How to increase Voice over profit without screwing your customers

It’s no secret that we’re in an economic downturn. But frankly, I’m tired of hearing about it. Yes, companies are reducing their advertising budgets and cutting training dollars to save some money. This means less gigs (theoretically) for some voice talent. So if you’re experiencing a slow-down, you might be tempted to raise prices to offset the reduction in income.

Don’t do it. It’s rude.

Rude? What? Think about it. If I went to a restaurant and found that prices had been raised because they said they had less customers, I would be offended. Why would you punish me as a loyal customer for being just that – Loyal? So if you raise prices on existing customers, you’re making them pay for your inability to get and keep new clients.

So what do you do?

The surefire way to increase profit is to increase your customers. Can’t do that? Then work on cutting your expenses.

  • Reduce your marketing expenses.
    OK, wait. Before I get Peter O’Connell flaming me in the comments, let me explain. I don’t mean that you should slash this budget willy nilly. But take a look at last year’s marketing expenses that did nothing to either bring in new clients or increase your brand awareness. Should you renew that P2P site that didn’t bring in new business? Do you need to pay someone to list your links on their site? If the answer is no, then take those wasted dollars and either reinvest in some other marketing strategy or bank the money as a reduction in expenses. Don’t ever cut an expense that directly brings in new clients.
  • Cut utilities related to VO
    This is easier than you might imagine. I use our cable company for TV, Internet, and phone. A simple phone call got them to reduce my bill by $50 per month. Do you use a lot of long distance? See how much VOIP is in your area. It’s usually unlimited long distance for a good price. Want to go even cheaper? Get Skype.
  • Go Green
    Do you print out every single script that comes your way? That’s an awful waste of paper and ink. That stuff really adds up. Instead, try installing a small LCD monitor in your booth. I did this and haven’t printed anything out in over a year. I’ve saved a ton in ink and paper. Plus I can still mark up the copy by using the highlight and bold functions of my word processor. You want to really pinch the pennies, you can install CFLs in your studio instead of regular light bulbs. 
  • Reduce your software/hardware budget
    Do you really need that new computer? Your old one worked just fine all last year. And the latest version of Pro Tools isn’t going to solve that H/W buffer underrun error you keep getting. You also don’t need to buy the latest version of your office suite. Consider some open source alternatives which don’t cost anything. If you like the office productivity software you’re using it, then keep using it. There’s probably very little reason to upgrade.

Ok, you’ve done all that and you still want to raise prices. Fine, but you don’t necessarily need to do it across the board. The airlines kind of had it right when they began to nickel and dime their customers. The backlash came from them adding new fees to things that were seemingly necessary, like luggage. Plus they didn’t really message it very well. The idea is to only charge more for those incidental items that are a mere convenience for customers. You need to be very careful with this so that you don’t give the appearance of nickel and diming your clients. Be very careful of suddenly charging for things that the client is used to getting for free. But here are some ideas:

  • Royalty-free music
    That set of music from Digital Juice wasn’t free. Instead of charging $10 for the use of it, charge $20. Or if you charged $10 for unlimited usage of it in one project, then consider charging for each time it’s used.
  • Studio/editing time
    You say you already charge for this, but how many of us actually give it away? I do. I don’t want the client to hear my mistakes or huge gulps of air. But maybe it’s time to really give the dry VO and charge for things like editing and breaking the audio into files. And if you already do charge for this, consider a bump in price. It’s a convenience.
  • Storage
    If your client wants to store their files for more than 24 hours on your FTP site, consider charging them for that convenience. After all, your FTP site costs you money. Why shouldn’t your client help pay for it?

You’ll need to have effective messaging for these added fees. Avoid saying things like

“I need to charge you for my FTP site because my ISP costs have gone up.”

Why should the client care about your costs? Sell the convenience by appealing to the interest of the client:

“For a nominal fee of $2 per day, you can store all your audio on my FTP site for as long as you need to. This allows you to access it at any time until your project is done or you no longer need it.”

See the difference?

ok, Your turn. Think I’m crazy? Have other ideas for cost reduction? Sound off in the comments!

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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 http://audiobook-voice-over.com View all posts by Jeffrey Kafer

3 responses to “How to increase Voice over profit without screwing your customers

  • Phil

    Thanks Jeffrey. Interesting post, but I disagree that nickel and diming is ever a good idea. Instead I look for ways to elevate my level of service and my customer’s overall experience. To take your example of FTP, rather than charging clients $2/day for storage, buy a bit more disk space and give it away free, or even invest in a service such as http://www.sharefile.com to give clients a better user experience through your own custom-branded file storage/transfer service. I know the happier my customers are, the more likely they’ll purchase again or spread the word to potential new clients, and now’s a good time to differentiate by upping my game while the competition pulls back or starts nickel and diming.

    • Jeffrey Kafer

      Certainly you’re right, Phil. Ideally you’ll gain more clients and prove your value to them. But that’s not always possible, especially in lean times. Look at layoffs. Even profitable companies are laying people off to get their finances in order. Sometimes you need to take certain steps to get things in balance.

  • Anthony Mendez

    Brilliant post, Jeffrey!

    I will bookmark this as a reminder on how to “sell the convenience.” Many people can benefit from just this one simple concept.

    -Anthony

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