Tuesday, June 4, 2013

If I See One More Fu*#ing Blog About Lowballing!

Yeah, I know exactly what you're thinking right now. After you read the title of this blog, you probably thought, "Oh man! It's yet ANOTHER blog about lowballing in the voiceover industry!" I know you might find it ironic and even a little funny that I have already made a post advising people to stop blogging about this topic and here I am – jumping on the bandwagon right along with the rest of them. Before you decide to click away or curse me out in an email or private facebook message, bear with me for a moment because I’ve developed a perspective that is much different from many others and just might lead this bandwagon in a completely different direction.

Within this industry (and in the world of professional services in general), it is important to have a "Field of Dreams" perspective when it comes to quality. What do I mean by that? Well, if you are familiar with the movie, then you probably already know where this is going, but (for those that do not), "Field of Dreams" was a hit 1989 Kevin Costner movie about a farmer that follows the guidance of a mysterious voice to plow under his corner in to build a baseball field. The voice uttered one of the most famous movie quotes of all time, "If you build it, he will come."

His wife allows him to go through with it, but they both later regret the decision when they realize that no one came, they were broke and were about to lose everything. However, that is when Kevin's character (Ray) started receiving visitors who were actually dead baseball players from the early 1900s. The voice provides him with guidance to help these players fulfill their long lost dreams and goals. Other people believed that Ray was crazy, because he was the only person that could hear the voice and see the players so they kept urging him to change his mind, replant his crops and get back to making money as a farmer. However, Ray ignored them and kept moving forward, helping these players fulfill their dreams. Towards the end of the movie, Ray's dream was fulfilled as he was reunited with his late father followed by thousands of people driving to the field to watch the game, making it a huge success. 

Now, you might be asking yourself, "What in the world does this movie have to do with lowballing in the voiceover industry?" Before you start thinking that I have lost my mind, that I am hearing voices or that I just really love watching Kevin Costner movies, hear me out. 

Regardless of the type of work we do or the specific industry that we might be working in when we do it, we always need to focus on providing quality work for quality pay. It is very easy to get so caught up in the playing the game of numbers that you forget about what is truly important. There are so many lowballing parasites that are feeding off of the voiceover industry right now that it can be extremely difficult to survive in this industry. Many people have decided to drastically drop all of their prices and become one of those parasites just to be able to make a little money. Even though that may seem like the key to success, many voiceover talents and artists find out the hard way every year that it is not. 

If you focus on building a quality business, then you should not settle for anything less than quality pay for the hard work and consistent effort that you bring to the table day in and day out. There are many more customers out there right now that are looking to spend as little as they can to get what they need than there are customers that are willing to pay quality prices for quality work. However, that latter group is the only group that we should be targeting! We need to be willing to stand our ground and be fully prepared to defend our work, refusing to compromise or jeopardize our quality standards just to be able to work for a client that clearly has no respect for them. You can't expect to find a diamond in a shop that only offers cubic zirconia and you definitely should not expect to purchase a brand new vehicle that runs great from a salvage yard. Therefore, why would a customer expect to receive anything other than cheap imitations and junk from a lowballing voice talent? 

This is the picture that we have to be willing to paint for our prospective clients that are "shopping around" and "weighing their options" but always seem to be leaning more towards the lowballing talent instead.  Whenever a client even thinks about using the line, "Well, Mr. Lowballer is willing to do this work for half of what you charge," I simply will reply with something like, "You would not even be able to receive half of the quality that I can offer you, Mr. Customer, for half of the price!" 

We have to be confident in ourselves as professionals. Instead of whining about the different lowballing workers that are hunting down as many clients as they can, focus on taking a stand and reminding your clients why they should stay with you in the first place. Remind them that quality is not something that comes cheap. Even though they may pay a little more upfront, they will get exactly what they need the first time around instead of being forced to pay even more on the back-end to have a lowballing contractor's work fixed or replaced all together. 

Think about it just like you would a poker game. A lowballing contractor wants to make people think that they have the perfect hand, but is really just a great bluffer. Instead of identifying their bluffs and staying in the game, there are so many quality players that willingly giving up their quality hands as a sign of surrender.  Don't give up! Keep fighting by continuously raising the stakes until they are forced to reveal their cards to their clients. That is the moment that we should be fighting for because that is the moment when those customers and clients that insisted on "shopping around" and "weighing their options" will start to realize that they were wrong all along. 

Instead of being so quick to match lowballing offers, take a different approach. Do not focus too much on defense, but, rather, focus on a counterattack.  Use the work of lowballing talent against them in order to show your prospective clients a sneak preview of what they might be getting by deciding to reject your offer because of a pricing difference. One of the most effective tools that I use is found at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMtmeQRuU6k. Whenever someone tries to get me engaged in a bidding war with lowballing workers that charge $50, I simply send them that YouTube link to show them exactly what they can get for $50. 

I am not using this YouTube link as a way of bashing this person, so please do not take it that way. I use this as a tool as a two-edged sword to remind myself why I will never compromise the quality standards that I have set for my work just to close a few more clients and it reminds my potential and existing clients about why they should never expect me to do so. 

If a client expects quality work, they should be focused on investing the right sound for their project more than the right price. If you build a quality business, quality clients will come!  Other people and professionals will try to discourage you, distort your vision and distract you from achieving your goals. That is just because they do not see what you see when they look at your business. They cannot see the successful baseball diamond, because they are too focused on the cornfield. They cannot see the needles, because they are too distracted by the haystacks.

Just as they need to go to a diamond jeweler for diamonds and a dealership for a brand new car, lowballing clients are never going to find the true gems and showroom quality that they expect without coming to you first. That is the mentality that you need to have and fight to maintain, regardless of how many clients seem to be turning you down because of it.  I would rather struggle for 10 quality clients that each lead to thousands of dollars of work this year instead of for thousands of clients that only wants to pay me 10 dollars. 

Believe in your work. Believe that what you can offer to your client is worth every dollar that they spend for it, even if it is a little more than they expected to pay upfront. This is how you will be able to achieve the success and longevity that you have been dreaming about since you first began this journey. And do not let any lowballing client ever make you think otherwise. 

For the record, yes – I do like Kevin Costner movies, but that's not the point! (Lol) Use that perspective to clear the field of corny lowballing clients and plant the seeds that will allow you to eventually cultivate a field of dream client that will offer you high-quality pay for high-quality work for many years to come!


Arielle DeLisle said...

I enjoyed this read, Terry. It's another great article emphasizing long term growth and quality over short term gains and quantity. It's a simple business perspective that many VO's don't consider because they dont run their VO endeabor like it's a business.

It's difficult to survive if your income depends on grabbing the dollar-a-holler gigs. I think ultimately it's about who are your clients' clients. Most of my clients' clients are multi-million dollar companies, and my clients are I'd say about 70/30 more high end producers and agencies. I work with people who respect the value good work, and don't want to deal with people who can't deliver what they want.

Of course the bottom seems to drop out every few years and the super low end VO (the "I got fired and always wanted to try this with no training and cheap equipment" crowd) cycles itself out every year or two as they can't sustain the quantity of work required to make money but haven't acquired the skills or developed the talent to charge and be booked for higher pay. But if you aren't competing for $50 jobs to begin with, this doesn't affect you. As for haggling for bargain rates, I'd recommend this video, as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2a8TRSgzZY

Laurel Thomas said...

I see what you did there... ;)

All good points. I like the thing about working hard for fewer clients with higher pay -- I'm just as lazy as the next person, and I'd rather only have a few key relationships to work on that are very fruitful. This has helped me in some new clients within the last week who are willing to pay my rates, and I didn't have to back down on them to get the business. Thanks for sharing your Kevin Costner obsessionImeanexample. :)

Jordan Reynolds said...

Great stuff Terry. I couldn't agree more. And I never thought of "demonstrating" what a cheaper voice over talent could provide, in contrast.

Great idea, thanks!

Jim Edgar said...

Nice column, Terry.
I'll try to add a reinforcing parable. As I transitioned to full-time Voiceactor, I worked as a buyer for retail stores, and in that capacity, it was my job to pay as little as possible for things. So, I would always, always ask to pay less - to get them to pick up freight, to get anticipation discounts on early payment, obtain quantity discounts, etc. Some vendors folded immediately with "distributor" pricing or other breaks.
But, the key point was that we needed specific things on the rack. If that vendor or manufacturer went said, "..that's my price!" we'd pay it.
There are a lot of folks whose job it is to pay as little as possible. They are good at what they do, and if you let yourself get talked down on rate, you have no one to blame but yourself.
To quote another film - "Ruthless People" - a bad salesperson always drops their price first.
...or, when a would-be client tries the "VO X is a lot cheaper!", you can look them in eye, smile broadly and reply, "well, they know what they are worth."

Peter K. O'Connell said...

Just a perspective point:

It occurs to me that I pay my children's babysitter a better wage than what that Fiver Voice-Talent (and others like her) get paid.

The babysitter, by the way, is still in school and I don't over or under pay her.

So to summarize, the Fiver Voice Talents' fallback employment opportunity (with great chance for financial success, it would seem) is as a babysitter.


Best always,

EdgeStudio said...

The worth that a product or service has in the mind of the consumer is known as “perceived value.” The consumer's perceived value of a good or service affects the price that he or she is willing to pay for it. For the most part, consumers are unaware of the true cost of production for the products they buy. Instead, they simply have an internal feeling for how much certain products are worth to them. Thus, in order to obtain a higher price for their products, producers may pursue marketing strategies to create a higher perceived value for their products. This is absolutely true in the Voice Over industry as well. If people are willing to settle for low-balled offers, then the perception of the value of the product begins to deteriorate. People SHOULD pay more for quality voice over work because in the end they are going to want a high-caliber, professional result.