Creative work has a lot of grey areas. Things aren’t always cut and dry.
When conflict, creative differences or misinterpretations arise between client and artist, solutions aren’t necessarily obvious or clear to both parties. Here at Voquent, we work diligently to streamline the voice over casting and production process to make sure clients get an awesome product and voice over artists are compensated well for their time. Win for customers, win for voices, win for us – everyone’s happy!
Usually (99.99999% of the time) this works out well and everyone’s positively thrilled with the project results. Unfortunately, every now and then we have the uncomfortable situation where a client isn’t happy with the final product…and doesn’t feel like they should pay the talent.
We always try to resolve these situations amicably but we wondered what the greater voice over community thought about these situations too. So, we put out feelers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and LOVED the vibrant responses from talent all over the world. Thanks so much to everyone for your input!
We asked the question:
“Should a client pay if they don’t like your voice over?”
Interestingly, our Twitter results were mixed, with 10% of responses siding with the client (they should pay nothing), 26% think the client should pay half a session fee, only 6% thought 75% of the session fee was appropriate. An overwhelming 58% of you felt that a client should pay the full session fee, even if they’re not using the recording. Here’s the poll:
⁉️ You’ve recorded a voice over and the client doesn’t like it. They don’t want to pay anything for your time because they didn’t ‘get what they wanted’. Is this justified? What do YOU think they should pay?
Please RT! 💕🙏#quickquestion #voiceover
— Voquent (@Voquent) June 24, 2019
Swedish Voice Over (via Facebook), said “I would never charge a client who is not 100% satisfied with my work.”
Although across the board there were a lot of opinions and, not surprisingly, different voice over artists have different policies. (Remember what I said about this being a grey area!?)
Several comments compared this situation to ordering food (which I loved because I love to eat 😉): If you buy a hamburger or pizza and decide you don’t like it, you still have to pay! Or, if a plumber installs a bathtub but you decide it’s the wrong color, you still owe them for their time and expertise. (Thanks to @Joelgonzalex and @Inglescomoale via Instagram and @Thebritishvoic2 via Twitter!)
Many comments made the distinction between session fees and licensing. Saying that a client should pay talent for their TIME, but not necessarily pay for commercial or broadcast fees if they don’t use the recording. And yet…in this murky Internet world where a recording can easily be used without the creator’s knowledge, how can a voice over artist be SURE clients aren’t using their voice over without paying the fees?
This isn’t necessarily something that happens often. At Voquent, as mentioned above, we have overwhelmingly positive experiences working with both clients and voice over talent. However, intellectual property can be difficult to protect and I’m sure I’m not the only voice over artist who has worried about their work being used illegally without proper compensation.
Ultimately, the goal is for voice over talent to be paid fairly and clients to end up with a product that they love. What steps can clients AND artists take to ensure this happens with each project?
I’ll share a couple of things from my own experience in my voice over business across all platforms, then expound upon how Voquent combats this issue as well.
A Test Read or Audition
Often I’ll get hired to record a quick voice over gig based solely on my demo (listen to my voice samples here if you like!), but if I’m going into a specific character project or longer narration I want to make sure the client and I will work well together and everyone will be satisfied with the final result.
So, even if they’re ready to move forward based only on my demo (which is flattering), on a large project, I typically insist on a 2-3 minute test read just to make sure we’re both on the same page.
For a large commercial project or advertisement with lots of decision makers it’s also important to have my test read, sample or audition approved by everyone involved. This prevents awkward situations where a creative or producer loves my voice, but a decision maker higher up in the chain decides it’s not actually what they wanted.
Inspiration and Direction
When starting a project with a new client I ask them to fill out a short survey (only 3-4 questions) that includes a place for them to provide direction. They can add a few describing words to help me know how to read their copy – this is extremely helpful. The more detail, the better!
Sometimes they’ll even cite a specific voice from my demo-reel, which I love because I obviously know how to sound exactly like that already!
I also ask them to include links to any other voices or tones they like from similar or previous projects.
Having a YouTube clip to listen to that I know the client likes helps me to understand where they’re coming from AND what they’re looking for.
I make it clear, however, that I’m not an impersonator so it won’t be exactly like the reference video, but I can do my best to match the tone, in my own voice.
Clear Contracts and Communication
Another important way to make sure you and the client are on the same page from the beginning is to have both parties agree to (and sign!) clearly defined contracts before any work begins.
This can be tricky when working with smaller projects since often a client wants a recording ASAP – signing contracts can take a lot of time communicating back and forth. If you aren’t able to sign a formal contract at LEAST make sure you’ve communicated your rates for revisions with the client and they’ve agreed to that. Being able to point back to this and show what was discussed in previous conversations can be helpful later on in case of a disagreement.
Personally, what I do is work the cost of one revision into my rate. That way if I get it right the first time, I get a little bonus for being awesome 😉 and if we have to go back and re-record a bit or the whole thing I’m still compensated fairly. I make it clear to the client up front:
One revision is included if necessary and, in the rare case that we need to re-record after that, additional revisions can be purchased for $X.
That way everyone is on the same page from the start.
Both Alex Wain (via Facebook) and @Priyanka_Sirohi_bajaj (via Instagram) work on a 50% up front and 50% upon delivery basis.
This is also a good strategy when working with a new customer in particular. If the client isn’t satisfied, they can either move forward with revisions or terminate the contract. They don’t have to pay the full amount, but you’re not left empty handed as an artist either.
@Kymrosebrosnan (via Instagram) also mentioned a release clause as part of a contract that treats both client and artist fairly in case irreconcilable differences occur during the project.
These are ALL great ideas to consider implementing in your VO business. Generally, you do the work, the client pays, and everyone’s happy.
Clear contracts are vital. They protect the artist and the client when things go awry, but also, they look professional, keep expectations high, and communication strong.
Another way I guard against having my voice appear on a platform without the proper rights purchased is by delivering a watermarked copy first, then after it’s approved and paid in full, I deliver the clean file to the client.
I have a standard watermark that’s about 6 seconds long, I copy/paste it onto the raw audio file as a second track, turn the gain way down so it’s not too distracting in the background and the client can still hear their file clearly, then export the file as a mono recording so the watermark can’t be separated from the client’s project.
I’ve NEVER had a client upset about this type of delivery. They are extremely understanding and honestly, I feel as though a watermark can make you look even more professional in certain instances.
If you’re working with a regular client, or a production company/agency, then this is probably unnecessary, and it can sometimes cause issues if a short turnaround is required. It’s always good to bear in mind what fits the project, after all!
Of course, I didn’t always run my business with these safeguards. I learned through trial, error, and a few unfortunate instances with clients. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.
However, I definitely learned how to have better client relationships in the future so now my clients benefit from the mistakes I’ve made in the past. I’m better at communication, clear about pricing, and adamant about samples when I feel it’s necessary. I’ve allowed my mistakes to improve my business game.
Hopefully some of the above advice will help you to avoid a few of the same pitfalls 😉 As @Kennethtolesjr mentioned via Instagram, “Live and learn works on our end” as well as the client’s.
Our approach at Voquent
Here at Voquent, we ALWAYS get the client to approve the voice based on an audio sample. Either a sample on the talent’s profile or if necessary an audition of their script.
Find Voices: Listen Now
There have been a few instances where, if a client is paying for a voice over and has been very clear about their needs and the voice doesn’t deliver it, even with multiple attempts, there is perhaps an argument that the client shouldn’t have to pay. We want everyone to be happy with the final result – both clients and voice artists.
In the very rare case that we realize a client and artist aren’t a good match working together after several attempts at a project, we’ve paid the artist 50% of their normal rate and called it a day – and those were tough days to call.
Knowing your own voice and abilities as an artist is certainly an advantage.
If you read a script that calls for something you’re not sure you can deliver, perhaps it’s not the right project for you.
And that’s ok! There’s room for every voice in this wonderful online marketplace. The best we can do is keep our communication clear and up front, stay positive, and be kind to each other when these disagreements do pop up from time to time.
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