Man yelling at himselfEven in your darkest moments of dread when you feel that your client won’t be satisfied with your work, you’d be surprised!

Just because you feel you weren’t up to snuff doesn’t mean that your client thinks you stink.
In fact, sometimes their reaction is the complete opposite!
There’s no need to beat yourself up, and if you are, this article may give you the courage to stop!
Join me in welcoming Richard Weirich as he shares his experience with us here on VOX Daily.

Voiceover Horror Story

By Richard Weirich
There should have been something to tip me off to what I was about to get myself into. I always get excited when a new voice gig comes my way. This one was no exception. So I set aside some time and went to work. I voiced, edited, processed, mastered, zipped, and proudly sent it to the client.

I’ve been around the block for quite a few years and I know the importance of good sound recording equipment. I’ve taken the time and the money to do it right. But, then again, my clients aren’t normally sound scientists. (That would be the guys who invent, test, and make the high end audio components we lust after.)

Clients frequently want changes to the read. A different emphasis on a word, a wrong technical pronunciation, or a different style or pace. And I live by the old adage, “the customer is always right.” Although, you and I both know, nothing could be further from the truth. But, hey, they’re picking up the tab.

Within a few hours of shipping off the completed audio file I received a reply. “We appreciate your professionalism.” (Uh, oh.) “But, we have a few changes we want you to make. See attached file.” So, I open the attached file. At the top there were 4 different color codes.
Red for the words that I emphasized the way they wanted. Blue for the words that I emphasized wrong. Green for the words that needed to be pronounced more slowly. Yellow for the words that needed to be read more rapidly.

Mind you, all the copy, every single word was highlighted.
Did you ever see the Howard Stern movie when he was struggling with how he was supposed to emphasize WNBC? Well, that’s what I encountered for every word in a 10 minute documentary.

“The customer is always right, right??” So, back at it I went reading it over and over trying to get it just right. Back goes the edited file as I await the response.
In less than an hour, back it comes. “We want you to change the way you Americanize some of the pronunciations. Those words and the correct pronunciations are color coded in pink.” OK. I’ll buy that. I’m working for foreign scientists and they hear North American English differently.

More reading, more editing… and off goes the file. Soon after comes another response. “Your file has a 30 db noise level.”
Back into the booth, air conditioner turned off (just in case that was the source of the newly discovered noise level), and now fighting a new battle. I feel some sort of sickness coming on. The dreaded cold… which can damage the voice… that makes you sound like yuck.
100 degree heat, growing sicker by the minute, all those colored markers, and my voice is growing weaker and weaker.

Three hours later I emerge from the studio, feverish, and sweating profusely. Back to editing because, I have an audio book to finish. Emerging from my speakers, a horrible distortion of the voice of which I was once so proud.Broken, shaky, faint, just plain awful. But I wasn’t about to give up. Kept on editing. Pieced together something that was nowhere as good as the original file (in my opinion) and shipped it off to the audio gurus on the other side of the world.

This time, no response. I noticed on my FTP site that the file had been downloaded. However, still no response. I was pretty confident that all the changes and my bad physical condition had produced something that they could never accept.
Got up the next morning, feeling awful, and soon discovering that what I had feared most had actually happened. My voice was gone. Checked my email and still no response from the client.

Well, that’s it! Professional pride and all kicked in and I did what I knew I had to do. I sent the client a note, told him to get one of the other 90 people who had auditioned for the gig to handle his project, and that he didn’t owe me anything.
Then comes the response. “What, are you kidding? We loved it.”

“Love it.” The worst, most embarrassing work of my life, and they love it?”
So is the client always right? No. I think not. But as long as he pays I suppose I’ll continue to jump through as many hoops as needed for customer satisfaction.
Now… I just need my voice back.
Richard Weirich

Any Comments You’d Like to Share with Richard?

Looking forward to hearing from you,
© Pamphrey


  1. Most clients don’t understand the way a voice over recording session works.
    At the same time the client and anyone who wants input into the final product arrives at a recording studio along with the Voice Over of their choice. Sitting at the recording controls is a sound engineer, next to him is someone with a copy of the script. Behind them on a large comfy sofa is everyone else. The Voice Over goes into the booth and we begin.
    As the VO session progresses comments are made and the Voice Over adjust the read accordingly. After about an hour a 10 minute VO is in the bag and everyone goes home happy.
    If it’s a corporate (promoting a company) as opposed to a documentary for broadcast on TV or radio the cost of the studio would be $400 maximum, VO around $350 plus the cost of the time of the people from the company.
    In the above case the client re-wrote the rules, the VO did nothing wrong he merely did not perform to the client’s taste.
    Paint my office, keep painting my office and I’ll stop you when you guess the colour I want. To a Decorator that’s just dumb whereas to a Voice Over..No problem Mate!

  2. Thanks Richard, great article. I had a similar experience. I was recording an audio book a few months ago and the client kept sending me notes that one of my character voices was, “just not right”. I elevated it, flattened it, torqued it, caressed it and even yanked it up by it’s boot straps.
    “Still not quite right,” my client said.
    I give up for the day and went about some ‘honey do’s’ and got whacked right in the schnozola by a room full of MOLD. Now mold and I have history … and it ain’t a very happy history either. So I wake up the next morning and my head is so messed up from my reaction to the mold that I sound like I’m talking into a seashell.
    I know that I can’t possibly please the client now, but they are expecting something so I fire off an email telling them I might need 24 hours to get my head clear. They respond, “go ahead and put something together and send it anyway.”
    I did. As I was editing the track, the thought occurred to me that if elephants could speak human, this is obviously what they’d sound like.
    I fired off the track. About an hour later I get a phone call from the client saying, “that’s perfect. It’s just what we wanted.”
    Go figure huh!?! I now have a character I’ll call ‘the elephant man’ for my more discerning clients.
    ….and they just contracted with me for another book. I love this business.
    Ran Alan Ricard

  3. Stephanie & Rich,
    Thanks for sharing this story…it sure did put a smile on my face this morning!
    I was surprised at how many revision sessions you offered this client. Here’s a suggestion for the future: Include your ‘revision session’ fees in your contract–or if you don’t have one–in your ‘work agreement.’
    For example, my 1st revision session is FREE within 1 week of audio delivery. Additional revisions are charged 35% of original job quote. This serves 2 purposes
    1. To make sure the client gets ALL the changes in one revision session
    2. To let the client know that they’ll pay MORE after my 1st revision
    Most times, if a client knows there are additional fees for extra revisions, they’ll get it right ‘the first time!’

  4. Richard’s story is reminiscent of so many occasions from my time as a production director for radio. The scenario; Sales rep rushes in with an order. Sales rep either writes copy or throws me a bunch of notes from which to write copy…of course we have to have a spec spot right away!! I or someone in production produces said spot. We spend an hour, 2 hours, maybe more finding the right music or effects, getting the voice just right, editing.
    Rep plays it for client. Client tells rep the facts are wrong, or they forgot to tell us about one teeny-tiny little thing, or they don’t like the music, whatever. The spot starts tomorrow morning at 5:00. At the same time production is, of course, dealing with orders from 6 or 7 other sales reps in hurry-up mode. We slam a new version together in 15 minutes. It stinks. The client gives it a thumbs up! Our stinky spot runs 15 times a day for a week!! Ever wonder why voice talent graduates from broadcasting to respectable v/o work? Ever wonder why radio listeners say commercials are irritating?
    Thanks Richard. I truly appreciate your pain.

  5. This brings back so many memories of similar situations. Looking at my fellow vo artists, I am always amazed at the level of professionalism we bring to the recording session. Customer Service? We could write the book on it…and Richard’s story would be right at the top followed by countless others. Thanks for sharing.


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