My previous post, and its topic, reminded me of another online article I'd read recently. Talk It Up! is a busy, well-written blog helmed by Heidi Miller, a professional speaker who gives in-booth presentations at trade shows for clients all over the world. In the post in question, Heidi (ahem) talks up a website which offers free voiceovers to podcasters and others.
To be fair, Heidi isn't trying to sell anyone on the notion that it's useless to pay big bucks for VO talent when it can be had for free; she's careful to point out that the site in question is performing a kind of "public service" by offering voice services gratis to those who may simply not have a budget for professional VO.
Which, I say with no facetiousness or sarcasm, is all well and good. Still, I felt compelled to toss in my $0.02; while I know that Heidi isn't out to hurt the voiceover industry, it occured to me that a blog piece titled "Free Voiceovers!" ought to be counter-balanced. My response at the blog:
Just weighing in on this topic.
First off, let me say that as a professional VO artist, I have no problem with others in our business who occasionally work gratis or "pro bono" when it suits them. Sometimes scripts are just too much fun to pass up, sometimes one may believe strongly in an organization's message or cause. Still, most pro VO folks know that our business isn't like retail; loss-leaders don't bring in more traffic.
Non-profit organizations were referenced earlier as a kind of entity worthy of free VO services, but --- just to take things a step further --- even non-profits have budgets, even if they may be relatively smaller. In those cases, a VO artist should be willing to work at a reduced rate, but not an unreasonable one.
Most VO artists I know, myself included, make it a general rule not to work for free unless everyone involved is also going unpaid. I've worked on projects like that, especially when it appeals to me personally.
Voice artists at the "beginner" stage can help alleviate this problem by...well, not being beginners. That is, they need to be ready to provide professional-value service before opening up shop. As Stephanie mentioned above, there are plenty of ways for the VO to gain experience without giving away the store.
I'm not here to condemn RD or any other outlet that provides free voiceovers; however, I think that the words "caveat emptor" are important to remember --- both for voice artists and their clients.
Many thanks for the soapbox!