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Client Communications Checklist: How to successfully quote & negotiate as a voice actor

Guest post by Voice123's The Booth


A new message from a client pops into your inbox with a little ping!


Your heart starts to race and your eyes eagerly devour the contents.


Loved your corporate sample we want to hire you for this project.’


YES! You landed a great gig!


So, what next?


Well, while it can be hard to fight against the initial enthusiasm to just get started, going in blind can be worse than not landing a job. The message you’ve just received now becomes a key moment for you to set the scene for a smooth process and avoid common miscommunications.


What are some common issues when quoting and negotiating?

A lack of information and misaligned expectations can often lead to miscommunications on project budgets, timeframes, and payments. Then, working with clients is like talking into a one-way radio. You can hear everything on the other side. But you can scream, rant, or talk for hours; no one will ever hear you. And nothing could be more frustrating than not being heard.


Worst-case scenarios: a voice actor doesn’t get paid, gets lowballed, loses a job, and could miss out on an opportunity for additional or steady work from a client. Or a client gets the run-around, misses a deadline, or never ends up with a professional voiceover.


How can these negative situations be avoided?

Some voice actors use voice over contracts or service agreements to get started because there are certain things you must know before you quote. Keep in mind also that quoting can happen at different stages; auditions, bookings, or if the client contacts you directly.


In order to provide a quote in any of these situations, you need to have some key information.


To help you with this, we’ve made a checklist of vital points. Once you tick these boxes, you’re ready to hit the studio!

  • Check if you work for a client in a similar market or industry that could cause a conflict.

  • Ask for the project’s usage, ie. social media, online, broadcast, or non-broadcast.

  • Ask for the project’s duration; 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years, or perpetuity.

  • Ask for a copy of the script prior to negotiating

  • Specify how much you charge for revisions, retakes, rush fees, additional services, and what will happen if the recording doesn’t end up being used.

  • Insist on your payment policy; partial or full payment before delivery for first-time clients, full payment on the same day of delivery, etc.

A key takeaway for clients, in this case, is to contribute to a faster process by providing the above information in the initial project, booking, or message.


“Sometimes it pays to have a conversation with a potential client to clear up any potential issues or confusion. Issues may get resolved faster and relationships can be more established prior to the negotiation.” - Anne Ganguzza

How much should you quote?

You can never go wrong with trusted rate guides like GVAA, Gravy For The Brain, or Union best practices. These guides are used to follow and maintain industry best practices regarding usage, which contributes to the longevity of voice overs. It can also be a good idea to take these guidelines and create your own personal rate guide that you could easily reference when quoting. On this point, Anne notes that it’s vital to research the company before throwing a random number into the conversation. “Make sure to do your research on the company before you simply throw any number out there. Remember that you may not hear back right away from the client. This may or may not be an intentional negotiation tactic. They may just be busy, and they may be in charge of other projects that take up their time.”


And the takeaway is that you shouldn’t “assume that no response is a negative response. Think with a cool clear head, and resist the temptation to push them on a response.”


How can you negotiate when working with clients?

Ideally, a client’s budget matches up with your rates. But if not, don’t be afraid to tactfully negotiate with the client. Clients sometimes have a fixed budget, but there are innumerable cases of voice actors who negotiated successfully by being transparent and educating the client.


Negotiation do’s and don’ts:

  • Don’t sound unsure or come across too strong as this could create the wrong impression.

  • Don’t provide general numbers to a client without an explanation. If you need to increase the fee to cover usage, explain that to the client so that they are aware of what you’re charging them for.

  • Do be 100% sure of your flexibility when it comes to lowering your rates and offering discounts.

  • Do back it up with honest terms like ‘industry rates, standard usage fees, the going rate for this.’

  • Do be prepared for the fact that it just might not work out with this client.

  • Do research and brush up on effective strategies.


 

Anne shares that from her experience “negotiating with a client starts with requesting the appropriate information; the length of final audio time, script, and usage - where and for how long will your voice be used? The very next question should be if they are working with a budget and, if so, what that number is. If they don't come back with a budget, this is where the real negotiation begins.”

 

The key point? “Start your negotiations on the higher side so that you have room to negotiate - and ask if that number fits into their budget. This way you open up the opportunity for them to come back with a counteroffer.”


Now if you’re thinking that’s easier said than done, we completely understand. That’s why we’ve created specific templates that can be copied and tweaked to suit your needs.


Template 1a)


Hi, Name,


Thanks for getting back to me on the usage.


The standard industry rate for ______ that will be used on _____ for ______ is $_____. I realize this may be a bit higher than your budget.


I would be happy to include ______ additional takes and _______ free revisions in this price.


If that works for you, I can get the file delivered to you by ______.



But does this work in real life? Well, Anne remembers that her last medical narration job started out with the potential client emailing a copy of the script as well as the specs. She recalls, “I emailed them back to thank them for the opportunity and asked what their budget was, having the number $550 already decided in my head as the number I would begin negotiations with. They responded with a budget of $1000. I emailed them back and said I can work with that.”


To sum things up, if you follow industry rates and best practices, quoting doesn’t have to be complicated. And when you’re open and confident when negotiating, clients can come to understand and respect what you stand for.


But there’s so much more to communicating with clients. Read the complete Client Communications Checklist For Voice Actors in our Voice123 Voice Over Guide.

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