Working

We asked the voice talent below,  the following questions, and yielded the following responses:

  • Scott Pollak
  • Adam Behr
  • Keisha Dutes (aka Tasty Keish)
  • J.S. Gilbert
  • Amy Snively
  • Zurek
  • Michelle Falzon

How do you kickstart a project after you have been hired?

  • I request that the client tell me the format the want, as well as any other matrials, such as youtube refs, script, and delivery schedule info. Then I request a paypal deposit, plus 4% for paypal.
  • I try to learn more about the project or the company so that I can identify with it more. The more I know, the better job I do.
  • Normally I make all necessary arrangements for my client. If My ISDN isn’t available I forward all info to my client of the local studio I use for ISDN sessions. This way the client sees the you are dependable, proactive and a team player.
  • I think it’s very important to make sure that communication is rock solid. Sometimes things pop up or may change due to necessity, which is why it’s very important to clearly have things stated.
  • A simple email to the client, whereby you restate everything you have agreed upon as you see it, asking them to make any necessary changes or additions or to simply say they agree and send it back is generally the best solution. In some cases, an actual written agreement listing the scope of work may be important. Don’t forget to spell out payment terms, as well as what additional charges might be if the volume of work increases, etc.
  • Generally you don’t have to. Usually the clients are good about contacting you, sending you the script, discussing recording time frames, etc. However, sometimes you DO have to initiate some contact with the client. Often you need to be sure to ask questions such as: 1. What type of audio file do you want? (e.g.: .wav, .mp3, etc), and do you have an FTP site?  2. When do you need this?  3. Physical address of the client to put on the invoice (I also use it for sending follow-up thank you notes)
  • I immediately thank them and, depending on the site used to contact me, I give them my personal email address and phone number. I have created my own “Project Form” that has a bullet list of questions for every client. These questions are:
  1. Deadline?
  2. Audio format required?
  3. Client contact info and who is my project contact for questions?
  4. Will music or EFX be needed?
  5. Agreement on budget and how will final payment be made?
  6. Any notes on VO delivery from the client?

What are your policies for re-takes, or what do you recommend?

  • There are several: I normally offer one round of free pickups, EXCLUDING any new or modified script, which must be charged for. I normally request a minimum of 20% for re-takes that result from new or modified script, plus a further 10% of the total for each additional 10% OR PART of the total script that requires re-takes.
  • I try to ensure that I send the best possible takes. I try to make sure to ask for clear direction so that I nail the voice and tone. If I have to do retakes I state that I will retake the whole project once included in the price negotiated. Anything else is on them.
  • For me, I look at re-takes as ‘studio time.’ If the clients wants you, he/she will compensate you fairly for your time.
  • Since the format is considerably different than working in studio, my policies are usually quite forgiving for work that I do where I am not being directed via phone patch, Skype or ISDN. Re-takes are usually my fault for whatever reason. If within the re-take (pick-up session as it is more commonly called) there are significant amounts of new work, then this must be addressed. Whether there is an additional charge for this work or not is dictated by numerous factors, including whether the work is ongoing, who the client is, how close to my asking rate I received, etc. If the client has nickeled and dimed me, then my usual reaction is to do unto others as they have done unto me.
  • I go into a project with the understanding that a REASONABLE amount of retakes MAY be included, depending on the length of the project and the budget. I think the best approach is to first see how large the project is and then discuss a policy on retakes with the client. Offer a few retakes of several lines each at no additional charge, but if you get into requests for substantial retakes, discuss with the client before doing them what you’ll need to charge, due to the amount of additional work involved. Also, if retakes are required due to client script changes after-the-fact, I use the same policy: A few lines? No big deal? A few paragraphs? (or pages!), now we talk price.
  • Re-takes, as long as they are excessive, are usually fine with me. However, if the revision requests are a fault of the client and involve a substantial amount of extra work, I have to charge for that.

Do you have a standard contract or agreement you use for all clients? If so, can you share some of the verbiage?

Contract example #1 :

1) $x will be fine for x minutes in ONE session/order , including one round of pickups free. Any extra over x minutes will be pro-rated by 10 % or part, ( in other words, for example any extra between x minutes 1 sec – x minutes 59 secs will be an extra $x , etc)

2) Script Changes: The one free round of pickups will NOT include CHANGES in script or new script , which will be charged for separately. Also 10 % at a time for anything under 10% of the total script, for example , one or two new lines is still 10% extra charge.

3) Format: Please let me know what format you want it on ( wav, mp3, aiff)

4) Total without script changes or extra time is USD plus 4% for paypal, paypal is : xxxx@xxxx.com

5) PLEASE SUPPLY A WORKING EMAIL ADDRESS to send the files to, via yousendit.

6)The way I work is to request 50% by Paypal to start, then I send file 1 of 2 which is most of the work, the once I receive the second and final payment , I then send the last small file.

Contract example #2:

  • A perfect example is my radio imaging contract, $XXX per month – 4 pages per month, Size 14 ALL CAPS font and double lined script. Extra pages are $200 to read, and emergencies are $100 extra.

Those working without contract:

  • I don’t have a standard contract but I’m seeing now how important it is to have one. And when I do, it will include delivery of the finished product as part of payment. Even though most voice seekers promise to send you a copy, some never do and you never hear from them again. I think the only solution is to make them as accountable as possible.
  • Since I am not allowed to practice law, I am a little hesitant to offer this information. I would also suggest that you walk lightly in this regards to and make sure to include language that insists that the talent get an actual legal opinion before using any of these suggestions, in particular contracts or agreements.
  • In 10 years of professional voice work I’ve never had the need to use a contract or agreement with my clients. I always treat them the way I want to be treated and have never gotten burned. My first priority is to get the best possible audio product to them as quickly as possible, make sure they’re happy with what I’ve given them, and then work out any other issues (if any), before rendering an invoice. The exception is if the project is large enough that a down-payment or partial payment is in the best interest of everyone. Then I issue an initial invoice showing the required down payment, the remaining balance that will be due, and what my requested payment terms are.
  • Believe it or not, I don’t have a contract I use. I just put everything in writing via email and keep the response within a client file.

What are your opinions of ISDN and Phone Patch?

  • They work great if the client knows what the want. It is important that the studio you are working in has good lines so there are no distracting technical problems. I use Skype mostly, it’s very good for phone patch and you can conference people in from different locations, all free.
  • I haven’t had to yet. It could be a reflection of the times, but I can just use my computer and send the files over right after.
  • ISDN assures the client the he/she will get their project real-time, and if tweaks need to made the audio engineer can help on the spot. With Phone Patch, while it is convenient can be very deceiving if the client isn’t aware of the a talent’s audio setup. Phone patch can be your best friend if your client is a returning customer.
  • The higher paying gigs tend to work this way. The problem occurs when people don’t respect appointment times. The thought process is that since the ISDN line or phone patch is in my home studio, that the client needn’t adhere to a strict schedule of time. I will usually insist that if the client is late in calling, I will need to charge some sort of fee for my time waiting. And whenever possible I do try and get the client to agree to pay something for my having an ISDN line. Usually when I am working with a decent-sized ad agency and/or union gig, there is a fee for the studio. Although I also understand that in many cases, this cost would be considered an expense they may not incur, if hiring local talent. I certainly do not push the agenda.
  • I get almost no requests for ISDN any more. For the few that do, I have access to a studio where I use THEIR ISDN lines. For phone patch, which I DO use with some degree of regularity, I use a simple speaker-phone setup and it works just fine.
  • If you can afford it, great! I currently do not have this capability. It usually is not a problem. However, I definitely will be looking into one of these options within the year.

Do you ever find yourself getting creative if something breaks down at home? What do you do about it?

  • Yes, of course, I have several backup plans, including a separate complete chain, and also a micro-track which is a great field solution.
  • If something breaks down, I freak out first. Then, I try to borrow whatever I need from a friend, computer, microphone, etc. One time, I recorded underneath a bunch of jackets because I was away from my home studio, and the client needed it the next day. I needed to make a soundproof coat cocoon.
  • When my cable is off, I rely on my USB-modem and that isn’t available I tether from my phone’s network. If I am on the run, I save all audio onto my phone’s hard-drive and send audio via email from my smart phone.
  • I am luck in that I have numerous redundant systems. I have resorted to creativity on several occasions. I would suggest that serious talent have at least one backup computer, microphone and interface they can rely upon, just in case. I also have several battery backups and my cell phone can be tethered to allow for Internet access on my main computers, should I lose home Internet service.
  • Unfortunately I’ve had to when either a computer crashes or a mixer dies. Fortunately, I have several computers in the house to pull from as well as my previous audio mixer should I need it. But my number one piece of advice to anyone is to use a service like Carbonite for automatic file backup.
  • Well, out of complete paranoia, I just ordered a new microphone just “in case”. Murphy’s Law can go into effect at any moment, so I have backup equipment. This year, I will be buying a generator as well. I also archive all of my work on an external hard drive and make backups regularly. One time, I put off doing a backup and lost 17GB of audio. Painful lesson!

Do you record audio and deliver files when working on the road?

  • I try not to do VO work away from home because you can’t gauge the noise levels the same as you would at home. But the times I had to, I set up my mic and laptop just the same and it’s a matter of finding a quiet space to record. I deliver it via internet in the file extention they preferred or ftp if they have one.
  • On the road I use Sennheiser 416 mic, into a MicPort Pro and into my Dell mini USB slot. For sending files I usually my PDA Net tethering app on my Android phone which serves as a modem for my computer on the road.
  • Either a Toshiba 15″ computer, with a MicPort Pro and either Sennheiser 416 microphone or modified Oktava 319. I also have a tiny Windows 7 computer. It’s a clamshell Vaio, that can fit in my pocket. My entire recording setup can fit in a coat pocket. I currently own an Android phone, which unfortunately is lagging behind the iPhone with regards to audio capabilities. When 4G is available from Verizon later this year, I will make a determination as to whether I will switch to the iPhone, which along with an acceptable mic interface might become my travelling v.o. rig.
  • I try not to anymore since audio quality suffers. But when I DID do it, I toted my laptop and mic, and a small MBox specifically for use on the road (I don’t use the MBox at home). I’d request a hotel room away from the highway and sometimes set up a little ‘cave’ created of couch cushions and pillows to try to create something of an acoustically dead space. But again, it didn’t really work well and so now I try never to record on the road if at all possible.
  • Laptop, Harlan Hogan Porta-booth, Samson CO1U USB plug-in mic (say what you will about USB mics, this one rocks. I don’t care what anyone says. The Samson CO1U USB Mic is $100.00 and sounds better than a lot of $400.00 mics out there), YouSendIt FTP.

What to take away from the answers above? It is plain to see that voiceover talent getting work online are industrious, creative, tech savvy, business savvy, artistic, and above all…flexible. The answers above truly display what it means to be a ‘DIY’ (do-it-yourself) voice talent.

NEXT: CHAPTER 8 – ACCOUNTING AND TAXES

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