Pros and Cons of Offering Phone Patch Services

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    What does it take to offer phone patch services and make it profitable for your business? How do you set the limits and parameters of a phone patch session? Anthony Reece shares many pros and cons of offering phone patch and also addresses whether or not to charge a fee for providing the service.

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    Transcript of Phone Patch Services

    Julia-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voice Over Experts brought to you by voices.com, the number one voiceover marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom, and techniques from top instructors, authors, and performers in the field of voiceover. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voiceover talent. It’s never been easier to learn, perform, and succeed from the privacy of your own home and at your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else.
    This week, voices.com is pleased to present Anthony Reece.
    Anthony Reece: Hello, I’m Anthony Reece for VO 101. Got an email last week from a student of mine so I thought I’d share it with you all in the form of this podcast.
    The question was, Anthony, as a former student of yours, what is the importance of having phone patch services available to clientele? Well, needless to say, this became the topic of debate at my studio after getting the email.
    You see the phone patch is a very important tool used today by most voiceover talent; however, it can also be abused by the client if you’re not careful. Let’s say for example, you get a call for a small job worth about a hundred bucks. The client may contact you and say, “Tell you what, I’m interested in having you do voiceovers for us, but we’d like to have a phone patch and direct the session.” Now, this is not normally a problem if and that’s a big capitalized if, the client or a customer has experience in the industry. I mean there is nothing worse to a voiceover talent than getting on the phone patch and hearing that your client has no clue what they’re doing when it comes to what is expected from a talent or for that matter, how to direct you as a talent or how to even approach a recording session.
    So let’s take a few minutes and weigh out the pros and the cons of offering phone patch sessions as a voiceover talent.
    So what is a phone patch? Well, a phone patch is nothing more than allowing your client to listen to you recording your voiceovers in your own audio software within your own studio by telephone. It literally is as simple as your client contacting you by phone or you calling your customer by phone then allowing them to listen in on your voice recording session, it’s that simple.
    What is the difference between ISDN and phone patch? Well, the primary difference between ISDN and a simple phone patch is you are not allowing your studio to actually be synced to another studio real time. You see ISDN and software like Source-Connect allow you to synchronize or link up one studio to another anywhere in the world using broadband in real time. A phone patch is literally just that, your customer listening to you record within your own studio over the telephone.
    What gear is required? Well, if you are desiring to create an ISDN or a Source-Connect type environment, you are going to have out-of-pocket expenses. Source-Connect can run you anywhere from $400 to $1200 to get up and running and ISDN can even be up in the thousands of dollars out of pocket. However, the beauty of the phone patch is there is literally just about no out-of-pocket expenses for you as a talent. It’s as simple as investing in a $10 cordless phone at Wal-Mart allowing that individual or a client to contact you on a phone that you are currently using in wireless form and standing inside your recording booth with the phone against your ear while you record the tracks into the microphone. They can then direct you listening, even hear you back while you’re recording through the telephone.
    Meanwhile the voiceovers that you’re laying into your microphone are being captured in your own audio editing software of which you will edit, clean up, master, and deliver to the client later after the recording session. So other than having a broadband phone service such as Vonage or downloading the free Skype software available worldwide, there’s really no out-of-pocket expense to create a phone patch for your studio.
    Should I charge more for my phone patch service? Well, here’s one of those areas of debate I spoke about earlier at the beginning of this podcast. This was one of the main issues that we debated the day this email arrived. In some situations, a talent considers a phone patch or offering phone patch services as a luxury or value added add-on. This will be up to you as an individual voiceover talent to decide whether or not you consider phone patch services a premium service or for the course and part of your overall offering.
    I know a few talents who require a $50 additional session fee for phone patch while the majority of the other talents I know offer phone patch as a free service as another way to land the gig. So only you can decide over time if you want to charge for the phone patch option primarily based on how often the phone patch service is actually requested by your customers.
    Should I set a minimum fee to offer phone patch? This was another great point in the email from my student. He was wondering whether or not he should offer a minimum fee in order to offer phone patch services. I kind of agree with this to be quite honest with you. If a client wants to have the ability to direct you and take your time and schedule a private session, etc, there is an argument to be said whether or not there should be a minimum.
    This also comes down to you as a voiceover talent, how quick you are, how creative you are, how directable you are, and how flexible you are at recording on your own and delivering the goods back to the client based on written or pre-production directions and notes sent by email. I personally feel like I have more freedom when I’m directing myself and I can decide when I want to cut those tracks based on my day-to-day schedule. I know talents such as myself that can do a small job for let’s say $100 to $150 and I can produce results on my own in a matter of 15 to 20 minutes. However, if I gave my client the ability at that fee to direct me by phone patch, this could run into an hour or an hour and a half even two hours depending on the directions that I’m offered, how competent my client is, do they have experience, and how many of the chefs are there in the kitchen at the same time at my client’s business or office.
    In other words, if I’m in control, I can blast out what I need in 30 minutes usually. If my client is in charge and he has two or three marketing people in the room, they’re constantly debating what color green should be and red should be, then ultimately the session can go into an hour or to even two hours. Only you will decide as your career moves forward if you should require a minimum fee for a phone patch.
    How important is having a pre-production talk before the phone patch session? I can’t even begin to tell you how important it is for you to have a creative session by email or over telephone prior to having a phone patch session with a client. This will give you a great opportunity to break the ice with your client, find out what the client is looking for, get a better idea of the scope of the project and spell out the terms, conditions and limitations of the time allotted for your phone patch session. As with any voiceover project, prior creative input and directions, notes, and final copy from your client is a must have before proceeding with any voiceover session via phone patch or not.
    How do you set limits and parameters of a phone patch session? Simply put, you’ve got to make sure your clients knows in advance you’re allotting 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes, 2 hours. Whatever the length of time is based on the fee for the job, that’s how much you’re allowing them in real time recording over the phone.
    I’ve had clients in the past who will take an hour and a half to two hours because there’s constant bickering, creative debate going on in the other end of the phone, they’ll ask me to change up things, they’ll ask me to do things that weren’t necessarily agreed upon. So I’ve learned a hard lesson from the school of knocks, make sure you spell it out prior to the phone session what they want, what you’re going to do, as well as limitations on director’s input from the other side of the phone. Then when the session comes along, it will be smooth sailing therein.
    Should I take control of my phone patch session? There are times of where if you’re working with an inexperienced customer or a client on the other end and you can sense that they’re not exactly the wisest of directors, you may want to gently try to lead the session. This is an area that you have to be careful because you don’t want to offend the customer or at the same time appear overbearing or overwhelming as though you’re trying to be a control freak. However, you have the experience if the client is inexperienced and ultimately, you will be responsible for the voiceover you deliver. So if they’re having problems, take control of the session and walk through the session as you would do if you’re recording on your own.
    How many takes should I offer my client during the phone session? Well, this depends on the project itself whether or not it’s simple clips for a game or an animation or cartoon or a 15, 30, or 60-second broadcast commercial, long form narration, audiobook, etc. So depending on the scope of the project, this is going to really actually offer what you should deliver in the way of finals and takes during the session.
    Again, this is why you need to set an overall time or time limitation on the length of the recording session via phone. However, I do recommend a maximum of three takes per commercial or a clip or dialogue paragraph. This makes things smoother and keeps the session flowing at a quicker pace.
    If I offer a phone patch, should I offer free re-cuts too? This is a great question. Many talents will offer phone patch services in lieu of a secondary free round of pickups or re-cuts. Why you may ask? Simple, the client has you on phone, the client is directing the session, the client is responsible for the outcome of the session. In other words, if you’re being hired for a typical voiceover session that you’re responsible to direct yourself, edit, record, and deliver the tracks, then obviously you need to guarantee the content will be delivered as they requested.
    However, if the client is on the phone and they’re directing the session and you are doing nothing more than conveying what they’re asking or how they’re asking you to interpret a line, then obviously the client needs to take the responsibility as the director. Thus he or she may not necessarily have the right to request another round free if they were directing the session. Make sense? So this is why once again, that pre-phone patch or pre-recording session discussion is more important than ever.
    The benefits of offering phone patch. So I guess in summary if we reviewed this entire podcast, we’d find the benefits of offering phone patch are hit and miss. My personal feeling is the primary benefit of phone patch these days is unlike in years past where we voiceover talents could actually meet our customers, clients, or studio producers at their own business in person and record tracks, hang out, socialize, and get to know one another.
    However, with the global market the way it is today and most studios and voice talents being web based, the phone patch maybe an opportunity to put the high touch back into building relationships with your customers. In other words, you get an opportunity to establish a rapport with a client, speak with them during your session, feel them out as a customer for future references and other recordings you may do as well. So there’s something to be said about a phone patch giving you the opportunity to shmooze your customer.
    Another benefit with a phone patch is it gives your client the opportunity to obviously participate in the recording session. This gives them a sense of personal and creative involvement in the recording process. However, like I said earlier in the podcast, if they’re inexperienced, this can be your worst nightmare too. But if they are experienced and competent at what they’re doing, this can be very advantageous to you as a voiceover talent because it’s like having a second person in the booth with you, brainstorming on creative deliveries and other ways you can interpret the copy.
    Another benefit can be it eliminates the need for the re-cuts or that second free round. Why? Like I said earlier, if the customer actually schedules a recording session, phone patches in on the recording session, directs you and listens to you while you read the lines, then gives the blessing on the voiceover tracks you’ve delivered, how can they can expect free re-cuts later? So another benefit is the possibility of doing away with the re-cuts after you’ve recorded a session.
    Another area beneficial offering a phone patch is the ability for you to pitch your other offerings and services. Let’s say for example you’re also an audio producer, video producer, some form of creative media professional, this gives you an opportunity to establish the rapport with the customer and pitch your other services such as audio production, video production and what have you. However, do this with a grain of salt because the truth of the matter is most of these customers probably are producers themselves so don’t over try to sell to yourself because they can take that personally and it can look actually as a possible threat or a conflict of interest in the future because they may see you as their competition.
    Lastly and not least, I think the real benefit, probably the top dog of benefits offering a phone patch is the ability to help you land the gig. Yesterday, because of Skype, broadband, and the worldwide web as we know it, many clients, customers, and marketing executives, advertising agencies, producers, etc, like to take advantage of the opportunity using phone patch to direct their talent. The majority of talent feels uncomfortable about being directed by a client over the phone. Many talents are technically not advanced and they think it’s overcomplicated while some talents just outright say I don’t offer it or make excuses that they’re just too busy. This can be the reason they don’t land the gig. It may come down to simply you versus them, phone patch, not phone patch. The client may choose the talent that offers a phone patch in the end.
    So as you heard, there are many benefits to offering phone patch services, however, be warned there are also several disadvantages too.
    The negative side of offering phone patch services. While offering your clients and customers the ability to phone patch in your voiceover session, there are also disadvantages to this option. One of the disadvantages or more of an inconvenience is your need to offer a private schedule session for your client. For talents offering voiceover services on the side or part-time and working a full 9 to 5 job, this can be challenging. Most customers or clients prefer to have their voiceover sessions or phone patch sessions done during business hours. If you don’t have regular access to a recording studio with phone patch ability during the day, this can become a problem for you as a talent. However, this can be overcome if you are honest with the customer and tell them you can only record in the evenings or on weekends. Truth be told, many clients and customers unless they are a personal friend or a colleague of yours will opt to go with another talent who is available when they prefer to hold the session.
    Another inconvenience or disadvantage of offering phone sessions is the client can try to take advantage of you eating up more time than you would have allotted from the very get go. Some voice talents have the ability to cut voiceover tracks pretty quick. In other words, they may be able to interpret a 30-second radio commercial in a matter of four to five minutes while another talent may need to work on it for 45 minutes to an hour. While you’re in a phone patch session, the client may opt to take their sweet time and have you deliver the 30-second commercial, 10, 12, 15 times taking up to an hour or even an hour and a half or two of your time. So as discussed earlier, there is something to be said about recording voiceover tracks in your own time versus on your client’s time.
    Another negative experience you might run into that I can personally attest to is that nightmare client who wants to explore options based on the voiceover dialogue they were looking for. In other words, let’s say you have a client who needs 10 or 12 clips for an animation, you get in to the phone session, he wants to hear four or five different interpretations of each line one by one, the session drags out. Towards the end of the session, he finds, you know, while we’re at it, how about if we just go ahead and try this other style? Now you’re going into a whole new phone patch session, who knows how much longer the client could have on the phone?
    So here is the importance of making sure as I mentioned earlier that you know the allotted time you’ve agreed to prior to the phone session. Many clients, many studio producers, and many non-professional directors will take for granted the allotted time that you’ve agreed to and consider you a talent for hire at their disposal. So if you have not agreed to a limit on the time of the number of styles or tracks or takes you’re going to supply, this can become a great disadvantage time-wise if that client feels you’re their talent, they’re paying you and you should do what they want.
    Lastly, what I think is my personal disadvantage to offering phone patch services is the limitation it puts on me as a voiceover talent. Most clients come into a recording session with a predetermined vision of exactly what they’re looking for and you’re inexperienced non-professional director clients to be come into the phone patch session thinking I’m not really sure what I’m doing, let’s just see where we get. The one that knows what they’re doing basically comes in, has you cut what they want and moves on. The one that doesn’t know what they’re doing comes in and expects you to take however long it takes, which could be up to two hours sometimes or even three, to produce results with their exploration at hand.
    As a creative professional, my personal and professional feeling is unless the client is a professional who is open-minded creatively, it stifles my creativeness as a professional talent.
    In conclusion, I prefer to have the time to explore on my own, to read and interpret the directions, the notes, and the copy supplied by my client. To find my voice, which maybe in the morning, which maybe late at night, which maybe right after a cup of Starbucks when I’m wired for sound and I have tons of energy kicking in. Who knows when that inspiration may come to me?
    So having the ability to record on my own time benefits my clients in the long run because it gives me more time to focus, concentrate, creates a comfort zone within my own atmosphere and I don’t have to worry about a backseat driver or a somebody else standing off critiquing me. Everybody knows that one dude standing in the concert hall going, “Zeppelin,” flicking his beak, “woo-hoo” and then he turns to the chick standing next to him and to impress he says, “Hey, man, I’m in a band. Yeah, I’m maybe too engaged right now though man, my guitar is at home.” The truth is the guy is flapping burgers at some burger shack, can’t play the guitar worth beans, and has never ever been on stage live and in his life.
    In other words, everybody is a guitar player, aren’t they? However, the guy on the stage must be doing something right because he’s actually professionally playing for a living. So ultimately, at the end of the day, there are pros and cons to offering phone patch services. Disadvantages and advantages to some while they’re advantages or disadvantages to another? I guess it depends on how you look at it. Is the glass half full or half empty when it comes to phone patch sessions?
    For VO 101 and VO101.com, I’m Anthony Reece.
    Julia-Ann Dean: Thank you for joining us. To learn more about the special guest featured in this Voices.com podcast, visit the Voice Over Experts show notes at podcast.voices.com/voiceoverexperts. Remember to stay subscribed. If you’re a first time listener, you can subscribe for free to this podcast in the Apple iTunes podcast directory or by visiting podcasts.voices.com. To start your voiceover career online, go to voices.com and register for a voice talent membership today.

    Tags:

    Anthony Reece, Casting, Voice Work, Voice Acting, Business, Voice Over Coach, Voices.com

    Links from today’s show:

    VO 101 Course
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    Anthony Reece on Voices.com

    Your Instructor this week:

    Voice Over Expert Anthony Reece

    Anthony ReeceAfter a lifetime in gaming, radio, television, theatre, music, entertainment & animation, the resume of Anthony Reece is vast including hands-on experience as a audio and sound track producer, creative director, studio manager, broadcast program director and producer, casting director and voice actor. Mr. Reece has “been there – done that”. Anthony has personally cast, directed, produced and/or voiced hundreds of cartoons, games, commercials, animations and just about every type of media there is today. This diverse, creative background assures you’re working with a studio, directed by a professional in all areas of broadcasting, gaming, animation, performance and media.

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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®.

    5 COMMENTS

    1. I prefer phone patch sessions because the client gets what they want with names, pronunciations, and phrasing to their taste. If they want to extend the session from the allotted hour, it is on their bill – and they know it.
      Your 3 take rule is interesting. It is a rare thing indeed to tweak an “almost but not quite” take to perfection on take #36.
      You mentioned doing a phone patch by holding the phone up to your ear, but that is not a phone patch. A phone patch, by definition, patches the studio output into the telephone line and requires hardware for the interface.
      While your technique can work, you face the problem of the client hearing an oddity caused by the position of the phone and they want it fixed when it doesn’t exist OR you hear an oddity in the recording that needs to be fixed (but turns out to be the clients favorite take).

    2. Thanks Steve. My attempt was to merely share the methods available in general, and the actual technical definition is covered. Obviously not promoting the use of a phone in one’s hand 🙂 Appreciate your feedback, read and/or listen.

    3. Phone patch is great…in fact, I’m probably in the minority by offering my clients a discount if they choose to direct me live via phone patch. My reasons are this:
      1) We get the tone, pace and all pronunciations handled on the fly (rather than wasting time going back and forth via email with questions)
      2) Aside from chopping out the back ‘n forth, I don’t feel the need to do any further editing of the file…they receive exactly what they heard, in the order they heard it…which is all explained in detail before the session is scheduled (recording on my own, I have a hard time NOT editing, sweetening, maximizing the audio before I send it)
      3) I perform better when directed by the client(s)…much fewer stops and starts (on my own, I tend to get “bogged down” with intense self scrutiny)
      As Anthony pointed out, it’s imperative to establish the guidelines, price, delivery etc etc beforehand, so there are no surprises…but all in all, I’ve had only 2 or 3 “challenging” phone patch sessions out of hundreds.

    4. Thoughtful and comprehensive discussion from Anthony, thank you for sharing this. I had a JK Audio Phone Patch in my studio for years, but last year went to a Google Voice Number for US clients and Skype for my international clients. I’m now considering getting a dedicated Skype number also. Don’t even own a home phone anymore (nothing by Telemarketers and Robocalls). I can even offer playback via re-routing the #2 headphone jack on my M-Audio Fast Track Ultra. I enjoy being directed live in sessions the best.

    5. I too have used the JK Audio phone patch system for awhile.
      However, in the last six months I’ve taken to bringing those projects to a studio nearby me in NYC for the following reasons:
      1. I can be the talent and nothing but the talent
      2. My audio engineer not only handles the technical side of things, but he’s my partner in helping me deliver my best (we have side conversations unheard by the client)
      3. I don’t have to multi-task the performing and editing while also juggling the 3rd dimension of being directed during the session
      4. My clients get added value of session notes from the audio engineer
      5. They appreciate that I bring in another professional as a teammate to make the whole project rock
      6. My studio guy gives me a great rate, so I am happy to pay part of my fee to him, since I get so much in return
      For those of you who are rock star audio engineers yourself, my comments are irrelevant. But for those of us who will never be what you are, it’s a good feeling to be able to take these seemingly small projects and bring them into a full blown studio. Plus, when I tell my clients that there’s no extra charge, they are relieved and pleased.

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