First off, Smile! You are the voice someone has chosen for their project, and chances are you were one of many who tried out for it! Be excited, validation is the best confidence booster you can get. See, you can do it!! They like you, they really like you!! Once you settle in, make sure you get clear direction from the director or agent on what style they are looking for, what type of sound, and where they want the part to go. Just like any good actor, you need to get the feel of the part! Be professional and deliver what they are looking for.
Well there it is—you’ve come this far. To recap:
We’ve discussed the theory. We’ve considered the tools and the recording environment. You (we hope!) have a clearer understanding of the do’s, the don’ts, and how the industry works. You’re ready and raring to go.
So now what?
Well, the next step is getting down to the nitty-gritty: working with clients, real clients. Here’s where it all boils down to your personality and your attitude so you can start raking in the jobs and building your voiceover career.
Of course, it helps if you know how to get the conversation going. We asked some top talents how they interact with their clients, and here is a summary of their replies:
- 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 can do. 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 reiterate everything you have agreed on, 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.
- I request that the client tell me the format they want, as well as any other materials, such as youtube refs, script, and delivery schedule info. Then I request a PayPal deposit, plus 4% for PayPal transaction fees.
- Ensure you ask questions like: 1. What type of audio file do you want? (.wav, .mp3, etc), and do you have an FTP site? (While FTP servers are fast becoming outdated, some clients may still use them. These days, cloud-sharing apps and platforms like DropBox or Google Drive are more likely) 2. When do you need this? 3. Physical address of the client to put on the invoice (also use this for sending follow-up thank you notes).
- 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 first time. 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.
Put in the hours, invest in your product, upgrade your tech over time, keep your product quality up, market like a mad person, and learn from the successful people.
Now, let’s talk contracts. Sure, it’s true that some people consider a verbal agreement sufficient, we’re inclined to argue that it’s better to be safe than sorry. A contract will help you protect you and your work. A bad contract can cost you not only financially but also in terms of wasted effort and reputation. Getting the right clauses in a contract is incredibly important. Be as detailed and specific as you can. The point here is not to leave gaps in information so the client might have an expectation that they should be getting something that is not written down.
Depending on the size of the project, 1-2 retakes are commonly expected. After that, it’s common to expect an additional 20-50% added, unless it’s the actor’s fault.
Formalities can also become a distraction and you don’t want to find yourself burning hours on contract negotiations. Something that many voice actors do, is that for large projects they take the time to develop a formal contract, but for small projects they use a less formal agreement. Less formal still means that you have to cover all the basics – rates, payment terms, revisions, deadlines, etc.
Here, we’ve listed some clauses we feel you should include:
Respect and manage the client’s expectations. Always.
- Begin with starter information: This is absolutely essential and it should include your client’s legal name (or business name), physical address, billing address (if not the same), contact numbers and email address. You should also add the same information about yourself, so the client knows where they can contact you.
- Fees, rates and billing specifics: A good clause will clearly set out the project fees, taxes, the billing procedure, and how and when you expect to be paid. Will you receive a percentage of the total payment before you begin work? Think long and hard about the rate you’ll charge. After all, you do have to make a living!
- Revisions: Some clients can be very picky. You should include a certain number of revisions after which you will be paid a specified amount per hour or correction. Your time is precious, and you need to include measures in your contract to avoid doing an all but endless amount of unpaid work.
- Scope: Expanding a project is fine, but it can turn into a headache when the client expects you to do more work for the same amount of money. That’s why you need to state in your contract that changes to the scope of work will lead to additional fees. If a client wants something extra, a clause saying that the fee will be negotiated separately will make sure you get paid for everything you deliver.
- Deadline: Establish when you will deliver work to the client. The client may have a deadline in mind but you might feel it can take a bit longer. Negotiate a deadline and set it in the contract; it will help you and your client focus and prevent delays—on both sides.
- Early Termination/Cancellation: For any reason, a client can stop a project, and through no fault of yours you can find yourself having done a lot of work for no compensation. This is where you add a ‘kill fee’ to the contract; an amount prepaid before work begins. That way, although you may not get everything you’d hoped for, you will at least receive something from a cancelled project.
- Confidentiality: This clause can help you protect your business practices. You may want to state in the contract the clients can trust you not to share any of their business information they shared with you to complete your work.
- Non-exclusivity: You are an independent contractor and you must protect your freelancer status. You may feel independent and can work on any project at any time, but some clients may feel differently. Defining your business relationship will free you to work with other clients at the same time and won’t limit you to work on a client’s specific project.
- Indemnity: It may happen that the ultimate client of the project is not your direct client. You are just part of a larger project even without your knowledge. If their larger contract goes wrong for some reason, you don’t want to find yourself in the middle of litigation. This clause would indemnify you against future losses, specifically stating that you’re not an agent of that company. That way, if your client makes a mistake, you won’t be the one paying for it.
- Single Point of Contact: When you work for an agency you may hear from different people. This can be counterproductive to your work (specially in the revision process). Establish one person with whom you discuss project details.
You must always ask the deadline and according to that you have to consider whether to give priority to that project or put it in the queue to others you are already working. The deadline for the customer is very important and must always be respected! Dead or alive 🙂
A good relationship with repeat business will serve your future needs much better.
Your contract is part of your business. Work hard on how you present it (with your branding) and how it comes across (serious, professional, easy to read, etc.). It’s important to protect your work, but also to be professional at all times.
Here’s a template of how a contract could look. This is a general form and is provided for informational purposes. It should not be interpreted as legal advice under any circumstances and should always be scrutinized by your attorney:
Always keep your word.
Printing out a document, signing it, then scanning it and sending it back is just so 20th century! Using the electronic option to sign digital documents will save you time, money, and protect the environment.
New digital solutions for signing, managing, and distributing your contracts (and other important documents) make streamlining your business easier than ever before. Here are five useful apps for signing electronic documents:
- SignatureConfirm: Create a document, ask for a single signature, or require initials on individual sections, pick one recipient for your contract, or as many as you want. Your signature request is sent by email as soon as you’re ready. Your recipients will get an email with a link to view and sign your document. Each recipient gets a unique code created just for them that they can use to digitally sign the contract. Once signed, they can use the same code to come back and look at your contract whenever they want.
- AdobeSign: Formerly EchoSign, Tailor your signing processes to suit your business’s requirements and improve compliance with process steps that can be followed consistently.
- SignNow: Upload any document and mark who needs to sign and where using a simple drag-and-drop interface. Those who need to sign will receive an email link and can sign the contract from their computer, tablet or cell phone. SignNow will notify you when the document is complete.
- HelloSign: This is a Chrome extension, once you install it, every document you receive or send as an attachment in Gmail will have a “Sign” button. Click the “Sign” button to load the HelloSign signature window, sign, and send. You can also choose to download the signed document.
- RightSignature: Upload the documents and contracts you already use, then drag-and-drop the form fields you want those who need to sign fill out, and that’s it! The document is ready to send.
Prepare to be able to deliver what you say you will, when you say you will deliver it. And honor commitments. This all falls under the heading of “service”. Ours is a service industry. If you have a gig booked and another, better-paying job comes along, honor the gig you booked first. Otherwise your brand could suffer. If not being available, or backing out of projects you’ve been hired for becomes a pattern, word will get around. It might take a while, but some of the best voice talent have lost work because eventually no one wanted to work with them. Be a good vendor, and if hiring or subcontracting, be a good client.