It’s the slowest teacher. That’s a quote from my friend and sometimes teacher, Pat Fraley. Sadly,I have in fact learned several things the slow and hard way. Maybe my pain will help you avoid these mistakes in your own work.
Lesson number one: Always talk about the money right away. Years ago I was reluctant to bring up the subject of the budget for a given job or project first. (Here I’m talking about situations where someone contacts me about a job directly. When they come to me through my agent, all those details are all ready set.) A church had asked me to come record a narration for a marketing video they were preparing. They didn’t bring up money. I didn’t either. Not on the phone when they called. Not in the studio before or after the session. Then, as I was getting ready to leave, the producer, a member of the church staff said,
Thank you for your good work today. We’ll send you a check in the mail in a few days.
Sure enough, a few days later a check arrived in the mail. For $25. That was the last time I didn’t talk about the budget before we started recording.
Lesson number two: Give your clients the benefit of the doubt when a payment is late. This is one that I’m especially sad about, because I ended up hurting a relationship. Here’s what happened. I had been hired through a local radio station in a small market to serve as the signature voice for one of their clients. After some time that client decided to run some commercials on a different radio station in the same small market. But, they wanted me to continue as their signature voice. So I contacted the production people at the other station, recorded the copy they sent me and delivered the audio and my invoice to them just as I had with the first radio station.
Four months later, I still hadn’t received payment so I sent a note to the production manager at this second station noting how overdue the bill was, reminding him that I had delivered the audio they needed promptly, and asking when I might expect to receive payment. It wasn’t a mean note, but it certainly wasn’t as kindly or nicely worded as it could, indeed should, have been.
In reply I received a rather sharp rebuke from that production manager, informing me that my payment would be sent by the station right away, that they would take care of billing the end client for the money but stating in no uncertain terms that I would never work with him again. And he has been true to his word. The check arrived a few days later and I’ve never heard from him again.
As a result of this painful lesson, I’ve changed my collection practices. First, I usually contact people well before things get so far behind. Second, I always give them the benefit of the doubt that some kind of mistake in communication or accounting or some other thing has resulted in my invoice being lost, etc. Third, I try to make clear that I want to do what I can to keep lines of communication open both about billing and future work.
Lesson number three: Always talk about deadlines right away. I’ve had a couple of near disasters in this regard as well, but the most vivid recent example comes to my from my friend Kelly, another voiceover talent here in Charlotte. She’d received an email the other day about doing a small narration project and indicating that a script would be coming from someone else shortly. The email came rather late in the day and Kelly figured that she wouldn’t have the script until morning.
Lo and behold, when she checked her email at around 11:00 PM, the client had sent her a note asking, “Where is my narration? And in the morning, Kelly got another email saying that someone else had been awarded the job instead. Kelly would have been more than willing to work late if she had known of the tight deadline, but the client didn’t mention it, so she didn’t know. I’ve made similar mistakes, so I try to always ask what the deadline is, or even more often I’ll reply with when I expect to have the job done, asking if that deadline with work and indication that if it won’t what does he or she need?
As I said, I hope these brief stories will help you avoid similar goofs in your own voiceover career. And if you have a story to add, leave a comment.