In the last few days, I have enjoyed reading my friend Dave Courvoisier’s excellent 3-part series of blog articles about setting rates. When I saw the comments about not leaving money on the table when negotiating the price of a voice-over job, I remembered some unrelated advice given to me by my hair stylist. You might wonder how a hair stylist could help a voice talent, but we’re both business owners. I decided to dig up and publish my entries from my journal from that day as her advice is sure to help other voiceover artists.
Saturday, 25 January 2003
We went to get our hair cut. As I was sitting with wet hair and wearing my lovely vinyl smock, my phone rang. I thought and hoped it might be someone calling about my Prelude harp since I posted ads to sell it just this morning.
Nope. It was [client], calling about the sound files. He was trying to compress them and was getting a hissing sound. I felt bad that I didn’t do any file reduction before I sent them to him. I sent him what he asked for — CD audio. He didn’t specify the sampling rate or resolution. I told him I’d try to help him when I got home. By the time I got here, I had an email from him saying that they had converted the files.
Sunday 26 January 2003
I was worrying over [client’s] phone call yesterday while Theresa was cutting my hair. She said she understood exactly how I felt. She equated [client’s] call to me as being like one of her customers deciding they didn’t like the hair color they asked for, which would cause Theresa to have to use more product and spend time she hadn’t planned. She wouldn’t get any more money for the job, but she would make the customer happy.
Theresa advised me to create a manual that would include my procedures for different types of projects and questions I should ask. She hit the nail on the head when she said my business is in a growth phase. Even though I had been planning for it for quite a while, it’s still hard to be fully prepared for every circumstance that crops up.
I feel this whole experience with [client] is a valuable learning experience from an operational standpoint. My manual should help me to remember to ask or do:
1) to see the script before agreeing to a final price
2) ask the client how big the final file size should be
3) if I know the files are going on a phone system, I should create smaller files before sending them to the client
I’ve also been reminded in the past week:
4) When someone asks me for a quote, I should ask them first if they have a budget and a timeframe in mind.
Even though it’s been 7 years since Theresa advised me to devise a manual, I continue to write down numerous operational aspects of my voice-over projects, such as:
- When doing an audition, I scribble the “Moment before” on the script so that I can get back to the same frame of mind if I’m selected for the job.
- I note the method of file transmission that a client prefers. Some people want to receive files in e-mail, while others prefer services like YouSendIt.com and Dropbox.com.
- If I use music from my royalty-free library, I list the disc and cut that I selected. For podcasts, I also include the cues and timing in the music to maintain consistent intro and outro segments.
Writing my procedures allows me to spend more quality time producing my recordings.
As for the rates question that started this trip down memory lane, I want to add one thing. Asking people if they have a budget and timeframe (#4 from my journal entry) immediately weeds out those who are seriously interested in hiring me from those who want me to record for “exposure”. In fact, just last week, someone proposed that I do voiceover projects for them in exchange for a link on their web site. After asking them about their budget, it’s no surprise to me that I didn’t receive a reply.
Photo: iStockPhoto.com/Gerry Hernandez