By Propulsion Media Labs Talent #8 Marty M.
Before I became a full-time voiceover talent, one of the jobs I held was production director for a notoriously cheap radio station. There was no equipment redundancy in the recording studios, so if something failed all production ground to a halt until the unit could be repaired. This took a long time because they were too cheap to hire a full time engineer. They were so cheap, they refused to pay a little extra to be tied into the office building’s backup generator. So whenever the power went out, the station was off the air, resulting in the loss of advertising revenue and listenership while every other company in the building conducted business.
I was surprised to learn that some of that attitude rubbed off on me. During a conversation with a friend who knew I was planning to become a freelance voiceover professional, I told him that part of my brilliant strategy would be to charge less than all of the other voiceover talents out there. He said “that’s all fine and good, but keep in mind that not everybody wants to drive a Yugo.”
For those who don’t remember, the Yugo was a car built in Yugoslavia and imported into the U.S. in the mid 1980’s and sold for $3995 brand new. Totally unencumbered by the engineering process, the engines blew and the electrical systems failed after just months of use. Mechanics used to joke that the real purpose of the rear defroster was to keep your hands warm while you were pushing your Yugo. You’d have to look long and hard to find a worse car. But there were a lot of people who purchased them, unable to resist being able to purchase a new car for such a low price.
Although there were no Yugos on the road at the time of this conversation, my friend’s point was clear. Not everyone wants to drive the cheapest car. If they did, you would never see a Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Acura, BMW, Infiniti or Tesla on the road. You wouldn’t even see an Accord, Camry or Focus.
By mistakenly believing people will only pay for something if it is the rock bottom lowest price, like the radio station described above, I would be doing more work for less money, possibly resulting in lower quality work. This is true for any product or service, and applies whether you are providing those goods/services or purchasing them. It’s a form of “limitation thought” that holds businesses, and the overall economy, back.
I contend that the radio station’s el-cheapo approach actually cost far more in lost revenue and listenership than they ever saved. How many times have you used the restroom at a restaurant, and they have set the motion-activated paper towel dispenser to spit out a 4-inch length of towel? You end up waving your hand across the sensor multiple times to get the amount of towel needed to dry your hands. But the restaurant forgets that the extra wear and tear on the dispenser motor caused by additional activation cycles results in premature failure, costing more in repairs than what could possibly be saved by limiting the amount of paper towel dispensed.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you throw your budgets out the window and purchase a Maserati. Nor am I saying that a professional should charge more than what is considered reasonable and customary for the good or service that they provide.
I am saying this: if you are in the market for something, consider basing your purchase decision on the real value, not necessarily the lowest price. In their quest for a small price tag, the Yugo purchasers actually got almost nothing for their $3995.
Likewise, whether you are a voice-over professional, a media production company, a financial planner, a dentist, or any other business, it’s okay to charge what you are worth. Not everybody is looking for the rock-bottom price. And those that are don’t respect your expertise, time and investment into your business. It may take a production company one day to edit and produce your media project, but what you are paying for is that one day, plus the investment they’ve made in state-of-the-art equipment AND the years (perhaps decades) of experience their personnel possess.
For buyers and sellers alike, it’s okay to trade-in the Yugo.