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Elitism in the voice-over industry – Fiverr hate from the "top hats"


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I've had my share of debates in different voice over groups on social media over the years, regarding selling on Fiverr. It seems to be a divide between the "top hats" of our industry and Fiverr talent. The elitism from these bullies will certainly make some sellers afraid of admitting to being on Fiverr. 

Lies like "Agents will blacklist you for selling on Fiverr!" (not true, in my experience) or blanket statements like "You earn less doing more with Fiverr" (actually, it's the opposite, as I earn more per hour worked on Fiverr than all other sources of VO work combined) are common in these groups. 

Just yesterday, I debated with a group admin who felt the need to repeatedly hammer in his yearly earnings to prove that he is better than us.

He went on to claim that Fiverr is a "distasteful race-to-the-bottom devaluation machine that undervalues voice talent that just want to be paid fairly. If you're being paid fairly – and I don't mean what YOU think is fair, but what the MARKET has determined as fair – then more power to you."

This nice fellow actually started out on Fiverr. Obviously, he didn't succeed. 

I challenged him on on his "market" argument by explaining that the market rate is based on supply and demand (basic economics). Clearly, I'm mistaken, because according to him the "market" price is decided by the union called SAG-Aftra. 

I guess we have to throw economics 101 out the window. 🤔

I also tried explaining to the gentleman that we work differently on Fiverr. Fiverr takes care of the marketing side of my business for me. I never have to audition for a job. 99% of my clients will never ask me to do a live/directed session. All of this saves me time, and ensures that I get paid for each single word I record – not just the jobs I win through auditions. 

After debating with the guy for a while, he decided to become a snowflake. I had used the word "elitism" to describe my thoughts about his attitude towards us. 

He closed the comments (the guy is a group admin) and ended the debate by saying he didn't bother reading my comment. 

This "Fiverr hate" going around is – in my opinion – purely about fear.

Fear of not being able to charge 1500 bucks for a 20 sec recording. 

Fear of competition. Fear of disruption. 

If this guy truly believed market rates are based on what he/unions think is fair, he wouldn't have bothered complaining so much. 

The voice-over industry has changed, just like most other industries.

Technology allows us to work from anywhere in the world.

We can receive an order, record, edit, master and deliver in less than an hour, on projects that used to take a million dollar studio and a freakin' audio engineer or two to edit and record. And we do it from our closets, our 3000 dollar booths and our bedrooms. 

And I know I speak for many of us when I say "that's how I wanna work!". 

To end this "rant" about elitism in our industry: I received more than 30 messages from voice over talent in that group, who didn't dare to speak up. All of them had similar stories to tell: Fiverr changed their lives for the better. They now have financial freedom, can work from home and take care of their families doing what they love. 

To you I say: You're a hard-working, honest and great group of people, and I'm proud of sharing space in the search results with all of you. Never let these highbrowed, pompous people tell you otherwise. 

To the elitists I have only one thing to say: If charging 1500 bucks for 20 seconds means you have to trash-talk other people's living and place of business, I don't want to be one of you.

(And yes, obviously I'm aware that they won't read this. After all, we're just a bunch of undervalued race-to-the-bottom-people with no respect for their golden profession. I just felt like venting.)

Anyway. That's all I have for today. 

//Leo

Edited by smashradio
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Very, very spicy subject to bring up. It's also a matter of debate in my professional circle, as I move a lot around recording studios in my city. 

Let me share some thoughs about a couple of points you've brought up, with no particular order nor line of thought:

1 hour ago, smashradio said:

Fear of not being able to charge 1500 bucks for a 20 sec recording. 

A VA should be able to charge whatever he deems fair for his service, but minimums do make sense to keep a sustainable business model. I believe the cheapest VAs either don't think they're competent enough to charge more, or are workaholics. The better you are in your craft, the bigger the clients you work with, the more cache you should have. So the more you should charge. And that is not (only) about keeping a minimum or a healthy profession, but about valuing yourself as a professional. And i believe this threads nicely with the next point: 

 

1 hour ago, smashradio said:

We can receive an order, record, edit, master and deliver in less than an hour, on projects that used to take a million dollar studio and a freakin' audio engineer or two to edit and record. And we do it from our closets, our 3000 dollar booths and our bedrooms. 

As much as that works for 99% of clients and products, trust me: your recording will never sound as good as one recorded in a full fledged pro studio, nor will it be mastered with such as precision as done by a mixer with 30 years of experience working on a full size and properly equipped mixing room. And that "extra" value is what clients that really, really want will pay for (and still do!)

Bottom line is: there is room for both the $1500 national ads and the $100 website corporate videos (and $150, and $200, and $300!), and both make perfect market sense, because there are clients seeking for both. But it is our responsability as VAs to charge appropriately taking into consideration both:

  1. The project/client/distribution
  2. The quality you can deliver and where you sit in the artistic ladder (begginner, semi-pro, etc.)

Now, and as a personal note: if someone charges less than I do, I instantly assume they are either less talented than I am (no arrogance intended) and/or aren't in a position (past clients/years of exp. -> cache) that allows them to charge my rates. In any case, I don't really mind it, as my success is my responsability and no one else's. And if someone charges more than I do, my thought process is "Damn, this guy managed to go further up the ladder. I must keep improving!" since I just watched way too much pokémon in my youth and I now only think about: "I want to be the very best, like no one ever was. To voice them is my real test: to record them is my cause."

Good afternoon y'all! 

Edited by torrelles
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3 hours ago, torrelles said:

A VA should be able to charge whatever he deems fair for his service, but minimums do make sense to keep a sustainable business model. I believe the cheapest VAs either don't think they're competent enough to charge more, or are workaholics. The better you are in your craft, the bigger the clients you work with, the more cache you should have. So the more you should charge. And that is not (only) about keeping a minimum or a healthy profession, but about valuing yourself as a professional. And i believe this threads nicely with the next point: 

This is indeed a spicy topic. I love a good debate, as long as people are civil about it.

I agree that minimums do make sense. Whenever I see five-dollar-VAs, I must admit I think the same as you. 

I have fairly low rates here on Fiverr, to say the least. I also have below market rates other places (but not as cheap as on Fiverr). That's a business model I've used for a long time, but somehow, I manage to earn more than enough while working less than before, and I still earn more per hour worked on average here on Fiverr. It's interesting. 

 

3 hours ago, torrelles said:

As much as that works for 99% of clients and products, trust me: your recording will never sound as good as one recorded in a full fledged pro studio, nor will it be mastered with such as precision as done by a mixer with 30 years of experience working on a full size and properly equipped mixing room. And that "extra" value is what clients that really, really want will pay for (and still do!)

Absolutely right. I've recorded in full fledged studios. I've spent a rather large sum on my own studio as well. That "extra" is certainly something clients want and will pay for. I think it's awesome when a VA can charge 1500 for a national ad. I've charged similar sums for ads myself and still do at times. What I don't think is awesome, is the elitist attitude that anyone working differently and/or for less are bottom-feeding, are destroying the industry or is untalented. 

I think you encapsulate the matter perfectly here: 

3 hours ago, torrelles said:

Bottom line is: there is room for both the $1500 national ads and the $100 website corporate videos (and $150, and $200, and $300!), and both make perfect market sense, because there are clients seeking for both. 

 

3 hours ago, torrelles said:

 

Now, and as a personal note: if someone charges less than I do, I instantly assume they are either less talented than I am (no arrogance intended) and/or aren't in a position (past clients/years of exp. -> cache) that allows them to charge my rates. In any case, I don't really mind it, as my success is my responsability and no one else's. And if someone charges more than I do, my thought process is "Damn, this guy managed to go further up the ladder. I must keep improving!" since I just watched way too much pokémon in my youth and I now only think about: "I want to be the very best, like no one ever was. To voice them is my real test: to record them is my cause."

I disagree with the sentiment that someone are less talented or aren't in a position that allows them to charge higher rates. I've actively chosen to keep my rates down, because I genuinly want to make voice overs more accessible. Just this evening, I got an e-mail from a rather massive religious organization, who specifically wanted to hire me for a project. Their budget is more than triple my usual rate. I'm not gonna say no to that, obviously, but it just goes to show that I can charge more than I do. I choose not to. 

Even so, I can see your point. I often tell new sellers to increase their prices because that can give the impression that you're more professional. 

But I'm not arrogant enough to think that there aren't people way better than me. Like with you, that encourages me to improve. 

On a personal note: you're the first spanish VA I've heard who doesn't sound like he's trying to lick my ear while speaking. Great gigs! (I live in the lovely Islas Canarias). 

Edited by smashradio
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6 hours ago, smashradio said:

Fear of competition. Fear of disruption. 

It is precisely what travel agencies said when Expedia launched, what record labels thought of Spotify, and what theaters chains thought of Netflix.  You ignore what is not a threat, you scream the loudest at what keeps you up at night. Union work will continue to be protected, and the 0.1% of VO artists in the world who perform at that level will be fine. But there are billions of dollars floating around for anyone willing to step up to the mic and grab it.  BTW, Don LaFontaine enjoyed giving tips to folks working their way up. I once saw him speak in LA, and afterwards a group of aspiring VO artists cornered him in the lobby, he sat down and chatted with them for a half hour. The real pros are not scared, only the mid level folks who are afraid that top level sellers on non traditional platforms like Fiverr, and whatever comes next, may eat some of their lunch.  

Edited by newsmike
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9 hours ago, smashradio said:

The elitism from these bullies will certainly make some sellers afraid of admitting to being on Fiverr. 

I belong to a FB proofreading group where the m o d erator talks so negatively about Fiverr and other freelancing sites that I have never admitted to working on Fiverr. According to her, the only way for proofreaders to make it is to have their own websites or work for a book publishing company.

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13 hours ago, newsmike said:

It is precisely what travel agencies said when Expedia launched, what record labels thought of Spotify, and what theaters chains thought of Netflix.  You ignore what is not a threat, you scream the loudest at what keeps you up at night. Union work will continue to be protected, and the 0.1% of VO artists in the world who perform at that level will be fine. But there are billions of dollars floating around for anyone willing to step up to the mic and grab it.  BTW, Don LaFontaine enjoyed giving tips to folks working their way up. I once saw him speak in LA, and afterwards a group of aspiring VO artists cornered him in the lobby, he sat down and chatted with them for a half hour. The real pros are not scared, only the mid level folks who are afraid that top level sellers on non traditional platforms like Fiverr, and whatever comes next, may eat some of their lunch.  


You speak the truth! 

Don LaFontaine ❤️ I never got to meet the man or see him speak in person, but he was one of my inspirations for going into the voice-over business. 
I've been putting my head on the block several times in these groups, mostly because I think it's a bit funny to rile up the bumptious elitists of this world. What I don't find funny is that new talent is welcomed by a gang of people with nothing but self-interest at heart when giving advice.

And because the newbies don't know any better, they get fooled into spending all their hard-earned cash on coaching from the same people that don't want them to succeed.

Don't get me wrong: coaching can be great, and there are many good coaches. Bill DeWees is one example. 

10 hours ago, vickiespencer said:

I belong to a FB proofreading group where the m o d erator talks so negatively about Fiverr and other freelancing sites that I have never admitted to working on Fiverr. According to her, the only way for proofreaders to make it is to have their own websites or work for a book publishing company.

There you have it. This isn't just a voiceover industry thing. The problem is self-important snobs who don't want the "new guy" to succeed, because they are shaking in their pants. Like @newsmike said: 

"It is precisely what travel agencies said when Expedia launched, what record labels thought of Spotify, and what theaters chains thought of Netflix."

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Heyo! I know this is the music and audio section, but I think there is something similar to this in visual art? I will just briefly say it so I don't go off topic from music and audio 😮 

To do the social media marketing thingy where I promote my services, I went to places where I think there are people looking for art. I found a Discord server mainly used as a market for art commissions. One of the rules they put there: "Links that are not allowed to be for your services: Fiverr, etc." I asked why they don't allow Fiverr and I got the same response as you guys, something like "Fiverr sucks" and "It's just a bad website". Though they also said this, "Fiverr likes to lowball so much that the art there is worth so cheap". I think I agree with this though, some artists price their art cheap and are underselling ;-; 

But I wonder if it is the same as elitism? To avoid Fiverr's underselling community because they want to tell people that their service is worth more? I like to hear thoughts 😮 

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2 hours ago, nomuffinsforyou said:

Heyo! I know this is the music and audio section, but I think there is something similar to this in visual art? I will just briefly say it so I don't go off topic from music and audio 😮 

To do the social media marketing thingy where I promote my services, I went to places where I think there are people looking for art. I found a Discord server mainly used as a market for art commissions. One of the rules they put there: "Links that are not allowed to be for your services: Fiverr, etc." I asked why they don't allow Fiverr and I got the same response as you guys, something like "Fiverr sucks" and "It's just a bad website". Though they also said this, "Fiverr likes to lowball so much that the art there is worth so cheap". I think I agree with this though, some artists price their art cheap and are underselling ;-; 

But I wonder if it is the same as elitism? To avoid Fiverr's underselling community because they want to tell people that their service is worth more? I like to hear thoughts 😮 

I can see why they would think so. If you're in an up-scale market, you don't want to be assosciated with a "cheap marketplace". But the problem with the idea is that it's wrong. Yes, you can find cheap stuff on Fiverr. REALLY cheap stuff. But we all know that 5-dollar-gigs rarely provide anything worth having. You can also find high-end services on Fiverr. I've seen gigs starting from 5000 bucks and more for a single logo design. 

My point is: if 5000 dollar logo designers can thrive on Fiverr and off of Fiverr, that means they aren't underselling at all, and to charge those prices, they need up-scale clients. 

More and more high-end clients show up on Fiverr. I've worked with MyHeritage, NordVPN, Circle K, eToro, Pfizer and Betsson to mention a few large corporations shopping on Fiverr. 

So the idea is based on what Fiverr used to be. Not what it is. 

I think your example can be elitism. If someone just thinks that Fiverr sucks, they probably tried selling on here and didn't succeed. That doesn't mean the site sucks. It means they didn't have what it takes to make it work for them. Too bad for them. 

You don't have to be part of the race to the bottom, just because you're on Fiverr. You set your own rates. Your value is up to you. 

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Thank you! I needed to read this!

I'm currently studying for a diploma on professional voice over in Latin America and I'm afraid to mention publicly that I work on Fiverr for this exact reason.

I actually left my full time job for this because I do earn more now, and it's all thanks to Fiverr! (well, sure, I've been practicing and improving myself but you get the point).

Thank you again, sir!

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Just now, isai92 said:

Thank you! I needed to read this!

I'm currently studying for a diploma on professional voice over in Latin America and I'm afraid to mention publicly that I work on Fiverr for this exact reason.

I actually left my full time job for this because I do earn more now, and it's all thanks to Fiverr! (well, sure, I've been practicing and improving myself but you get the point).

Thank you again, sir!

Awesome to hear! I'm happy for you! I'm not afraid of mentioning Fiverr, but then again, I'm one of those mad people that don't really care much about what persnickety high-hats may feel about the way I do business. If they're afraid that we'll beat them on price and still enjoy a comfortable living, the problem isn't with us, but with them. I'm not going to hide, just because they are intimidated by the platform or its sellers. 

Keep at it! 😄

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Fiverr does themselves no favors by letting any 13yr old with an internet connection sign up and say they're qualified. They could very easily fix their reputation and the perception of the site as being a minefield of amateurs by just, you know - not doing that.

Thing is, they're not really in the 'freelance' business, so much as the 'get people to click BUY as quickly as humanly possible' business. That, combined with the fact that they're a publicly traded company now, means growth is probably more important than anything else.

 

They could wake up tomorrow and decide they want to be Etsy and not a whole heck of a lot would need to change on their end...

... except I think Etsy actually does vet sellers, so maybe it would be a pretty dramatic difference.

 

I'm sure we've all had the occasional (or frequent) buyer who is clearly jumping through hoops to not let their client know they hired us on Fiverr, and if that doesn't speak volumes, well...

 

 

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28 minutes ago, terrygrantvo said:

Fiverr does themselves no favors by letting any 13yr old with an internet connection sign up and say they're qualified. They could very easily fix their reputation and the perception of the site as being a minefield of amateurs by just, you know - not doing that.

Thing is, they're not really in the 'freelance' business, so much as the 'get people to click BUY as quickly as humanly possible' business. That, combined with the fact that they're a publicly traded company now, means growth is probably more important than anything else.

 

They could wake up tomorrow and decide they want to be Etsy and not a whole heck of a lot would need to change on their end...

... except I think Etsy actually does vet sellers, so maybe it would be a pretty dramatic difference.

 

I'm sure we've all had the occasional (or frequent) buyer who is clearly jumping through hoops to not let their client know they hired us on Fiverr, and if that doesn't speak volumes, well...

 

 

I absolutely agree when it comes to not letting 13-year-olds with webcams play voice actors on Fiverr. This is why me and others, like @newsmike, have been saying for years that Fiverr selling needs to come behind a paywall. 

Naturally, Fiverr is a business, and growth-aligned strategies should be expected. As a shareholder myself, I expect nothing less. But you can grow without 13-year-olds pretending to be professional. 

In fact, I know Fiverr is working hard on going up-market, so there will probably come some changes soon that will benefit us as real professionals.

And yes, I've had buyers who don't want their client to know they are shopping on Fiverr. I have the impression that this is also a price thing. If the clients know where they got the voice over, they could just as easily get it themselves. 

If my buyer wishes to protect his business by not mentioning Fiverr, I totally get it. My problem lies with the elitist snobs who can't simply have a good debate about the positives vs. the negatives in a civil matter. They feel the need to bash on Fiverr and everyone on the platform. 

I've had more up-market clients here on Fiverr than on some of the more "serious" platforms they claim to love so much. 

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