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  • Writer's pictureTom Dheere

Voiceovers And Pro Bono Work – The Not Silent Blog 4/10/18

Here is an important lesson about pro bono work…

A few weeks ago I got an email from an aspiring voice talent who accepted an unpaid gig to build her resume. She said she was given little information about the project beforehand so could do not any research. When she arrived at the recording session, she was told the project would be packaged and sold to libraries.  She did the gig anyway and later asked me if she was taken advantage of.

This is what I told her:

You…didn’t ask about usage upfront. If you didn’t like the terms they laid out when you got to the studio you should have talked to them about it right then and there. If they couldn’t satisfy you, then you walk. If you want you could reach out to them and try to negotiate a usage fee after the fact, but it may be too late. They didn’t take advantage of you. You hosed yourself because you approached the project like an artist and not like a business. This is exactly why so many people try to get into voiceovers, acting, modeling, etc. and fail.

I know that was tough love but man, stuff like that just ticks me off at both the voice talent and the client. Was the client twirling their mustache at the talent? Maybe, maybe not, but voice talents should know better.


There is nothing wrong with doing pro bono work. Actually, I encourage it! I and many of my fellow veteran voice talents do it from time to time. However, if you are going to do pro bono work, you need to approach it like a business.

Understand the difference between doing pro bono work and working for free.

The term “pro bono” (and no, it does not necessarily mean you love U2 or Sonny & Cher) is derived from Latin pro bono publico, meaning ‘for the public good.’ The motivation behind pro bono work is to benefit society as opposed to making money.

How do I apply that? I only do pro bono work for:

  1. students

  2. contests (many times I have voiced projects for existing clients who enter a video into a contest of some kind).

  3. charitable institutions who can provide a Schedule 501(c)(3) form proving they are a nonprofit.

Even then, many charitable institutions have a budget for advertising & marketing and could pay you anyway so do your due diligence.

Working for free is doing a voiceover when a for-profit company or venture should pay you but doesn’t.

  1. When a for-profit company tries to get you to work for free, don’t do it.

  2. If they say they don’t have the budget and promise they will pay you for the next gig, don’t do it.

  3. If they say they want to “try you out”, don’t do it.

When should you work for free? I would only consider it if you’re doing it for a friend or it’s for a new project or service you believe in i.e. voicing a Kickstsarter or GoFundMe video. Even then, find out what the usage is.

Whether it’s pro bono work or you choose to work for free, send the client a zeroed-out invoice so they understand the value of the service you provided.

Do your homework, ask good questions, and don’t get taken advantage of!


I am thrilled to be a guest of the latest Pro Audio Suite podcast! You can check out the interview here.

Thursday, April 12th @8PM EST: my next Edge Studio “Business and Money 201” webinar topic will be ‘Workflow’. We’re going to talk about how to improve your business physically, digitally, and mentally. Click here to sign up.

Sunday, April 22nd @1:30PM EST: I will be one of six teachers at the Community Teach-a-thon hosted by the VO of NYC Facebook group at Arts on Site in Manhattan. The list of teachers are:

  1. Kristin Price Wilson- Casting (from the other side of the table.)

  2. Tom Dheere- VO Business and Marketing

  3. James Romick- Home Studio Building Essentials

  4. Anna Garduno- Animation VO

  5. Carin Gilfry- Making the Most of Auditioning and Working from Home

  6. Gayatri Patel Bahl- Your VO website!

And it’s free to attend! Click here to learn more.

Tuesday, April 24th @7PM EST: Having trouble getting everything done? Don’t know how to organize your day? At Abacus Entertainment I will teach the seminar ‘Time Management for your VO Business’ about how to prioritize your, um, priorities!  Click here to sign up.

Thursday, April 26th @8PM EST: my next Edge Studio “Marketing 201” webinar topic will be ‘Keeping Clients Coming Back’. We’ll talk about the most important (and simple) marketing technique of all! Click here to sign up.

November 9-11: MAVO is coming!

I will be one of the guest speakers and it’s going to be a blast. Be sure to get your tickets now while you still can. Learn more at!


Happy belated Easter, Passover, and of course International Safety Pin Day!


From my village to yours; this is Tom Dheere, The H is Silent, but I’m Not.

Tom Dheere is a 20+year veteran of the voice over industry who has narrated thousands of projects for clients in over a dozen countries. He is also a coach at Edge Studio, voiceover business consultant known as the Voice Over Strategist, and is currently producing the comic book “Agent 1.22”.


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