Tag Archives: auditions

Summer Thoughts on Pay to Play & Catch 22s

20 Aug

I haven’t been blogging much this summer. Like most people, I’d much rather enjoy the summer weather in ways that don’t involve looking at a screen! Now that we’ve been in triple-digit temperatures for a while, it’s a good time to catch up and take advantage of the AC!

Pay to Play on Voices.com: The Saga Continues

I’ve continued my subscription to Voices.com, a pay to play service which continues to amaze and annoy me (see my previous post about Voices.com here: https://algranatiw.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/p2p-voices-com-part-4-in-a-series/). The percent of job listings that never become a completed project astounds me! I understand if an agent listens to 200 custom auditions and still fails to find *that* voice, the ONE that will speak for their special, unique message or product—but is that really the norm and not the exception?

Also confusing is when my own custom auditions are marked as “liked” by a client (noted by a cutesy thumbs-up sign), but the job is never completed!  By *any* VO talent! Perhaps the agent “likes” several auditions, and ultimately settles on someone other than me. Yes, that would suck! But I have yet to see that happen.

And of course, my complaint about pay to play sites from the beginning: There are so many custom auditions I submit that are never reviewed—even when they are submitted early and within the client’s budget. Of course, if I submit the 50th audition, I know that the job might be awarded to one of the 49 people who submitted something before me. But SO many listings on Voices.com do not become completed *and* they have not listened to my audition. What does this mean? Was the “client” really looking to hire anyone in the first place?

I have two theories.

  1. The majority of voiceover jobs on Voices.com take place outside of the Voices.com service. In other words, agents listen to auditions and find talent on the site, but once they want to hire someone and get things moving, they do not use the Voices.com system. Instead, agents make arrangements to work with and pay the talent directly (e.g., PayPal, invoice, etc.) to lower costs by removing the 10% Voices.com fee. This would explain why so many job listings close on Voices.com, but the projects never moved to completed status.

In fact, two VO actors have told me confidentially that they have done this. I could never do this, because I would be too paranoid about not getting paid by someone I had never worked with before! On the other hand, I’ve never been offered to work outside the Voices.com system.

  1. Because agents or potential clients can list jobs for free on Voices.com (and any p2p site), there is no barrier to entry. Anyone could register and create a phony job listing on a p2p just for the hell of it, even with the Voices.com staff review prior to posting. A more serious prospective client could list the same job on multiple sites at once in order to cast as wide a net as possible. While Voices.com in particular presents itself as an all-in-one solution (recruit, work, pay), perhaps very few agents are interested in committing to a single VO source. As I posted previously, there is also the possibility that VO job listings on any p2p site are fake, and are posted only to boost sales of VO talent subscriptions.

This past month, I’ve been attempting to circumvent these issues by only submitting auditions to potential clients who have used the Voices.com payment system already and have received favorable feedback from VO talent. This has very much limited the amount of jobs I’ve been auditioning for, but I do think it will prevent a lot of wasted time.

The Catch 22

Another voiceover issue I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the nature of recording from home. When I began studying voiceover, it was in a studio in Burbank with a small handful of other newbies and a fun instructor. I really enjoyed the studio vibe as well as the work itself. Now that I’ve been doing auditions and booking jobs all from my home studio, the reality has set in: It’s a very different experience.  Given the choice, I think I would prefer auditioning and working from a professional studio across town than from my home. When I record from home, both reading and audio mixing are my responsibility—and for pretty low rates compared to union employees who only read. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only way to get non-union work.  I would need to build up my non-union portfolio a lot more before ever hoping to join the union and get an agent– who would then send me on in-person auditions. Which I’m sure I would nail. 😉

 

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P2P: Voices.com, part 4 in a series

24 May

If you are non-union voiceover talent looking for work online, you are likely familiar with the P2P (“pay to play”) websites that offer access to job listings for a fee. Being somewhat new to the VO industry, I decided to try several different P2P sites before committing to one or the other (or several) for the long haul. In my previous posts, I wrote about my experience on Elance.com (https://algranatiw.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/p2p-vo-work-on-generic-freelancer-websites-part-2-in-a-series-2/) and Voice123 (https://algranatiw.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/p2p-voice123-part-3-in-a-series/). What follows is an account of my test drive of Voices.com.

Getting Started

The membership for voiceover talent on Voices.com is $299/year or $39.95/month. In comparison, Voice123 has a similar annual fee ($295) but no monthly option. Clients list their jobs for free. New members have the opportunity to try Voices.com for one month at the discounted rate of $9.95, which is the route I took.

As I mentioned in my previous P2P posts, signing up and creating one’s online voiceover profile is a fairly standard procedure on each of these sites: head shot, demos, text descriptions, check boxes, contact info, done! Because Voices.com manages the payment process (see below), talent also need to provide PayPal account info.

When I first signed up with Voices.com for free (non-paying members can post their profiles and demos, but can’t audition for anything, same as Voice123), I was contacted about the $9.95 introductory offer via email. I arranged to have my cheapie test month postponed until I returned from vacation, and had an inbox full of audition invites when I returned home.

You WILL Get Invitations to Audition. Lots!

Voices.com does not let users peruse and audition for just any job listing. Voiceover talent must be invited to audition for specific gigs, either directly by a client, or by the site’s automated casting system. This will sound familiar if you are a paying member of Voice123.

The difference between Voices.com and Voice123, and it’s a BIG difference, is that Voices.com does not limit the number of auditions to which members are invited. Voice123, as previous discussed and often criticized across the web, “punishes” its members for auditioning too frequently by sending them less audition invitations. Voices.com does not do this. The site invites its paying members to audition for any jobs that match their profile at least 80% (I only received one invite that matched only 80%, the remainder were 85% or higher). This is a huge advantage Voices.com has over Voice123.

I received invitations to audition on Voices.com frequently during my test, often a dozen or so every 2 or 3 days.  Approximately 97% of all the invitations I received did indeed match the information in my profile. The 3% that were not appropriate for me appeared to be the fault of the client or Voices.com staff that checked the wrong box regarding which gender was desired. In one instance, I had already recorded my audition before noticing that the client wanted a voice “similar to Alec Baldwin.” That was my bad for not reading the description and extra information more carefully.

Service & Process

The Voices.com process is different from Voice123 in several ways. In addition to not limiting invitations, Voices.com semi-shepherds the process of connecting client with talent and oversees payment. Voices.com is also transparent about the status of jobs it lists on its site and allows clients to provide some limited audition feedback.

The Voices.com website indicates if a submitted audition has been listened to with a green check mark next to the job listing. The site will also show a “thumbs up” icon if the client “liked” what he or she heard (which Voices.com compares to the “like” function on Facebook). This is less helpful than the various ratings provided by Voice123 –when clients opt to use them– that indicate how likely a client is to hire each talent. But any feedback is welcome feedback. As someone still new to VO, and as I mentioned in a previous post, it’s helpful to look at feedback in the aggregate in order to identify patterns. For example, the types of jobs for which I most often received “thumbs up” ratings are the two areas I have been focusing on in my search for voiceover work.

Clients post a job to Voices.com in the usual manner, with a project fee (often a range) and closing date. Voices.com does not allow project fees of less than $100, but does not prevent clients from asking for massive amounts of work for those hundred dollars. VO talent include a proposed project fee with their audition and proposal, to which an “escrow fee” of 10% is added and passed on to the client. This fee is collected by Voices.com upon job completion. In other words, Voices.com does not collect this fee unless the project runs through to completion. Unlike Voice123, which functions solely as a match-making service between client and talent, Voices.com has a financial stake in both the match-making and project aspects of their business. The actual work of exchanging files and other communication between client and talent happens outside of the Voices.com site.

Voices.com’s vested interest in project completion is evident in how they share with members what I’ll call “job status labels.” A job status is always presented alongside each job listing for which a member has been invited to audition:

OPEN- Accepting auditions

CLOSED- No more auditions being accepted.

FINALIZING- Client has selected a talent, is in negotiations, etc.

WORKING- Talent and client have agreed to terms and are working on project.

COMPLETED – Job is complete; money has been released by the client to pay the talent.

I found this to be incredibly helpful, if not fascinating. Unlike Voice123, talent using Voices.com are able to track if the job they didn’t get (yet?) was awarded to someone else or just hasn’t been awarded yet at all. Based on my experience, job listings on Voices.com are often open only for a few days (not a few hours like Voice123, and not two weeks like Elance), but rarely changed from the CLOSED status quickly.

In fact, as of May 23rd, I have 14 jobs for which I auditioned that closed in April for that are still in CLOSED status. Of these, only three of my auditions have been listened to. And those are just the jobs I auditioned for! Add to that all the jobs I was invited to in April but declined and all the other jobs in April that didn’t match my profile, and that’s a LOT of projects on Voices.com going nowhere.

Ashley Davidson, the Social Media Manager from Voices.com, assured me that, “Voices.com staff follows up with all jobs that have been posted on the website, regardless of status.” I have to wonder just how long they wait to make contact with clients who never hire someone. I can’t imagine why Voices.com would want to write-off their potential 10% profit of so many incomplete jobs. This makes me wonder, as I did in my review of Voice123, if some of the job listings are Voices.com and maybe P2P sites in general are not genuine and only serve the purpose of drumming up the business of paying members.

Ashley also shared with me that Voices.com “has a global network of over 25,000 voice actors” and creates “6,911 job opportunities on average each month.” Based on my experience with the site, I am still left wondering how many of those “job opportunities” actually come to fruition, and after how much time? Even if each of those monthly 6,911 jobs were booked and completed by a different Voices.com member each month, that still leaves 18,089 members paying a subscription fee but not booking any work that month. It was not clear from Ashley’s email what percent of the 25,000 membership is nonpaying “members” who have a needle’s chance in a haystack of being “discovered” and offered work without an invitation to audition, though I would double down on the likelihood that 99% of the 6,911 jobs that DO get completed are awarded to paying Voices.com members.

By the way, the page layout of job listings on Voices.com is very easy to use.  Members can sort by close dates, by the job, or by project fee. With so many invitations to audition, being able to sort and prioritize each recording session was very useful. (When I was testing Voice123 I emailed them the recommendation to sort job listings by close date to no avail.) If Voices.com added a feature to also sort by the heard/liked icons, that would be very cool. Nothing like a bunch of “thumbs up” icons en masse to brighten your day!

Feeding, but not quite a Frenzy

During my 30 day trial of Voice123, I found that audition invitations were limited and often maxed-out within the hour. Jobs on Voices.com do not have limits on the number of auditions, so it is up to the talent to decide if he or she really wants to audition for a job that already has 80 or more proposals. Like all sites, auditions sometimes close early on Voices.com—a huge bummer to see the CLOSED status has changed to WORKING before you even had a chance!—but this does not happen so often as to be discouraging.

Also similar to other sites, sometimes jobs are awarded to others before your audition is ever reviewed. One approach is to be an early bird about submitting one’s audition. This doesn’t always work, though, because many clients will wait until the close date and listen to all auditions at once, in who knows what order. Another approach is to bid low if a budget range is provided. I tried both.

So, How Did I Do on Voices.com?

Time for numbers!

My test period on Voices.com was 46 days instead of the 30 days I tested Voice123, and for two reasons:

  1. I realized there was a lengthy lag between the job close date and when clients actually begin work on their project.
  2. Voices.com has a monthly fee option that allowed me to expand my test without signing up for an entire year.

I.E., My test on Voices.com was approximately 50% longer than my test on Voice123. If you are a math nerd like me and really want to compare apples to apples, multiply the below Voices.com stats by 50% and then compare them to the stats in my Voice123 post. 

Here are my approximate stats for 46 days on Voices.com.

Auditions invited to: 291

This is an average of 6.34 invitations to audition per day, which was my Voice123 weekly average, if I were lucky that week. As previously stated, all but one invitation I received was at least an 85% match to my profile. A few weeks into my test I revised my Voices.com profile a bit, but this had no obvious effect on the number of invites I received.

Voices.com does not tell members which auditions they are*not* invited to (Voice123 does this), which is fine with me. There was plenty of work to consider!

The quality of these jobs were generally good or very good, with a few “Huh?!?” gigs thrown in here and there. Yes, I said this exact same thing about the jobs on Voice123. Voices.com has a statement after each listing confirming that someone on staff has personally been in touch with the client and has approved the job for posting, though it’s not clear what the standard is for approval.

Auditions submitted: 56

With no fear of being retaliated against for “over-auditioning,” I was selective but aggressive in my audition submissions on Voices. Auditions include a cover note, proposal fee, and one audio track—you can’t submit both your reel and your custom audition. 56 out of 291 is a submission rate of 19.2%. This is actually lower than my submission rate on Voice123, which was 23.4%. In other words, just because I was given more opportunity to audition does not mean I became less selective about which jobs to pursue.

Auditions listened to: 25 out of 56 (44.6%)

As I mentioned, I eventually realized that clients using Voices.com are slower to review auditions and start projects than those on Voice123. Of the 31 auditions not heard, all are for jobs still marked as CLOSED, which probably means no auditions for that job have been listened to yet.

With new batches of invites coming in every few days, I conducted a few experiments to see if I could manipulate the system to my advantage and increase the likelihood of my audition being opened.

Batch #1: Fast and Furious. I recorded and submitted auditions for this batch as soon as I was notified of the job.

Batch #2: Cheap Cheap Like a Birdie. I never bid below the listed project fee, but whenever a budget range was provided, I bid the lowest amount. Even though I knew this could result in my doing a very large job for a very tiny paycheck, I was willing to make this sacrifice in the name of research. I hope you appreciate my sacrifices!

Batch #3: The Demo Ditch. Being low on mojo (see https://algranatiw.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/where-did-you-go-mojo/) and feeling a bit discouraged about submitting so many auditions on Voices.com with little to show for it, I responded to a batch of invites with my demo reel instead of a custom audition. Of course, I didn’t do this for listings that specifically said, “Send us a custom demo or we won’t consider you.”

So which approach do you think worked?

(Drumroll, please…)

Fast and Furious did not work. There was no increase in the percent of auditions listened to when my auditions were among the first few submitted. This confirms for me that the Feeding Frenzy model of Voice123 is not something that needs to be accepted as a way of life for non-union VO talent.

I can’t say if the Demo Ditch worked or not, as it was the last approached I tested. As of day 46, 45.5% of the demo ditch “auditions” were listened to, almost the exact same rate of review as the custom demos I had been submitting. My cover note made it clear that it was my demo reel, not a custom recording, I was submitting for review. This result makes me wonder if I have been needlessly wasting my time on custom auditions when really they have not been necessary.  

First prize goes to CHEAP CHEAP LIKE A LITTLE BIRDIE! I submitted eight auditions in one sitting for which I bid at the lowest end of the client’s project range. All eight were reviewed within 24 hours.

This clear interest in acquiring the cheapest talent possible contradicts the last statement made in the Voices.com document, “12 Trends for 2012,” which was emailed to members by Kayla Moore on May 19th. This document states:

Rates Hold Firm… Something we’ve noticed is that clients are not always going with talent who quotes the least… in fact, most clients opt to hire in the middle of a range or closer to the top!

I’m not sure how this can be true when auditions that accompany proposal fees in the mid-range or at the high end of the clients range have a lower listen-to rate than those submitted at the lowest rate. If the client doesn’t listen to your audition, the chance of them hiring you seems pretty low, dontcha think?

One of the eight clients contacted me, asking for a second take in a different tone, because she felt my voice was a great match for the project (and that project is still in CLOSED status, so nothing has happened since then).

A second of the eight clients contacted me after hearing my storybook demo requesting a custom recording of just a single line. I submitted the recording and was awarded the job when the posting status switched to CLOSED. In the interest of research, I completed a 400+ word project for just $100. You’re welcome, Internet.

Jobs booked (so far): 1

I enjoyed doing the job I booked on Voices.com, despite the project fee what we can all agree was mighty small. I recorded text for a children’s story book, plus recorded a long list of individual words for use in the interactive parts of an eBook. The client knew what he wanted and was fun to work with. Once we agreed to terms, the client and I communicated via email and I sent file via the Internet. When the project was complete, I received payment directly from Voices.com.

With so many of the jobs I auditioned for still OPEN or CLOSED but not yet in progress (55 as of this writing, with enough “thumbs up” icons to keep me hopeful), I wonder if I could continue to book more work on Voices.com even if I don’t send another audition during my remaining 15 days or so left on the site.

Now What?

Like Voice123, I have mixed feelings about my experience on Voices.com. As I mentioned, my number one question to be answered in doing this research remains focused on the membership fee and the value of that membership to the VO talent. Is paying $299/year to be a member on Voices.com worth it?

The hurry-up-and-wait nature of Voices.com in particular has me stumped. I suggested in my post about Voice123 that their lack of fiscal interest in completed VO projects could lead to abuse of their system for the sole purpose of driving membership fees. Voices.com does have a financial stake in project completion (in addition to membership fees), but does not seem to close the loop on projects that are posted on their site and never complete. I wonder if clients and talent “meet” on the Voices.com site but work outside of it to avoid that pesky 10% “escrow fee”?  Does Voices.com attract a different kind client than Voice123? Do clients go to Voice123 when in a hurry, (or worse, to Voicebunny.com, a sister company of Voice123 reviewed by A.T. Chandler here: http://chandlervoice.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/a-review-of-voicebunny-com-beta-testing-their-beta-test/) and Voices.com when they’re still brainstorming ideas and less likely to actually pull the trigger?

I was only a little surprised that my cheap Voices.com proposals were all listened to so quickly, and eventually landed me a job (and hopefully that second one—at least that job was for a non-profit organization!). Having hired plenty of contractors in my time, I get it. Why not start with the bids that are the most affordable?  All things being equal, clients like to save money. Who doesn’t?

This has bigger implications for the voiceover industry: Non-union voiceover fees continue to fall steeply and quickly. The prices on Voices.com and Voice123 are similar, and those on Elance (which serves a larger, global market) are even lower. Given the choice, I don’t imagine that small agencies and companies would hire union actors when the non-union work is of the same quality but perhaps 20% the cost of union talent.

Both Voices.com and Voice123 emphasize that their service helps voiceover talent create relationships with clients that will lead to more work. I don’t buy into this, I’m sorry. Unless someone hires you, sending them audition after audition is not the beginning of a relationship; it’s stalking. I could send my resume to the same Human Resources director at IBM every week, for every position I think I am qualified for, but that does not constitute a relationship with that person.

Back to my original question: Is paying $299 a year worth it, for either Voice123 or Voices.com?

From my current vantage point, I think a year-long study would be needed to really answer that question. Voices.com provides many more opportunities to audition, but Voice123 may provide more audition opportunities that are likely to actually lead to a paying gig.

Perhaps I’ve been approaching this all wrong. Maybe I need to do a ton of work for free (should be easy enough to find work without paying any membership fees!), and then pursue union membership and an agent based on a robust portfolio. Or, perhaps I should just start my own voiceover job listing service, because that’s clearly where the money is to be found in this business.

Wouldn’t you like to give me $300/year to send you voiceover job listings?

I’ll just need your credit card information and your email address…

🙂 Wendy

 

References:

Elance website

Voices.com website

Voice123 website

Email exchange with Ashley Davidson of Voices.com, May 2, 2012

“12 Trends for 2012” presentation from Kayla Moore of Voices.com, received May 19, 2012.

 

Follow me on Twitter @AlgranatiW

Website & demos at www.wendyalgranati.com

Where did you go, mojo?

16 May

I know, I know. I’m pretty far behind in my blogging and haven’t tweeted much lately. My article about Thirty Days on Voices.com is still in my head and not yet on paper or screen. Worse yet, I haven’t been doing many voiceover auditions! Something has happened to my mojo. Where did it go? I can’t find it!

I know this is just sometimes the natural ebb-and-flow of things: Very excited, less excited, mellow, downright lethargic, engaged, and back to very excited. The pattern itself is predictable, even though its timing is not. In other words, how long will this lethargy last? I have no idea. But it blows.

I sent myself an email with the subject line, “GET OFF YOUR ASS YOU STUPID LAZY FUCK!” but to no avail. I tried binging on beer and nachos. I tried purging via group meditation.  I tried talking it out with friends and I tried writing things down. I just cannot get myself in gear! Nothing is working.

Voiceover ain’t no desk job. I can’t just sit at my desk and surf the Internet all day. I need to BRING IT or go home. I just can’t muster the energy to bring it this week. Or the last couple of weeks. The days are starting to blend into one another. My mic stand is getting dusty, I can feel it.

Circumstances, while I don’t blame them, are also not exactly helping me out. Working at home is always subject to chain saws, leaf blowers, and helicopters. I don’t care if your home studio is sealed up like Fort Knox, some stuff is LOUD. Loud and unscheduled, which means it can happen at any moment. Any moment that I attempt to record, in fact, is when those things start up. It is making me a little insane. More than a little.

I don’t mind sharing that I’ve also had a couple of minor setbacks lately. One of my niches is doing “explainer videos” for apps, new websites, etc. I have that young-adult-hipster voice when I’m not recording kids’ storybooks, my other strong suit. I’ve done several gigs at a pretty low rate for the purpose of building my portfolio, with an agreement that I will get a copy of the final product or video to include on my website. Unfortunately, the last few recordings I did may never see the light of day. In fact, I know one will definitely not see the light of day, because the client told me so. In that case, all I’m left with is a scratch/beta animation video that they asked I not share publically. And my paycheck. Whoopee doo.

And just to drag you down a bit further, can I also express, as I have previously on this blog, how frustrating it is to not have your audition listened to? If someone doesn’t like my voice, or doesn’t feel I’m the right fit for a particular job, I can accept that. But if I get my audition in on time, I really wish someone would listen to it! Of course, I know there are no guarantees that any audition is listened to, and yes, I know that if the client finds a match before they get around to listening to my audition, they have no reason to continue. BUT IT’S SO DAMNED FRUSTRATING!

What else can I say? I’m in a slump. But I’ll try again tonight to record some auditions if I don’t fall asleep first (sleepiness seems to be a symptom of the lethargy). At worst, attending VOICE2012 next month should be a great shot in the arm, even though that’s a while month away. I don’t think I can be in a slump for a whole month!

Follow me on Twitter (when I have the mojo to start tweeting again) @AlgranatiW

Website & demos (Only one video right now! Sigh.) at www.wendyalgranati.com

A Brief Word about Non-Union Voiceover Rates

2 May

There is no shortage of blog posts, LinkedIn group discussions, or online articles about what voiceover artists should be paid for their non-union work. There are some who will work for any rate they can get, and there are some who have a set fee schedule by which they live and die. I have had the experience of turning down jobs because the rate offered was too low, and I have had my auditions not lead to paying gigs because my requested rate was too high. Two sides of the same coin.

There is no right answer, no magical voiceover rate, which is why this blog entry is destined to be brief. Both Voice123.com and Voices.com offer “suggested rates” (http://support.voice123.com/article/How_Much_Are_Talents_and_Voice_Producers_Charging_for_Non-Union_Voice_Over_Work_Delivered_Online.html and http://www.voices.com/rates). I find both of these pages helpful, though ironically, not representative of the majority of job listings on either of those sites.

As mentioned previously, one thing I liked about Elance.com is that artists can see the low, high, and average proposal bids of auditions already sent for each job listing. It gives some context to the general categorization of “pays under $500” or “$1000-$2500” or what have you. Elance also lets clients reject bids based on fee alone, giving voiceover talent the option to revise their bid lower (if they feel that is a reasonable action).

As I also mentioned previously, Elance voiceover jobs seemed to pay lower than other P2P sites’ jobs. Though I don’t want to give away any juicy details about my next entry (“30 Days on Voices.com”), I wonder if rates on *all* the P2P sites are lower than what I thought. After all, most listings on Voice123 and Voices offer a rate range, and artists are able to propose whatever amount they choose. In other words, perhaps Elance does NOT pay less than the other sites, but is just more transparent about what jobs are paying. Something to chew on.

And speaking of Elance, I did not get any VO gigs on that site last month. This coming month, I am trying something new: Before sending my audition and proposal for each Elance job, I viewed the average proposed fee already submitted and used that number on my proposal. If the average proposal fee for recording a 10,000 word eBook was $645, that’s what I submitted as my bid. While this may lead to some trouble (i.e., I’ll have to make good on my word and do a few jobs that way underpay), it will be worth it to satisfy my curiosity… and to report my findings back to you.

I also did an experiment like this on Voices.com, but you’ll have to wait until next week to hear about it.

Cheers, and thanks for reading!

Wendy

Follow me on Twitter @AlgranatiW

Website & demos at http://www.wendyalgranati.com

P2P: VO Work on Generic Freelancer Websites? part 2 in a series

24 Apr

I am relatively new to voice acting, and in the midst of conducting an experiment to compare some free and P2P voiceover websites. I will be reviewing several sites, giving each service 30 days to prove its worth. This blog entry is about generic freelance websites: freelance websites that do not specialize in a single field or industry (I’ll get to the VO-specific sites later in this series). What follows is my experience with Elance.com, a generic freelance website.

I have extensive experience hiring freelancers and independent contractors, so it was quite natural for me to begin my quest for non-union, non-agent voice acting jobs by way of a freelancer website. Freelancer websites connect clients looking to hire independent contractors and the freelancers looking for work—for a fee, of course. They may charge the client, the freelancer, or both. The charge may be a flat rate or a percentage of the total project fee. Some websites shepherd the work and payment processes, while others simply play matchmaker and leave the client and the contractor to work out the details.

There is no shortage of freelance websites, as a quick Google search will reveal. I chose Elance after hearing about it from my friends who were interested in starting a tween online zine and in need of writers. While I was aware of the VO-specific websites, and assumed they would lead to more prolific opportunities, I liked the idea of starting my voiceover career with a site that did not cost hundreds of dollars and require a year’s commitment.

I signed up for a free account with Elance and completed my profile, which is similar to most other websites: demo reels, head shot, descriptions about my voice/experience/etc. Before I completed my profile, I took a look at the other VO artists (there are many) on Elance to compare the kinds of information they provided to potential clients. It wasn’t much different than what one might post on a site such as Voices.com or Voice123.

I was given 15 Elance “credits” for use in applying for jobs. Almost all jobs require one credit in order to submit a proposal. Elance users receive 15 credits each month for free, but do have the option to purchase additional credits if desired. When submitting a proposal, users also have the option to “promote” their submission to the top of the list of applicants by using two credits instead of one.

I then began my search for voiceover work on Elance. As a free account holder (there are “premium” accounts to be had for a fee, of course), I was limited to searching for jobs in one category. This was just fine with me, since the majority of voiceover work is listed within one Elance category. Within each category, users have a lot of options for narrowing their search for work. In addition to a traditional keyword search, listings can be filtered and sorted by posting date, closing date, hourly rate, project fee, etc. As I reviewed voiceover listings, I added them to my “Watch List” (similar to eBay’s) and added comments for each listing. This was helpful in filtering the jobs requiring custom auditions from the jobs for which I could just send my demo reel with my proposal.

Once I selected the jobs I wanted to apply/audition for, I reviewed the descriptions again and submitted my proposals. Elance proposals include the usual cover letter-type text, an MP3 or two, and details about fees and turnaround time. Elance jobs are structured for two kinds of payment: hourly or flat fee. Sometimes jobs listed as paying hourly are really flat fees, because they dictated the number of hours and the hourly rate. In all cases, however, the contractor is free to proposal whatever amount they want.

Elance adds .0875% to the contractor’s bid fee (this is how they make money). For example, if a voiceover actor wants to get paid $250, the bid shown to the client in the proposal would be $271.88. Once everything is all said and done, if Elance sends the contractor a paper check instead of using Paypal, he or she will receive the $250. If payment is done through Paypal, the contractor will receive $250 minus Paypal’s fees.

Job listings on Elance resemble the Wild West, in that there is little consistency in pricing or quality. There is no shortage of people looking to pay bottom dollar, and no shortage of people looking to work for bottom dollar: It’s a buyer’s market on Elance. This can be a challenge (i.e., disappointment) to a professional voiceover actor living and working in the Western world, accustomed to a minimum hourly rate that is hard to come by on this website. While a user can propose any fee he or she wants with each bid, Elance does provide the low, high, and average fees of the proposals already submitted for the same project for comparison. This helps guide the contractor in proposing a competitive fee, or skipping the project altogether. I’ve certainly done both.

Voiceover job listings on Elance also vary in quality and professionalism. Some listings have such minimal information (“I need someone to record my book as an audiobook!”), I don’t know how anyone submits a serious proposal, but it does happen. [Elance gives users the option to respond to a job listing without a project fee in order to request additional information, but I’ve never received a response from the hiring client when I’ve tried this.] Other listings are clearly posted by professionals or at least people who know what they are doing (“We need someone to record a 20,000 word audio book within 2 weeks, submit clean WAV files, and be available for pick-ups the following month. Payment will be 20% upfront, remaining 80% upon completion. Please record the sample script below and send an MP3, along with a demo reel or link to your demo online.”).

For the most part, I’ve found that voiceover listings on Elance are open from four to thirty days, which negates the need for the feeding frenzy seen on most P2P VO sites, where a hundred auditions are submitted within the first hour of a job being listed. And though I’m sure it happens occasionally, I have never seen a VO job close early on Elance (which is something I see often on VO-specific sites, hence the feeding frenzy). For whatever reason, clients hiring voiceover talent on Elance are in much less of hurry. Sometimes proposal are rejected before the closing date, but with a reason (there is a lengthy list of canned responses for clients to choose from, but they can also write their own reason for rejection of a proposal). For example, I’ve had two proposals rejected because my bid was too high. I lowered my bid for one job and resubmitted it without having to use another Elance credit. The other proposal I felt was fairly priced and opted not to resubmit.

Once you are awarded a job by an Elance client, the work and payment processes all happen on the Elance website. All work is uploaded to the Elance “workroom,” which is basically cloud storage for files and messages. [I’ve also chosen to communicate with clients directly via email instead of via Elance just for the ease-of-use of Gmail over Elance when on the go.] Milestones, and payments associated with each of those milestones, are set up and agreed to by both parties before work begins. The Elance system sends reminders when updates or invoices are due. My description here does not give the Elance system justice: It’s an excellent tool for those who are great at their craft, but perhaps have some room for improvement when it comes to managing the business aspect of their craft.

In summary, I found Elance to be a worthwhile website to include in my personal voiceover marketing plan. While the rates paid for voiceover jobs are generally lower than other websites, at fifteen free proposals per month you can make the numbers work in your favor. Also, there is little risk of getting stiffed by a client with Elance managing the process, as they do not get paid until you do (if that’s something you worry about). As always, when applying to voiceover jobs over any website, it’s up to the voiceover actor to decide which jobs make the most sense to audition for, and at what price he or she is willing to do them.

My personal big win on Elance was a small voiceover job for an advertising agency on another continent. Since doing the first job for them, I have done a second and have a third on-deck. They are great to work with, and I’ve established rates and terms with them for future work in order to keep the ball rolling. Not bad for a website for which I paid nothing.

Lastly, from the other side of the fence, Elance is a great place to find contractors who can help you market your voiceover career: website designers, avatar artists, marketing pros, audio editors, and more are all available and ready to work. I have hired several contractors for various projects on Elance, and have been very happy with the results.

🙂

Wendy

Remember, you can follow me on Twitter @AlgranatiW

View my website and listen to demos at http://www.wendyalgranati.com/

Welcome to the blog of Wendy Algranati, Left Coast Voice Over Talent

17 Apr

Welcome to my new blog, launching soon!

I’ll be writing about breaking into the world of voice over acting. Stay tuned!

Follow me on Twitter @AlgranatiW

View my website and listen to demos at http://www.wendyalgranati.com/

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