Union Or Not, Start With Union Rates

Hey there!

I was at the Voices Anonymous (yep, that’s the group’s name) meetup here in LA recently, and one of the topics that came up was pricing.

More precisely, what do you do about the fact that union and non-union rates are different?

I say, to change your game, change the rules.

Hope this helps!


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Raw YouTube Captioning

hey there it’s David H Lawrence the 17th
I just got off the zoom with a client I
was doing a coaching session and she is
not a union member
she is non-union she’s out in the
Midwest and something came up during the
coaching session that I thought was
interesting and I wanted to share with
you because I think it might be
something that if you’re not Union you
might be thinking as well we were
talking about a challenge that she has
that a lot of people that I coach and
teach have had over the years in fact so
much so that when I took a survey a few
years ago as to what classes people
wanted me to add to the curriculum the
overwhelming number one was a class on
social media but the overwhelming number
two was a class on pricing and in the
pricing class we go very carefully
through all of the pricing all of the
rates that the Union sets and also the
rates that a number of organizations
that share information with each other
and kind of come up with non-union rates
suggest but I’ve always wondered and it
came up during this coaching session why
whether your union or not what it
matters I mean why not use Union rates
as a starting point so here’s what I
want to share with you today sag-aftra
makes it really easy for you to go find
out what the rates are on on certain
things you can go to their website sag
after org and you can look up the rates
for various contracts for the things
that you might be doing and instead of
thinking to yourself immediately
oh I’m non-union so I really shouldn’t
be charging nearly as much as what Union
people charge why not
are you non-union by choice
are you non-union because of where you
are in your journey
are you non-union because you were you
were gonna in a right-to-work state or
are you non-union because you’ve never
been given the opportunity to join the
Union who knows I doubt it’s because
you’re anti performance union I don’t
know of anybody who’s who’s actually
like that they all want to make more
money and have more safety and and
better working conditions and hopefully
residuals and and so on so whatever it
is whatever makes you where you are
here’s what I’d like you to do don’t
immediately assume that because you’re
doing non-union work you’re worth less
money or you should be charging less now
you can think to yourself well the
client will expect that if I’m non-union
they’ll expect there to be a lower rate
that’s not necessarily true one of the
biggest arguments that we’ve been having
as a union over the years is the fact
that because some production companies
don’t want the Union as part of their
their production plans they will offer
even higher rates as a one-time payout
so a buyout is what it’s called they’ll
offer $10,000 for a commercial one time
whereas if you do a union shoot you pay
somebody two thousand three thousand
dollars and then they make residuals as
that commercial is shown that could end
up making somebody hundreds of thousands
of dollars I have one particular client
who was in a Geico commercial and she’s
made a good ton of money like six
figures from that spot because it’s run
for so many years so that’s why they
want to do it but the actual session fee
for doing a television commercial isn’t
but a couple of thousand dollars they’ll
give you ten thousand dollars if you
just take it once so my point is pricing
isn’t automatically higher you don’t to
price your work automatically higher if
you’re in the Union nor do you want to
price it automatically lower if you’re
not in the Union and it also gives you a
great starting point when you’re talking
to a client that doesn’t really care and
wouldn’t know if your union or non-union
they’re not doing the contract union so
they don’t know so one thing that you
can do is go familiarize yourself with
all of the rates that are available you
can either take our pricing class or you
can go to sag after Oregon you can look
them up individually we do list
non-union rates but what we’re doing is
we’re listing what sort of the hivemind
of Givi AAA and wove oh and some of the
other organizations that do this sort of
work have come up with that people are
comfortable charging I’m not necessarily
sure that that’s a great way to come to
that decision like take the average of
what everybody thinks why not start with
Union rates right those are hard-fought
negotiated rates and in some cases you
should be charging more than Union rates
if you’re non-union for a one-time
payout a one-time buyout how do you
charge how do you feel about charge and
you always feel like well if I give them
a break on the price maybe they’ll hire
me for more stuff that’ll be another
video that I’ll do someday to disabuse
you of that notion but what do you do
does it make you nervous to think about
pricing let me know in the comments
below I’d love to love to get your take
on this because it’s something that
makes a lot of people really really
anxious about how to do things because
you get to a point where you get booked
on something and then you don’t want to
lose that booking because you’ve asked
for a crazy price
well Union rates are not crazy rates
they’re the floor that Union people get
so it’s a great place to start that’s my
advice to you let me know what you think
about that in the comments below if
you’d like to join my mailing list
there’s a subscribe form at the bottom
of this page go for that I’d love to let
you know not only when these videos come
out but also about the really cool stuff
that we have to offer on the website to
make you and your practice spectacular
and if you’d like to see the very latest
video that I’ve done maybe you’re
watching these videos out of order the
ones that I’m doing every day for a year
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that frame and YouTube will play it for
you I’m David H Lawrence xvii I thank
you so much for watching and I will talk
to you tomorrow.

5 Responses to Union Or Not, Start With Union Rates

  1. Bobby Thomas July 30, 2019 at 6:57 am #

    You are absolutely correct, David. I was a board member of the Cleveland local of AFTRA before the merger (before they dissolved the office.) As a result of the 2000 union strike, when producers started going non-union, we tried to turn as much non-union work into union work, without a lot of success. That horse was let out of the barn and will never come back. But we encouraged our non-union colleagues to at least start charging union rates as their absolute starting point. They get better rates and everyone is on a more even playing field. It just made a whole lotta sense. But…not many performers followed our advice. They went for quantity ($50 to $100 bucks a pop) instead of quality rates.

    BTW I was a Cleveland radio personality and production director for close to 30 years. Born and raised on the NorthCoast, or The Land, as it’s now referred to. My first cousin was Cleveland radio legend and host of the prize movie on channel 43, Jack Reynolds, who went on to do TV work for the WWE. I would love to talk with you some time about your days in CLE if you had the time for a quality cup of coffee.

  2. Adrienne Moreland July 30, 2019 at 7:49 am #


    This was very helpful! i will use the SAG-AFTRA rate as a point of reference.Why not use the standard? Previously I used the GVAA rate guide.

    Thank you,
    Adrienne Moreland

  3. Chris Buckner July 30, 2019 at 11:03 am #

    Pricing is definitely a tricky subject in my mind. I understand the psychological desire to charge less to get more work. My previous employer went from using a union voice actor for web-based training videos to a local nonunion VO guy who, according to another VO friend of mine, is undercutting himself on pricing. I’m going to keep an eye on GVAA/ pricing class for guidance. Thanks for the video David.

  4. Stephanie August 7, 2019 at 11:55 am #

    Pricing is a hard thing for me. Yes, I want the gig but I don’t want to do it for pennies because it ALWAYS costs me more when I do. More time, more energy, more frustration in the end. I find the low ball clients are much harder to deal with. So I start with union rates and go from there. The union works their butts off to figure out reasonable rates for talent and so it makes sense to start there. If there is a lot of work or a bulk order then I give them a slight break. I find that pricing starts with how you value yourself. I’m always working on that aspect so I can feel good about what I charge. I find I have to have my head straight and know my value so I don’t undercharge.

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