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Beware of Predators

So maybe you've read our other posts about why anyone would want to get into voice acting, how people get into it, recording from home, and how not to take rejection personally, and you're ready to strike out and give this a shot. That's great! But here's some more advice to take with you, which you'll have to keep in mind all throughout your career: Beware of predators. The acting industry as a whole is swarming with people looking to take advantage of eager, unassuming talent. How can you determine who's friend and who's foe?

First, let's consider “job offers.” The reason I put that in quotes is because sometimes what appears to be an offer is actually a scam. If the offer comes with a shockingly high pay rate, especially if you're someone just starting out, that should be the first red flag. Then look to see if it seems strangely complicated as to how you get paid. Is it asking for banking details? For you to send them a voided check? Or any strange dance of you get a check, deposit, then send them a check for some reason back, which seems lifted straight from one of those scam emails about inheriting a bunch of money from some prince in Nigeria? Yeah, don't. It shouldn't have to be said, but just in case, please do not give any stranger any sensitive information.

Sometimes you may receive offers that look pretty legitimate, but if they are reaching out to you unsolicited and without any mention of having been referred to you, be cautious. They might have found you because of your profile on a site or if you have a professional web page for your voice work and liked what they heard. But they also could have found you those ways and assumed you'd make a good target. Do some digging on them using whatever information they have provided, before you agree to any job. If they've given the name of a company, look it up. Try to verify this is an actual company and this person really works there (and that the person contacting you is really that person). No reasonable person would get angry at learning you tried to verify them, so don't feel like you can't reach out to the company when checking.

Also, just as with the previous example, look at the rate they may have included (if they have included one). If it's much higher than you've ever seen for that kind of job (like let's say they want to pay you thousands of dollars for a YouTube ad) then that's a bad sign. Most often a client will first ask you for what your rates are, after explaining the project. For example, I've been contacted by clients who know of me through others, and they may explain that the job is for an internal training video and that it's X amount of words, and ask what I'd typical charge for that. Sometimes they may include a budget they have, but I promise you they will not usually be inclined to instantly offer way over standard industry rates right off the bat. If you're very new and uncertain what standard rates are, I suggest doing some searching online for rate cards. Agencies that provide services like FlyVoiceovers have their own set rates, and more “traditional” agencies will negotiate rates on a case-by-case basis depending on the type of job. If you're getting work yourself and not through an agent, it falls on you to set your own rates and be your own negotiator, so you need to understand where rates usually fall and how they're calculated. For example, an audiobook's rate (per finished hour) is calculated differently than the narration of a radio ad (typically considers broadcasting rights, size of target area, etc). The best way to prevent yourself form getting ripped off is to understand how much you need to charge for your work.

Scams go beyond just fake clients, as there are also “agents” who engage in...questionable practices. You may have already been told not to sign with any agent who tries to charge you a fee, but what you may not have been told is that sometimes they can try to get money from you in other ways. If an agency says you have to make a demo through them (and pay them), don't sign with them. (This also goes for on-screen actors, and agencies saying you need to use them for headshots.) If an agency has fees for having you and your demo on their site, do not go with them. You should never be paying your agent money, they should just be getting a percentage of what you earn on jobs through them. That's it. Period.

There are other ways in which people may try to prey on you in the industry, so please just try to be as cautious as you can. Remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stay safe, and I wish you the best on your pursuit of this very rewarding career.

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