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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or at Zelle and Chase QP at email@example.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.