Working with Clients

Whether you're recording in-studio or from your home recording studio, open and clear communication with your clients will be what keeps the relationships harmonious. As a voice talent you can foster this philosophy with each and everyone one of your clients.

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." - George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Writer

Shaw's famous quote from long ago sums up one of the most challenging problems any business faces still to this day. No matter how big or small, no matter what industry, or how large the generational gap, lines of communication need to remain open.

In today's modern voice-over market, you'll likely find yourself working with clients in different time zones and may work with clients who have language barriers. These things can certainly have an impact on your ability to effectively communicate with them.

So how do you overcome it?

Befriend your email. A telephone call or Skype session may not be viable if you live in the Australia and are voicing a role for a client in New York, so you're going to have to get comfortable doing business entirely by email in some circumstances.

When you do receive a job offer from an online marketplace or other online source, before accepting the job, consider the following.

Ask for the final script, word count, or run-time.

This will help you figure out exactly how much time you'll need to dedicate to the project. It is also a good time to review the material to ensure it doesn't contain any objectionable material. Remember, you don't have to take a job if you're uncomfortable with the script in any way.

Understand the client's expectations.

To help avoid common communication issues, make sure you know what their time zone is, when they are typically available for questions, when they need the recording by (their deadline), and that you've obtained clear creative direction from the client.

Understand the client's needs.

When you record sessions in the client's studio, all you have to do is the artistic part; the voice acting. Everything else is looked after by someone else. If the client hired you to complete the work in your home studio find out ahead of time if they need editing, music and mixing and mastering of the audio. If so, these add-on services should be charged for separately in addition to the voice-over. Define what that price is at the start before you begin recording any of the work.

Help them understand your expectations.

This is an often over-looked area but it's important to establish what your client can expect from you as well. Let the client know what your time zone is, when you'll be able to deliver their files (on or before their deadline), and how many takes are included in your price. Three or more takes based on performance are often included. Most talent charge an additional fee for recording script changes.

Tip: Don't take a request for retakes as criticism. The director is trying to help you achieve their vision through your voice. Check your ego at the door. Work with your client and be flexible. Allow them to tap into your full potential. In the big leagues, it isn't uncommon for a voice talent to do 20+ takes at studio sessions.

Whether you're in different time zones or not, the job might require more than one recording session. Once you're officially hired, make sure you provide them with your contact info and the best time of day to reach you. Emergencies happen and they may need you on short notice.

If you're recording a long-form narration, it's courteous to let them know of any impending appointments or vacation dates you had planned that will render you unavailable. A disruption in recording time could affect the projected completion date so they'll appreciate it greatly if you're upfront about this before getting started on the job.

Not knowing what's expected of you or what your client can expect from you can cause confusion and frustration, having a serious impact on the successful outcome of a job. If there is anything unclear ask for clarification.

If the communication issue is a language barrier, a simple and effective solution is asking them to email the directions to you in their first language. Copy and paste their email into one of the many free translation services available on the web, such as Google Translate.

While services like Google Translate are not always 100% accurate, it will be more effective than trying to decipher broken English. In turn, suggest they use the same service so they can better understand you or try reversing the translation and writing back in their language.

Just let them know you're using a translation service in case it's not exactly spot-on. Ultimately, it's a useful tool and an extra step that will save you both a lot of headache in the end.

Communicating well is also a customer service initiative that will help you stand out from the crowd. If you go the extra mile for your clients, they'll remember what you did for them and will be more likely to want to work with you again. Never forget that you're a service provider. You can "wow" them with superior communication skills and excellent customer service.

Once you've nailed down all the details of the job and have obtained a retainer or deposit, get it in writing. Some voice talent are a little hesitant about asking clients to sign a work agreement but it is a legally binding document that will help you immediately resolve any disagreement about expectations.

Think about any other reputable contractor (such as a plumber, electrician, mover, etc). They all require a work agreement be signed before getting started. If the client balks at signing a contract don't be afraid to ask why. It takes but mere minutes to read through and sign, especially if the groundwork has already been laid verbally.

In turn, you may run into clients who request an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). When you land a voice-over gig with a major brand you may be asked to sign an NDA. This is a way of protecting their brand, new product, sale or service from becoming public knowledge before it's ready to be released.

If you sign an NDA you will not likely receive credit for the work (though you will be paid, of course) and you will be bound by contract not to speak publicly about it.

If you're a social media fan, pay close attention. NDAs include your personal social media channels. This means that you must avoid Tweeting about the cool Nike commercial you just voiced. Or posting a link on your Facebook wall to the awesome new documentary you narrated for Discovery.

How do voice talent get paid for their work?

That's next.