The following was a series of comments left by my friend and Voice Over Guru David Kersten.
The comments were left at the previous Blog post :
I found them very informative and I thought you might too:
There is a counter argument to using the economic crisis as an excuse to delay payment, and that is to insist on earlier payment as you don’t even know if they’ll still be in business next week or the week after! The last thing you want to do is take in number and stand in line for your payment should your client become insolvent.
Seriously though, I don’t haggle much on price either, if at all. My rate is generally not negotiable… Seriously. I’ve found that most will just try it out because they have a certain perception of voiceover artists being there with their freelance, itinerant, gypsy caps in hand, desperately pleadingly in need of work. A polite but very firm, if at times awkward, ‘no’ soon puts an end to that and is also able to invert that perception. Suddenly you become something… special. Perhaps even, heaven forbid… good. A logical explanation as to how that rate was arrived at also helps.
I’m of the belief it’s the quality of the client that matters most. Both rates and terms can be adjusted according to the relationship I have with the client, the frequency of the work and the kind of income that work generates for me. Net 30 is my standard, Net 60 seldom happens and I have generally refused work when told this is their payment policy.
The excuse of not paying me until they get paid is unfortunately heard all too often, coming mostly from agents and production houses, but again, it’s from the perception of the voiceover needing to be grateful for having got the work in the first place. I find this stance arrogant and patronising, as they have forgotten how essential you are to their business. A little gratitude and respect would be appreciated rather than their matronly dictating the terms of how they intend to pay. Don’t forget, without you, and others like you, they’re out of business. My response generally is to make it clear that if they can’t afford to pay me they shouldn’t book me. Credit terms are for me to determine, not for them.
Still, I will at times agree to Net 60 for certain clients if only for the reasons already mentioned — frequency of work, how well it pays, not needing to pursue payment, and how well I get along with them.
With new clients my credit terms are the standard 30 days if they are local as it’s unwise to offer different terms to different people who may perhaps meet or know each other and have the opportunity to compare notes. I’ll insist on payment up front, usually before I step in the booth, from clients I’ve had complications with in the past, especially as regards payment.
All online work is delivery after payment. I don’t let anything go until I’m paid first. The client has the opportunity to hear the recording by way of a watermarked audio link but that’s as far as it goes. Once it’s approved and paid for I then fire off the file.
Oh, and I won’t be offering discounts for earlier payments. I’d be surprised if it actually works as an incentive and besides, it’s really going to mess with paperwork that I’m loathe to do, especially towards the end of the financial year.
Sorry to chew your ear off. I promise not to carry on this time. Being able to type quickly makes such rants easier very likely to happen. 😉
Everyone has strengths as a VO. Anyone who doesn’t better do something else or are just going to have to make do with peanuts (by undercutting those who have strengths).
A buyer will always try to get the best price. Their undervaluing a VO’s product is the easiest way for them to do that by playing to insecurities and the talent’s perceived desperation.
It’s up to the VO to not let that happen. If the VO has strengths, which they all should, then they brand themselves accordingly or, on the other hand, if they have no strengths then what they mainly have to build on is price… and by how far they can cut it down.
As for payment methods, I also work for different parts of the world and have generally found PayPal to be universal. Frankly, I hate it as I’ve been dicked around a few times by PP (a client depositing funds then PP withdrawing them and charging ME for the trouble!), and I’ve also hit a few speed bumps and snags from time to time, as you know, but ultimately that’s more often to do with the client and their inability to make their credibility clear to PP, ie. hotmail accounts, current location a different country to home address, etc. I doubt that would be any easier with anybody else.
I have, nevertheless, signed up to those other payment methods you had advised, like Moneybookers, but have yet to use them. And nobody’s asking for them. PayPal is still the simplest and easiest, for me at least.
Your story is a good read and food for thought, as always, Taj.
btw… hope this wasn’t too long. :\
One more thing…
What truly lies at the heart of this is that most agents and production houses, and practically all clients, just can’t come to terms with the kind of money we get paid for what, to them, seems to be such little effort.
So there is an element of jealousy and resentment as far as the agents and production houses are concerned, as they’re often putting in long hours of hard work and seriously demeaning kowtowing for what seems to be significantly less reward. As for the client, if they’re not sheepishly intimidated be the bewildering world of ‘creatives’ their response is generally one of, well, sheer disbelief!
What’s not understood though is that our skills are not only natural-born, God-given talent but also an ability and craft honed over years, if not decades. All of that blood, sweat, tears and history wades into the voiceover booth for that 30 second recording. It has to count for something.
A little Economics 101 soon helps explain all this — supply and demand. Ours is a highly specialised skill. But that’s applicable only to the time spent recording. What about the rest of the time? What about all those empty hours of doing… nothing? Should that be considered a free-time?
No, it comes at a cost that’s factored into the equation. Why?
While production people seem more than masochistically willing to work non-stop round the clock, most clients I’ve known definitely do not want to be in a recording studio at 11pm on a Friday night because the VO has a full-time Monday to Friday gig. A professional VO is a full-time career. Making yourself available, often at short notice, is also what factors into and contributes to the cost. So the client can have his job done within an hour or two and not at midnight on the weekend.
Yet all they ever see is the easy money for little effort.
It’s also the reason why the industry is saturated with so many non-professionals and wannabes who are just looking for an easy buck. It’s a career path not unlike actor, model, filmmaker, artist, photographer and writer. Telling people you are one, while waiting for the next welfare cheque, is all that’s required.
Client perception of our profession is tainted by this. But when they hear a real pro they soon learn the difference.
Okay, I know… I’m ranting again.
(Leave some comments if you agree …. disagree or would just like to argue.)
David made a number of excellent points. He’s right: some clients just can’t come to terms with the kind of money we get paid for what, to them, seems to be such little effort.
Voice-over professionals make what they do sound so natural and easy, no wonder why so many people believe anyone could pull that off. In reality, voice-over artists are no different than other performers or athletes. When people hear a great pianist play or watch a well-know sports star at the top of her game, they usually don’t think of all the years these pros had to put in, in order to get where they are now. As they say: it usually takes many years to become an overnight success!
Over the years, I have become more firm with clients that aren’t willing to pay reasonable rates, and more intolerant with ‘colleagues’ who operate as if they have no clue what those rates might be. I agree with David that we’re in the driver’s seat. That’s why I have clear Terms & Conditions, and if the client refuses to sign on the dotted line, that’s a big red flag. In general it’s always better to agree on the terms upfront. Trying to negotiate something after the fact is virtually impossible.
Having said that, I must admit that I am also willing to be a bit more flexible if I have established a longer term relationship with a client and if the project is more or less ongoing. But those projects are far and few. Trust is essential, but it needs to be earned first. I also have to admit that I have a weak spot for non-profits which, from a business perspective, I probably shouldn’t have.
Because people are working for a respectable cause, doesn’t automatically mean that they will treat you with respect. Being a nice and decent person and working for a charity are two different things. In fact, I noticed more than once that they will abuse the sympathy angle of the charity as an excuse to jerk you around (pardon the language). First they guilt-trip you into accepting a lower fee. Secondly, when it’s time to pay, there’s delay after delay.
What’s the best weapon to deal with these situations? Well, first of all we should educate ourselves, then our clients and our colleagues. If we proclaim to be a pro, we should act like a pro. Unfortunately, as David mentioned, this line of work is infested with amateurs who are willing to work for a few bucks because their mortgage doesn’t depend on it. Clients take advantage of that. Why? Because they can!
And did I mention the P2P’s yet? You know, the ones that put out handy dandy rate sheets and refuse to uphold these rates, claiming that it’s not their business to make sure their (paying) members get compensated fairly? In my opinion, this has contributed to the erosion of rates, and it has made it harder for voice-overs to put a reasonable price on their services. And with compensation going down, net 15 or net 30 is an interesting but insignificant point.
You know Paul… I think that is what is missing from my business flow. I don’t have a proper terms and conditions sheet.
It also seems that I am crabbier and crabbier in my old age… cause just now I rejected a paypal payment because the client did not respect my wishes and send it as a paypal echeck but as a paypal instant payment. (on incurs a transfer fee from paypal and the other takes 5 day to complete but no deduction).
So what I’m going to do is sit and write up a clear and concise Terms and Conditions sheet before I work with anyone… infact I think I’ll send it to the clients I already have and force them to sign it … since they are forcing me to accept their updated payment policies.
Thanks for your input Paul, always appreciated.
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