How much does a voiceover cost?

Let’s keep this as simple as we can. Because there’s no single, set price for hiring a voiceover artist, any more than there is any other creative, professional or tradesperson. There are, thankfully, some general guiding principles on pricing and the way professional voiceover artists cost voiceover work. Here, I’m going to talk about typical voiceover rates in the UK. The very nature of what voice artists do means that we may have clients on every inhabited continent and accommodate variations in VO costs according to a client’s local market, but the starting point is usually UK voiceover rates.

Photograph of words on whiteboard: VO rates - it's only talking, right?

For most types of voiceover, professional voice artist fees comprise one or two elements: the recording fee (also known as a session fee, basic studio fee or BSF) and, where applicable, a usage fee, in the form of a licence or buyout. The usage fee, where it applies, will be calculated as a percentage of the BSF, and is usually related to the extent of audience reach and the time the finished product will be available for. Most genres of voiceover follow this model (TV ads, corporate videos, explainer videos, videogame acting, voice acting for animation, voicing a toy, etc). A few work differently (audiobooks, e-learning, IVR/telephony) but will still involve a minimum fee. Others still have other means of calculation (such as radio ads and radio plays).

In order to work how much a voiceover costs, the first question is always going to be “What is it for?”

Let’s look at the genres with differing approaches to voiceover costs first.

Audiobooks:         Usually calculated at a rate per finished hour (pfh) of recording. The cost is based on how long it takes the listener to listen from start to finish. That isn’t how long it takes to record, of course, because even specialist audiobook narrators make mistakes. They also do a lot of pre-recording prep work, annotating scripts, creating character voices etc. Then there’s all the audio editing to do afterwards.

E-learning:            Calculated on a rate per word, with a minimum fee to cover smaller jobs.

IVR/telephony:    IVR (interactive voice response) systems are the menus you’re forced to listen to over the phone, only to find that your mind wandered and you’ve no idea which option you should have pressed, and you’re forced to listen to the whole lot again, only to end up pressing 0 for ‘speak to an operator’. Most voice artists will charge a minimum fee; once that’s reached, any further costs are per prompt.

The BSF plus possible usage model                                                                            

Here, the first question is: “Is this for internal use or will the voiceover be heard by potential clients/customers?”.

If you want a training video narrated for your own staff, or an explainer video talking them through a new project management tool, for instance, a professional voice artist usually won’t charge usage. You’ll only pay a recording fee, based on the time spent in the booth and editing (if required) the audio to a finished standard.

If the final product is going to be made available to the public in any way – whether that’s as part of a video game, as an ad on TV or in the cinema, hosted on your website or as pre-roll advertising on YouTube – there’s probably going to be an additional fee to cover the licence giving you the rights for a particular length of time. That fee is based on potential audience reach (voiceover costs for TV adverts are really easy to calculate, thanks to Usefee) and how long you want to be able to share that content for.

The really good news is that you can check your chosen voiceover artist is charging a fair fee by checking the free-to-use voiceover rate guide compiled by Gravy for the Brain. Drop-down menus allow you to choose from a number of countries (the UK, inevitably, being one), then choose the genre of voiceover, and the category within that genre.

Of course, if you’re reading this page, you’ve probably got a project in the works and you need the right voice. Perhaps I’m not the perfect fit. Being part of the professional voiceover community, I may just know someone who is, though. Get in touch for a bespoke quote or if you’d like help finding a reputable voice artist.

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Anthony Hewson

British male voiceover artist Anthony Hewson