“PFH” is a term specific to voiceover work in the audiobook world. Whether you’re a VO beginner or a working narrator, it’s an important concept to understand. Let’s break it down.
PFH stands for “per finished hour,” and it’s a way audiobook narrators get paid that is different from per-hour rates. PFH rates are based on the length of the finished product. In this case, one “finished hour” is a 60-minute audio file that’s done being edited and polished.
Here’s an example: If your PFH rate is $250 for an audiobook that ends up being seven hours long, you net $1,750 no matter how long it takes to prepare and record.
The benefits of PFH rates are that “you can make quick quotes and establish fair rates of pay across the industry,” says Kevin Kemp, audiobook narrator and founder of the Audiobook Guy blog. “Obviously, the negatives are that if you take much longer to produce an hour of finished audio, then your real hourly rate sinks lower and lower,” he adds. “All the more important to feel confident in your production workflow!”
So, what should your PFH rate be? Kemp says, “A really good way for people to work out their own rate is to decide how much they are comfortable working for an hour of work, and then work it out from there.” Figuring this out depends on a few factors, including your experience level, how long it takes you to record one finished hour, and whom you are working with.
Working with production houses and publishers
If your gig is directly with a production house or publisher, you are only responsible for researching the project, narrating, and delivering a clean recording with no post-production work. “They will expect no audio processing on the track at all—no noise suppression, no high-pass filters, nada,” Kemp explains. “But many [companies] will sound-check you to ensure you have a low enough room tone and good enough equipment to ensure quality.”
Typically, narrators who are just starting out will take about five hours to record one finished hour; more experienced performers can knock that down to two or three hours. According to Kemp, production house and publisher jobs range from $180 to $250 PFH. So, a beginner charging $180 PFH and spending five hours on each finished hour would make $36 an hour; a more experienced narrator charging $180 PFH and spending three hours on each finished hour would make $60 an hour.
Working with ACX
The Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) is also one of the most common ways narrators connect with authors and find jobs. With ACX, you are in charge of the audiobook’s full production—so, in addition to research and recording, you’ll edit and master the audio to meet the platform’s requirements. “People massively underestimate how long post-production takes, and find themselves making less and less money on a book because they don’t realize what a beast post-production is,” Kemp says.
By adding post-production to research and recording, new narrators will typically take about 10 hours to complete one finished hour of audio; more experienced narrators can complete it in about six hours. For someone just starting out with few to no credits, Kemp suggests charging $200 PFH, which breaks down to $20 an hour. For anyone above that skill level, the SAG-AFTRA minimum on ACX is $250 PFH. “I would say a quality narrator should not charge less than the SAG minimum,” Kemp advises.
“Once you feel like you are an experienced narrator with a solid production system in place, you can start raising your rate from there,” he continues. “I think $300 PFH is fair, but if you are booked out consistently and feel you can command the price, lift it up further.”