Updates to SurePay and Fees

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    The Voices Experience with Founder & CEO David Ciccarelli

    Shared success for both our talent and clients has been the foundation of Voices.com since day one. Now, we’re excited to announce some improvements to our payment structure that will enable voice talent like yourself to gain more control of your earnings. 

    In this episode, David walks us through Voices.com’s payment service, SurePay, which grants our voice talent the peace of mind to start recording with the knowledge that they’ll be paid for their work in a timely manner. David also explains some challenges with our current payment structure and introduces a solution that will provide you with increased flexibility and transparency to control how much you get paid, and how. 

    Learn more about SurePay, the payment service powering our marketplace.

    Explore the Voices.com rate sheet.

    About The Voices Experience: The Voices Experience is presented by Voices.com. Produced and engineered by Randy Rektor. 

    David Ciccarelli:
    Hi, David here, the founder and CEO of Voices, the website that helps you find voiceover work. And as you know by now in each episode, my role is to be your guide, sharing the history of the industry as well as our company, while, at the same time giving you a behind the scenes, look at how things work here at voices.com. Now it’s that behind the scenes look mostly about how they worked in the past. Today, we’re going to be talking about how it’s going to be working going forward.


    David Ciccarelli:
    So for today’s episode, we’re going to cover a number of topics really all around SurePay. You probably gathered that from the title of the episode, but we’re going to cover understanding SurePay and its benefits to you. What’s working in what isn’t, I’m going to describe two scenarios that I know you’re going to be familiar with because they’ve been pretty difficult to quote around, and then we’re going to cover the fix. Really? What is our solution and how it’s going to provide you with more flexibility, some improvements to the rate sheet we’re making. In short, helping you get paid more, and then finally some ways that we can grow together. So that’s the plan for today’s episode. Buckle in.


    David Ciccarelli:
    Well, hopefully by now, you’ve come to recognize that voices.com really aspires to be the fastest, easiest way for clients to hire voice talent. We’ve strived to become that global marketplace for everything voiceover, all the different applications and it’s amazing. We’ve been used by the world’s most trusted brands, Shopify, Microsoft, Hulu, GoDaddy, Cisco, The Los Angeles Times. There’s so many amazing clients that have chosen to entrust you guys with their scripts, their brand, as you bring those scripts to life. Why might these clients be choosing Voices? There’s a lot of value that they’re getting, transparency and certainty of price. We’re going to be talking a lot about price today. Obviously, want good value for money, access to a diverse talent pool, really access to this secure system, this online platform that helps them complete their jobs.

    David Ciccarelli:
    Now on the flip side, of course, the benefit to you, you also get access to that same global market of clients who are really seeking your skills and services. One of the things that we’ve tried to instill into the platform is giving you flexibility and control over the negotiation of the deal terms if you will, the project. And control over the final pricing, both what the client sees as well as what they’re paying. So that’s manifested itself in this trusted payment service, which we call SurePay. It ensures actually that you are getting paid in a timely manner. And if anything comes up, we’ve got great customer service and help to guide you through and work through any potential challenges with negotiating that deal. Of course, there’s a lot of resources along the way that you’ve probably seen before. Videos about SurePay, frequently asked questions, access and our knowledge base. But I did want to just cover what those benefits are to you.


    David Ciccarelli:
    Now, if you haven’t already done so, go back a couple episodes because I actually go into a lot of detail about the technologies of voices.com, SurePay, voice match, the marketplace, how the search engine works, those kind of technologies. So I do cover SurePay there. And I’m going to in detail today because it’s going to be changing and improving for you. So the short version is that SurePay is our payment service. It powers the online marketplace. Simply put, it’s how we process the credit card payments. We hold them in trust until the work is done by you. And then when the client’s happy with the work that you deliver through the system, we’re actually going to send the funds to you, depositing the money into your bank account, sending you a check or wiring it through PayPal, whichever you prefer. So that actually is providing this risk free financial transaction, a critical part of an online marketplace like voices.com.


    David Ciccarelli:
    The benefits then are really trying to give you peace of mind that you’re going to get paid even before you actually start the recording. Once the work’s complete, you actually get to earn a rating and review from that client. And similarly, you can actually rate the client as well. You can further build your online reputation through what we call compliments. Really, they’re just one click options that the client, after they leave a rating review, they can let you know professionalism, speedy delivery, takes direction well. These kinds of compliments, they actually show up on your profile. You can check your profile if you haven’t seen them in a while and actually check out some other talents’ profiles. They get summarized in the feedback section.


    David Ciccarelli:
    The other benefits of SurePay of course, is that you get to choose how you receive the money. We’re going to be sending you a PayPal transfer and we actually pay the PayPal fees. We send it to you directly and absorb those fees. So whatever you put in, as your quote, and you see as your earnings, that’s going to be what actually gets deposited into your PayPal account. So there’s no further deductions along the way. Or if you opt to, you can actually choose to get paid by check. It is actually a lot slower, but that said, if that’s the way you want to get paid, we’re trying to provide flexibility to you. And speaking of getting paid, it’s not only how you get paid, but the timeliness of it. So you’re getting paid pretty quickly. The work that you complete the previous week, that’s actually all paid out the next Friday. So all of that means it’s our guarantee that you get paid for work that is procured through the platform.


    David Ciccarelli:
    We like to think that our business is based on shared success with you. And how this has worked for about the last 10 years is that the client’s going to start off with a job posting. They’re either going to state that they have a budget range, which is actually the most popular, or a fixed budget, this kind of specified amount. So let’s just for illustrative purposes, say that the client’s selected a budget range of between 100 to $249. That 100 to 250 range. You’re going to see that budget, both in the email notification that comes to you, inviting you to the job. You’re going to see it on the job posting as well, and you’ll see it on the audition page. So depending on the scope of work, maybe you decide that you’re going to reply with a $200 quote. When the client listens to your audition and they like what they hear, and they can see your quote, inclusive of the platform fee and they can click the hire button, landing them on a checkout page.

    David Ciccarelli:
    It’s where they enter in their credit card details, they see the full breakdown of the talent’s fee, the platform fee and the total. Sometimes if they’re a Canadian resident, they’re also going to see some tax, but they’re going to see the breakdown there and then the total. So the client is going to hire you with that 20% fee added on top of your quote for a full payment. And then the work begins. You complete the work as I said, you’re going to earn out your $200 that you initially put as what your earnings were to be. And then you’re going to be paid out on the completion of the work. And in that illustrative example, voices.com is going to earn $40, that 20% for a successful match and transaction through the platform. So that’s how it’s worked. I know there’s a lot of math to follow. Really just listening along, but hopefully that helps explains how it’s been working in the past.

    David Ciccarelli:
    Now, I did promise to identify a couple of problems and challenges with that particular situation. So let me go through those. Okay, let’s get down to it. Problem number one, despite our best efforts, sometimes both the client and the talent still believe that you’re both paying the fee resulting in what I would call a lose-lose situation. Some talent believe that the platform fee is coming out of their earnings on a job. This has been something that frankly we’ve been challenged with really right from the beginning, because that is how any commissions from an agent or on other platforms. Often the platform fee is deducted for successfully facilitating a match. And when all along, we’ve been adding it on top of your quote so that the client sees it. And they also believe that they’re paying the fee. So really we want to change that. We want to clean that up.


    David Ciccarelli:
    So next up is that some clients actually think that the platform fee increases their cost of working with a talent and provides them this kind of surprising situation on that checkout screen. And it would be terrible if they’re abandoning the job or discouraging them from hiring because they see that there’s an amount that’s additional, even though it was already shown at the outset and it was broken down. Sometimes it comes off as surprising when we’ve done interviews with clients and heard directly from them. Other clients actually think that the platform fee is higher than similar fees charged by competitors. There’s other online marketplaces out there that are more generalist and that they’re supporting all kinds of freelancers. As you know, voices.com is very specialized and focused on voiceover and audio production services. And so when they post their job elsewhere, they don’t see a similar fee and consequently, they may never return to hire you on voices.com. So we also want to fix that.


    David Ciccarelli:
    And for our larger clients, fortune 500 companies, global enterprises, they just aren’t comfortable with and really don’t want to be paying a platform fee, considering the volume that they’re running through the system. We want these clients to bring the volume name of jobs that they have available because they’re great opportunities for you, our talent. So those are really this kind of lose-lose situation that we want to overcome.

    David Ciccarelli:
    Problem number two, then are handling a very specific situation around fixed budgets. So talent quote above the client’s budget. When the client says they’ve got a fixed budget, it also comes up during revisions causing confusion on the payments page. So let me separate this into two parts. Fixed budget jobs. When the client, a job with a fixed budget, they expect the work to be done for their stated budget, inclusive of all fees. So if they say I have $500, they’re expecting you, the talent, to figure out how much your earnings are going to be, add on 20%. So it still gets within that $500 mark. In speaking with a lot of talent earlier this year, I did over 100 phone calls, video calls actually with the platinum talent on voices.com. And many of you have brought up this exact challenge, having to break out a calculator, kind of reverse engineer what this amount that your earnings should be in order to got to build up to that $500 mark.


    David Ciccarelli:
    So we will also want to fix that. You should never have to be pulling out a calculator or working around the system to figure out what you want to be earned and make sure it still fits within that client’s fixed budget. The other situation where that comes to is around revisions and additional payments. When you and the client are negotiating revisions, you quote an amount, and then the client gets surprised at checkout when there’s a platform fee that’s added on top. And it’s right, again at that final step where they’re about to make that additional payment for you, often because of a revision.

    David Ciccarelli:
    So if you say $50 for revision or $100 for a revision, they don’t want to see 120 at that last one. So revisions are often negotiated through the messaging feature on voices and then there’s just a final amount that the client is entering in. So we want them to enter the amount and that’s the exact amount that they’re going to be paying. So those are the issues solving this, let’s call it a lose-lose situation where both sides believe that you’re paying the fee. And then finally this quoting above the client’s budget when it’s a fixed budget or around those revisions.


    David Ciccarelli:
    All right. So I think we understand the problems. Let’s talk about presenting a solution. How are we going to fix these scenarios? Well, going forward, of course our business is going to be always based on shared success with you. Again, for discussion purposes, let’s go with that entry level range, it’s a first time client with a small project, 100 to $250. The client posts this job, you’re going to receive those details as you always do, both in email and on the website, you’re going to be able to reply with an audition and upload that. When you submit your audition, you’re going to have the flexibility to enter in either your earnings or the client’s quote. So your quote is going to be what the client sees, or you can enter in your earnings. This is going to provide you with the greatest flexibility. If you were to enter in $200 like that previous example, now like other marketplaces, the 20% is going to be deducted from your quote. You will always still see your earnings. In this example, it would be $160, but it would be deducted from your quote.

    David Ciccarelli:
    I’m going to talk about how you can raise your quote so that you can make sure that you’re earning more money, but switch to how things are working but we’re going to provide you with the flexibility and transparency to have full control over how much you earn and how much the client is seeing, that they’re going to be entering into the system. And as we’ve always been doing, work that you complete last week is going to be paid out this next week. So all of the payments cycle and all that staying the same, it’s just providing you with two options. Are you entering in your quote or your earnings? And the your quote is what the client sees, your earnings is, let’s call it money in your pocket, money in your bank account, if you will.

    David Ciccarelli:
    So speaking of seeing, I know that this is an audio podcast and there’s a lot of visuals, screenshots that are available on our website in the frequently asked questions. So I’d really encourage you to take a look at those because I think you’ll see that they provide you with that flexibility I was describing. Most notably though, will be on that audition screen. It’s completely redesigned from scratch, taking in all of your feedback with things like having this quote section, the flexibility to enter in your earnings. This is the amount that you’re going to be paid, or you can enter in your quote. This is the amount that the client will see. And you’ll also notice that there’s the 20% platform fee there with a little bit of a description, and you can also learn more.


    David Ciccarelli:
    Some other enhancements to that audition form that hopefully you’ll really enjoy are actually a better presentation of all the job details really along the sidebar. So you can see that at a glance and that client name, it will actually be right at the top of the screen. So you don’t have to scroll three times to the bottom when you’re typing out your proposal of kind of the cover letter, if you will, to that client. So bringing all that information right upfront. And finally back to this area of the quote, the budget range will be displayed right within the same area of the quote. So again, no need to scroll down or click the back button. So the takeaways here are on the audition form, all of the related information is grouped together. You can enter in your earnings or your quote. When it comes to looking at your agreement, in the conversations we had with talent many, and I’m going to even say most of you wanted just to know how much you’re earning at that point. So that’s going to be shown.


    David Ciccarelli:
    If you do click through into the detail, you will see of course your quote, the platform fee and your earnings all separated out. And to solve the challenge around the revisions, as I mentioned earlier, they’re discussed and negotiated through the messaging. Now to make sure, and really I’m going to say help you, provide the right number, the quote that you’re telling the client in the revisions, we actually have this cool little additional payment or revisions calculator that will pop up on the side, if you want to launch that and just sort out the math there. So you’ve got an additional payment calculator that’s coming to Voices. And in that calculator, it looks just like the audition screen. Your earnings, the amount that you’re going to be paid, your quote, that’s the amount that you’re going to tell the client what they should be entering in when they make that additional payment. So pretty straightforward. Hopefully you see that there’s a lot of flexibility there.


    David Ciccarelli:
    Now, from the client’s perspective, they’re going to have a redesigned job posting form with usage broken out and the budget better displayed. If they do have a specific budget at present, we still have a $100 minimum for jobs. So they’re going to receive a little pop up notice, an error if you will, that the minimum budget for that particular type of work. And really at this point, all voiceover work on Voices, the minimum is $100, but we’re also exploring ways that we can provide other guidance, perhaps some hints or recommendations that hey, jobs that look like this actually were budgeted higher. So provide them with some guidance to ensure that jobs are being budgeted appropriately by those clients. So that’s a bit of an inside scoop of what we’re working on to help you get paid more for the work that you’re doing.


    David Ciccarelli:
    Now, after the job posting form, of course, they’re listening to your auditions, they’re going to click hire, and they land on that checkout page. So on the checkout page, they’re going to see in this example, $480. It says voiceover services, Brian Caldwell, and it says $480. Inclusive in that would be your earnings plus the platform fee is your quote. Now the client is also, we’re introducing, what’s referred to as a processing fee, and this is more similar to every other platform that we’ve looked at out there. And the platform fee is charged to the talent. You have the flexibility, the processing fee’s charged to the client. It’s 3%, and if there’s tax that needs to be charged because of governmental authorities, then we do a show that there and remit the taxes accordingly. The payment receipt is the email that they get. Again, all that same information, broken down nice and clear for them. And finally, in the payment history, which is an on website receipt. So they got an email receipt and then they got an on website receipt where they can print the page, download a PDF, can access all that information there.

    David Ciccarelli:
    So hopefully you see that we’ve gone to lengths to speak with talent, speak with clients and apply these two principles, provide you with the flexibility to either enter in your earnings or provide you with the flexibility to enter in your quote. And it’s your quote is exactly what the client sees. If you want to be getting paid more, you’re going to need to increase your earnings or increase your quote. That’s how you’re going to be able to do it. And we’re going to provide you with some support along the way. I’ll talk about that through some improvements to the rate sheet, but we’ve spoken with talent, we’ve spoken with clients and we’ve even run a survey.

    David Ciccarelli:
    So I’m going to move on to this survey section and just how we validated this solution, make sure everyone was on the same page. And one of the first questions that we asked was, do you have a strategy when deciding on how much to quote the client for a job? Most of you, 65% of you, said yes and it changes according to the client and what the requirements are. Of course, some people say, not really a strategy, but more of a formula, maybe a rule of thumb that helps you determine. But looks like the vast majority, 88%, there’s some type of methodology. For the remaining, says, no, it’s not a strategy. I charge whatever I think my skills are worth. So regardless, there’s a methodology, whether it’s kind of a gut instinct, I charge whatever my skills are worth. That was only 12% of the people.


    David Ciccarelli:
    But the vast majority of you have either a strategy, a methodology, a rate sheet, some reference material that you take the input from the client, determine how much you want to get paid and then enter in also, and then how much you’re going to charge the client. Maybe you have extra costs. That final quote is inclusive of all of that, your services, any extra costs that you might have, any, in this case platform fee. And that’s the final quote that the client’s going to see. It sounds like we’re pretty aligned there, but most often everyone’s looking at that budget range. And I’ve always said that the budget ranges act as a communication mechanism between what the client can afford. That number that they might have in their head of what they’re thinking about and what you’re willing to do the work for. So when you see that budget range, most of you are again saying, hey, you’re bidding comfortably within the range.

    David Ciccarelli:
    In previous podcast episodes, I’ve referred to this as the Goldilocks Effect. Clients inherently hire talent within the middle of the range, not at the top end, not at the low end, somewhere comfortably in the middle. And likewise, when we asked you, that seems to be where you’re also quoting on that particular job. So perhaps that’s a bit of a self reinforcing effect. I’m not sure. The advice that we’ve been giving out is, hey, for the most part, stick within the range of the budget that’s stated by the client. That’s what they’re thinking. So you have in turn responded by saying that you quote comfortably within the range. There’s a minority, almost 20%, actually that do say no, regardless of what the client’s budget is that you’re going to quote what your skills are worth.


    David Ciccarelli:
    Now, that’s really interesting because in fact, those jobs do still get fulfilled. Clients hear the difference of quality, they know if it’s a tight turnaround time, if it’s really a private invitation sent only to you. Then don’t be afraid to go over if you feel like it’s worth it, the client is specifically outlining that they’re looking for you, or you feel like their budget is just off. You can let them know that. And one of the best ways to let them know that is signaling with your quote. And those jobs do get hired, but it does create a bit of a disconnect. Clients are expecting it to land within the range, but clearly there’s a group of you, 20%, that says, you know what? I try to actually use this as a education tool and inform the client that professionals, if the budget really is too low, it’s falling outside the norms. We’re trying to do our part, sounds like you’re doing your part to educate clients on what are appropriate rates for voiceover.


    David Ciccarelli:
    And one last key finding from this survey that we struggled with most when designing that audition form, do we put the emphasis on asking you as a talent to enter in your earnings, what you want to earn, or do you want to enter in kind of what the client sees? And in the end, we actually provide you with the flexibility to do both. The math is conducted automatically through the system. You can check it with a calculator if you want, but it’s all calculated there for you and completely transparent. So I think that’s a good thing. But when we asked the survey, when completing an audition form, which quote field would you like or most likely to fill in? And most of you have said the your fee. You just want to know, it was 88%, you want to know what’s the money going to be deposited into your bank account.

    David Ciccarelli:
    So you can do that. You can also enter in the client’s total. So if the client says I have $500, enter in $500. If they say it’s a fixed budget and what we currently call specified, will be called fixed going forward. If they say that, and it seems reasonable, then enter in the client’s fixed budget, I think it’ll solve one of those problems that we talked about earlier.

    David Ciccarelli:
    So I think we talked about the technology around SurePay. What it is, how it works, what some of those problems are, but also how we’re fixing them. So let’s talk about next steps and how you can be best prepared for these slight changes to the process. So we’re going to run through a checklist, use the my quote area to set the amount that you want the client to see. So write this down. Use the my quote, to set the amount that you want the client to see, or you can adjust the my earnings area to set the amount of how much money that you want to make if you’re hired. So my quote is what the client sees. My earnings is the money that you’re going to make if you’re hired.

    David Ciccarelli:
    You can, of course, always negotiate revisions and the messages. Now we’ve got that handy calculator that’s going to be available for you. And just tell the client, the my quote, my quote for doing a revision is X. That’s going to be the amount that they will enter in. And of course, as always, you can look forward to each Friday because that’s payday, and you’re going to get paid for the work that you completed the previous week.

    David Ciccarelli:
    So that’s the checklist on how you can be ready for these improvements, but also, and one of the best practices, if you really are new to quoting and understanding what the rates are, you can always reference our rate sheet. Now I’ve mentioned the rate sheet. It’s available at voices.com/rates. And there it has a breakdown of what the client is seeing for various types of projects. You can use that and consult it. It’s for guidance on what I would call industry standard rates, and we’ve actually been making improvements to elevating the rates. So the one particular area is that first one for non-broadcast work. So training videos, phone systems, corporate promotional work, that’s kind of not an advertisement. Maybe it’s a product launch or educational in nature.

    David Ciccarelli:
    All of that non-broadcast work, the real entry level range of zero to five minutes. That’s a pretty big gap. And so we’re going to break that down into zero to two minutes and then two to five. And so that first range, 0 to 2 minutes will be 100 to 249. And then the next one will be kind of that next tier up. So just breaking down that initial range, I think will actually elevate the prices for you and better inform the clients that 5 minutes of work for $100 at those extremes was not working. In fact, actually the talent were just quoting higher and out of that range. So we’re going to correct that entry-level range there as well. Over time, there might be other improvements to the rate sheet. So always reference that. Again,
    voices.com/rates.

    David Ciccarelli:
    And finally, in addition to providing better control over your earnings, we’re actually pursuing other ways to improve your experience. You’ve probably seen a number of these over the last couple of weeks and months, but let me just write them off for you. Of course, I just talked about providing education for clients on how to fairly price the jobs through the rate sheet, through some recommendations on the job posting form, we’re going to provide you with better clarity on the value that we deliver for the
    memberships. So there’s an updated talent memberships page that you can check out. And one of the things coming very soon and possibly already live, if you’re listening to t his podcast is a program called Voices Verified. This is a verification program, similar to … That verifies the identity, quality and integrity and good kind of community membership if you will, of talent on the platform. So you can look out for Voices Verified.

    David Ciccarelli:
    And we also recently launched though, some additional features designed to improve your experience, the enhanced statistics, which went over really well. Hopefully you’re liking that. Almost attempted to do a whole episode just about the stats and maybe consulting some of you on how your statistics are, what’s working for you, what you look at. But check those out. They’re in your account under profile and you can see all of your statistics. Speaking of profile, we’ve made some new options available around live directed sessions, so you can check those features out and those boxes. So it shows up on your profile. If that’s capabilities that you offer, that live directed session, we display compliments. We’ve made improvements to the revision policy and added and redesigned the template. So we’re always innovating, that’s never going to stop, and I think it’s one way that we continue to deliver a lot of value for you and helping you pursue your career at voices.com.

    David Ciccarelli:
    And we can only do this together. So all of the things that we talked about today, I welcome your feedback. There’s a couple of ways you can do that. For sure, go read the blog post. There’s a webinar that’s going to be available, there’s a recording as well too. So make sure you’ve checked out all of that material, but definitely read the rate sheet and see what those improvements are. And if you have improvements or recommendations around the rate sheet, you can send them to feedback@voices.com or there’s a little widget on the side of every page. You’ve probably noticed it. There’s a little button there that says feedback, and you can just pop open that window, rate your experience from frowny face to happy face and type out maybe how we could make it better for you. So feedback@voices.com or that little feedback widget. Of course you can email me personally, david@voices.com. And we’re going to take all of that input and feedback from you to continually make your experience better.

    David Ciccarelli:
    So this actually brings us to the end of season one of the Voices experience. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know me a little bit better, getting to learn about the industry, allowing me to be your guide as you navigate this platform and giving us the opportunity to help you be successful. Now, I’d also love to hear your ideas for season two. And what would you like to hear? What do you want to learn about? Should we have some special guests on? Who might those guests be? So let me know, by sending your
    ideas for season two to david@voices.com.


    David Ciccarelli:
    Now, if you enjoyed the first season, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts. It only takes a second, it lets us know that you’re listening, it also lets us know that you’re liking what you’re hearing, the format’s working for you. So let us know through a review on Apple Podcasts. And speaking of Apple podcasts, if you haven’t subscribed yet, be sure to do so. You can just launch Apple Podcasts, either the installed app or going to the website of Apple Podcasts. You can go to Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you’re listening right now. Be sure to subscribe so you can get caught up on the past episodes, download it all to your app, or also be ready for season two. So until then, I really hope that you continue to be successful in your career and always be sure to use your voice to inform, entertain, and inspire the world.

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