Ever Been Stiffed?Ever had a client who didn’t pay you for your work?
What did you do?
Did you ever get paid?
Share your VO trials and payment tribulations here.

It’s probably happened to many of you at least once.
A job offer looks good, an agreement is made, the client promises to pay upon receipt of invoice, and wham… months later, you realize that the “check in the mail” never came. Maybe for some of you, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Whatever your story is, we want to hear about it!
Share your story by leaving a comment on this article.

Technorati Tags: Jobs, Voice Overs, Voice Over Work, Clients, and Voices.com.

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com. Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. I once did a job and waited & waited for payment, which never came.
    I should have pursued payment more persistently, leaving a couple of voicemails over time, which were never responded to. I had given up hope, so was I surprised when a check arrived in the mail – almost 3 years after the session!!
    I don’t know why payment was finally made, but this was definitely a case of better late then never.

  2. Stephanie,
    So far, I’ve been fortunate. I’ve never NOT been paid for a voice over. (It was a different story when I was working in radio, there were many times payment never came from clients).
    I have, however, had to pursue payment over several months from a client or two. I always remain nice, but become more firm with each passing letter. I also always send e-mail or snail mail. I like things in writing – so I never go after payment by phone. I think that helps.
    On a different note, I once was called in for an audition at a local studio that seemed a bit ‘detailed’. Of course, I did was I was told with a smile even though it seemed strange. It wasn’t until 30 days later when a check showed up in the mail that I realized the producer had mis-spoke. It wasn’t an audition- it was a JOB! We got a big laugh out of that one!
    Not getting your money stinks, but getting unexpected money is THE BEST!

  3. How about I’m not sure?
    No, I’ve never been stiffed but I am dealing with a difficult client right now (not one from voices). I just got a check from them yesterday, 2 months late and after repeated phone calls. Guess what? They conveniently “forgot” to sign it.

  4. Yes, you have to be very cautious in this industry. You may encounter situations where you even unknowingly are being utilized for your vocal abilities and not only not being compensated, but basically being exploited.
    Know your talent and know HOW truly valuable your voice is as a trade and as an asset. A winning voice and talent can be easily turned into a money making asset once you realize what you possess and how powerful voice talent is.

  5. Yes, unfortunately, I’ve had a couple of deadbeat clients. I did pursue it via email and left a phone message or two. I even spoke with their client, who had, of course, paid the producer. A couple of “no pays” have been phone messaging services, so beware! I found out later that they had also stiffed other voice talent. It’s very difficult to pursue when you are in different states.
    My advice to Brian – go ahead and cash or deposit the check. It will probably go through without a signature.
    My advice in general – Get the payment up front before final delivery of all files. I usually require payment before delivery of final files via PayPal, especially with smaller phone messaging clients or small first time clients – independent producers of commercials or narrations. I always send them some samples for approval and assure them that I’ll correct any mistakes at no extra charge. Most legit clients have no problem with this. When was the last time you bought anything via the Internet and didn’t have to pay first? Why should talent be any different?
    Larger companies who require an invoice and check payment net 30 aren’t usually a problem as they are established businesses. My problem has been mostly with one person operations.
    Good Luck and Be Smart!

  6. Regrettably, I have done work without being paid.
    I close a radio show called “Let’s Eat” every Wednesday at 0900 on KABF FM. It’s community radio. I did the job for exposure and because I was told I’d be paid. The show is scheduled for 24 airings (I think) and is nearing number 20 now and I’ve yet to be slipped a dime.
    I still hope that at least the experience can be exploited for exposure and maybe a paying job will come out of it.
    I honestly haven’t tried to collect because the radio station manager has tried to help me with other projects in the past. One project was called ” A Medical Moment for Asthma” where I discussed a topic on asthma two or three times weekly. I’ll be resurrecting that project eventually and I’ll be ready for a return ‘favor’ so I won’t really ever go for the jugular on my not being paid.

  7. Ugghhh, the dreaded stiff. Happens still too much.
    Thank goodness for PayPal, and that MOST folks using services such as Voices.com have integrity.
    I require at least 50% up front from people I’ve never worked with… even still, we’re awaiting a $600 payment on a couple of jobs from an Atlanta based “agent” who has basically done a vanishing act. Their website is still active but emails and phone calls go unreturned. I’m considering contacting the GA. Atty General’s consumer fraud office… this has dragged on more than a year.
    Be very careful who you work with and never be shy about asking for at least half up front.
    It is your work!

  8. I have one client who never paid me and to this day it nags at my heart.
    This particular client, I have learned, has a pattern of exploiting a voice talent, paying them a couple times, and then giving them a big order and stiffing them. I am owed $1800 and some change!
    I have had to turn off my caller id when I call for him to pick up the phone and when I get him, he’s always SOOO apologetic and giving me a million excuses about how everyone else has screwed him and so he can’t pay me. BUT IT WILL BE COMING NEXT WEEK! Ha!
    This last time, he claimed that his client would not pay HIM until he made / did some pickups on the productions he owed me for. Well, I wrote out a contract (I had always done verbal agreements because this is such an instantaneous industry, and I’d never been stiffed) and made him sign that he owed me what he owed me, plus the small new job and that he would pay within 14 days… well of course, it never happened… but I had thought that doing the new work was the only way I MIGHT get paid for the old work.
    So I called the Franklin, TN (hint) courthouse to find out how I go about suing this truant client, and unfortunately, I would have to DRIVE there for the court appearance (over 4 hours) so I have chosen not to do it. Even when I won, it would be hard to collect since he’s not working for anyone to garnish his wages.
    I’m very frustrated and like I said, I dwell on it a lot. 🙁

  9. Anyone know if we can at least deduct the bad debt from our income taxes?
    It seems like we could, but I’m not a tax accountant. I’ll have to check with mine when he recovers from this week! Maybe it wouldn’t actually subtract from your total, though…

  10. I have had the same unfortunate problem with the Atlanta “agency” as Pete. I have a job outstanding from 2006 for which the end client has paid— and the fact that I need to devote any time at all to getting my money from the casting people burns my boots.
    What’s even sadder is that there are too many people with the same story about this same group. Meh.

  11. First, no you CAN’T deduct a bad debt from your income taxes. It is as if you never did the work and your client gets his or her voiceover for nothing! I have already checked on this, since I’ve had FIVE clients not pay!
    Since I went into business for myself in 1988, I had had only TWO clients who never paid–a really remarkable record. Then, with the advent of the Internet and these voiceover web sites, I have had five clients who never paid in the span of two years (none were from Voices.com).
    When I first started, and I’m sure this is the case with many people, I took many low-paying jobs to get the exposure and the work coming in. I never asked for money up front (all were less than $300) and never signed a contract because they were small jobs.
    I doggedly pursued my money with any contact information I had available to me and at least have gotten two, perhaps three, of those clients banned from posting any more jobs to these other web sites.
    My advice: Be careful when you answer a lead!
    – Look for leads that are sloppily written (lots of misspellings and missing words). It doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t pay you, but it they aren’t taking the time to even proofread their leads, they are most likely sloppy about accounting practices, too!
    – Beware of clients who ask for too much (music behind the voice, extra production, etc.). WATERMARK, WATERMARK!
    – You have every right to ask how you will be paid and how long after the final v.o. is delivered can you expect a check! This is a BUSINESS, after all.
    – Get 50% up front via PayPal with the remainder on delivery. For bigger jobs, sign a contract, or make one up yourself and have the client sign. It may never hold up in court, but it is a gentle reminder that you are a professional and as such should be paid like any other vendor!
    Good luck!

  12. Getting paid,
    Like Kara, I too got stiffed many times in the radio biz. It pushed me out of voice over for almost 15 years!
    The Internet and the technologies it brings make it a whole new ballgame. One that you have much more control of. With services like PayPal and the ability to receive credit card payments, getting paid is a whole lot easier.
    In the three years I’ve been doing this full-time, I’ve been ripped off only once, by a European businessman doing business in China (He used my audition on his website.) I’ve had one big client who was very slow at paying me. Persistence is the key. Keep after the person you are in contact with at the company. Find out who the Accounts Payable person is and be persistent with them. If they are a good client, they’ll pay you. Never do a “big” job without a portion up front.
    One of the great things about being a free lance artist is that you have the power to chose who to work with. Its just common sense and the ability to gauge someone’s character. If they are evasive when you are negotiating, tell them you need definitive answers.
    One way I like getting paid is by being on a companies payroll system. You submit an invoice and you get paid on their payroll schedule.
    Look, we all get excited when someone says they “want us.” We all want work. Turning down work when its been a long time between gigs is almost impossible to get yourself to do. If someone isn’t willing to pay a “token” up front, that should send up a red flag. Use your judgment.
    What good is doing the work if you are on edge about getting paid? My clients know me and respect me because I am the same way with them.
    The key is in the negotiating process. Size up your potential client. Sounds too good to be true? They say, there’s “lots more work” without specifying? Red flags. It’s important to be trusting, but it is also important to be vigilant.
    Master VO

  13. Been doing this for over 30 years now, and I’ve only been stiffed once, until recently.
    About 1972, I was in an accident and totaled my car. I got a rental for a couple days, and planned to shop for a car. Then, a local Mazda dealer comes in (to the radio station) and asks if I can make him a music bed cheap, preferably on a trade out. I plugged in my synth and tried a couple of things, which he liked. I asked if he’d give me a car for a week or so. He got all excited about some new hot Mazda (Cozmo, as I recall), and told me he’d get me one and I’d love it. Next day, I dropped off the rental, and went over to the car dealer. He basically had forgotten who I was, and couldn’t remember ever offering me a car.
    Last summer, I produced a demo for a local voice talent. Still waiting to get paid for that one. No response from emails. I recently found the demo on a (different) voice talent site, and on a local agent’s web site. I called both of them, claimed ownership of the demo, and insisted they remove it from the site (which both did). Then, he got a hold of me. He was a bit upset, but I didn’t know what else to do. He said send another invoice and he’d pay it. I did. He hasn’t. (If you’re reading this, you know who you are.)
    Overall, two stiffs in almost 40 years? That’s not so bad. It’s just sad that one of them was a fellow voice artist, especially after I gave him a discount rate.

  14. Yes. I did some narration for a horror radio show that is produced on CD. The agreement that I had from them, in writing, promised to pay 50 cents per sold CD. I’ve seen it for sale on the internet but never saw even 50 cents for my efforts. So beware of Olin Productions in Oregon.

  15. A couple of years ago, I got stiffed for a political ad. The guy changed his email and his phone. So I wrote a letter to the candidate who promptly called me and assured me I’d get the money. It arrived a few days later. Now I know: never do political unless you get paid up front.

  16. I’ve never not been paid for a job, however when I first started I had a couple of incidents that required some intervention. I’m extremely professional and like others have pointed out, you can tell when a potential client is on your level or not by doing a little research on them and relying on your gut feelings. There are many things you can do to protect yourself:
    1. Check out the website of the person/company wanting to hire you. Look at their list of clients, how long they’ve been in business, whether they have press releases, etc. Get their full contact information.
    2. Find out who the real client is (who the VO is ultimately for) and check them out too, if they’re a company you’ve never heard of. Get their full contact information as well.
    3. Ask the client what the payment terms are. I usually allow 30 days for payment. Some clients have specific policies and pay within 60 days. Find out by asking. After 30 days (or specified time), I begin with gentle reminders and gradually become firmer. The more agencies are involved between you and the Real Client, the longer it will take to get paid because of where you are on the food chain. Not always the case, but something to keep in mind.
    4. If things looks dismal and you’re not getting anywhere with the person who hired you, go directly to the accounts payable dept. of the company (if there is one). If it’s a small company or agency, sending a letter or email stating that if you don’t receive payment by specified date, you will begin legal proceedings (this usually gets the check in the mail very quickly especially if the company is at all legit – nobody wants their reputation marred). Be prepared to file legal suit if they ignore you. Most companies will pay you before you have to go this far.
    5. The other option is if you don’t get anywhere with the agency who hired you, go directly to the Real Client and contact their accounting department and state your case. This will solve your problems.
    6. Keep ALL correspondences between you and the person who hired you. Always be professional and courteous because sometimes it’s just a matter of extenuating circumstances. Be persistent and firm. Follow through on your words with actions that show that you are a professional and expect to be treated as such.
    Everybody wants to be a winner in the end. VO talents want to get paid and continue to get hired. Agencies and companies want to build their reputations and get more clients.
    If you’re getting stiffed more than once or twice, you may need to begin asking yourself bigger questions like “What are these repeated events trying to teach me?” Are you accepting jobs that in your heart know are iffy or pay too little but you go for them anyway because you need the money?
    We all need money to survive, but at what cost?
    Are you being “victimized” in other areas of your life too? You may need to start thinking about what you WANT rather than dwelling on what you DON’T want in your life.
    Remember folks, you DO create your realities (sorry for the cliche, but it’s very true) – so if somethings amiss you need to re-examine your belief system and make some inner changes. Once you learn the lesson, the external circumstances will stop appearing. That’s the Zen part of it 🙂
    We are all special and valuable. We all deserve good in our lives. If you work, you deserve to get paid. Period. Expect the best, be smart and cover all your bases and you should be fine.

  17. Yep. At one time or another we all get to experience the deadbeat.
    My deadbeat is in the Atlanta area. His company produces auto ads. I did several spots to the tune of $800. He’s ignored three registered mail requests. Now I have my attorney sending a demand payment letter.

  18. Hi Everyone,
    I had some serious delay problems–particularly with one client. So, now I request payment in advance (and usually get it with no problem) from everyone. Most have no problem with that. Often I’ll bid one price for PIA and another for payment immediately upon delivery of audio.
    Interestingly, it’s the guy who wants you to do a spot for $75–and “I’ll use you a LOT” who you spend more time trying to collect from than you did voicing his spots.
    If a job is higher paying, I’ll be more flexible on payment… and in my experience… the higher budget clients always pay in a timely manner!
    Good Luck!
    PS… We still have a few spots left in our Voice-Over Whirlwind Weekend in Lake Tahoe with Pat Fraley & Julie Williams. Email julie@voice-overs.com for more info.

  19. I am experiencing that for the first time right now! So far, payments are 100+ days from invoice, to the tune of $15,000. Not voice over work, but still. They keep saying they plan to pay but are experiencing “cash flow issues” because one of their clients isn’t paying them. For me, the issue is that the $$ owed is partly due to a subcontractor that I hired to help with the project. I have paid my contractor on time…and I haven’t been paid. I guess every year, I learn a new lesson!!


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