First, why this title? It's the name of a classic cult French gangster movie. The most famous scene is set in the kitchen, in which gangsters are having a meeting.
On the kitchen table, there's a mountain of cash - I let you guess the origin of this money. Next door, a party of youngsters, oblivious to this meeting.
All of a sudden, a young drunk lady barges in the kitchen. She sees the money and not believing her eyes, touches the money. Instantly, one of the gangsters tells her rather rudely to get her hands of the loot. There you have it!
Now, let's be clear. Yes, there is a direct connection between rates and professionalism. In any trade, and that includes voice overs. But what is this connection? Let's dig in.
As the saying goes, money is the sinews of war - a sometimes taboo subject, but one that needs to be addressed.
I'm occasionally contacted by voice over colleagues who ask me, among other things, for advice on the best rate to charge for a particular project. And often the argument of seniority in the profession comes up. "I have less experience than X or Y, their rate is XXX, but I know that I can't claim the same rate, what would be an acceptable rate given my limited experience?
Invariably, my answer is the same: the argument is fallacious. Either we're not ready to work professionally and we should ethically decline any request for a quote, or we're on the market as professionals and we charge a professional rate. In other words: we are not paid according to seniority, as we are at the French social security system. I don't know how I can be any clearer. Of course, some clowns who claim to be professional voice-over actors offer to work for a tip. Fortunately, most clients have ears, but sometimes you can still hear some gems... I talk about free voice-overs in my article entitled... Free voice-overs: at what price?.
If a production company wants to employ us, understand one thing: it considers us to be professionals - and has the budget to do so. No producer would take the risk of employing amateurs and then being turned down by their client for the job by being seen - quite rightly - as a clown and shazam, goodbye client. The argument 'you have less experience so I'll pay you less' is, at best, a poor attempt at negotiation.
Having said that, as a producer (that's another hat I wear from time to time), if someone I've chosen in my casting, who I think is capable of doing the job required, offers me 100 euros instead of the 1000 euros he should be asking me for, I'll naturally give him the job (he earns me an extra 900 euros and I'd be really stupid not to accept) - but I won't have any respect for him. Why? Because he doesn't respect himself. On the market, he'll become known as 'cheap', not as a 'professional to respect'. And remember one thing: 'cheap' is always too expensive for the person who is always looking for something cheaper, and is therefore eternally dissatisfied.
Not only is it unethical to lowball in order to be cast, it's also a very easy way of slapping the label of amateur on your forehead, and an approach devoid of any discernment.
What's a fair rate?
Apart from the TV show 'The Price Is Right', the 'correct', accepted rates, are those you will find in my voice over rates page. Of course, everyone charges slightly different rates, but this will give you a good idea of what is allocated in the budgets (or what should be allocated...) and therefore, what you should ask for.
Money is the sinews of war... but not the heart.
My voice over rates page is the most visited page of my site, and while many of these visits are from potential clients, many are also from voice over artists looking for references. It's great that you want to charge professional rates, so that you don't break the bank and look like a joke to your clients.
But, dear voiceover colleagues and friends, I want to stress that these rates are professional rates - the only ones that should exist, as I explained above. And to charge professional rates, you have to be... professional. I therefore invite you to read the other articles in my Voix Off blog which I hope will enable you to broaden your knowledge of the profession, develop your talent, deepen your skills, and become rich, with the Ferrari, the helicopter, the yacht and all the accessories that every successful voice-over actor should have. We can always dream, can't we?
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Feel free to share your experience here and leave your comments, suggestions or questions. Don't hold back, I'll do my best to answer them!