VAC INDIE RATE GUIDE

Why have an "indie rate guide?"
Notes and Disclaimers
What constitutes an "indie project"?
PER-HOUR RATES
PER-LINE RATES
PER-WORD RATES
PER-FINISHED-HOUR RATES
Editing & File Splitting
Revisions, Pickups, & Extra Takes
Contracts & Invoices
Questions/Suggestions?

WHY HAVE AN "INDIE RATE GUIDE?" | Table of Contents
  • The Indie Rate Guide was created as an ongoing, collaborative effort to increase transparency and create a more consistent standard of pay for smaller-budget online projects.
  • Traditionally, VO rates in the online indie scene were all over the place - many content creators would have no idea what to offer in terms of payment, and actors would have no idea what to ask for. A common phrase in casting calls would be "send us your rates as part of your audition", which would result in widely unfair pay discrepancies between various talent. Nearly every day, questions started coming up on the VAC server as to how indie projects who realistically didn't have the budget for union industry standard rates could still find and fairly pay talent.
  • While we strongly recommend consulting the excellent resource that is the GVAA Rate Guide for industry-level work, the reality is that many of these small-time, low-budget projects (often made by students, young people, or one or two developers) simply do not have the budget that a major studio or commercial company does. They want to collaborate with up-and-coming voice talent and create a mutually beneficial work relationship. Additionally, indie creators have unique and specific needs - for example, the option for a per-line rate on self-directed projects.
  • Sometimes, projects that say “include your rates as part of your audition” end up becoming a race to the bottom. It is unfair to force talent into a “bidding war” based on who charges the lowest, and ultimately hurts the community in terms of everyone being able to ask for fair payment. Ideally, the rates should be standardized for all talent on the project.
  • An easy-to-reference rate guide will help up-and-coming voice talent feel confident in what to ask for on low-budget indie projects while also not alienating small-time content creators who can’t afford industry standard rates.
  • Online indie projects are also a work opportunity for actors from a wide range of backgrounds who are looking to build their credits and experience. While industry character work is primarily limited to major hubs like LA and Dallas, indie work allows for talent in other areas, including non-US based talent, to make an income on projects such as games.
  • We always encourage creators to attempt to build industry standard VO rates into their budget whenever possible. However, for projects where this just may not be feasible, please feel free to use infomration within this guide as a baseline suggestion.
NOTES AND DISCLAIMERS | Table of Contents
  • This is an ongoing community project meant as a suggestion for both independent creators and voice actors, and these rates will evolve along with the market. Project budgets and actor rates will vary.
  • This guide is meant only for low-budget, independent content creators/teams with modest commercial release. For projects with appropriate funding, major publishers or significant budgets, we strongly recommend paying the LA industry standard nonunion game rate of $250 per hour with a 2-hour minimum.
  • Indie rates are a courtesy to small-time creators, not a given. If you are contacting professional actors who do VO for their full-time living, especially if you want "big-name talent", they may not be available to work for indie rates even on lower budget projects.
  • Some actors and creators will be willing to negotiate on payment based on the specifications of the project and their level of personal interest.
  • Remember that as a voice talent, your rates may fall outside of the scope of this guide regardless of the client's budget, and that's okay. It's ultimately up to you to decide what your time is worth and which projects you will accept or decline as a result.
  • If you are a content creator interested in hiring union actors and not sure where to start, check out this tweet from SAG-AFTRA.
WHAT CONSTITUTES AN "INDIE PROJECT"? | Table of Contents
  • Low overall budget - funds usually received from modest crowdfunding or personal investments rather than major publisher backing, or is published by a smaller company that specializes in indie games/visual novels/etc
  • Project is made primarily by one person or a small team of people, rather than a large company
  • Talent recording is done remotely rather than on-site at a professional studio
  • Student projects are usually classified as indie projects
  • Indie projects tend to be moderately monetized “passion projects” rather than strict commercial endeavors expected to turn a large profit. For example, an indie game intended for console release at significant prices and with microtransactions would generally have more money to allocate for production than a pay-what-you-can visual novel on Steam. Doing a bit of research on the scope of distribution can help you when coming up with a quote.

It is preferable overall for producers to be up front about the budget they are offering for voice talent, rather than having actors “guess” what rates they can put when they send their audition. It is acceptable to have talent negotiate for a higher rate as a condition of their participation in the project, but it should not be considered acceptable for talent to submit rates lower than the posted payout in order to better their chances (or to encourage talent to “bid” lower if they wish to better their chances).

PER-HOUR RATES | Table of Contents
Type of Rate Cost (in USD) Suggested Minimum Examples / Notes
Suggested $200-$250 per hour 1-2 hours* Los Angeles industry standard nonunion rate for games and prelay (original) animation is $250 per hour with a 2-hour minimum. If you are able to meet this particular rate standard, you open yourself up to being able to hire the grand majority of professional voice talents who are willing to work nonunion. (*some bigger-name actors may have an "overscale" requirement or work union-only)

Even if you can't quite meet the industry standard, a $200-$250 per hour rate will heavily increase your chance of attracting qualified talent for your project and is recommended for indie games with significant commercial release (especially console game/"all-platform" releases).

*While the 2-hour minimum is an industry standard, we recognize the budget limitations of indie games, particularly when it comes to characters with a small amount of lines. How flexible an actor is willing to be on minimums for indie projects will vary.

Mid-Tier $100-$150 per hour 1 hour This is a viable indie rate for projects such as visual novels, Steam games, YouTube animations, small mobile games with minimal dialogue, etc. While you generally won't be able to attract the same levels of professional talent as with the above-mentioned rate, you will be able to find pro or semi-pro freelancers in online communities. Some indie devs may use a rate similar to this if they have a bunch of characters who only have a small handful of lines each, and they want to be able to cast a different actor for every character rather than doubling/tripling up.
Lower-Tier
$50-$75 per hour
1 hour
Rates for anime & foreign dubbing tend to range from $50-$75 per hour depending on location. While such rates do not apply to games and original animation in terms of industry standards, it's used as a baseline here to provide an indie option for projects with very limited budget, for example, a student film that needs VO, a game design class project, or an independent animation for a very small YouTube channel.
Notes:
  • Per-hour is typically the industry standard for nonunion character work, which is why it is listed as the default here.
  • Any project requiring actors to be live-directed should opt for a per-hour rate, rather than per-line or per-word. This ensures that actors are paid appropriately for the amount of time worked.
  • Generally, additional hours above the stated minimum should be paid in full-hour increments (example: a session that runs two and a half hours should be paid as a 3-hour session.) While reasonable exceptions may sometimes be made (a session that runs only 10-15 minutes over the hour, for instance), clients may feel free to clarify booking policies with the actor before work begins.
  • Per-hour refers to each hour of RECORDING time, not per finished hour of audio. Per-finished-hour is typically only used for audiobooks and other long-form narration.
PER-LINE RATES | Table of Contents
Type of Rate Cost (in USD) Suggested Minimum Examples / Notes
Suggested / Higher-Tier $4-5* per line $200** Indie projects with significant commercial releases (including console and mobile-game projects) who wish to do a per-line rate are advised to follow a similar rate structure such as this, as it tends to even out to be similar to the suggested per-hour rates depending on how quickly the talent works.

*While a $5 per line rate is typically considered quite high, it has been popping up on projects where each character tends to have a smaller number of lines, such as those with mobile app releases. If you are an indie dev who anticipates a character having 100+ lines, an hourly rate may make more sense for your budget at that point.

**In some cases, actors may waive or lower the suggested minimum at their discretion for projects with a very small amount of lines. An alternative to this is to simply double/triple up on actors for smaller roles.

Per-line rates are recommended for self-directed recordings only as opposed to live sessions.
Mid-Tier $2-3 per line $100 This is a viable indie rate for projects such as visual novels, Steam games, YouTube animations, small mobile games without major funding etc. While you generally won't be able to attract the same talent as with the above rate, you will be able to find freelancers in online communities.
Lower-Tier $1-2 per line $25-50 This rate is more for personal "voice commission" style projects primarily made by one or two people, or projects such as audio dramas, comic dubs, etc that are largely considered passion projects. This type of rate will typically attract newer actors looking to get their start in paid projects, or those who are transitioning from turning their voice acting hobby into income.
Notes:
  • Per-line model is often favored for indie games, visual novels, or online animations where actors will be recording and sending lines on their own time rather than live-directed sessions. Some clients favor this method because they want to know up front exactly how much the VO will cost, rather than relying on the actor to keep track of their hours independently worked.
  • While some people have objected to a “per line” model as how long a “line” is can vary widely, we find that it tends to even out overall (some lines will only be a single effort sound, whereas others may be a few sentences.)
  • If the majority of the lines are paragraphs, you may wish to either negotiate a higher per-line rate or ask the client if you can split them up.
  • Actors typically record 2-3 takes per line, and this is automatically included as part of their per-line rate. If the client requests more than 3 initial takes per line, an additional charge may be incurred.
  • Project minimums will vary per actor, but we recommend always including a note on the minimum payment you must receive for a project (even if it’s only five lines) as you still need to set time aside to record, set up your recording session, etc - it would be a bit ridiculous to receive a PayPal payment for something like $7! There may be cases where you offer to reduce the minimum as a courtesy to the client if it's only a couple of lines, but that is at the actor's discretion.
  • Note regarding "flat rates": Any project listing their pay rate as "per character", "per episode" or other flat rate is strongly encouraged to note the workload (for example: typical line count) of each character or episode. It is difficult for actors to make an informed decision on rate if they do not know at least an estimate of the workload involved.
  • Why "per-line" and not "per-word"? While word count works for estimating workload for things like narration, it's usually not very useful for character dialogue in video games or animation. How long it takes an actor to record 100 words, for example, will look very different if it's a cohesive 100-word paragraph vs 100 individual one-word callouts/effort sounds.
PER-WORD RATES | Table of Contents
Type of Rate Cost (in USD) Suggested Minimum Examples / Notes
Higher-Tier 25-35 cents per word $100-$150/variable based on project* Narration for YouTube videos, voicemail/phone system recordings, etc.

*In some cases, actors may waive or lower the suggested minimum at their discretion for very short/simple recordings.
Mid-Tier 15-20 cents per word $50-$100 Also for short-form narration, poetry, etc. This is a fairly typical rate range that you will see for a lot of projects that come through online/freelancer services.
Lower-Tier 5-10 cents per word $25-50 Small "voice commission" style projects, short voice messages, personal projects, etc.
Notes:
  • Per-word model is generally for short-form narration projects. These can range from things like personalized voice messages, to narrating a YouTube video. For an easy way to calculate word count, try WordCounter.net.
  • Per-word is not normally suggested for character work written in a script format, as it becomes cumbersome to calculate cost and workload this way, and can result in being underpaid on things like effort sounds which are common in video games. For game work, we strongly recommend a per-hour or per-line model instead.
  • Rather than going by exact word count, many projects and quotes of this nature will be listed as a "flat rate" instead. A flat rate is fine so long as the expected workload is clearly outlined (for example, providing a copy of the text to be read beforehand.)
  • Project minimums will vary per actor, but we recommend always including a note on the minimum payment you must receive per order so that you don't end up with a payment of pocket change for tiny projects.
  • Per-word is often used for actors who offer "voice commission" style projects for personal clients. Some actors may charge a higher per-word rate for specialty recordings depending on the nature of the content.
PER-FINISHED-HOUR RATES | Table of Contents
*Tentative indie audiobook/long-form narration rates as suggested by our Discord community:
  • Higher end: $200-300 PFH (example: narrating long-form instructional videos for a popular YouTube channel)
  • Mid-tier/generally expected: $150-$175 PFH (example: narrating a typical audiobook)
  • Lower end: $100-$125 PFH (example: narrating a book written by a friend or family member)
Per-finished-hour model is suggested for: Long-form narration projects such as audiobooks, tutorials, or instructional videos, where the talent is required to deliver edited and "broadcast-ready" audio. The PFH model typically applies to narrating book-style projects, not character work such as animation or games.
  • Note for actors: Per-finished-hour means hour of FINALIZED, EDITED audio. In contrast to the above, it does NOT mean "per hour of recording time."
  • When quoting prices and/or turnaround times for long projects, keep in mind that reviewing and editing your audio will take substantially longer than simply recording it. If you need a good idea of your "recording to editing" ratio, time yourself reading a book for about 10 minutes, then time how long it takes you to review and edit that recording in comparison.
  • The Audiobook Wizard has some more detailed info and options on audiobook pricing. The ACX subreddit may also be a helpful resource for narrators.
  • "Royalty share only" is typically not an ideal model for indie audiobooks as there is no guarantee that the book will sell. Narrators should be aware that royalty-share books are a gamble that may or may not make them any money, and if they do agree to a royalty-share model, they should ideally negotiate an hourly advance as well. If you agree to "royalty share only" as a favor, understand that you may end up narrating the book for essentially free.
EDITING & FILE SPLITTING | Table of Contents
  • General Suggestion: Additional $50/hr dialogue editing fee
  • Lower End: $25/hr additional dialogue editing fee
  • Higher End: $100/hr additional dialogue editing fee

**In general, it is a better idea - AND likely more cost-efficient - to hire a post-production audio engineer to handle dialogue editing/mixing/mastering, rather than expecting each actor to do it with varying results. If you’d prefer to pay a third party to do all your sound/dialogue editing, we have audio engineers available for hire on the VAC Discord Server.

  • Actors normally send their lines as one long sound file either raw (no editing or processing) or finished (clean up extra noises, basic noise reduction if necessary, possibly light compression/EQ/de-essing if the actor chooses to do so.) Please specify at the beginning of the project if you require the audio to be sent completely raw. Tip for Actors: Even if you are sending raw audio, it is still courteous to clean up mistakes and excess silence between takes on self-directed recordings to make things easier for the post-production engineer.
  • A small handful of separate files (for example, split by chapter, category or episode) are understandable for organizational purposes and should not be a problem for actors to do as a courtesy. However, please keep in mind that splitting and labeling every line and take into individual files is a large amount of work and should be compensated accordingly if listed as a requirement by the producer.
  • If the actor is required to do extensive volume leveling and mastering, this should be included in billable editing hours. Keep in mind that audio mastering is a separate skillset which is another reason we suggest hiring a dialogue editor.
  • We strongly encourage producers to either do the file splitting and labeling themselves, or hire an audio engineer for larger projects to split files, level volumes, master and EQ everyone’s audio to make it sound great!
REVISIONS, PICKUPS, & EXTRA TAKES | Table of Contents
  • If the revision is the actor’s fault (for example: missed or misread line, mispronounced word, major technical problem), the actor should re-record the affected line(s) at no additional charge.
  • If the revision is not the actor's fault (for example: script changes, additional lines needed, producer missed part of the script), the actor should be paid an additional fee for re-recording. Such an additional fee should be proportional to the amount of work required for the retakes.
  • If the revision is due to the client/producer wanting a different direction in the read, revision fees vary per actor. Some actors will include a limited/reasonable amount of revisions at no additional charge; however, other actors may charge for any and all pickups that aren’t directly their fault. To decrease the likelihood of excessive revisions, we encourage producers to be as clear as possible about their specifications and for actors to send a sample read for approval prior to recording the full script. If the client wants a lot of options and/or has very specific deliveries in mind, we suggest setting up a live-directed session with your talent and paying an hourly rate.
  • The typical standard for pickups in-studio is another session fee (for example, on nonunion character work, an actor will generally get paid the same hourly rate for pickups with a 2 hour minimum). However, this isn't always practical for online work, depending on the project's budget and the amount of work involved. For projects that involve a per-line or per-word rate, you could charge an additional per-line fee based on the number of lines/words that need to be redone. For hourly fees, you could consider charging an extra hour. However, if it's simply one or two lines for a small indie client and you're recording it from home, you may wish to come to a reasonable compromise.

Extra Takes:

  • For independent (self-directed) recordings, actors will generally send between 2-3 takes per line for a final project depending on the producer’s specifications. Sometimes, 3-5 takes may be requested for certain assets such as effort sounds. If more than 3 takes are required for every line, it should be charged/listed as an additional line.
  • Long-form narration projects should be subject to an extra fee per additional take unless volunteered by the actor. For long projects, it is best to send a short sample prior to recording the full script so that the client may approve the tone and pacing.
  • Extra take fees do not apply to directed sessions or any jobs that pay hourly, as you are already being paid for the amount of time you end up working.
CONTRACTS & INVOICES | Table of Contents
For jobs involving any significant amount of work or pay, a contract is recommended in order to protect both parties. A contract outlines the obligations of both the talent and the client and clarifies ownership of assets.

Payment Timelines & Best Practices

  • Payment for small-scale projects is generally due upon receipt of final audio files. However, if the client is a company rather than individual, payment may take longer as a general rule. Clients are encouraged to adhere to a "net-30" standard (payment due within 30 business days of receiving the invoice). Bear in mind that there are sometimes extenuating circumstances which may cause delays in payment (ex: client needs to get paid by their own end-client first); however, net-90 should be the absolute maximum.
  • If payment is overdue, actors should first attempt to reach out to their clients to follow up on the expected payment timeline. Invoices and checks can get lost, people can change departments or be out of the office, etc. Every effort should be made to communicate with the client first before taking drastic action.
  • Actors are encouraged to be transparent up-front with any extra fees so that the client is not "surprised" by items on the invoice.
  • As per PayPal's terms of service, you cannot demand that clients cover your PayPal fees if they choose to use PayPal. However, some clients may offer to cover PayPal fees as a gesture of goodwill, which is always appreciated - though not required - by actors, especially for international transactions where the PayPal fees are extremely high. Many clients and talent prefer PayPal as it is convenient and relatively secure; however, if you regularly find yourself losing lots of money to PayPal service fees you may wish to consider upping your overall rates for online clients.

RE: You'll only get paid if the game sells, revenue share, etc:
Keep in mind that this is not how video game recording works in the actual industry. Voice actors get paid for the amount of time worked, and game work is almost always a "buyout" meaning there are no royalties, residuals, or revenue share. If a client says they cannot pay you for your work but promises you will make lots of money if the game does well, treat this as a red flag - because chances are you'll never actually get paid. While it's one thing to record a short demo/scratch track for Kickstarter promotion, voice acting is typically a "stretch goal" and voice recording should not begin until funds are secured to pay actors for the work they complete. Any "you'll get paid if we get paid" type of project should be considered an unpaid project and taken at the actor's own risk.

GENERAL TIPS FOR ACTORS & CREATORS | Table of Contents
Creators:
  • Be up front when it comes to what you can afford to pay. If you listed the stated per-hour/per-line rate up front in the audition materials, it avoids wasting both your time and theirs because people know exactly what they are getting into if they accept the job. "Send me your rates" tends to involve a lot of guessing, underbidding, and disorganization across the board.
  • The closer you are able to adhere to industry standard rates, the higher caliber of talent you will tend to attract. Remember, indie rates are a courtesy to small-budget creators!
  • That being said, if you genuinely don't have a big budget, just be upfront and honest about what you're working with, and chances are many people will understand! Again, there's a difference between a small passion project paying what they can, and a bigger team attempting to take advantage of beginner actors who aren't aware of proper rates.
  • If you have certain needs/requests (each line split in a separate file, live directed sessions, expected retakes, etc), communicate these requests ahead of time. Many actors will quote based on the needs of that particular job, and their quote may be different based on what you are requiring.
  • Any sensitive personal information, such as addresses or tax IDs, received as part of paperwork (contracts, W9s, invoices, etc) should be kept confidential and secure.
  • Keep in mind that if you are hiring talent through online freelancer sites such as F*verr, Up*work or V*D*C, these sites take a significant cut of the pay the talent receives (sometimes 20%!) However, if you hire the actors directly, not only do they get the full amount of the payment (minus any Paypal fees) but you can create a better working relationship and avoid paying into platforms that can exploit newer talent who are just looking for work. Our Discord server has casting call channels where you can

Actors:

  • Don't automatically assume that clients are aware of what acceptable rates are. If you are interested in a project but the rate seems way too low, consider politely reaching out to inquire rather than immediately jumping to dogpile with other actors or putting them on blast on social media.
  • If a small creative team genuinely cannot afford industry standard rates but are paying what they can, it doesn't necessarily mean they are trying to screw anybody over. If the pay rate does not meet your standards, you are always welcome to pass on the audition or decline the role.
  • If the client is asking for services that cost extra, make sure they are aware of these fees beforehand so there are no surprises.
  • You will likely raise your personal rates over time based on a number of factors. However, when you agree to a project, it is generally assumed that you will finish out the project at the rate you agreed upon when starting. If you do ongoing work with a client or have a project that lasts for many years and you need to raise your rates, give them as much notice as possible so that no one is blindsided. Understand that sometimes this may mean walking away from a working relationship you have with a client if they are not able to come to the table and negotiate, but try not to leave anyone "high and dry".
  • Creating a paper trail is always a good idea to protect both parties. If a client runs off without paying you, but you had no contract or written agreement aside from exchanging a few DMs, it can be very difficult to pursue the matter further. Whenever significant amounts of work or money or involved, always get things in writing.
  • Remember that compromise and flexibility, within reason of course, can help build long-lasting relationships with ongoing clients. It's overall a good business practice to simply set your fees appropriately rather than nickel-and-diming clients for very small things.
  • Transparency in rates is an overall good thing, because it helps ensure fairer standards and helps other actors not be afraid to ask for their worth, too.
QUESTIONS/SUGGESTIONS? | Table of Contents
  • Please ask in our #indie-rate-guide channel in the VAC server: https://discord.gg/aHbaTrb
  • Remember that this is a constantly-evolving guide and may change over time based on the needs of the community!