I fired a client last week. My biggest client (in a way)
Taking a break from my FB pulled questions from other people to one of my own for a change!
So, I have been doing these medical explainer videos for a while. Almost as long as I’ve been a voice actor. The Youtube channel started when I started, about 6 years ago. As such, I took a really low rate to help the channel get going, in the hopes it would gain traction and, thus help me gain traction. At the time I think I was doing $90 PFH (per finished hour) for audio. Terrible, I know. Even worse, was that I was doing open record. For those who don’t know, that is when you turn on your microphone, start talking, any time you make a mistake, you just restart talking. This leaves all the editing till the end. Later, once I learned Punch and Roll editing (I’ll explain that in another post, I’m too lazy right now!) for audiobooks, I applied that to these short 4-5 minute explainer videos as well. That cut work time out a lot, because when I was done recording, the file was basically ready. I also upped my rate for this client somewhere around the same time to a whopping $100 PFH!
Like I said it was a gamble. And you know what? It largely paid off. The channel quickly became very popular. Individual videos were getting 10K views, 20K views. Very quickly my most popular video about diarrhea, had over 100K views! Along with that, I had done 100 or so videos over a 2 year period. I started sharing the work with my voice over colleagues and other friends and family. It became a great career showpiece. It got to the point that at cocktail parties, people would ask me what crazy ailment I was narrating next!
Then, I had a wake up call. I hadn’t really looked at the numbers in a long time until about 2 weeks ago. I looked at the channel stats and found the channel was now at over 25 MILLION views and over 150 THOUSAND subscribers. I was proud. That means, 25 million people have heard my voice over the past 6 years. Naturally I posted another video to social media, mentioned the metrics and it got a big reaction. One reaction, in particular, stood out. My friend Patrick Kirchner at Sound Attention VO said on Facebook, “time to renegotiate”. You know, Patrick was right. Why was I still doing this for such a pittance?
So I made a facebook post asking for help. I went to the Voice Over Pros Facebook Group. I said, I need some way to estimate Youtube channel revenue to see where there may be room to negotiate a more fair rate. Fellow Voice Actor Ben Wake, helped me with some estimations and another talent pointed me to the site Social Blade which can help. Based on that, it seems the channel should be making $50-150K per year. They were paying me about $2000 per year. Clearly there was some wiggle room there, right?
I reached out to the channel owner, suggesting we talk about a sharing of the ad revenue they must be getting. Barring that, an increase in the rate. At first, they demured, saying the channel was a gamble, most channels don’t make money in the first few years and we are just starting to see a profit. They talked about maybe upping the rate a bit. Then I sent the findings from Social Blade. I suggested a monthly retainer of $1500-$3000, pointing out that I was a vital part of the videos. They consisted of just the animation and my voice. They used to add music but gave up on that a long time ago. That’s when things got interesting.
Instead of admitting there was money being made, or even discussing it, the channel owner went global thermal nuclear. They started by insulting me, saying I “clearly don’t understand anything about running a business” and how they were “hesitant to even reply to this email”. They then proceeded to tell me that we could stick to my current rate or I could move on.
So..I did. Do I feel bad? A little. I got a chuckle out of some of the work. I also enjoyed it. It was good practice to keep my chops up and my brain on it’s toes. Also, there is something cool about saying 25 million people have downloaded my voice. I guess that will always be the case, the numbers just won’t increase. Still, working for that rate, no longer made any sense, especially now that it seems there were literally 10s of thousand of dollars being brought in, with ZERO of it going to me.