invoicing

Not You, Me!

Do you ever listen to the Taylor Swift song “You Need to Calm Down” and think she is singing directly to you? I can’t be the only one. So as proud as I am to be a working mom running my own small business, I would be lying if I told you I was always able to separate my feelings from my work 100% of the time. I think when you are as passionate about your industry as I am about voice over, remaining detached and having good perspective all the time can be a challenge. Why does staying calm matter? Regardless of the business scenario at hand, as voice over actors we need to remain calm in order to cultivate and maintain meaningful client relationships.

Two Interactions That Got My Wheels Turning This Week

This week I had not one but two instances where I nearly lost my cool. In both cases, I was fortunate that in the time that I was venting to my family that is home with me, each issue came to a positive resolution and each time it gave me pause that I should have been calmer in my reactions.

The first instance involved a collections issue with a client who typically pays after the 90 day mark. I typically do at least one commercial per quarter with her. The terms of my work is that I expect payment NET 30. My process for collections is that clients get a friendly reminder at 30 and 60 days out. When it hits 90 days they get a letter from my lawyer. This particular clients is a pleasure to work with. She is not demanding, she is clear in her direction, and she is delightful. She just always pays late. Always. So this time the letter was sent at 90 days. Typically she responds by paying promptly. Things are, however,  different now. The letter got no response. By day 105, I was very upset. I felt that after our long relationship, some communication was warranted even if she needed to let me know that she needed an extension or a payment plan.  In my head I was playing out multiple scenarios, including contacting the end user and posting in our Facebook VO Red Flags Group. Then, around day 110, she responded to my lawyer with a lovely email that she had been out of the office due to the pandemic and issued payment. Done. She also wrote a nice note about how excellent my work is. So all of the time I spent thinking about how she was doing this maliciously, it was all in my head. I already knew going in that she pays on the slow side, and because of the pandemic it was slower. The take away here is not to presume to know what clients are thinking or to get emotional. Staying calm and dealing only with tangible facts without freaking out is clearly the best way to preserve long term client relationships.

Another interaction involved my reaction to client feedback for a roster I’m on. This particular roster does not pay in the high end of rates, but they are typically easy to work with and send a bulk of work. For me, one challenge that I have is that instead of just emailing me bookings, the upload all voice over assignments through a web portal. Anyway, a commercial came in for a client I have done work for before. All communication with the producers in this roster is typically through the portal. In general the reality in the voiceover industry is that there is not a lot of human interaction and when you get feedback without inflection it’s possible that there can be more or less to that feedback. My natural tendency is to jump to conclusions and become emotional. I learned this week, upon receiving repeat bookings from this roster, that unless I am told explicitly that something is wrong, everything is ok. I think when we want so badly to make our clients happy, and so rarely get any feedback at all, it is easy to have these conversations in our head. In the end, it is better to remain calm.

Finding My Inner Zen

If we have ever met in person, you would pick up right away that I do not have a calm, relaxed energy. Having spent much of my adult life in New York City, the frenetic vibe of the city always suited me just fine and if anything I thrived feeling that pulse. I will say that recent life during the pandemic has made me want to take things a little slower.  Now that I am home with my family 24-7, remaining calm seems much better than getting bent out of shape over every little thing. If I let the small stuff get to me, this pandemic would be impossible to get through. I am trying to actually live by the advice I give my children. And of course, by the brilliant lyrics of Taylor Swift:  “But I’ve learned a lesson that stressin’ and obsessin’ ’bout somebody else is no fun…You need to calm down, you’re being too loud.”

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.