Last week a student of mine asked me about Pay to Play sites in general and Fiverr in particular. Here’s what he had to say…
Hi Tom. My question below is about Fiverr. From your last webinar I attended, can you clarify your position on Fiverr? Because I truly don’t get it. I am seeing Fiverr (as it exists and functions now) in the same lane as Voice123, Voices.com, Voice Bunny, Voice Realm, etc. That is, all of these online v/o markets are playing the game of high volume, low pay gigs, with many v/o-seeking clients offering lousy usage rights and terms of service. I am even seeing a trend for production companies and talent agencies to use these online v/o markets rather than using in-house auditions and production rosters. Clicking a demo link is easier than seeing people. If you go the website for JE Talent in San Francisco, they link directly to Voices.com for their v/o talent. On Fiverr I have found many very successful v/o artists (at least according to their Fiverr stats, self-promos, jobs-in-queue, and customer reviews). Their Fiverr videos show solid home studios, great gear, and v/o demos that are often better than mine. Further, with just a little Google investigation, I also found these same successful Fiverr artists with their own websites, and with their own profiles on Voices.com and Voice123. Their artist bios show training. Several of these artists display on their Fiverr profiles and personal websites brand-name national companies for whom they have done work. From their customer reviews, I can see these artists are getting repeat customers, too. One guy was just recently featured on CNBC as having made over a million dollars through Fiverr over the past three years! In his first month he made $400. I am not making any money right now, not even on Voice123. A million dollars over three years all due to great customer care and scaling up services seems really tempting – and possibly easy on Fiverr. Now I have read a few articles by Debbie Grattan. I learned from her Fiverr is good for clients with little money, and one should be careful about client theft and cancelled jobs. From Steven Jay Cohen’s blog I got the total fear of being industry black-balled drilled into me were I to use Fiverr. I heard Dan Lenard rail against Fiverr and Voice Bunny because they undervalue real v/o artist training and expertise. And I have read sundry other articles on VoiceOverXtra related to Fiverr as it existed in 2012 and how it does not respect the expertise, training, and professionalism of real v/o artists. The “you get what you pay for” thing. But I am still at a loss. Once you get to a certain seller status on Fiverr (I think it is Level 2), you can charge whatever starting rate you want and up-sell from there. These rates are often below industry standard. But how is that bad if you are getting consistent paid work? So far on Voice123, I am finding clients (actual ad agencies and real production companies) posting auditions for projects with ok-to-terrible usage rights matched to budgets that are often below industry standard rates. How is that different from Fiverr where the main gig expectation is a 24hr turn around for a complete buy-out at low pay? The online world wants fast and perfect and cheap. Trained artists don’t like this. I’ve put a lot of time and money into VO practice and training, and into my studio. But what value does all that have if I am not getting any paid work? There is no guarantee I will get paid work in any online market. But it seems more likely that I would if I am on a lot more than just one v/o online market. And Fiverr seems as good a bet as anything. (Incidentally, I have put a lot of time and training into my education at xxx University and have never made a dime of profit or income from that. I am well trained. I am respected. But so what?) It seems to me from the reading and investigation I have done, all of the online v/o markets sit squarely in the long-tail of the voice over industry: high-volume for low pay. I think it would be logical to assume that getting on to as many high-volume/low-pay platforms only increases one’s odds of getting a lot of work and money. So why is Fiverr frowned upon so fiercely? I don’t want to get blackballed for using it (if that even happens). But it seems like these Fiverr artists are making good money. I want to make good money, too.
TIP OF THE WEEK
This is how I replied:
I want you to make good money, too! Here’s my take on P2P sites in general: they are like guns, fire, or polka music. It’s not what they are, it’s how you use them that make them instruments of good or evil. I was on V123 for about 6-7 years. It helped me to better understand the industry and I acquired some regular clients. I stopped using it when I found myself deleting auditions every day because I was too busy working and more & more of the rates were becoming too low. Nowadays I don’t use any P2P sites but one and I’m dropping that one this year. As to Fiverr, yes it’s in the same lane as the other P2P sites you listed. Some users are bottom-feeding and some site creators don’t care because they make their money from subscriptions. X is an extra-special kind of scumbag because they make money from the subscriptions, the percentage they take from the gigs, and telling the voice seekers the talent is getting paid one rate then they pay the talent a lower rate and pocket the difference. Cold Hard Fact #1: Your revenue goal of $100,000 per year is going to be very, very difficult to achieve any time soon, much less $200,000. In our strata I can count on two hands the number of voice talent I know who make that kind of money. To make that kind of money you need to either:
Have a steady stream of quality clients paying you rates that are commensurate with the industry standard after developing your skills & relationships (this may take years)
Be in the union, have a good agent, and do Class A national spots (this may also take years) You could try doing a massive volume of low-paying work on P2P sites, but it probably won’t work. You can’t raise your rates because those types of clients won’t value you. If you try to get a raise they will dump you and go to the next guy because you’re treating yourself like a commodity and so will they. Those types of clients tend to be picky, demanding, and likely to vanish without paying you. Cold Hard Fact #2: if you go on Fiverr, your profile is public. If the voiceover community finds out, you will be vilified and many agents & talent will never work with you. That is the current reality of the voiceover industry. I’d be doing you a disservice if I told you otherwise. I will never tell another person how to support their family and you gotta do what you gotta do, as they say. I could be dead wrong and you could use those sites to make the money you need and then some, but it’s highly unlikely and there is a risk of being blackballed. In short, this industry is not for the faint of heart. Here’s how I became a successful voice talent. I failed a lot. I was broke a lot. I learned, learned, learned and I’m still learning. I tried to be a good human and collect good humans. I tried to be humble. I asked good questions. I took a skill set (teaching and business acumen) and turned it into a voiceover strength. I helped as many people as I could even though I didn’t have much practical voiceover experience. I recommended fellow voicers for my clients’ other projects and sent them casting notices that I thought was right for them while I was looking for my own work. I went to voiceover conferences and tried to contribute to the voiceover community as much as I could. The day I came home from my first VO conference I got avalanched with work and I haven’t looked back. Some years are better than others due to a massive amount of factors that you have zero control over, like some of your top clients vanishing without warning (this has happened to me more than once).
Not 24 hours after this conversation, fellow voice talent Chris Thom posted the In Both Ears representation requirements on Facebook. Remember when I talked about part of it in last week’s blog? Here’s the other bit:
We are no longer working with talent who have active accounts with Voices.com, Fiverr.com, Voicebunny.com, etc. Any situation or site where fair rates are compromised does not align with us philosophically.
NEWS AND NOTES
Thursday, September 20th @8PM EST: My next Edge Studio Business and Money 201 webinar will be “Workflow”. We’re going to talk about how to streamline the day-to-day operations of your voiceover business. Click here to sign up.
Thursday, September 27th @8PM EST: My next Edge Studio Marketing 201 webinar will be “What Your Website Says About You”. We’re going to talk about everything that you need (and don’t need) on your voiceover website. Click here to sign up.
ALMOST SOLD OUT Sunday, October 14th @11:30 AM EST: At Arts On site in Manhattan I will be teaching the seminar “Marketing For VO”. In this 2-hour in-person-only class we will discuss the basics of marketing, branding, the Sales Funnel, and much more! This is a donation-based event. $35 is the suggested donation, but you are free to contribute whatever you want. Click here to register!
SAVE THE DATE Sunday, November 4th and Sunday, November 18th: I will be teaching two workshops at Soundvine Studios in Manhattan. More details to come…!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
From my village to yours; this is Tom Dheere, The H is Silent, but I’m Not.
Tom Dheere is a 20+year veteran of the voice over industry who has narrated thousands of projects for hundreds of clients in over a dozen countries. He is also voiceover business consultant known as the VO Strategist and is currently producing the comic book “Agent 1.22”.