Voices CEO, David Ciccarelli: An Open Letter on How Clients Work With Voices
The following is the fourth in a series of open letters from David Ciccarelli, CEO and Co-Founder of Voices, discussing Voices’s products and services, as well as the company’s vision for the future.
In my last post, I talked about our focus on creating opportunities for voice talent, how we charge for services, and how voice talent earn money. Today, I’ll talk about the services we provide to clients looking to hire voice talent. Let me start this conversation with a story about how we came to our current business model.
Years ago I had the opportunity to pitch to an audience of investors for the pilot season of a television show called “Dragon’s Den.” This is similar to the popular American entrepreneur reality show, “Shark Tank.”
Being the pilot season, and no precedent on how to pitch, I drove to Toronto and headed down to the CBC television station where I was briefed on what was expected. My name was called and I walked onto a large soundstage where I gave the pitch of my life.
When I described our business as being a membership site for aspiring voice actors to promote themselves, they asked if anyone was getting hired. Absolutely they were. I was then asked, “How do you monetize the transaction?” That is, “how are you making money?” And the answer? We weren’t.
While all the Dragons passed on our fledgling startup, they did provide some important advice. Considering that it was the advertising agencies who were benefiting most from the platform and they were the ones doing the hiring, it made sense to facilitate the payment and the delivery of files.
In response, I designed SurePay, our escrow service that positions Voices as the trusted intermediary protecting buyers and sellers. In this case, the buyer is the client, often a creative producer at an advertising agency, and the seller is the voice talent. For first time users, neither party knows each other. By facilitating the auditioning, hiring, payment and file delivery we now provided a true end-to-end service.
Our clients work with us in one of two ways – Self Service and Professional Service. In a Self Service mode, clients post jobs and review audio auditions and proposals from talent. The talent quote on the job, for instance, $500. Our clients pay an additional 20% on top of the talent’s quote for the use of the platform and for escrow services. In this example of a $500 talent quote, with the additional 20% fee, the total the client would pay is $600. Voices holds the funds in an escrow account until the work is complete. Once the talent uploads the files and they are approved by the client, payment is released. Voice talent are paid on a weekly basis.
More than 250,000 transactions have been completed to date, and in that time, we have never missed a payment to a talent. Even in cases when things like credit card fraud occur, we’ve still paid the voice talent. In short, this is a rock-solid system that has proven its worth to both parties for the security, simplicity, and ease that it offers.
Expanded Service for Clients – Professional Service
The beginnings of our Professional Service offering for clients came when in one day, we received two emails that were eerily similar in nature, both coming from Fortune 500 companies. The representatives said that they’d discovered our site and found voice talent they wanted to work with, but they required us to become part of their approved vendors list. As large corporations, they worked differently; they used purchase orders to kick-off projects, and wanted to be invoiced when the project was complete. And their payment terms were net 30 – meaning we’d be waiting for cash long after we were expected to pay the talent. This seems risky, but these companies were looking to engage us for a lot more work.
Recognizing the opportunity to work with some of the world’s largest organizations, we took the chance and began accepting those engagements. I use the term engagements to appropriately characterize the size and scope of these types of projects. In addition to having various requirements around billing, non-disclosure agreements and more, these projects are also typically complex in other ways. For example, clients may require their script to be translated into a dozen languages. They might need many different talent (and obscure talent), from all over the world, to virtually come together despite different time zones and languages. Editing and production work can also be required. In short, this truly is a professional service, and the pricing for these types of complex projects varies case-by-case, based on what the client requires of us for the total project – of which the actual file delivery by the voice over actor(s) is just one part.
For Professional Service projects, a team of Account Managers serve as the dedicated point of contact, scoping work, quoting on projects, and managing the process from start to finish.
And again, just as with Self Service, talent quoting on the project should always quote what they want to get paid, and if they are the one chosen to complete the work, they always get paid what they quoted.
For some clients, Professional Service is the only way they want to work, and we’re happy to provide this valuable service to them.
I hope my CEO Series of posts have provided some additional transparency to our business model, and the value we provide to voice talent as well as clients.
Next up, I’ll share more about where we’re headed – as a business and an industry. Having recently closed an USD $18 million investment from Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital, we do have big aspirations and big plans. We’re excited to see the industry continue to move and evolve, and we hope to be the destination that will always connect brands with voices the world over.
Note: To read other articles in this series, see:
- Voices CEO, David Ciccarelli: An Open Letter On the Acquisition of Voicebank.net
- Voices CEO, David Ciccarelli: An Open Letter on Voices and Unions
- Voices CEO, David Ciccarelli: An Open Letter on How Voice Talent Work with Voices