As you gain traction in your voice acting career and begin to book more work, you are bound to come across a variety of voice acting contracts and agreements.
In the Beginner’s Guide to Voice Acting, we explained the importance of fostering clear and open communication with clients to ensure that you are on the same page regarding expectations for a given project. We explored the possibility that you may be asked to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, also known as an NDA, which will involve an agreement not to publicly disclose particular information relating to your work on a project, whether for a specific duration of time, or forever. NDAs are but one of the many agreements you may experience in the world of voice over when a client has hired you for a job and needs to ensure that you see eye to eye about the final deliverables.
When it comes down to it, voice over isn’t that much different from other types of contract work. Would a reputable contractor, such as a plumber or electrician, begin their work before coming to a conclusive agreement about the specs and scope of the work? In voice acting, not unlike many other lines of work, it is best to get everything in writing.
(Note: Voices does not provide legal advice, nor do we instruct talent exactly how to read a contract or what to look for. This chapter aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the various types of Agreements, without offering specific guidance about how each are to be dealt with. Should you have any questions or concerns regarding any type of contract, you should seek legal advice from a certified professional.)
Here is an overview of the primary types of agreements that you may encounter as a voice actor.
What is a Vendor Agreement?
A Vendor Agreement is a legal agreement that clearly states the provisions and conditions of the work to be performed by a contractor. The key points included in a vendor agreement include date, time, and location where the services must be provided. A vendor agreement will usually be accompanied by a Statement of Work (SOW). A vendor will not start work without an acceptable form of SOW. A vendor agreement becomes valid and enforceable when the customer and vendor signs the agreement in original.
What is a Statement of Work (SOW)?
A Statement Of Work (SOW) is a formal document that captures and defines the work activities, deliverables, and timeline a vendor must execute in performance of specified work for a client. The SOW usually includes detailed requirements and pricing, with standard regulatory and governance terms and conditions.
What is a Master Service Agreement?
A Master Service Agreement is a contract reached between parties, in which the parties agree to most of the terms that will govern future transactions or future agreements.
What is a Non-Disclosure Agreement?
As we previously mentioned, a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), also known as a confidentiality agreement, confidential disclosure agreement, proprietary information agreement, or secrecy agreement, is a legal contract between at least two parties that outlines confidential material, knowledge, or information that the parties wish to share with one another but do not wish for that information to be shared with a third party.
This information can include any confidential and proprietary information, or trade secrets. Read more about the role of Non-Disclosure Agreements in voice acting.
What is a License?
A license primarily outlines the usage rights for a voice recording. When you produce a professional recording of your voice for a project, you inherently own the rights to the performance. By hiring and paying you, the client is licensing the use of that recording.
The license will address usage rights surrounding your voice recording, including the medium through which your voice will be heard, and the duration of time the voice recording will be used. For example, voice recordings that will be broadcast as part of a local radio or television spot for a standard duration of 13 weeks will require different licensing than a voice recording used in an internet ad that has a global reach and may span a much longer duration.
Learn more about the difference in rates for broadcast, non-broadcast, and internet ad jobs.
What is a Talent Release Form?
A Talent Release Form is a document which gives permission to the client to use the talent’s audio file. Clients like using Talent Release Forms because it protects them from litigation if a talent were to come back and say that the company didn’t have permission to use the audio file, etc. Voices does not sign a talent release, however the AM can upload a talent release to be reviewed by Finance before the AM sends it to the talent to sign.
What is Exclusivity?
An exclusivity agreement regulates the type of jobs that voice over talent can accept after working with the client. For example, a client like Nike may not permit a voice actor they have hired to do any work with a main competitor like Adidas. The client will most likely want to clarify this ahead of time by stipulating exclusivity.
Signing a Written Agreement to Finalize a Contract
When you begin a business relationship with a client, all expectations, clauses, and commitments should be understood and acknowledged in a written agreement before you start recording. This includes confirmation of any irregular pronunciations, the word count, receipt of the final draft of the script, and a cost for revisions, should any be required.
A signature is a powerful and binding tool for you to use to your advantage. If a client signs for something, they are stating that they fully understand the agreement and all that it entails. Should they ever go back on what they said, you have written proof of their consent.
Getting a client’s signature is as easy as sending the agreement to them, whether that’s through a service like DocuSign, via email, or through a fax machine. Calling or emailing to confirm that they received the document is a good idea and will keep the ball in your court. The agreement should be signed and dated by both parties.
By only going ahead with a recording once a financial commitment has been made to you, you are in a better position to receive proper compensation for your work, and in a timely manner. All transactions should be completed before delivering the final product to ensure that you will be paid in full.
Our last piece of advice is to steer clear of any situation that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you listen to your conscience (or your gut!), you’ll know which business dealings to pursue.
Understanding Voice Acting Agreements
On the surface, voice over agreements may appear cryptic, confusing, or detached from the art of voice acting. However, they are highly important to understand when you are booking a variety of jobs as a professional voice actor. When you have a handle on the variety of voice acting agreements that clients may present you with, then you’ll be well on your way to standing as an astute business owner and taking your career into your hands.