What does it COST?

April 30, 2024 08:00 AM By Paul Boucher

Today, I was reminded of a problem in the entertainment industry and regarding voice acting: the apparent lack of transparency and known pricing metrics.

Seriously, where do you shop, or what do you shop for where you don’t have at least some idea of what you’re going to pay?


To be fair, it’s not so much that the information is missing in action. It’s that voice performance is a “just-in-time” sort of product. We create bespoke narration for your project when you request it.


I’ll provide three great resources at the end of this post that can help with your voiceover budget. You’ll miss a good example of a relatively simple scenario, but you can save a couple of minutes by scrolling down quickly.


Here’s the example. This past month, I was hired by a previous client who told me that they had 6 15-second videos they wanted me to narrate.


Let’s walk through 2 scenarios – one where I don’t ask the right questions 🤪, and one where I do. 🤓


Scenario 1. This one: 🤪


I assume that the client will use the six videos internally and that they will not be used in external media, on a website, etc. because all the client said to me was, “…We’re doing another series of six 15-second videos…”


I base my quote on 0-10 minutes of narration plus one hour of studio services and based on one of the rate resources below (GVAA Rate guide, Non-broadcast, hourly session time), quote $525.


Now, let’s go to scenario 2. This one: 🤓


There are 3 documents sent for the project on the day of the session, and they clearly delineate:
1 small market TV commercial

1 small market radio commercial

6 commercials destined for social media use on TikTok, FB and Instagram.


Well, now we have a completely different kettle of fish!

According to established local rates:
TV: $250

Radio: $150

Social Media: $200 per commercial OR $400 per commercial based on whether it’s organic, unpaid placement on those networks, or paid placement. *Note these prices for SM use are at the lower end of the possible range.

Think of “paid placement” as buying the specific time slot you want in the old radio and TV network days.

OK, so now that project, affected by the market distribution and audience reach of the three different mediums and the terms of use (how long it will be used), is either going to be $1600 or $2800.


That’s quite a difference, and the objective metrics used to calculate pricing can all be validated and justified.


That’s one of the biggest differences you’ll find when dealing with professional voice actors.


You’ll either deal with them directly (especially outside of the top 5 markets in the US and the top 3 in Canada) or with their agents/managers. They’ll ask the right questions and create an agreement that allows for a win-win situation for everyone. The actor can continue a sustainable business/career in voice acting, and the client knows exactly what they’re paying for and why.


Clarity is a very good thing. It helps establish trust and helps both parties understand the value provided in both directions.


Thank you for your time reading.

Here are the three pricing resources I promised you. Obviously, this is useful for both voice actors, who are running their *businesses*, and the producers looking to finalize a budget for themselves and/or their clients.


The first two, the SAG-AFTRA Rates and GVAA Rate Guide are for North American content (especially US and Canadian jurisdictions). If content is destined to be used in Canada or the US, these rates should be used to help create budget expectations. Where you are as a producer is secondary to where the content will be used. Always.

If you’re planning to hire a voice actor for a recording that will be used in one or more European countries, the Gravy For The Brain Guide is a good resource for identifying potential costs for the voice acting portion of your budget.


SAG-AFTRA rates, helpfully compiled here on the Wrapbook site


For non-union or Fi-core voice actors in North America, the indispensable Global Voice Acting Academy Rate Guide, known as the GVAA rate guide

For Europe, the Gravy For The Brain resource: