Pricing your work for recording Bulk News Articles, etc

Michael DelGaudio
01/25/22 12:43 PM Comment(s)

You may be approached to narrate content over a long period, here are ways to ensure you get paid a worthwhile rate, and the client is happy. 

NB: There are many ways to do this. This is how it has worked for me.  Your mileage may vary.

My experience is that news organizations pay less for article narration than similar length e-learning videos. This is because articles have a short shelf-life, and are not monetized very easily. And, the margins are already pretty thin. Charging e-learning prices would be at a loss for them and you won't get hired. The news org will need to get their money back on an article in 1 to 7 days. After that the listen rates taper off, and so does revenue.

Knowing that, changes the calculus to decide if it's worth it for you. Bulk work can be profitable, or a loss, depending on how you price it . YOu need to think about what it takes for you to actually produce the work (and bear in mind a couple "gotchas" at the end of this article.)

This is important:
When working in bulk, it's prepay only, and not billed after delivery. They must prepay, or you'll get screwed when they don't actually deliver the bulk work.

Often their eyes are bigger than their stomach. And the bulk work never actually materializes.

So, determine a bulk discount rate that works for your time but makes it attractive enough for them. In this scenario, bulk is key -- how much work will you get? The more work they have, the better you can negotiate.

The key for you is to know how long it takes you to generate a minute of finished audio from a cold script. It may be something like 5 to 8 minutes of  actual work per-finished-minute. It all depends on your cold-reading skills and editing workflow. At 150 to 200 spoken words per minute you can work out how much time you need to create that audio. A 1,700 word article will take between 45 minutes and 60 minutes for 10 minutes of audio. 

This time is spent:
  • researching  (pronunciations etc)
  • recording
  • editing
  • QA-ing 
  • mastering to desired technical standards 
  • delivering / uploading
  • administration (billing, tracking etc...)
Finally consider turnaround time. How fast do they need it back. Today or next week. .

You could factor that into the negotiation. One rate for fast turnaround, another for 48hrs+, or whatever. You can always turn it around faster, but if they demand it, they should pay for it. Add something in your discussion for what deadlines are, so everyone is on the same page.

So, how much do you need make for that hour's work, and have it be profitable? How close is that their budget?
I would offer a discounted rate if it meant I got a consistent 5 to 10 hours a week in recurring predictable revenue.

Once you calculate a number that works for you, you can work with them in a few ways to make it attractive to them. You can do this a few ways, depending on how reliable the recurring work will be. I have have clients in all three buckets:

My favorite way:
1) Pre-purchase words in bulk. Bill them in advance for the words. They keep sending scripts until the word count runs out, then issue a new invoice. ." Then, keep a spreadsheet of how many words each script is. Share the spreadsheet in view-only mode so they know where they stand. This is good for high volume work, and is clear for everyone. 

My Second favorite way:
2) Pre-purchase Flat fee per script. Again, whatever numbers work for you. Then, as above, keep delivering scripts until the pre-purchase runs out.

My Least favorite way:
3) Bill per finished minute at an agreed-to rate, say $3 or $5 /min and either round to the nearest minute or bill to the second. They pre-purchase minutes in advance. 
number of minutes + ( number of seconds / 60 ) 
gives you the percentage of the minute to bill 
Example: a 7 minute 16 second script is 7.26 minutes. 7 + (16/60)

I like this third way somewhat less because they'll get you to speak faster, which makes for a harder read for you but with less pay. 

​​Two gotchas to be aware of:
Often, news articles have names of people or places that you may not know how to pronounce. Factor in time to search for pronunciations of those words. Or, a pronunciation / phonetic guide for "out of the ordinary" names. terms, locations, etc...*. It sucks to lose 15 minutes researching to pronounce certain names or places.

Pickups are only free for your mistakes. If they change a script, there is an fee, not the corrected words. This fee pays for the time to reopen the project, do the pickups, re-render and deliver. Make it reasonable. Something like: $10 per set, per article, whatever.

I hope that helps. I've done it each of these ways. They all can work, so long as you know how long it takes you to create the work.

So, If it takes you 20 minutes to create a finished minute, then it may not work.

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