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.”