One of the most crucial, and often overlooked, parts of a high-quality (or even a medium quality) video, is the inclusion of professional voice talent. You may ask, “Why not just use my voice, or the voice of someone on my team? It’s cheaper isn’t it?” Well, yes, it will be cheaper, but it will lessen the impact of your video.
A professional voice narration puts the viewer at ease, adds resonance, and influences trust. This article will break down what determines the cost of a professional voice-over for video.
How much does voice talent cost?
Within the professional voice world, there are different levels, or calibers, of talent. Because of this, the cost scale has a wide range. Typically, the cheaper the talent, the less professional sounding your narration will be. Despite this, there is a fairly set standard in the industry in which you can expect high-end quality for a decent, median cost. So, unless you want a recognizable voice that requires union and agent contracts (and sticker shock), you can typically expect the following pricing structure.
The price range for a professional voice-over can range anywhere between $250 and $3,500.
Cost factors of voice talent
There are 5 main cost factors that determine the price of a professional voice-over.
Let’s now dive deeper into each individual cost factor.
Usage refers to how and where the voice-over will be used and for how long. A video for public broadcast (i.e., a television commercial) will always cost more than an internal company video because the audience is much larger.
Here’s a breakdown of the various types of usage.
Corporate videos can range from explainer videos to product demonstrations to employee training videos. They can also be either internal or external.
Internal corporate videos
Internal corporate videos are pretty self-explanatory: they are videos intended only for the eyes of a limited number of employees. Because of this, they tend to be the cheapest form of usage. Not only because the audience is limited, but also because the lifespan of the video is typically pretty short lived, especially if it’s for a live event or time-sensitive announcement.
The voice-over for an average 2-3 minute internal corporate video costs about $250 - $300.
External corporate videos
External corporate videos are posted publicly on the web. Product demonstrations, go-to-market campaigns, and explainer videos are popular forms of external corporate videos. Since these kinds of videos have a wider, public audience, they will cost a bit more.
The voice-over for an average 2-3 minute external corporate video costs about $300 - $450.
Social media videos
This probably isn’t a surprise, but people spend a lot of time on social media. A 2018 survey found digital consumers spend an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social networks and messaging. More companies are now turning to paid social media campaigns to promote their business. Since social media videos have the potential to reach a wider audience or even go viral, the rates reflect that reach.
The cost of a voice-over for a social media video can range from $400 - $3,000.
The two main price factors for social media videos include the market size (local, regional, national) and how long the video will be promoted. So, for $400 - $500, your video would be promoted to a local audience for 3 months. For $2,000 - $3,000, your video would be promoted to a national audience for 1 year.
As you might imagine, videos for broadcast are typically the most expensive. For Super Bowl LIII, CBS (the host network) charged a record $5.25 million for a 30-second spot. Therefore, you can expect the cost for a voice-over to increase.
The pricing for a voice-over for TV broadcast is similar to social media: it’s determined by the market size and duration.
The cost of a voice-over for a TV broadcast can range from $400 - $3,500.
Keep in mind, this price does not include internet or social media usage.
We can’t forget about the original broadcast medium: radio. A voice-over is essential in radio spots. And once again, the pricing depends on market size and duration.
The cost of a voice-over for a radio broadcast can range from $250 - $1,700.
While usage is the main determining factor for the cost of professional voice talent, other variables contribute to that final price tag.
To put it simply: the longer the voice-over, the more expensive it will be. The average external corporate explainer video is 2 - 3 minutes long. Using that as a baseline, you can expect the average talent to ask for about $300 - $400 for a full-length narration.
When negotiating price, a certain number of pickups are typically included. Pickups are any number of additional recordings the talent needs to perform after the original read is recorded and delivered. Performance, inflection, or script changes can all be reasons for pickups.
Typically, misreads or performance issues are included as part of the talent’s responsibility (as many pickups it takes to get it right), but things like script changes or other unexpected asks either need to be negotiated in the original price or added on as an additional cost.
The average additional cost for a pickup (negotiated after the fact) is $50 each.
Tags, or different versions of the ending of the narration, can be added on if need be. These come in handy for different usage types: maybe you want one tag for TV broadcast and a different one for social media. Typically, they cost an extra $150 per tag.
Economies of scale factor in if you have a series or long-format project. Typically, you can get a 10-minute narration for about $500-$800 (depending on usage) and a series of 2 - 3 minute videos gets cheaper if you bundle them all together with the same talent ($300-$400 for the first script and typically less for each subsequent script(s)). Note that when it comes to bundling scripts, they typically need to be recorded at the same time to maximize your economies.
Additional costs of voice talent
Benefits of hiring a production company
In today’s business world, time is of the essence. You’ve probably heard a coworker say, “if only there were more hours in a day, I could finish insert project or task here.” With this in mind, hiring a video production studio to manage your voice-over will save you the highly-sought-after-but-rarely-found time.
Now, you’re probably thinking “won’t hiring a production company cost me more money?” The answer, of course, is yes. However, to reiterate, hiring a company can help save you time on a project, avoid pitfalls that can end up costing you more, and bring expertise to managing and negotiating voice-over talent. This expertise is definitely worth the minimal cost increase to have them manage this task for you.
A studio that’s managing the voice-talent will handle everything from sourcing talent, hosting auditions, selection and management, communication, negotiation (for the best talent price and pickups), studio time (if recording in their own studios), audio editing, timing, and sound processing.
If you do decide to hire a production company, those earlier mentioned price points will tick upwards.
The talent’s business costs and experience
Another additional cost to consider: the talent’s costs and experience. Professional voice actors have quite a few business costs they need to manage on top of their actual take home pay. Things like a home studio or renting space in a studio; the cost of their recording and editing equipment and software; and the cost of managing their website and memberships all factor into their pricing.
For example, some talent are also audio engineers and are able to record, clean-up, and edit their own voice-overs. These actors expect a little extra for their skills and services, which allows for a much faster and smoother editing and sound design process by the studio.
Additionally, their experience level can factor in; the more in demand they are, the more you can expect to pay. This can be beneficial, though, because a voice talent who’s in demand is typically perfect on their first read, easy to work with, responsive, and quick.
Just like determining the cost of a video, the pricing for professional voice talent varies due to 5 main cost factors:
- Usage: where the voice-over will live? Social media? TV? Radio?
- Length: how long is the voice-over?
- Pickups: do you need additional recordings after the original read is recorded and delivered?
- Tags: do you want different versions for the ending of the narration?
- Bundling: can you create a series of narrations so the price-per-narration decreases?
While it can be overwhelming to think about all these factors, hiring a production company to manage the professional voice talent can save you time and give you peace of mind, and save on unexpected costs if you aren’t sure what to negotiate in the contract. Yes, it will cost you a little more money, but you’re also ensuring that the job gets done right the first time.
A professional voice talent elevates the production value of your project making you look (and sound) like trusted thought leaders in your industry.