Client Relationships

The Talk Began with Armin at One Voice

Yesterday I spent much of the day online in my den enjoying different workshops from the One Voice 2020 conference. I had not planned to fly to London to attend before the pandemic, but since virtual attendance became an option I was excited to participate.  I got so much out of the sessions, from thinking about craft and marketing, to thinking about my feelings about auditions and the work that I book. So, from the start, thanks to Hugh Edwards and the entire team at Gravy for the Brain for this amazing conference!

Each session got my wheels turning for different reasons, but during Armin’s session that was around 11 AM EST, when he spoke of defining quality in the industry. My head was bursting with ideas. If you don’t know Armin Hierstetter, he is the founder and CEO of the online casting platform Bodalgo. Unlike some platforms where you can simply sign up, Bodalgo stands apart because Armin has a screening process to begin with, setting a bar for “quality” from the start. In his talk, Armin spent a bit of time talking about what is going on industry wide in terms of quality, what quality looks like, and how quality could be achieved.

Why does Armin’s chat matter so much? Well, if you recall last week I blogged about Casting Director MaryLynn Wissner and what happens if we take Coaching out of the mix when defining a professional. Yesterday, Armin made a strong argument for why coaching and training matter when defining quality in voiceover. Armin was not alone when he spoke about the importance of coaching, I heard this message from Kay Bess as well. I think any well-established talent in the industry will tell you with pride how much they have invested in working on their craft. Next, Armin also spoke about the importance of audio quality. Again, in order to book work competitively at the moment in the industry, a professional talent must have the “right” equipment in a sound treated space and know how to edit it. But simply having training and buying equipment alone is not enough, these need to combine with an ethical underpinning on platforms that are out to foster the growth of the industry, and all of that together creates a synergy to provide quality work for out clients.

So, inspired by Armin, let’s examine more in depth how we can work together at this unique moment in history to provide outstanding VO quality for our clients:

Training:

It is imperative that in order to be competitive in the voice over industry today a talent must have coaches and continue to work on their craft. When I started I did a combination of one on one coaching in specific genres, online classes, acting and improv. Whether or not you are working towards a demo, a good coach will help you develop your strengths and identify your weaknesses. They will also help you identify next steps and encourage you with other genres of voice over that would likely be a good fit. As MaryLynn mentioned in her blog post, good coaches ideally have a responsibility to give talents both a push in the right direction and a heads up if they are sub parr.

Attending conferences is essential to understanding industry trends. What is current and booking changes. If you are not in touch with other voice actors and involved in current training, how do you know what is booking at the moment? There are also differences by region. For example, I was told at WoVo Con 2019, this year, that when submitting west coast auditions I should add touches of improv but never to do that on auditions being submitted in NYC. Working out and doing line reads in the presence of other voice actors, while humbling, also helps you see where you fit in in the community and if you are in fact up to snuff. It is really important to push yourself to these challenges and participate in such community activities.

Audio Quality:

Audio quality matters. Clients can hear the difference when listening to auditions. I have always been a big proponent of getting WoVo studio approval and when I cast jobs for clients will only cast with talents who have been vetted through this process.

For those wanting to learn as much as possible about studio setups and audio standards, there are lots of great ways to go about it. The VOBS weekly show is really helpful. If you started watching today, you would be busy for a while! Both Dan Leonard and George Whittam are also available to help teach anything related to audio processing and studio set up, as is Tim Tippets, and Roy Yokelson. There are others out there too, but if you want to have competitive audio, the quality of your raw audio needs to be outstanding and then you need to know how to edit it. It’s that simple. Those of use who have been in the business for a while typically attend workshops at conferences on DAW upgrades. For example, I love learning more about Twisted Wav. We also typically make improvements to our travel rigs. If your audio is not pristine, all the coaching in the world won’t save you.

Conclusions

If you want to succeed in voiceover, there are not short cuts to creating quality work. There is an industry standard and the bar is high. That is what books. If you are aware of those of us who continue to book at this time, the answer to what sets them apart is one word: quality.

What Voice Over Client Correspondence is Appropriate during a pandemic?

As a small business owner, this is a very personal choice, but to me the line is extremely clear: the only unsolicited  communication that should happen during a pandemic is genuine, caring correspondence. Period. If you have spent years of your life building and maintaining client relationships so that each booking is not a one-off, but instead a life-long client relationship, than be a friend and check in. But when I say this I mean genuinely check in with care and concern in your heart. If your heart isn’t in it, don’t do it.

Why is it wrong to try to see yourself right now?

If you are reaching out to folks you have already worked with, odds are they know as soon as they see your name and your email that you are a voice actor. If they needed you for a booking they would have asked. I have been checking in on clients. At radio stations, the program directors and operations managers are working with skeleton crews and their limited crews are running multiple stations and doing the jobs of many.  They are working long hours just to keep radio going. Other clients tell me with great concern how their business has been decimated. Those who also do live events have had massive cancellations. So does this seem like the time to ask how their projects are and send a demo? NO.

This is a test…

This time period will pass. Some companies we have worked with will exist when this is over, and others won’t. If you have clients, actual clients that you have worked with repeatedly, be a friend now. Be supportive. Don’t make it about you. When the pandemic ends, regardless of what is left of their business, do you went to be remembered as a greedy pest or a supportive, kind soul? Only you can decide what your Coronavirus legacy will be, but I would much rather be defined by posting too many pictures of my precious dogs than by stalking my clients in their darkest hour.

Who requests RUSH jobs?

As a professional voice over actor, I get requests for RUSH jobs all the time. This is why it is so important to be a full-time voice talent, so that I am always available when clients need me. I get requests from standing clients that I have worked with repeatedly and from new clients who happen to need something right away. Folks need audio in a hurry for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes they are just too close to their deadline. Sometimes those in productions were also hired late and the commercial, video, or social media is set to air and the VO is often the last piece of the puzzle. Sometimes it is an eLearning module and new content was created but the rest of the content library is ready to launch. Whatever the scenario, the client needs it when they need it and I am ready and able to get it to them!

What is the DIFFERENCE in turnaround time between RUSH jobs and standard delivery?

When we are talking about standard delivery, typically in voiceover it is assumed that it will be a 24 hour turnaround. Sure, it might be less than that, but if a client does not specify that they need it fast, it is pro forma that it will be within 24 hours.In contrast, a RUSH job is typically done in 4-6 hours and sometimes clients want or need you to stop what you are doing, put it aside, and record right then because they genuinely need you at that moment. The audio is essential and they are in a major RUSH.

Is there an extra fee attached to RUSH jobs?

It depends. It is industry standard to add at least a $50 RUSH FEE to RUSH jobs, especially when you have to put another job aside to do said rush job. Clients should expect to pay the rush fee. On quiet days in my studio when work comes in and I just happen to turn it over fast I never charge a fee. Likewise, if it is a client I work with all the time and they need something and I am not busy, I am always happy to just do it for them without the fee. Should I be away on vacation and having quality time with my

Here is my travel rig, I can even accommodate RUSH jobs on the go!

family and I have to go back to my room, set up my travel rig, and record, I am likely to charge the rush fee because the standard turn around time would have allowed me the convenience of recording when I was set up. I have even had clients in other parts of the world wake me and ask me to record when I was in bed asleep. I’ll accommodate, but this is not the same as a job that was done at 2pm when I was in the booth working. So I will always meet the needs of a client, but if it involves dropping everything and running to the booth they have to pay.

Does the QUALITY of the Audio Change for RUSH jobs?

NO! Never! The quality of a RUSH job should always be exactly the same as any job. It should not sound as if it was done in haste. The audio should be pristine. The editing should be flawless. The client needs what they need. Nothing should suffer. This is an accommodation for the client, and every convenience should be made. The client should be wowed like any other project.

What happens if I need a PICKUP or REVISION with my RUSH job?

I am always prepared that any RUSH job may need a RUSH pickup or revision as well. Assuming that this audio goes through the same internal review and client review as any other audio, it is just as likely to have script changes or adjustments that need to be made. I even had a pickup for a Pandora commercial that was done as a RUSH on Friday. It happens. It’s the nature of our work. My policy on pickups is the same for RUSH jobs as it is for any job. On jobs under $250 or after the first round of revisions I charge $75 per 30 minute revision session. On jobs over $250, I typically include one round of minor revisions which is defined as less than 20% of the script within 48 hours of delivery. After that, they have to pay 50% of the initial fee. I am very clear about all of these terms in the initial booking email.

What is the general tone or tenor of business for a RUSH job?

I understand that the client is in a huge hurray. I try to be as helpful as possible and get them their work as soon as they need it. I offer RUSH services for voiceover to be as helpful as possible and consider the circumstances of my clients before all else.

This is written for my twins, Emma and Jack. All I do is for them, all day. Every day.

The Actual Bottom Line

While most of us who work do it because we have an actual financial goal we need to hit, working moms with children at home have goals as role models as well. As my role in my family shifted from that of a stay-at-home mom, a role which I coveted for as long as I could, to a small-business owner who works full-time to contribute meaningfully to my family’s well-being, there is so much that I want my twins, now teens, to take away from this. I spend countless hours in a padded foam booth pursuing my passion for voiceover. There are so many life lessons in the hard work and interactions with both clients and industry friends and colleagues. My hope is the my kids can learn from my experience as a momtrepreneur so that when they have a family and they work they carry not only our family values and ethics with them, but they make good choices because of what I have gone through.

Be Realistic in Your Expectations and Know The Difference Between Your Starting Point and Your Goals

Every one starts somewhere. When I started, I spent a lot of time working on my goals and my business plan, which I reflected on in last week’s blog. You don’t reach your goals over night. Very few people start in life at the top. In an industry like voice over, the first booking, and each and every booking after that, is to be celebrated. As a business owner, building client relationships is essential to building a sustainable business, and relationships don’t happen from one email or from one phone call. It takes time, hard work, and perseverance. Sometimes there are setbacks. Sometimes mistakes are made on either side.  But just because it is hard to reach your goals, reach for the stars and don’t be discouraged! According to both Fresh Books and the Houston Chronicle,  “In conventional terms it can take two to three years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing poorly.”  If you have a dream and a goal, don’t give up. If I had gotten discouraged easily, my voiceover business would never have been possible.

Don’t Get Bogged Down By What Others Think About What You Are Doing

When you have a job, everyone will have an opinion about it. Your friends will. Industry friends will. Random neighbors on the street will. Frankly the only voice that matters is your inner voice, the feeling in your gut. You have to decide whose guidance you value and filter out the rest. Once you start letting these voices in, they don’t stop. You have to have an inner compass that is stronger than all of these people who think they know what is right for you. It is almost mind-blowing how many people have opinions on subjects they know nothing about. Decide what is right for you and go for it. I spent a really long time deciding what I wanted to do before I decided to pursue voiceover. Some people thought it was great and were encouraging. Others’ comments ranged from skeptical to cruel. I had to turn a deaf ear to all of it and follow my gut. It felt right and I went for it. It was actually not that complicated. I had a well-researched plan and I was ready. If you are well-educated I know you will make good choices.

No Human Will Ever Love You Like Your Dog Does

And that’s ok, the dog will fill that void. The love that we have gotten from Barclay and Violet has been a great joy, and working in my studio with Violet by my side is a true gift every single day. Dogs are a blessing in this world. When humans have let me down, the dogs have always made everything better. There has never been a time in my adult life when the dog has not been there. You can trust them emotionally completely. Conversely, I would not trust a human who does not want a dog by his or her side. There must be something lacking in their soul.

 

 

Don’t Settle

If you work hard you can have everything you want and need in this world. Dreams do come true, and as a mom I know that to be true! Everything else that has happened in my life aside from the birth of my children is gravy, but knowing the small miracle that they both exist, I was blessed to be Barclay’s mom and that we have our precious Violet, if that can all happen then the jobs and the client relationships, all of that are possible.

How Have 5 Years Gone By?

In the blink of an eye, it is the end of 2019 and time to set goals for 2020. But this year also marks my fifth year pursuing voice over full time. The foam in my booth has literally turned from bright white to a funky yellow! Five years ago so many things were unknown: how would I juggle being a working mom, how would I find VO clients, how would I run a business as a solopreneur? Now all of those things are still part of my daily life, but I am confidently figuring it out. There is a good rhythm to my voiceover practice. So looking ahead to 2020, I am optimistic that I am on the verge of more good things. and I have always believed that if I don’t say it aloud, or in writing, then the universe doesn’t hear it… so, here are my goals for 2020:

More Radio Imaging

I have worked hard, every single day for the past few years, to grow this side of my business. I hope that in 2020 I can add more CHR and Adult Hits stations to my roster. I continue to reach out to station managers and program directors. I love doing liners, sweepers, and station promos. I am no longer with my manager and my hope is that stations are happier to make arrangements with me directly.

More Commercial Campaigns, Fewer One-Offs

My hope is that in 2020 I book more commercial campaigns and fewer on-offs. Like the work that I did for Anytime Fitness, I hope to book more of this. I love helping a brand emerge and I love being associated with certain brands. I also love working with ad teams continuously and building the rapport that comes with it.

Grow My Repeat Client Base

I lot of my business, about 60%, comes direct from clients. Most of that is from clients that come back over and over again. This year I hope to add five or six more solid clients to my repeat client roster, folks I can work with over and over again and count on for steady work.  Again, like my campaign work, this will enable me to really get to know them. This will also help my continue to build on my sustainable, consistent family income.

More eLearning

I love doing eLearning work. I have some steady clients that I do work with almost every week. This year my hope is to have a few more clients that I do work with regularly. I enjoy all aspects of this work, whether I am playing a character in a training module or a traditional narrator. I love working with the instructional designers to bring these roles to life and make them authentic.

Political Spots

My hope for 2020 is that I can help bring about some much needed change by voicing many blue political spots. I have so many hopes and prayers for our country, and the world, and it is my hope that if a some more liberal folks are elected we will be in a better place next year. I was a political science major in college and I have very strong feelings about what is going on at present. To literally be the voice of change would mean a lot to me. I am very proud of the political demo that I did with Brandon Perry from Adrenaline Studios and I hope that I book a lot from it.

Speak at Conferences and Build relationships with Exhibitors

Since I got into voice over I have been fortunate to attend conferences, many conferences, including WoVo Con, VO Atlanta, VOCation, VO North, and more. I love them for so many reasons, and that is really a separate blog. I am at a point in my career where I want to start giving back to the voice over community that is so very important to me and sharing what I have learned. I have sat in on so many valuable sessions, and now I would be so excited to contribute.

I also love going to the expos at these conferences. I always post about my gear and everything that makes my studio great on my social media. Now I want to start building relationships with the folks who represent at these conferences. Since I represent brands for a living, I would like to build a bridge between the products I use to represent other brands and myself.

Wishing All the Best for 2020

I have noticed on social media that there is a tremendous generosity of spirit in the voiceover community now more than ever. From folks like Bev Standing, Mark Scott, J. Michael Collins, and Kim Handysides to name a few. I am thinking of my fellow voice talents this week and always. I share this joy in our community and am so proud to be a part of these great VO tribe. I wish everyone much success in 2020. I think back to what I learned from Anthony Gettig in the beginning of my career: The rising tide lifts all the ships in the harbor.

Time to Reflect

At the years’ end, it seems like an additional time to reflect. I’m not sure if it’s the food coma induced by all the latkes and egg-nog lattes, or it is just the natural cycle of things, but it is a great time to look back on the best parts of the year and see how far this career I have worked so hard to build has come. So here is my countdown of top 5 best voiceover moments from 2019:

5. WoVo Con In October

Time with industry friends goes by way too fast!!

Without a doubt, WoVo Con is always worth the trip to Las Vegas! What do I love about this conference? Well, the superior sessions, seeing my VO besties, and an opportunity to build important voice over relationships. Over the years I have gone to some amazing sessions. This year I loved Everett Oliver’s session and I loved Brad Newman’s session. I was so happy to have time with Shelley Avellino and to see others like Dana Hurley, Jodi Krangle, Anne Ganguzza, J. Michael Collins, and the list goes on and on. I also had a chance to meet and get to know potential clients! I even went to dinner one night with an eLearning company that added me to their roster, so I enjoyed my time there and made every moment count.

4.Trip to Toronto adjacent to VO North in September

I had an amazing time in Toronto this fall! I had initially planned to be there for VO North, but instead I was adjacent to the conference and spent time with some my VO besties Dearbhla Trainor, Kim Handysides, and Shelley Avellino. We stayed at Derv’s and helped her get ready for the

From the front left is Kim Handysides, Shelley Avellino, me, and Dearbhla Trainor at a NY style diner in Toronto! We had s much fun.

conference. We got to see about of the city and have time together. Kim and I went on an adventure to the middle of no where together to visit clients. That was interesting. We also saw her family and her home town! It was absolutely amazing to have time with these spectacular women and I loved every moment of being with my friends and being in such a great city! Next year I will definitely stay for the entire conference.

3. Trip to LA for WWRS in March 2019

In March, 2019 I went to Burbank, CA for the World Wide Radio Summit. This was the same week as VO Atlanta, so I had to choose between the two conferences. I have been working so hard to grow the radio imaging side of my business and to be there to here the best in the business speak on amazing panels was so inspirational. In 2019, there were not one but two imaging panels, of both voice talents and program directors. To hear folks like Issa Lopez and Ashley Cavalier was a dream come true. These women are role models for us all and they set the bar really high. Their work is incredible and they have achieved so much. I also met people from all over the world, wether they were from across the pond or across the country. To have entire networks like iHeart and Sirius represented was just amazing and the folks that I met were so nice. I have enjoyed keeping in touch with them.

2. Collections are Complete

As a small business owner, it is a pretty major accomplishment to be totally on top of my collections.  Just because I am able to mark this is a goal that I have met does not mean that this was an easy feat. It has taken diligence, patience, and commitment. Most clients are very kind and well-intentioned. Some of these kind clients pay right away. Some are just busy with work and life and forget to pay and need a friendly reminder. But you know what else I have learned as a business owner? Not everyone is nice. Some people do not want to pay even when they are happy. Why? Because they are not nice. So they make small business owners jump through a million hoops to chase them down for money in hopes that we would rather just disappear. This year my multi-pronged approach, wich combines friendly reminders from me with an attorneys letter at the 90 day mark was the right combination. I am thankful.

1. Amazing New Clients and Stayed on Pandora’s Roster

I am so thankful that my client roster this year and always. I am proud that when I work with a client I typically keep working

With an eLearning client at DevLearn last fall and visiting a client in Orlando last Spring:)

with a client. Some of the major brands I have had an opportunity to do voiceovers for in 2019 include Dove, Kyvno, CT Lottery, Michigan Lottery, Cleveland Clinic, Quest Diagnostics, Spoke, CosmoProf, Origins, and the list goes on and on. I am also thrilled that my work for both Pandora and Spotify continued. Pandora has extended another contract to me for 2020 and I am so very thankful for their trust in me year ofter year. This year, a lot of the work I did for them was repeat work because the clients specifically requested me. That means the world to me.

How do you get the ball rolling?

In the past few days I have had a few different buyers or clients reach out to me to inquire about my services. One called from a block number. Another sent me a message on LinkedIn asking me to email their client with my rates and samples. Another emailed through the contact form on my site. I can tell you that all get greeted with the same enthusiastic response and all, whether the job is $200 or $2000, are treated the same.

If you are hiring a voice over actor for your first time, the ease of booking them and the booking process in general gives you a glimpse into how easy this talent is to work with. I have a set process that I use every time that includes quick responses, quotes, turnarounds, pickup/and revision policies, and more. If a talent is difficult to track down for the initial booking, it should be a red flag.

So, this is what my process is like:

The initial contact:

I typically respond as soon as I here from a client. If I get a phone call I respond by phone. Often if I get an email I will even respond by phone. According to voice123, my average response time is 11 minutes, but I typically respond as soon as I see a client correspondance as I understand that you need your work quickly. I take notes on the call so that everything that you tell me about what you want happens in the audio you are delivered. I also need details about the job itself including the usage and run of the job. That will now be addressed below.

Quoting the Job:

Many important details go into quoting a voiceover booking. I typically offer several options to my clients and let them choose the option that best represents their needs, but this is what I need to give a client a quote for their job:

  • The Script: I simply must see the script to give a quote. What you think of as an explainer my actually be employee training or an industrial. We need to also confirm the word count. The script is essential.
  • the Usage_ I need the client to confirm with the team what the usage is. For example, is it internal or will it run on social media? If it runs on social media, will it be organic or paid placement? For how long?
  • How long is the run? They are typically from 6 weeks to a year. I generally quote jobs up to a year and add a calendar reminder at that point in case a client wants to renew their media buy. I do not do buyouts in perpetuity.
  • Revisions. For jobs over $250, I include one round of minor revisions. If clients need more than that I scaffold that into the pricing.
  • Pickups: I also price out my pickup policy and always give the courtesy of delivering them as promptly as the initial audio was delivered.
  • Live of guided sessions: For live sessions I have Source Connect, ipDTL, ISDN, and skype and am happy to use whatever the client prefers! I literally use that line in my “Seal the Deal” email, and for any job over $250 I am happy to do I live session. I always record backup audio and the audio from a live session is considered final delivery, which is industry standard.

All of the above is factored into the quote.

Confirming the Booking

Once a client emails that they have cast me in a spot or booking, I send what I call me “Seal the Deal” email. This goes over all of the details thus far.

  • It confirms in writing that I have the job.
  • It confirms what they want for the booking.
  • It confirms what they need and when it will be delivered.
  • It finalizes any and all requests about the audio in terms of tone, pacing, whether the client needs a WAV or an MP3 or both.
  • If there is a live session it confirms those details as well.
  • It confirms that the script that I have is the final script.

Making it as Easy as Possible

In the end, it should be as easy as possible for the client to have what they need. It should be clear and prompt. The client should be overjoyed that they have found you and instilled with confidence in your capabilities because you are clearly on top of it. If you drop the ball at the beginning, how can they ever trust you.  I want every first job to be the first of many jobs, so I take this system very seriously and want my clients to know that every single project matters.

It’s not A Hobby…

What makes a professional voice over actor a professional? Well, besides the years of training, the demos, the home studio, and being a part of the community, a big, big, big characteristic is booking PAYING work at INDUSTRY STANDARD RATES. Not Fiverr. Not bargain basement, but once a voice talent begins earning a consistent, sustainable income they proudly earn the title of professional. If they are booking repeat gigs or lots of gigs, they now have the goods to call them selves a pro. Even in WoVo, our professional organization, once you book five gigs at industry standard rates, you are eligible to apply to be a “Professional” member. Thus, it is the act of being paid for the work that you do that is essential.

So, you wouldn’t think that being paid would be so tricky, right? You book a gig, your record your amazing audio in your professional studio, you deliver your audio, and the client pays you? That’s how it should work. But often, too often, it does not play out that way. This month I was fortunate. Almost all, about 80% of my bookings, were paid within 24 hours if delivery. This is not the norm. This blog post is inspired by a less than kind client who although pleased with the work I did, and cast me in repeat commercials and campaigns in the last two years, acted as though he was giving me some sort of loan when he paid his invoice at about 90 days past due. This is simply not acceptable. His total lack of professionalism is appalling. I should not have to explain myself, and neither should you. So, instead of focussing on the exception, let’s focus on why things typically run smoothly and how to create a system that makes it easy for a working talent and for your clients to pay promptly:

Terms Up Front

When I book a job I send a “Seal the Deal” email. This email is extremely detailed and clear. It has multiple components, all of which are important:

  • It thanks the client for casting me in the “Name of Project.”
  • This confirms the casting.
  • It confirms the details they want including specifics about the recording and any requests for tone, style, etc.
  • It covers details about guided sessions/phone patch.
  • It confirms the rate.
  • It confirms my revision/pickup policy.
  • The end of it also has legal jargon making this email an agreement. This is how all of these emails end:

Warm regards,

Laura

Acceptance and jurisdiction: Acceptance of this proposal constitutes agreement that usage rights are limited to the medium and region listed in the job description, and expansion would require renegotiation of these terms. Your acceptance of the above constitutes a contract which – in case of a dispute – you agree will be adjudicated in, and according to the relevant laws of, NY, USA. If the booking is cancelled, the session fee will still be paid in full to Laura Schreiber.

Stating your terms in the initial email is essential. The bigger the job, meaning the more money it pays, the more essential it is that you state your terms up front as you have more to lose.

Invoicing Made Easy

AKA “Invoicing for Dummies,” I want to make it as easy as possible for my clients to pay me. I actually spent years figuring this out, so the client is not the dummy here, I had about a five year learning curve. I tried multiple different ways of invoicing, and find that this system is much more user friendly. I use Fresh Books for my invoices. They are clear. They state my terms which are Net 30. They allow me to set 30 and 60 day invoice reminders.

When I send  my finished audio, the last paragraph is always all of the invoice information.  Always. It tells them the invoice number, what is due, and the multiple ways they can pay me. Different people prefer to pay in different ways. Do I have a preference? Yes. But it doesn’t matter, I need to make it easy for them. So, in the last paragraph of my invoice I tell them:

Lastly, you will receive a Fresh Books invoice #XXXX for the amount of $XXXX  after this email. If you prefer another means of payment, I also am happy to receive payment by check at XXXX Road, South Orange, NJ 07079; via paypal at laura@lauraschreibervoice.com, or at Zelle and Chase QP at  laura@lauraschreibervoice.com. Thanks so much again for your business and have a great day,

This email is easy to find. The invoice allows them to pay. This allows them to pay. It’s clear. It’s simple. It’s easy to find again. Make things easy for your clients!

Session Vs. Usage in Invoice

This is extremely important: when invoicing, always, always, always differentiate between your session fee and the usage of your voice. Why? Well what if Sally at the ad agency decides after multiple rounds of casting and telling you that you were perfect 24 times that in the end she really wants a more robust male voice? No problem Sally, she just has to pay your session fee. This is industry standard. I repeat, this is industry standard. You have done the work. You have delivered the work. The session fee is  the fee that they are paying for you to get behind the mic and turn on your phantom power and record. If you did a live session? Guess what, they are paying for it. The usage is for the usage of your voice for the run of the spot. Do not book gigs in perpetuity. It is a huge problem. That is a separate blog. Just don’t!!

Some People Are just Nicer than Others

At the end of the day, some people are just nice and intend to pay you and some are not nice or are totally disorganized. Some are both. I had a government job this week that had a low budget but payed within an hour of delivery. I was doing my happy dance. I have had similar jobs that take 90 days to pay. I typically find that some clients just cannot pay on time. Some always will. Try not to let the few who are really unkind ruin your state of mind for the rest who really are good folks.

An Attitude of Gratitude

All year I work hard to maintain an attitude of grattitude. It is not something that just happens. I’m a pretty happy and upbeat gal, and I am genuinely appreciative of each and every one of my voice over bookings and clients, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have to work hard to create a routine that fosters this attitude of grattitude so that the folks I work with know without a doubt how appreciated they are! This time of year is one of my favorite times of year! Not only do I get to spend more time with the people that I love, but it is also a great time to give a little something extra in the way of thanks to those who help a small business thrive! As a solopreneur, I love these special moments and find that they make all the difference!

Being Considerate with Holiday Schedules

According to Nina Zipkin of entrepreneur.com, in the last census there were 2.7 million solopreneurs! Imagine if you went to Whole Foods to go grocery shopping and they did not post their holiday hours, or if you showed up at the mall only to learn that the hours were different over the week of the winter holidays. Now that there are 2.7 million of us, and we are indeed business owners, we need to make it as easy as possible for our clients to know when we are and are not available over the holidays. Here are some helpful hints:

  • You can add  updated schedule and availability to your email signature.
  • Add an updated hours notice to your website.
  • Add an out of office reply when you are actually out of office.
  • If you send a monthly news letter and know you will have limited hours over the holidays, let clients know.
  • Post a travel rig notice on your facebook business page.

Why does all of this matter? Your clients my still need something right away even if it is the week of Christmas and your kids are home. If you have not made it clear that you are not in your booth, do not leave them guessing. Make it as easy as possible for your clients to get what they need when they need it!

Well Wishes and Spreading Cheer

I love sending holiday well-wishes and cards. I send special cards to clients I have worked with in the last several years both domestically and internationally. I spend a lot of time and effort on my cards and I want my clients to smile with joy when they open them. Throughout the year, I update my holiday card spreadsheet, carefully adding new clients and updating addresses when I hear people have moved. It is not easy but I am really excited to send them and hope that my clients and industry friends are happy to open them.

Presents

My special clients who represent a certain percentage of my business get an actual present and a hand written note. Every year I send something different. I try to send presents that have meaning to my family or are from shops from my town. I always pick something that I would be excited to get.  Since I am almost always sending gifts to an office, My husband typically gives his opinion as well, since Harlan actually works in an office. Harlan is of the strong opinion that clients want food, particularly sinful food, and that they would not indulge in on their own. So the past few years specialty food like fudge from the Jersey shore and high-end candies from Sugarfina have made the cut. I have something very special planned for this year.

Thanks!

When you feel truly thankful, it feels great to let people know! My efforts around the holidays are just a continuation of what I do during the year, and I know I’m not alone, a lot of other voiceover talents have similar practices. After I complete a job and send delivery of finished audio, I always, always, always send a hand written note. I now typically send a small Starbucks gift card too. I really appreciate the opportunities that come my way and I realize that there is always a choice when casting, so I might as well let me clients know what they mean. A LOT. Do you know how excited I am every time I go to Starbucks to pick up these gift cards? I am thrilled. Absolutely delighted. Going the extra mile to send my thank you note is my year round expression of the cheer I feel this time of year. I know how I feel when people take the time to write testimonials and say thanks, so I know that a little bit goes a long way.

Happy holidays!!

Why are live sessions a Great Opportunity for Clients and Talent alike…

Out of the gate, I’ll say it: live sessions, also known as guided sessions, are awesome! If you are not familiar with the term, it is when your client live directs you. You hear them in the ear of you head phone while you record. I usually do one ear on, one ear off, and they direct you through the recording of the script. This is typically done for commercials, YouTube pre-rolls, and character work, but now I am even having some eLearning sessions live directed. When there are so many ways that a script can be interpreted, this guarantees that the client has exactly what they want at the end of the session. You can blow their minds with your amazing voiceover performance, they walk away confident that they have the exact audio that they need. The live/guided session is a win/win for all involved. So, the specifics. What is my favorite way to connect? Without being coy, I am happy to connect in whatever way is easiest for my clients and I offer a wide variety of options to accommodate everyone:

Different Methods

There are so many great ways to run a live session. Do I actually have a favorite and a least favorite? Sure, but really as long as the client is comfortable I am happy to oblige.

ipDTL/ISDN Bridge

IpDTL was the first method I ever used to connect. My very first coach, Anne Ganguzza, used ipDTL for all of her sessions. So, I was very comfortable with this when I launched my business and proud to offer this to my clients. Around the time that I opened shop, I had two agents who said they would sign me if I had an ISDN line. I learned that it was no longer possible to get regular ISDN lines in my part of New Jersey. So, I use an ipDTL bridge to ISDN. I have my own direct number. Initially I was thrilled. I always test connect before a session. I have had more than one snafu. To his credit, the creator of ipDTL is very available via facebook and tries to address all issues. There is, however, a considerable time lag as he is across the pond and he never figured our why my hiccups happened. I have been fine with my regular ipDTL service but I am less than confident in my ISDN service. I will say that when I send my clients an ipDTL link and they have never used it before, they are always very impressed with how clear the connection is.

Source Connect

I have been very pleased with my Source Connect service. The funny-not-so-funny story is that I had to sign up for it when I had a session scheduled and my ISDN line would not connect! The producer was very kind and said it happens often and that we should try this. I work with a lot of producers now who love Source Connect and it is easy.  Last week, I had a commercial session for a TV spot. There were four talents on the line at the same time. The producer had the clients in the studio with him. He actually sent as a Source Connect Now line. It was great. If you have never used this before, just don’t be shocked that if the others are not muted you will hear a slight echo. Once they mute the echo goes away and it does not effect the recording. There are also not typically latency issues with Source Connect which I really like.

Skype/Zoom

I have some clients who love to use Skype and Zoom. I link them together, I suppose, because anyone could use them for anything, even outside of VO. If you are using them for voice over, be mindful to check your settings and be sure that you are coming through your pre-amp. Both of these are easy to use and for zoom if your session is under 45 minutes they are free. Skype is free as well. I find that my clients in Europe and Asia LOVE Skype and love to message on Skype! So, if you work with folks on Skype, remember to check your messages from time to time.

Phone

Funny as it sounds, I have some older Baby Boomer aged clients who just want to be on speaker phone! They do not like anything “high tech” and they want to keep it easy. If you are like me, your mobile phone may not work in your booth. That’s ok. I have a Magic Jack line for my office and that gives me a landline phone that I can bring in my booth. It is inexpensive and reliable.

Case Study: eLearning Session

So, I mentioned earlier that my live sessions used to be primarily for commercials and now I am even doing them for eLearning. This is fantastic! I’ll share a great example. I have an opportunity to work with a new eLearning company. To clarify, they are not new, jut new for me.  Unlike most, they record all audio by guided session. I connected with Shelley, the director, via Skype. Her feedback was fantastic- very specific in terms of tone, pacing, which words to hit, and how to change whatever the last line was. We moved through the demo script and developed a wonderful rhythm and flow. I cherish the feedback as often when we self direct we miss things or hear them differently. The session was a true joy

Final Thoughts:

Remember, regardless of what your revision policy may be for self-directed work, when you give a live session, all audio is final delivery. This is industry standard. The session should not end until the client has what they want. If their needs change, then they need to pay you for another booking.