Time To Man Up

Sometimes I make an effort to come up with a subject to write about on Taji’s Voice Emporium, and sometimes stuff happens that needs to be shared.

Today I learnt a business lesson the hard way. I broke all the usual rules to please a client and ended up putting myself  between a rock and a hard place.

Mottoes to live by

  1. Don’t Assume anything… assuming makes an ASS out of ME and U.
  2. CYA – Cover Your Ass
  3. When the time comes to do the right thing… Man Up

Pointing Fingers

In business they always tell you that Pointing fingers is a waste of time because by the time you reach the point where you have to point fingers then a disaster has already happened.

Except that pointing fingers is a good way to figure out where the problem happened and at what point in the business process it happened. Pointing fingers is not only something that happens between people but something that you can practice on yourself to audit your business.

The Incident

A client hired me to record an Arabic language script. I reviewed the script and found that it did not conflict with my morals and decided that I could record the job. The client had some technical requirements for the recording like maintaining a specific length to each line. Meaning that he had a time limit for how much time it should take me to say any of the lines… there were 27 separate lines and each line had a time limit from 5 seconds to 21 seconds being the longest.

The client also required that to some degree I imitate the tonality and emphasis of the english voiceover.

Problem is … that between all of these things I forgot to ask about the “Tashkeel” or the Diacritic symbols the designate how some of the words are pronounced.

I had requested this from almost all my clients and most of them have come back with … just read it with as little inflection as possible. They have a term for that in the Arabic VO business… White Arabic (white washed) so I read it as such… never bothered to ask because the client was under a deadline and I was happy that a job came my way because I’ve had a bit of a dry spell.

I assumed

So I made an ass out of myself … now I can point the finger to that point in time and realize that regardless of all the specs the client requested… I must not, EVER assume anything … I must always point stuff out even if its for the five thousandths time.

The Repercussions

The spec list was followed the recordings were made and sent… and the client paid… except that his client reviewed the material and rejected it. In this specific incident the client’s client didn’t ask for the material to be re-recorded correctly… which I would have been glad to do at no further cost to the client.

No they skipped all that and went straight to hiring another voice actor from another agency.

This cushioned my shame… to a certain extent.

So I stood their with egg on my face explaining to the client that hired me why the material was rejected and explaining that its not my job to come up with the “Tashkeel”. I even sent the mail telling him I would refund him part of the fee.

Except that the more I thought about it the more this was an issue of my reputation being tarnished. I worked on something that was no up to the client’s expectation and was not given a chance to correct this mistake.

I could not keep the money.

Manning Up

So I refunded the full payment to the client. I apologized for the inconvenience and in my mind I thought that that was that.

I lost a client and tarnished my reputation.

Five minutes after I sent the refund… the client (based in france) who still did not know that I had refunded the full amount emailed me back tell me to keep the money and that this did not in any way effect my reputation with them… that their client was not acting professionally by not giving me a chance to set things right and going behind their back to hire someone else.

My reply was that the money was already refunded and that I would not be able to live with myself spending money for a sub-par product / service.

or something like that.

its gets a little fuzzy… because through out this whole experience I was in shock. I have had clients email me back asking for fixes… I have had clients email me back asking for modifications … and sometimes when they don’t include “Tashkeel” they email me a script with tashkeel and I rerecord.

At no extra cost.

But nothing like this… this was a slap in the face…and I could not defend myself.

Lessons Learned

I remember having written something about tashkeel on my website… I frantically looked for it … but that page had been forgotten in my recent update to the website.

oh the shame.

So I logged onto my website and added the page again… made it an essential part of the process… “don’t send me scripts without tashkeel if its important to you” otherwise don’t ask for a re-record or a refund.


Learn from my mistake and don’t assume anything, be clear on your website and when something like this happens.

Man up.




  1. Aww Taj… Yeah. I can feel your pain. I think all of us have had some situation crop up that makes us feel like we have egg on our face if we’re in this business long enough. But you know, we learn from our mistakes – as you seem to have done. That’s not just business – that’s humanity.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us!

    And now it’s time for you to move on to brighter things, my friend. 🙂

    All the best, — Jodi

    1. That seems to be my motto sometimes:

      Get up , Dust off, Resume walking

      I was always one of those that learnt from other people’s mistakes, but some experiences you have to face on your own!

      thanks jodi!

  2. Mr. T,

    Ah… assuming. You’d think after all these years we’d learn. Just had a classic case with a client. His direction was simply “warm”. As I’d worked many times with the client and I had a whole whack of other voice jobs to work on, I recorded and sent the files right at deadline. It was close but I could tell he was not happy and I could not do the corrections as I had a day’s worth of live announcing to do (The Evolution of Extreme show – a 17 day gig). So I recommended he hire someone else and did not bill for the work.

    My learning – even though we have signficantly different time zones, in the future we’ll do a phone patch when we don’t have a reference recording.

    Nice to know I’m not alone in the mistakes business :-).


    1. Hey Doug,

      No you are not alone. I figure that nothing teaches you a business life lesson like a spectacular failure. The point is to find benefit from it. I contemplated not sharing this story because of the embarrassment factor… but the truth is that if someone else benefits from this story… then some good came from it.

      Always good to hear from you Mr. de Nance 🙂

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