Voiceover Casting Websites
I spent 30 Days on 20 Sites.
Message boards are always full of questions on voiceover casting websites. ‘Are they worth it?’, ‘Should I join?’, etc. I have never been a big pay2play user but curiosity had finally gotten the better of me. So, I joined 20 Voice Casting websites for 30 days to find out what kind of jobs were being cast and what rates were being offered. I have a vague recollection of GCSE Science and am very aware that this is not an overly accurate study as to the state of the p2p landscape. If I do this again (and I won’t) I will do it for longer and with a placebo group of voiceover actors. It’s obviously also worth noting that these results are unique for me and this month. An Australian female voice artist might get very different results in June, for example. This is not a blog post to discuss each of these companies and their ethics or carbon footprint. There are plenty of forums that will do that work for me. This is merely me holding up a mirror to voiceover nature. The observant amongst you will notice that the comments for this page are switched off. However, If you are desperate to get something off of your chest please do get in touch here.
There was 11 main criteria I was looking at, which were as follows.
What was the membership cost per month? Some companies let you come and go as you please. Others demand that you subscribe to the year in full.
Does the company offer premium membership? and what does that get you? Some platforms offer you the chance to join their ranks as a premium/platinum member and pay around $2,500 for the privilege. (*SPOILER) I didn’t do that.
What commission does the platform take? All the voiceover casting websites have different business models. Some don’t take a joining fee but will take commission. Others do the opposite. I must admit I was surprised to learn that some were taking both.
Were the voices vetted? I found this quite interesting. It would take a lot to persuade me that if a company wasn’t taking the time to sift out the unqualified talent, that maybe their interests were purely financial.
How many auditions would you get? I know it’s not just the amount of work you can submit for, but also the quality. Needless to say that range was vast.
What was the average rate? Some sites had the occasional job that skewed this figure. Generally I think it’s fair to say that the majority of the work was internal or small corporate gigs.
How did the rates compare to my own? I’ll talk about this in more depth as I go through each site but I was keen to know how the rates offered compared to my own. I consider myself to work to industry standard rates. This column in the table shows the percentage of my rate that was being offered. Some companies let you submit your own rate, others had fixed budgets.
What was the highest priced Job?
What was the lowest priced Job?
How many applications were there for each role? Some of the voiceover casting websites were more forthcoming with this information than others. Some sites also limited the number of applications you could make and that the client could receive.
Were the auditions reviewed? At least when you submit a tape to an agent or a private company you can pretend that a room full of people all gathered around to listen to the fine work you had created. What was disheartening was that you could see on some sites the amount of auditions that the client didn’t even press play on. Truly a waste of everyones time.
I tried my best to submit for every suitable audition. In truth, I probably spent less time on these auditions than I would when an agent or company directly reaches out. For these auditions I was tending to read the brief (which was often limited) and run a couple of takes, pick my favourite one (or a combination of the two) and submit one cleaned ready to use mp3. As most of the sites suggest, I wouldn’t provide a read of the whole sample script but certainly enough for them to get a feel for what I could offer.
However on a regular audition, after reading a brief, I would research the company the audition is for. I want to know who they are, what they do and who the target audience is. Making a note of where the end product will be used as that will inform the read. I also like to find any work that either the production company has made before or that the client has had made before. That way, I sort of understand what they might be after. Within the brief itself marketing companies love to put some keywords like, ‘guy next door’, ‘informed’, ‘casual’, ‘dynamic’, ‘trustworthy’. I’ll take three of these to title three tracks in my DAW. I’ll then do a couple of takes on each track that leans slightly heavier on that tracks particular keyword. (I’m hoping that makes sense?). After a bit of cleaning up I now have three options that I can send to the client. Alternatively, if the client has specifically asked for just one take, I will break those three reads in to one so I have one cleaned up take that incorporates all the clients dedicated buzzwords. I know that might sound like a long winded way of doing it but it’s not as bad as it seems. Also, if the client isn’t in a hurry for the file I will move on to another job to clear my head and then come back and review it to make sure I’m still happy with it. The real key about the auditions though is to give them all the attention they deserve when you are working on them and then completely forget about them.
So who would I be auditioning against? I had a look at the sites to check out who the ‘competition’ was. Using the platforms search function I trawled through the sites British Male Voice actors who were aged in their 30s. You can see the numbers I found below. Backstage would also allow you to filter out those who didn’t have home studios, this left just 84 VO’s. On the VoiceRealm you can filter out those who were currently in the studio. At the time of writing this ([email protected]) there were 17 online voices, matching my vocal criteria, who were poised ready to respond to a clients demands. I think it’s fair to say that Mandy shows everyone ever registered fitting the search criteria. My guess is that there are not 3,297 active British Male Voiceovers. Looking through Voice123 search results, I found lots of American VoiceOver Actors who are putting on English accents. They do this with mixed results.
My main observation with quite a few of these p2p auditions was little or no mention of usage. Don’t get me wrong the rates were often low to begin with but that is discounting any form of additional usage. So even if I did send in a sample I wouldn’t do the job if terms couldn’t be met. The above table pretty much sums up the month, but I’ll go through each of the sites in a little more detail. Starting with Backstage
Although Backstage costs £14.99 a month they were actually offering a 6 month free trial, which you can cancel at any time. The company is a veteran in the casting world, as it started as a weekly newspaper in New York. It is now a fully functioning digital career platform. They also offer editorials on all things showbiz. The focus is not solely on voiceover and not many jobs came through. I was contacted privately by a client who was looking for a quick turnaround on a job, but he couldn’t get anywhere near industry rates. The one job that I did work on mentioned that they normally receive over 150 applications per role. Although this information is not made public on the site.
It seems like both joining the site and adding jobs is open to all. There is little quality control. This site was offering the chance to audition for a £22 job. A job I would have quoted at 10x that amount. That job aside, the voiceover jobs on the site averaged out at around 50% of my standard rates.
bodalgo comes with a great reputation and there is no doubt that both the VO’s and the jobs go through more rigorous scrutiny. The platform is open, honest and easy to use. A good amount of auditions came through and all were budgeted at or around my personal rates. You are free however to quote whatever you feel is appropriate. On one of the jobs I actually ended up quoting a fee lower that the clients budget. I wasn’t trying to undercut the competition, I just thought it was a fair rate.
The great thing about this site is every job that matches your profile is presented to you, you can audition for as many as you want and you work directly with the client (You’ll see below that this isn’t always the case). It’s worth noting however that the site made clear on each submission to only apply ‘if you absolutely excel’ in the required area. It seems, they are currently seeing a boom in voiceover artists. Most jobs were seeing 100-200 submissions and most of my auditions were not listened to by the client. bodalgo was probably one of the very few voiceover casting websites that I might have considered staying signed on to but whilst it is so heavily subscribed to I think my time is better spent elsewhere.
Bunny Studio is different to any other site that I looked at. They work on algorithms all of their own. They are part of the Voice123 family and the emphasis seems to be on speed, delivering the end product to the client as quickly as possible.
Jobs are split in to two camps, Speedies and Contests. Speedy jobs work by the client submitting a project. That project is sent to a select number of voiceovers. The first voiceover to accept it gets the job and around 30 minutes to complete and return it. You are paid if your work passes ‘bunny control’ even if the end client does not approve it. I was sent a speedy job which was for a Spotify ad. The fee was £64.16 and there was no mention at all as to how long the audio would be used. You have the option to be paid by bank wire, although there is a fee of $25, The other option is PayPal, who will also take a commission off of the transaction.
A contest is slightly different. So for example, the client submits the project which is sent to three voiceovers to submit the work. Each of the 3 voiceovers was paid £25 for taking part and the ‘winning VO’ received £190. I calculated this job to be, as a minimum, a £400 job and that’s without the additional usage that should be added, but was never mentioned.
Interestingly, you can view the contest and speedy submissions from the other voiceovers. There was quite a few recorded by American VO’s putting on English accents.
From further research on this company it would appear that although they don’t take a commission as such, they do charge the client an additional 70% which they take prior to paying you. This site doesn’t let you have any contact with the customer at all. The 70% fee Bunny Studio take covers all the ‘middle-man’ work carried out by them. You are merely represented on the site by a voiceover number.
Casting Cube is free to join and appears to be a new venture. Currently only showing ‘Test Projects’. Not much to really mention here. They had one small internal corporate job this month. The rate was fixed but matched what I would charge.
Casting Networks is another free platform, although you can spend £5 per month for a premium membership that allows you to upload additional photos and multimedia. It is a platform primarily used for on screen work and voice auditions are scarce. There certainly wasn’t any this month.
CastingCall.club is more of a message board for small passion projects. Lots of $10 – $30 gaming character jobs. Occasional web series and podcast intros all <$50.
Castweb, not surprisingly, didn’t bear much fruit either. In fairness they do not sell themselves as one of the voiceover casting websites. They are an ‘auditions and casting information service’. They did state they had had a couple of recent voice castings on their twitter page though so thought it should be added on to the list of 20 sites. This month, however, was very quiet.
If Mandy were in an African game reserve I guess it would be considered one of the big five. It is talked about a lot by fellow VO’s. I received the second highest amount of auditions from this site and whilst not all the jobs were at what I would consider an industry rate, there was some room for negotiation. One Client for example asked me to do a job at what was 50% of my current rate. We managed to settle upon 75% and he has already booked me for a job next week at 80% of my rate. I don’t want this to sound patronising but sometimes the customer may need a bit of educating in to how to correctly price a job. I’m not saying it’s the fault of pay 2 play sites but many end clients are able and used to paying an ever reducing fee for voiceovers.
It’s also worth noting that any work I got directly from any of these voiceover casting websites (unless there was an escrow service included) I asked for 50% of the fee upfront. Everyone, without exception had no problem with that.
Mandy, formally Voices Pro, doesn’t publicly state how many applicants each job posting gets. A couple of clients I worked with this month did say they had around 200 voice submissions though. Unlike some of the other platforms, Mandy is based in the UK so has many more British voiceover jobs. I found this site to be easy to use and clear. It seemed to drive quite a bit of traffic to my website and some jobs were offered directly without auditioning. It must be said this site, as many of the others, was often loose with exact usage requirements. But, because you can talk directly to the client that was easy to resolve. In fact even those that had stated they wanted a buyout in perpetuity were able to agree on one and two year deals with extensions.
Outspoken voices is a free to join casting platform that will charge you a commission on each job. They claim that all of their ‘artists are hand picked and have verified pro home studios’.
Their rate card is clear and printed on the site for both the client and VO’s to see. These rates don’t fall in line with my current rates but they are worth checking to see if they work for you.
Spotlight, once a primary tree pulper, no longer resides in biblical sized folios and is now a web residing catalogue of all things entertainment. Primarily used by agents for submitting actors to casting directors, occasionally a VO job does appear.
In order to be a member of Spotlight you have to have either graduated from an accredited drama school or have 4 speaking roles in professional productions. I have had great voice work directly from my spotlight profile in the past, but this month I did not.
You’ll find a lot of commercial acting work and modelling on StarNow with the occasional voice job. I did a free trial of StarNow many years ago and started working with a production company who still employ me to this day. They send me at least two corporate videos a month. This isn’t life changing work but it is part of the ‘bread and butter’ work that reliably sees me through each month. I guess that is exactly the draw of voiceover casting sites. They cause ultimate fomo, you just don’t know what you could be missing out on. I’m pretty sure if I set up one of these voiceover casting websites and opened it up tomorrow morning I would have people signed up by lunchtime.
This month on the site was a well priced £4000 corporate read and a well underpriced £30 audio drama job.
The Stage is the UK equivalent of Backstage. Once an in vogue industry newspaper including a back section dedicated to jobs. It has now transferred online. Little to mention here, there was no relevant voiceover jobs this month.
Voice Jockeys is a casting platform that once vetted is free to join. They do however charge 50% commission.
I think I have seen more written about The Voice Realm by other voice actors than any of the other voiceover casting websites.
Voice Realm has its own rate guide listed on the site, so they are fixed. Their rates sometimes fall below less than half of my current rates. The platform is also very strict on confidentiality. You can not send any of your personal information to the end client. All conversations and future work must happen on the platform. In addition to the membership fee, they will also take a 15% admin fee for each booking. Although, having spoken to other voiceovers I’m led to believe that the membership fees and commission rates do vary.
The interesting thing about doing this experiment is that you notice the same jobs can appear on two sites for two very different rates.
VoPlanet was one of the sites that I actually hadn’t heard of but it was recommended to me by a fellow VO. One feature, straight off the bat, that I appreciated about this site…. ‘Bids below client budget will not be accepted’. One criticism about p2p sites is that they can lead a drive to the bottom in regards to rates. Voiceovers undercutting each other. It was a welcome sight that this platform refused to let that happen and actively encouraged you to bid higher if that’s where your rate was. Thats why every job I applied for was at 100% of my standard rates.
Everybody on this platform has the same access to the jobs and everybody pays the same. Judging by this months postings it seems the site has a focus on audiobooks which is not something I tend to focus on.
You have to be a member of World-Voices Organization to gain entry to the VoiceOver.biz platform. So although there is no fee to be a member you will have to pay the yearly £78 to WoVO. It’s worth checking out their website to see all the benefits the WoVO membership brings. Voiceover.biz runs as a talent directory and communication and negotiation of contracts is private between the client and talent.
Voiceovers.com is a yearly membership. Although they did very kindly let me pay for just the one month. It’s worth mentioning that many of the sites I joined are based in the United States. So Before I joined Voiceovers.com I did ask them whether there was any demand for UK voices. They replied, “The majority of our projects are targeted for a North American accent, that being said, the second highest targeted accent is British. We are actively attempting to grow our reach as well to the UK and increase the number of buyers coming to the platform from the region.”
All communication with the company was great and I found the site to be well set up. Sadly though, this month, there was nothing on the site for me.
VoicesUK is the simplest of all the business models in the casting websites world. You are vetted to join the site. If you are accepted you pay a small lifetime membership (admin) cost and that’s it. You’re in. Friends for life. The clients are actively encouraged to pay the going rates, you are encouraged to audition. Simples.
Voices.com is an international titan in the pay 2 play world. I received a reasonable amount of auditions, but it is the most expensive platform to join. They also take an additional 20% (platform fee) on every booking. That platform fee is something you are asked to factor in when quoting within the clients budget. I did receive some questionable auditions. You are matched to jobs using their ‘voicematch’ software. I was still being asked to audition for African, Arabic and MiddleEastern voiced reads. This site like Voice Realm asks that all work is carried out on the platform.
I was invited to audition for a couple of infuriating jobs. The first client said there is no sample script written out but asked if I could watch the sample video and write down that script and provide three sample reads. All to audition for his job with a £68 budget. I didn’t.
I was also sent an audition for an English Language Course. 34,630 words, edited and delivered with the bidding war starting at £74 (minus platform fee). I didn’t again.
Last up is Voice123, who claim to be the first and largest marketplace for professional voice actors in the world. They really do live by the pay2play ethos. The membership is a tiered system. The more you pay (up to $2200/yr) the more auditions you are sent. You do have the opportunity to work with clients off of the site and I was contacted directly a couple of times. Whilst you can work directly with (and receive payments directly from) clients, they do offer an escrow type service. The client will pay a 9% fee though. With all new voice over clients I will ask for 50% payment upfront, which has never proved a problem.
There were a few auditions that I didn’t submit for because they didn’t have a budget. Literally ‘zero budget’. Also quite a few £75 jobs. Including £75 for a ‘commercial in perpetuity’ and a 138 page audiobook (40 people had already applied). Sad face.
It always seems to be the case that the client who is paying the least will often be the biggest problem. The same goes for clients who don’t know what they want. The picture below is from a genuine casting where they lay out exactly the voice they are looking for.
So this pretty much sums up my month on 20 different voiceover casting websites. As I mentioned in the beginning the aim here was not to ‘call them out’. This isn’t my venture in to investigative journalism. I was simply curious. It’s not my place to say whether these sites are helping or hindering the industry. It’s clear they are providing a service. Also, don’t rush in. You might want to set up a free account with the sites that interest you, they will soon send you a promo code or an extended trial period. Since leaving these sites I am still sent discount codes.
I received work on quite a few of the platforms and received a healthy four-figure sum in return. But the plan was never really to remain a member of the platforms for longer than the month and my thoughts on that haven’t changed after completing the 30 days. I did get in to a nice routine of using these auditions as part of my warm up in the mornings. A diverse range of scripts certainly was useful to enhance my sight reading skills. But if I’m honest it was all a little exhausting. I started to become a little too excited by whether I got a ‘thumbs up’ for an audition. I was becoming disheartened by the amount of auditions that I had spent time on, made artistic decisions on, that remained unopened, unplayed. I’ve kept a free profile on a couple of the sites which may mean that I show up in a clients search from time to time.
Below you can see some other voiceover casting websites. They all have very different business models, some work as ‘pay to plays’, some like agencies whilst some are simply message boards.
If you decide to make these sites part of your business plan. Great. All I ask is that you do your homework. Be vigilant as to what constitutes a decent respectable fee. If you are asked to do a national television commercial for £150, just don’t do it. I know I said I wouldn’t have opinions, but allow me one. If you are going to join one of these sites I would recommend using one that allows you to speak directly to the client. For me, one of the best parts of this job is the relationships you form with the client. This clients will last you longer than any membership to a site if handled correctly. The best clients are not one off gigs, they are the ones you collaborate with again and again.