client relationships

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!!

Learning from the Best

I’ve said before that it takes a lot to get me to pack up and fly across the country, leaving my twins and my dog, but boy- going to a conference like WoVoCon VI in Las Vegas, Nevada this past weekend sure made me feel like the trip was worth it! Voice over

Time with industry friends goes by way too fast!!

actors from all over the world, casting directors, eLearning companies, and more gathered at the Tropicana to support each other to better our craft, learn about technology, discuss business trends, talk about marketing ideas and best practices, and of course bond! If you have ever been to a VO industry event, you know that professional voice over actors tend to be a pretty friendly bunch, and when you have found your people, somehow a long weekend goes by in the blink of an eye and you leave feeling like you just did not have enough time and you wish you did not have to pick and choose from the outstanding sessions! I moved between some of them and still did not get to everyone. I got to the airport to return home with mixed feelings of joy over what I had accomplished and a long list of people I never got to connect with. But let’s focus instead on the big take aways:

Philosophical Truths

A lot of what I heard resonated with me, but as I sat next to fellow New Jersey voice talent and all around renaissance man Brad Newman, and I soaked in his presentation, I was in awe of his genius. A lot of what Brad said made an impact on me, but when he talked about recurring work bells and whistles went off in my head. One of my big goals for 2019 has been to do more campaigns and fewer one-offs, so I was on the edge of my seat. Brad talked about how in business when preparing to meet a company or when prepping for an interview, you would do your research, learn about their business model and their goals to try to meet their needs as well as you can. He talked about all that we do to understand the end client, so why on earth would we do all of that to only ever work with them one time? Right? I could have jumped of my seat and spent hours discussing just this one aspect of Brad’s presentation, because this really hit home for me.

It is so important to me to do my very best for clients. I understand that they have unique needs and that every job is different, but I am so excited to build lasting and meaningful relationships and to really get to know what is most helpful to them!

Efficiency/Software Tips

In voiceover, we all know we are only as good as we sound. The software often changes and as there are upgrades to our computers, often the DAW we use changes. I work on Twisted Wave 90% of the time. I sat in on a session on Twisted Wave, and then that session led to side chats where I learned so much that will help me better serve my clients! So, I learned a much more efficient way of splitting files. I already split files by markers. Before this weekend, I would manually type in the names of each file, which could be quite time consuming. Well, now I have learned how to use the markers window and to cut and paste from either a word document or an excel spread sheet. See the video here for a demonstration of what I learned in my session with the great Jim Edgar who can be found at JustAskJimVO.studio/JimEdgarvoices.com:

I was also chatting about this and I learned a great cut and paste trick from Dan Lenard. He showed me how to create uniform space cushions at the beginning and end of each slide! If I were the client, I would love if each cushion were the same length.

Pushing Through

I have blogged before about being a migraine sufferer. I happened to have had a pretty bad headache on the Saturday of this conference. It would not go away. I had to miss some sessions I really wanted to see in the morning. I eventually went down to participate, even though I did not feel 100%. To be honest I did not even feel 30%,  and if I were home I would have stayed in all day. But I flew across the country for so many reasons, and none of them included a day of napping. It was not easy for me, but the biggest challenge, bot physically and mentally, was getting through Everrett Oliver’s session. If you have never coached with Everett, he is truly outstanding. He pushes in all the right ways. He makes you go places you would rather not but as an outstanding booth director he gets it out of you. I LOVE working with Everett. And in truth, as a working professional, when booked work comes in, I have to record, so this was a good exercise. I am not shy but I am much more comfortable in front of my own mic than in a room full of people, even if those people are my tribe. I loved every minute. LOVED. I am glad I participated. I hope to work with this amazing coach again soon.

Final thoughts….

Once you start naming names it gets dangerous…So many wonderful people I love were all there. It filled my heart and made me happy. I wish I lived closer to you all. I am so thankful to work in this industry. I hear music in my head when I think of you. Until the next time, my friends. Thank you. Sending lots of big hugs!!!!

The Audition is the Job

As a full-time, professional voice over actor, we all know that the audition is the job. Whether auditioning for an agent, for a pay to play, or directly for a client, booking is based entirely on how good our audition read is. Sure, people who have connections can get doors to open but, ultimately, voiceover is a tough industry with a lot of really talented actors and your auditions have to be really good to stand out against the crowd. Often, hundreds of people will even submit for jobs with minimal pay, so when you are going after the coveted commercial gigs, you really need to wow your clients.  It’s nice if you ask for feedback; but, ultimately, if the listener does not hear what they want in the first four seconds, you will not book that job. That’s it. As someone who has done more commercials than I can count, you need to nail your audition reads. You have to stand out in the beginning. If there is nothing unique about your read, yoo will not book. So here are some things that I think about for commercial reads:

Who is the Client?

Both the person casting and the end client matter. If the client is a well known luxury brand asking for a sophisticated voice and the person casting is an established ad agency with an abundance of options who has asked for a young adult voice, do not go in with your most sultry Kathleen Turner sound hoping to stand out. They want what they want. And when they want sophisticated luxury, don’t give them bubbly and upbeat. I also DO read the specs. I have had people tell me not to read them. Why on earth would you not read something that the person casting the job has spent time writing? I actually stopped working with a well-respected Los Angeles coach again after that person advised me no to do this. I thought it was not a good idea. In this scenario, they are the boss and we are the potential hire. Sometimes the clients ask for two reads and want very different takes in each read. If you don’t read the specs, you won’t know. Now, we all know that sometimes there is a great disparity between what books a job and the end result, so give them the read that books and do not worry about the end result until after you have booked.

Microphone Technique Matters SO MUCH!

There are so many good microphones, and most good microphones are very sensitive. I have a Neumann TLM 103, and the

In this pic you can really see the back side of my Neumann TLM 103, but the position in my booth matters so much! I cannot move it from that side to the other or the sound and audio quality completely changes. In my reads, proximity to the mic also matters a lot!

placement of my mic in my booth matters a lot. My proximity to the mic matters. I have learned that my proximity can be used to evoke very different moods and create a sense of closeness and intimacy. I also have learned that I have to be careful not to fidget during a read, because shifting from side to side will cause irregularities in sound and my mic with pic it all up! A good coach teaches this technique. A good talent listens to their work before they submit. Make sure you listen to your recording and you can hear these subtleties. It would be such a shame to nail the read but lose out because your audio quality is less than pristine. Audio quality is everything, and you are only as good as you sound in this business. If you want your commercial auditions to book, they must sound excellent.

Sometimes the client Just Wants Good Samples- SO GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT!

Four times this week I was emailed for jobs that either wanted very specific demos or samples of work I had done in a specific genre. All were new clients. This is awesome! Either you paid to produce a demo that showcases your best abilities, or you booked a spot because you killed it! Either way it’s a win, so respond immediately before someone else does and show this new client exactly why you are the right one for the job! I keep a lot of such samples accessible via drop box, so that even if I am out and about, I can get them right to a client and they do not have to wait. More importantly, their end person does not have to wait!

Lastly, I want to broaden your thinking of what an audition is. Anytime you put yourself and your voice or samples in front of a client that is an audition opportunity! A phone call, and of course a cold call, gives a client a chance to hear you. A direct email to someone you have met with your demo likewise gives a client a chance to hear you. Meeting someone at a conference or a networking event and talking about why your service is different from that of other voice actors is an in-person audition: you have their undivided attention, they hear your voice, and you are speaking! An audition is not just a read with a script or a demo submitted. Always be prepared with you 30 second elevator shpiel and be proud of who you are and what you do. Sparkle!

 

It’s a Two Way Street

As a full time, professional voice over actor, I can go on and on about how wonderful most of my clients are. Over my years in the voiceover industry, I have worked really hard to build and maintain relationships with my clients. With every new job that I book, I am not just looking to meet my monthly financial goals, and I am looking to do my very best work for that new client so that they come back again and again.  I try to get to know them. I want to know, in addition to pristine audio, what their unique needs

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

are. I love to learn about the specifics of their business. When I also learn personal details about pets and hobbies, well that is even better. The better I connect with I client, the better I can serve their specific needs.

Likewise, I try hard to be easy to work with:) In addition to being responsive and doing the job I am hired to do, I am upbeat and bend over backwards. What do I expect in return? Well…. You would think it would not be so complicated. I am hired to record audio. I record and deliver the audio as per the specs… The best ways I have learned over the years to be a good voiceover client to the folks I work with, whether they are video production teams, talent agents or their clients, ad agencies, marketing executives, include:

1. Confirm the Terms

I am always happy to be cast in every job, so when the initial booking email comes, I immediately follow up with a “Seal the Deal” Letter. Some of my voiceover friends, like Carin Glifrey, call this their “Welcome Letter.” Mine literally begins with the word “Yay” to express both my joy and grattitude. Years ago in a helpful and thorough session with J. Michael Collins he detailed the importance of confirming all of the terms of work upfront. This email has many important components. It:

              • confirms the actual booking
              • confirms the fee
              • confirms the turnaround time on my end
              • asks the client what they need in the finished audio (i.e. WAV or MP3, raw or sweetened)
              • confirmed my policy on revisions and my charge for pickups

I want to serve my clients well, and I think that in order to do so I need to be very clear upfront.

2. Deliver the Audio Exactly as Stated

Next, I take great joy in actually recording the voiceovers that I am hired for. I pay close attention to the specs and the requests of my clients. About 80% of my bookings are commercials, which means I am providing them with multiple versions of the recordings. When I do long form narration or eLearning, I am meticulous with my editing so that I save both of us time moving forward. I take a lot of pride in the audio that I send out, and I know that to be a good client I need to deliver outstanding quality every single time.

3. Be Available for Pickups

To keep my clients happy, I make myself very available for pickups. For my bookings over $250, I include one round of revisions in my quote. For jobs lower than that, I charge $75 per 30 minute session. As I am in my booth full time, and I understand that my clients are on a deadline, I make myself available for these revisions so that my clients have what they need as soon as they need them! Often they have a quick line change or just need one more take, and it is never an issue. I just want my clients to have what they need as soon as possible.

4. Hold them to the Initial Terms

In a business where we often bend over backwards to be a good client and to make our clients happy, we have to remember that it is actually ok to hold them to the terms they initially agreed to. So, if in the “Seal the Deal” email we offer one round of revisions, we should not hesitate to charge for the next round that they ask for. Hugh Edwards just posted a really important article about VO rates and our overhead costs that can be found at

Voiceover Rates – The Biggest Threat To Our Industry

We must continue to maintain our industry standards and hold our clients to the same standards they hold us to. Just as we have to provide them with the audio they need, they must pay for it, and we should not bat an eye at adding to our invoice and sending the update.

5. Follow Through

Ideally, follow through on a great job means sending a thank you note and thanking your client for the opportunity. And when you are lucky and the voiceover gods are smiling down on you, that is the end of it and payment comes anywhere in the 30-90 day window. Sometimes, though, follow through means having to more aggressively pursue payment even when you have bent over backwards to provide outstanding quality and service. How do I go about this?  I have a multi-pronged approach:

              • The thank you note is actual a great reminder of the work that you did.
              • At 30 days and at 60 days my billing software sends an automatic reminder.
              • After 60 days, I send a more direct “friendly reminder” and ask them how everything is going.
              • If I still have not received payment, I cc my husband aka manager who is an attorney at an NYC law firm and he sends a follow up note as my representative. In 5 years this has happened less than 10 times, but every time he has collected in full immediately. Sometimes he has to contact the clients council. Sometimes he has to speak with a CEO. But he always gets paid.

It should not come to that. On the two way street, if we provide the audio, we should be paid, regardless of whether or not it ultimately makes its way to where it is supposed to, that is not part of our deal. We record. We deliver. We are an absolute delight to work with. That makes a voiceover talent a good client. The rest is up to our client to do right by us, and most of the time they do:)

The first spot in this compilation for Raw Juice is the spot discussed in this blog!

The Excitement of Booking the Job comes with a degree of Trust

As a full-time professional voiceover actor, I book a lot of my jobs on the casting website Voices 123 and have for many years. Every talent, whether they are new to the field or long established working actors is delighted when a booking comes in. When the above video script came in, I was pleased as it was for a large franchise and the story of the script was something that resonated with me on a personal level. I, too, have thyroid issues. I, too, work hard every day to plan healthy meal options for my family. So when this booking came my way I was both happy about the voiceover opportunity and excited about the synergy I felt.

Professional Voice Over Actor Laura Schreiber in her booth

Also, realize that I was not hired directly by the juice chain. While the owners selected my voice, ultimately I was cast for the project by the video production team. So, my actual client was the video production team.

When it came time to record, based on the rate they negotiated, I sent them several takes. Each versionI sent was edited and broadcast-ready. I received positive feedback and was delighted that they were happy. All that was left was the business end. Keep in mind this happened over about 6 hours from start to finish.

Invoicing

I sent off my invoice. As voice actors, we never know if we’ll be paid that day, in 30 days, or in the dreaded but seemingly  acceptable 90 day window. On this particular booking, there was an unusual scenario. I say this is unusual as someone who does several hundred bookings per year, typically multiple bookings per day, and has been full-time since 2015, I think I have a enough of a sample size to say that this was unusual. I am typically paid by the person or company that casts me in the spot. In this case, I was being paid by the end client. This is not standard. Right away the invoice was being passed from person to person, and almost everyone seemed to say “not it.” This was not a good sign.

Collections: What’s Normal and What’s Not

What is standard? Typically whoever hires me pays me. If it is a big job or if they are going to have repeat business I also send them a W-9 form. Most of the time it is that simple.

In the past I have offered multiple ways for clients to pay me. I have sent pdf invoices, PayPal invoices, Square invoices, and have accepted QuickPay by Zelle. It was becoming so complicated with all of the different requests that last month a client could not decide or figure out how to pay. Further, I had to make detailed notes in my CRM to remember which kind of invoice I sent out for each client.

I have now had enough of this. This month, in April 2019, I went back to my initial method of invoicing through FreshBooks. It is simple and straight forward. It is better for my clients and for me.

But back to the story about the Raw Juice debacle…

So after 90 days I was really aggravated. The nice guy who hired me had passed me off to the Juice company and they were non-reponsive. I found the folks who worked there on FaceBook and LinkedIn but how aggressive did I want or need to be? I finally direct messaged the owner who gave me his direct email. When I emailed him I ccd my husband who often acts as a manager of sorts and is an attorney in NYC. I will tell you that I was very upset that it came to this. I did the work. I did a good job. They were happy. I should have been paid.

Was that enough? No! They wanted proof that I did the work! Can you even imagine?! I sent them the invoice again with the above video. It ultimately took about 120 days and a tremendous amount of time and effort to finally get paid. I was not happy. These were not good people.

The Shocking Aftermath 6 months Later

So this week on my CRM, Voiceoverview, which I happen to love, I got a friendly reminder that I had not done a job for a little while for that producer. I decided he was nice and he had done nothing wrong so I might as well drop him a quick note to say hi and learn about what he’s working on. Would you believe after all of that, the juice company had gone back to him and said legal never approved the script and they wanted revisions and more VO! Thankfully the producer had my back and had the sense to tell them no. I took a lot away from this though… First, I was correct to trust my gut that the producer was, in fact, legit and a good guy, and was also in a tough spot. Next, when people seem like  – – -holes they likely treat everyone else that way too. Lastly, since voice over folks are often the last part of the team called in, remember that we often DO NOT know the entire story so it is best to just remain calm and do our job.