Billing for audio production as a freelancer

Hi all! New week, new question! I've been presented with an opportunity to do some freelance work. It's a small project with a client who's never employed a consultant (they do all their work in-house). In talking with the client, their expectation is the consultant is responsible for obtaining professional narration services. They have requested a quote with total project costs detailed.

This is the first time I've done a quote for total project costs, rather than being paid by the hour. I'm good with estimating my time, but I'm hitting a snag in regards to the audio production. I have a company I've worked with in the past (in the private sector) and I've requested a quote from them. HOWEVER, I have an idea of what they will quote me and it's not the kind of money I have lying around. What is the appropriate way to deal with this? Is it reasonable of the client to expect the consultant will front the audio costs? If so, is it reasonable to ask for an advance to cover the audio costs?

3 Replies
Kathryn Weaver

This sounds like it could be compared to a contractor/subcontractor relationship in construction.  Basically, they're paying you to do the whole job and if you have to pay someone else to do part of it then that comes out of your costs.  Does that sound right?

If so, I would think you have a couple of choices:

  1. Add the cost of the audio production to your total and negotiate separately with the audio company that they won't get paid until you get paid. 
  2. Negotiate with the hiring company to have an advance or at least payments at certain "milestones," that way you'll have the money to pay for the work that's been done.
  3. Take a huge risk and pay the audio company on credit.

I will also add that, if you need cheaper narration, let me know.  I do work for a couple of different places, have a studio in my house,  and am pretty inexpensive!

Dale Hargis

Amanda Allen

Thanks Dale. I agree paying the audio company on credit is a huge risk. I suppose I can ask the client to work with a company directly and provide me the files. But that may jeopardize my getting the work. I just didn't know if audio production is a risk consultants commonly take-on. 

Jackie Van Nice

Hi Amanda! 

Backing up to the more general question of handling VO - in the scoping process I simply ask whether they plan to provide it, since some orgs already have their own people or vendors they like to use. If they do - great! Then I just estimate the audio-related hours it'll take to edit it (if needed), insert it, and synchronize it.

As for subcontracting, I've never used a subcontractor for VO since I do it in-house, so I estimate my hours to produce and integrate it if they'd like me to do it.

Of Dale's options I like #1 - least risk - since there is NO reason to take risks about getting caught in the middle and not getting paid. It's a good reason to qualify your client first, too. You need to be confident they pay their bills as agreed before even considering doing work for them.

Beyond that I would absolutely check out working with someone like Dale. (Hi Dale!) I don't know him or his work specifically, but if I were you I'd check out folks like him because I think you could probably find reasonably-priced, high-quality work from other independents - and audio people usually have readily-available samples of their work to make your research even simpler.

Best of luck and congrats on your new gig, Amanda!