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The Cost Of A Free Market

Recently, a rather fascinating discussion has been flourishing regarding rates for voice overs. But the breadth of the conversation goes well beyond a specific vocation. Covering the philosophical and ideological differences in how individuals view the free market, the participants are exploring almost every aspect of determining how the independent contractor views the value of their work - and what that means for the industry. At one end of the spectrum is the concept of interdependence and the reality that all individuals rely on shared and agreed upon terms and agreements in order to function as a civilized society. At the other end is the push for specific individual choices and liberties within or outside the scope of a community.

It is a must read for business owners, consumers, contractors and anyone interested in discovering the dynamics that are in play in setting price points and rates. And it is time well spent for anyone who has ever asked themselves whether the free market costs us something.

Dave Courvoisier writes of it: "What you will find is probably the most exhausting, thorough, and philosophical dissection of the quandary over rates I’ve ever seen."

Here are just a few excerpts. The entire discussion is worthy of sitting down with a cup of coffee or stiff drink and allowing yourself about forty minutes of civil, thought provoking dialogue on worth, value and industry:

Paul:

As soon as we start accepting a certain price level as an inevitable norm -for whatever reason- we've become passive observers instead of active participants. From that moment on, the game revolves around "survival of the cheapest" and we've given up every right to complain about low rates.

Larry:

Let's say Voices.com puts out a job for a 30 second radio spot, with the price range of $100-$250. Now, $100 helps a family of four more than you think. It can mean the heat staying on and it's too cold here in Michigan for that. I'm sorry but my career has regrettably not ascended to the point where $100 for a 30 second spot is not considered pretty good. So if I bid $100 does that make me a low-baller? By strict definition yes because it's the minimum offered in the price range. But my personal reality is that's pretty good money.

Helen:

While I sympathise with everyone struggling to make a living in this crazy profession and completely understand the 'market forces' argument, I strongly feel that if those of us who have the experience and the skill allow ourselves to be undervalued; if we don't stand up for ourselves and continue to demand a proper rate for a job, then standards, as well as fees, will inevitably fall.

Elizabeth:

Maybe the folks willing to do this book at that rate simply have a lot of time on their hands and absolutely LOVE what they do. Maybe finishing a project like that pays them in different rewards that have absolutely nothing to do with the $. In fact, maybe for them, they'd pay for the opportunity just to crack a mic again. We don't know. Profit isn't all about dollars. And I think P2Ps, while certainly capitalizing on the state of the industry, also offer these kinds of opportunities.

Matt:

I, too, support the free market, but I can't help but think there must be a way of balancing things so everyone can be happy - the union-rate pros, the dirt-cheap newbies, and everyone in-between. The bigger problem is that many voice-seekers can't seem to see (or rather, hear) a difference- all they see is price - so to them that nebulous term "quality" is not a concern. That's why I've said we, as talent, need to do more in defining "quality."

Paul:

If a majority of elected representatives has determined that this nation should have a minimum wage to protect people from poverty and income inequity caused by the forces of supply and demand, shouldn't freelancers be entitled to the same protection?

Elizabeth:

Regulation is something you are for. It is something I'm against. That's fine. But the difference is that the reasoning for or against it ought to be logical and reasonable. Pretending that the person bidding on a $20 VO is your direct competition is aligning yourself to that end. And suggesting they impact my rate card is not reasonable. Again, because McDonald's hasn't put Ruth's Chris out of business yet.

Read on:

Setting Voice Over Rates/LinkedIn

Many thanks to Dave Courvoisier for providing an excellent venue to engage and interact. For Matt Forrest for kicking off the conversation. And to all for their active participation and welcoming my perspective in the discussion.