Good Business Practice

Lately I’ve been dealing with allot of none voice-over realated businesses. Other than being a professional voice-over artist I am also a creative professional (advertising, marketing, design). So more recently I’ve dealt with software developers and programmers.

The conclusion I have come to is that. I don’t like them. Not because they aren’t funny or they aren’t friendly people. The truth of the matter is that they are very savvy with regards to some of their business practices.

But not all.

Their idea of customer service is having a forum up and letting people discuss their issues about the software.

That’s not customer care. That’s just an easy way for you to find out what’s wrong with your software on the cheap and fixing it.

That has got me thinking about my personal business practices and what they could mean to my clients.

The Warning Message

To avoid conflict with a client I start out with a nice long Warning Message. This basically lays the groundwork for what they can and can’t expect of me. I call this section VO Restrictions and as I mentioned in a previous article, most of these rules and regulations are derived from my religious beliefs and personal preferences.

This Magna Carta if you will explains to the client even before they contact me that their job might get rejected.

Which brings me to the other thing that I do.

I reject jobs. I don’t work on everything and everything that comes my way … and that means that on a spiritual level I am content in knowing that my work will not be used in a way that goes against my principles (in as much as there can be control over such things because people have a tendency to lie and cheat and we have to, unfortunately, account for that.

Most importantly … make sure the client is aware of your payment requirements. In the beginning I used to not ask clients for the 4% transfer fee for paypal. After a while I calculated that I lost around $500 in transfer fees to paypal. That’s $500 I could have used to pay for any number of things. So if the client wishes to use the convenience of paying you via Paypal … then he should also pay for the 4% transfer fees that are incurred. Either that or you include them in the initial quoting if you know that this client only pays via paypal.

Understand the Brief

I work from my home studio so I have to be very clear on the client’s instructions which could include:

  • how they would like the files to be cut up (because remember I record in Arabic and 99.9% of my clients don’t understand arabic so they need to be told where each audio file goes).
  • What format audio they would prefer
  • What quality of audio they need.
  • DEADLINE (its so important I wrote it in all caps)
  • The file naming requirement that their company uses while editing their work together.
  • Delivery preference.
  • Even backup preference (some people ask that you keep a copy of the audio as a backup to the job… and will pay you for it).

once you understand all these somewhat logistic requirements and follow them then you still have to following the performance requirements that they have. Which is a whole different possible list altogether:

  • Number of performance takes per unit of work
  • Accent requirements
  • Speed of delivery

Payment Options

One of the more common requests I get from clients is English to Arabic translation. Thankfully I am terrible at anything but the most rudimentary forms of translation so I usually just get them in contact with a lady who’s work I approve and who is fast and precise.

The only problem with her is that she doesn’t accept payment except through bank transfers and Western Union.

For some reason clients don’t like Western union and the norm among translators is that you pay upfront for the translation work. So waiting a few days for a bank transfer is not really an option for a client who is in a hurry.

Now this shortcoming isn’t really her fault. It’s Paypal’s. You see paypal is not available in Egypt. You can’t open a paypal account here which means that even if you have clients, you will probably lose them because there is no way for them to pay you.

I am constantly looking for new payment methods to add to my existing list.

For Canadian clients I offer Interac a low cost email money transfer between canadian banks.

For American clients they have a choice of Paypal, Moneybookers, Payoneer, Western Union, SWIFT bank transfer.  ( and if you know any other good ones… please leave a comment with the information on them).

Delivery Times

That really depends on how bogged down with work you are. I generally like to deliver the work early because I hate feeling like I’m going to miss a deadline.

But there have been instances when my original time of completion assessment was faulty and I’ve asked for an extension of half a day or at worst a day.

Make sure you have a good internet connection because there is nothing more frustrating than trying to upload something and suddenly getting cut off and having to start the upload process again from the beginning.

Use a wired computer (one that is hard wired into your router) because if you are connected wirelessly to a router uploading an important file and someone decided to heat something in the microwave… you could very possibly get cut off and need to re-upload the work.

Customer Satisfaction

Once a client has paid you… don’t think that that is the end of your relationship. Unless your experience with them was so bad that you no longer wish to deal with them… that is a whole different ball game.

What we’re discussing now is followup. You need to ask the client for feedback on the experience. You need to ask them what you can improve and what services you think would be more helpful for them.

Ultimately you need to go above and beyond so that they will appreciate what no one else will do for them.

In one case I had a client come back to me after a week of delivery of work and payment received telling me that his client wanted yet another read.

So I did … at no cost.

2 birds, 1 stone.

Your Thoughts

Tell me what you do to improve customer relations. Whether its a newsletter or followup phone calls. Whether its updates or christimas cards.  List them all!