Is your Voice over business part of a flea market?

This holiday I took a cruise to Mexico with my family. Of course, we stopped at all the usual spots like Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo. And of course, once you get off the ship, there are hordes of shops for you to patronize.

And as everyone knows, the price on the item you want to buy is not the price you have to pay. You can haggle with them and usually get a few bucks off, depending on what it is.

At the ship terminal, there are large warehouses where people have set up shop. Rows and rows of vendors offering mostly the same stuff: fake Rolex watches, fake Oakley’s, Cuban (maybe) cigars, trinkets, clothes, and the like. Basically, they all offer the same thing, and if you want a particular item, you wander around and haggle to the price you want. And of course, the shop owners will try to pull you in telling you they have the best prices.

After a while, I felt bad. Here I was trying to talk some guy down to 5 dollars on handmade thread bracelets with my kids’ names on them that he originally wanted 12 dollars for. I finally got him down to both bracelets for 8 bucks. But I knew that he was willing to drastically reduce his prices for the sale. He knew he was being taken advantage of and he let me, just to seal the deal. I didn’t really have any respect for him as a business owner.

Then I went into another shop for a cigar to enjoy later. The woman was pleasant and I pointed to the cigar that I wanted, priced at 8 dollars. I said, “how about $5.” I knew that $8 was a fair price for this, but you can always haggle, right?

“no, 8 dollars. I don’t change my prices.”

I replied, “I saw this elsewhere for 6. ”

She smiled and lifted her hand toward the door. “Then you may go buy it there.”

I was taken aback. She was willing to lose a sale over $3?

No, she was willing to lose the sale because she had enough respect for herself not to lower herself. She had already done her research, knew her prices were competitive, and set them accordingly. I knew that buying the cigar from her, I was getting a good deal and her prices weren’t inflated in anticipation of a haggling American.

Needless to say, I bought the cigar from her for full price. And I was happy to do it. I respected this woman.

So what does this mean for the VO business owner? Respect your business. Do your research. Know what the going rate for comparable services are. Know what the value of YOUR services are. Set your prices accordingly. Offer your clients a fair rate from the beginning and make it clear to them that these are your rates and here’s why they’re a good value for them. And don’t be afraid  to show the customer the door if they don’t value your services. 

The good customers, the customers you want, will respect you for it.


About Jeffrey Kafer

I am a Seattle-based voice over artist specializing in audiobooks, but also working in corporate narration and commercials. You can find me at View all posts by Jeffrey Kafer

7 responses to “Is your Voice over business part of a flea market?

  • Matto

    Spot on words, Jeff. Also, a nice little story to go with it.

    I think when you ‘show someone the door’, you create a very positive atmosphere and vibe for yourself, as long as you don’t take the “Ohhhh no, I just lost myself $50 for a 30 sec commercial” route. It should be an experience of optimism, because you are confirming your worth as a business/artist.

  • Trish Basanyi


    Thanks so much for this reminder! The analogy you’ve used is genius. In an industry where there’s so many offering “discount” prices for what we do, sometimes it’s tough to hold firm to our rates. But in the same way the cigar woman did, I’ve stood my ground much more in recent negotiations and even in this economy have gotten record rerults. It does work! Thanks for making me feel confident I’m not being “snobby” when I send someone elsewhere if they don’t want to pay what I feel my services are worth.

  • Bobbin Beam

    Hi Jeff,
    By knowing your market, your competition and what’s fair and reasonable is a key factor in “successfuly making the sale” and getting your price. Sometimes, however the customer will not hire because of price range or other factors. Of course, offering a quality product and creating a level of trust with the client by finding out what is important to the client can instigate a dialogue that can make all the difference in creating better sales results and long-term success.
    Be prepared to walk away from those who do not value what you offer…strict price shoppers. Those are the types of customers, which can be the highest maintenance, and the least loyal.
    Nice analogy, Jeff. Hope you had fun in Mexico.
    All The Best,
    Bobbin Beam, Voice Actress

  • Working with Voice over clients - Value meal or lower prices? « Jeffrey Kafer Voice blog

    […] clients – Value meal or lower prices? January 31, 2009 — Jeffrey Kafer In my previous Mexican Flea Market post, I advocated setting your rates and remaining firm on them. I hate the haggle dance and try to […]

  • A humble apology and a lesson learned the hard way « Jeffrey Kafer Voice blog

    […] my recent Mexican Flea Market post, I expounded on how you should remain firm in your rates, otherwise the client won’t respect […]

  • Danny Brown

    I think a lot of the time it isn’t so much “lack of” self-respect, more market conditions. The guy selling the bracelets may have had a large family to feed, or an ill relative whose hospital fees they had to pay. We don’t know their situation, so it seems a little “unfair” to say we don’t respect them.

    Of course, maybe the bracelet was only really worth $2 so the respect shoe is on the other foot… 😉

    I’m with you in that I’ll very rarely sell my business down – I know what I need to survive and how much that costs. That’s my lowest line. It’s not what I charge, since I also know that I’m offering value and results to my clients.

    Difficult thing to gauge the financial aspect of, value. Cheers! 🙂

  • Voices Of Advertising » Blog Archive » A humble apology and a lesson learned the hard way – Negative Experience with Jedi Web Design

    […] my recent Mexican Flea Market post, I expounded on how you should remain firm in your rates, otherwise the client won’t respect […]

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