This is a question that any Voice Talent will have to ask and answer at some point in their career and there are a few different variables to consider. Make sure you consider them all before you make a final decision.
1) What is the project for?
Is it a charity project? Is it a student project? Is it a project that the individual just doesn’t want to pay for? Make sure you know the exact specifics of the project and the background of the client. These details might help you determine if you’re genuinely donating your voice or if you’re being taken advantage of.
2) Is there a benefit for you?
If you’re donating your voice is there some other benefit for you? Even though you’re not charging you’re still putting in time. It’s not out of line to seek some kind of return.
For example, maybe you can get the finished project for your demo reel. Perhaps the donation will generate some good publicity or a marketing opportunity for you. Will this project lead to paying gigs? Will it connect you with new potential clients? If the project is for a charity that you support or want to support, just being involved could be reward enough!
3) Is the request unreasonable?
There is a difference between reading a commercial or a quick script for someone for free versus reading a full blown audio book, two hundred articles or a script for a national advertising campaign. This comes back to knowing the specifics of the project and being able to determine if you’re helping a person or cause or being taken advantage of.
4) What is the long term impact?
If you do a free job to try and land a client ask yourself this… are you setting a precedence? The next time you do a job for this client will the bar be too low to bill a legit rate? If the client expects a lot on the first free gig, odds are they’ll expect even more on the next paid one. Will it be worth it? Or, will you begin to make a name for yourself as the talent that works for free?
5) Do you value yourself?
Sometimes taking free gigs, especially for Voice Talents that are just starting out, seems like a necessary evil. Like a way to pay your dues. Don’t kid yourself. You deserve to be paid. You’d never take a 9a – 5p job for no pay, so why should your voiceover career be any different. Don’t under value yourself or your skill!
6) Is there another way to do it?
Do you need to do an entire project for free? Or is there a way to think outside the box? I donate my voice for charitable ventures all the time. But I do it in the form of gift cards. Depending on the cause, maybe I’ll offer a $25, $50, or $100 gift cards. Consider all your options.
Under the proper circumstances, I’m all for donating my voice. I think it’s extremely important to give back. Just make sure you’re giving back for a good cause and not hurting yourself or your career by allowing someone to take advantage of you.
Got any other suggestions? Comment below.