VoiceOverXtra Interview / Part 2
Rick Gordon: ‘Don’t Squeeze Your
Clients’ & ‘Set Terms Up Front’
By John Florian
©2009 VoiceOverXtra LLC
Jan. 13, 2009
In a 35-year career spanning broadcasting, voice-overs and today’s operation of online voice-over casting companies, Rick Gordon has seen and learned a thing or two.
Part 1 of our interview with Rick explores his career and the casting sites, Commercial Voices.com and E-LearningVoices.com. He also discusses reasons for today’s explosive growth in e-Learning voice-over projects.
Part 2, below, delivers the nitty-gritty of how to please voice-over customers to hang onto their business and get referrals. Rick also advises setting terms up front to ensure everyone is following the same business script …
Rick, going into the new year, do you have general advice for voice actors?
I would say, first, don’t squeeze the new client because you know he needs you.
In other words, you’ve done the project and then a week or two or a month later the client calls to say, “Oh, by the way, we changed this, and we did a re-write here, and need you to fix it.”
Well, don’t squeeze the client. Give him the same rate as before – or even do it for free. Don’t threaten a client with another invoice, unless of course, it’s warranted.
If he’s rewritten three pages, certainly you will have a meeting of the minds and charge appropriately. But don’t overcharge, or you will be written off.
So you’re more likely to keep that client.
Yes, and you want referrals. There is very seldom just one person involved with a project. Most often, there is half a dozen or more, and if you get in good with one of the creative people, then he will recommend you to the other guy that sits in the next cubicle.
So then you acquire an additional client and maybe a whole new target market.
You know, they might say, “Well, John Florian is a really good guy to deal with, if you have an emergency, he’ll record it for you at 10 o’clock tonight, no problem.”
And that’s what you want.
Beautiful. Build relationships.
Of course. And keep in mind that your client may have many, many problems bigger than your piece of the project.
So make sure your voice-over is done right, and that everybody is happy so your phone will ring again, your doorbell will ring again, and your e-mail will plink again.
Your name is just as important – and may be more important – than your voice-over talents.
How do you mean?
In the service that you provide. Many production people, whether they be in e-Learning, commercial production, PowerPoint – or any kind of production using audio – well, many of these people are tone deaf.
They really don’t know the difference between a good voice and a great voice and a mediocre voice. They just say, “That sounds good to me, I understood it, so I’m fine.”
But a producer with a lot of experience will know the difference. So you want to make sure that you satisfy both of those entities. Satisfy the producer with the best quality voice.
You also want to be the nicest guy to deal with – this guy’s best friend, buddy.
Let him know, “If you need me Sunday night at 11 o’clock, give me a call, I’ll be there, I’ll do it.” Because he’s probably working that late on it.
You want to establish relationships like that. Be known for that, and don’t worry about the money, because the money will come along.
What if you’re swamped with work, or have other obligations at the time?
Don’t worry if you ever have a problem with providing that response.
You can say, “Gee, I’ve got a really bad cold, I don’t think I’m going to be good until next week.”
The guy might then say, “I’m going to contact the client and get the project delayed until next week when you’re feeling better.”
Also be very, very patient. Projects can be very lengthy to create. For instance, a lot of work is done on an E-learning project before it even gets to you.
There have been many, many, many people involved – and perhaps multiple rewrites.
Just contribute and don’t make noise.
At what stage of a big project like that would the voice talent be contacted, or would they start auditioning voice talent?
Usually, the project is over halfway completed when they start auditioning for a voice talent, and in many cases, the script has already been written and approved.
Of course, the voice talent may, with permission, ask to contribute to the script. If he sees something drastically wrong, he should in a very, very business-like, gentlemanly, courteous manner tell a creator, “Say, I think the wording is incorrect here.”
Or suggest voicing something a bit differently, such as in shorter sentences. You might suggest recording an alternate version to send to the client with the original.
Have you done this?
Oh, yes many times. Because people make mistakes. They are under crucial deadlines to contribute, to make something.
So the bottom line is to contribute, don’t make noise, just do your job, get it done, and then don’t ever, ever think of gouging.
Don’t ever think of going back up on the rate, or you will be out of work forever.
SET TERMS UP FRONT
Any other advice?
Yes, about billing your client – especially for long-term e-Learning projects.
I’ve had projects that have lasted over nine months, yet at the onset the client said that it would take six months. Every month I get something to add to this thing, but at this point it’s re-billed each time it’s added.
So get the details on billing when you start negotiating the project.
What details do you consider? What do you ask?
Get the terms and when they are going to make payment. If it’s a long project, for instance, when you will be paid in full?
Make sure you tell them that for small problems or mistakes, you’ll do the additional work at no extra charge. But to re-record a half a page, you’ll have to charge at the original payment level.
Also keep a paper trail of everything – of every email. Make a folder in your Outlook or wherever you keep correspondence, just in case there are any flies in the ointment at the end of the project.
For example, some projects are so long that the original creator moves onto another job when it’s half complete, and the person who takes over is totally lost.
And don’t forget that after you finish your audio, the final production could be months away. You may wonder, how did it go? And they’ll reply, “Oh, we haven’t even shown it to the client yet, we’re not showing it to them until March of next year.”
Rick, thanks for sharing so much of your time and expertise.
Rick Gordon may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org; 613-257-7425 (within North America), or 0016132577425 (outside North America).