In the past five years I’ve expanded my client base to Russia and Eastern Europe as well as much of Pacific Asia. What have I learned from trying to set fair and flexible rates for my international clients as a non-union freelance voice over talent? You have to be fair and flexible, but still negotiate for the highest rates possible. Your clients might not have a very high cost of living, but American voice over talents from most cities do. I try to work with my clients’ budget but I let them know how my professionalism gives added value to their production. With all the excellent production houses, editors, and animators now located all over the world it’s vital to engage with content providers in emerging as well as established markets. As these markets and providers grow, their budgets will too, and I look forward to growing with them.
You Can’t Always Charge Your Home Market Rates
When American voice over talents bid for commercials, the rates for New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are much higher than if the advert was for St. Louis, Tampa, or Portland. You simply can’t charge the same amount for a project intended for a smaller market. Dubai might have a lot of money, but there are fewer than 10 million people in the UAE. It’s unrealistic to ask a production house in Mumbai to pay the same rates of a New York agency. However, there is no excuse for production houses in India or elsewhere to expect Fiverr-like rates for voice over. My clients in India pay 2/3 to 4/5 of my US rates, and some pay the full rates. One translation company pays a flat .12 – .14 per word depending upon the project. However, if the company in India is doing a corporate film or commercial for a large global company, the end client always needs to be taken into account when adjusting the budgets. For example, this year I recorded for a producer in Lebanon that was doing a corporate video for a Lebanese company’s expansion into the United States. In their very first correspondence, they offered to pay my high-end corporate US rates. Some people just ‘get it’ when it comes to the value of a quality professional narration. In the following map, I chart out what I normally expect to charge my international voice over clients.
Voice Over Markets in Europe Are Diverse
In the UK, commercial rates can be higher than in the US, but corporate rates are falling with the number of start-up production companies. I’ve seen a lot of British companies asking for rates more in line with Eastern or Mediterranean Europe, where the rates can go as low as 50% of my American rates. I get plenty of requests to work for much less than that, but there is no reason to do so. There is so much quality voice over work out there from quality producers who pay rates that reflect that quality. I’m always open to striking a deal if I believe the client has talent and an ability to attract high-end work in the future. And, if they are good communicators and frankly, good people, that counts a lot to me.
German, Austrian, and Swiss corporate rates can often be higher than in the US, while commercial rates are less. This can also apply to Scandinavian countries, Nederlands, and Belgium. The French market seems to be all over the map, so to speak, depending heavily on the location or city. Italian, Polish, and Portuguese rates fall into what I’d call a ‘second tier’ along with Latin American countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. But I love working with clients from these countries. Very engaging, enthusiastic, and they appreciate what I do as a partner in their workflow.
And then, there’s Russia. There is a lot of demand for video content that needs to be translated into English and read with an American, International English, or ‘Mid-Atlantic’ voice. Pay is usually in the second tier group, but on the high-end of it, and clients usually pay before recording starts, which is always appreciated. Further east, opportunities in China are diverse, and the prices for narration can reflect that. My voice overs for a large international financial firm in Shanghai is on par with my US and German clients; whereas for smaller emerging industrial concerns the rates will be more ‘second tier’. I tend to think of China like the United States market – a massive diverse market with a lot of money but having both Mega-Cities and smaller cities. I’m even one of the few American Voice Over talents on Weibo!
Whatever market you are in or for which you are creating videos, advertising, or marketing, I am flexible and sensitive to the economies and opportunities in countries around the world. Different markets are growing at different rates, but here’s to all of us growing and prospering together.