With a side of Shame and a medium Guiltshake
The Downside of the Upside
Photo by Tanja Bruckner, 2017.
Free Work. I like to do it as much as I like having my eye poked out with a searing hot firebrand. It's not that I'm uncharitable or a hardened cynic, don't care or don't have time, it's just that I don't want to.
Especially in the case of pickups, when it’s been a really long time since I recorded the original content, I’ve received payment, and we’ve both gone on our merry way since then. When the client comes back and asks for just a few teency weency pickups for free, I truly get a pain I can’t locate.
More to the point, it’s particularly irritating when any client also happens to throw in “We have very little budget for this” which are of course the most favorite words any contractor can ever hear. My favorite clients are the ones that can’t pay me anything at all - but I’m sure you feel the same. They humbly request my holiest charity mindset. Little do they know that I’ve flipped that switch to “off” and ripped out the wall cabling long ago.
With a cringe and a specially perfected eye-roll, the first response that I’m inclined to provide is, “Why yes, I’d be more than happy to have you take advantage of me – thanks!” Their exuberant reply is sure to include:
- “Great! We knew you’d see reason”
- “Here’s the script. There might be a few changes” which means the same thing as “Here’s the script. There will be an incredible amount of burdensome changes that will require you to record and then re-record and then re-re-re-re-record everything all over again. Thank you once again for your holiest charity mindset.”
- “You are doing the right thing” which means the same thing as “You will never escape my clutches and I have hereunto obtained you as my servant for all eternity. Please drive this awl through your earlobe.”
Next, I receive their copy, which is of course riddled with typos and pronunciations of names or nouns that could be pronounced no less than exactly thirty-six different ways. And, of course, there’s the end tags that they want to be able to cover multiple markets, and would like me to record for free. What’s that, Josh? Those cost extra? You mean you want to receive revenue for the professional work that you do? Bwwaaah-hahahahaha-hahahaha!!
I’ve written about this before in my previous world-changing blog entitled “Thank goodness I only do voiceovers for exposure.” Did you read this blog? It almost won a Pulitzer Prize, saved millions from starvation, brought about a payment revolution for freelancers everywhere, and made Jesus want to return early because finally people got it. Seriously: read it. I’ll wait.
So how do I make it easier for myself?
The point in all this is that clients who undervalue you, or approach you with a predetermined limited budget based on their own valuation of your services, are not the types of clients you want, and you would be better served to pour hot molten lava over their telephones and weld plate steel over their mouths in order to prevent such requests from coming your way again. A rather violent and police-inviting solution? Perhaps. But at least you won’t have to roll your eyes anymore.
In his marvelous and required-reading book “Making Money in your PJ’s”, Paul Strikwerda is quoted as saying that there are clients that “expect a gourmet meal at a fast food price and at drive-through speed.” Such clients irritate me. I highly recommend you purchase Paul’s book. Right after you purchase mine of course.
I recently had to deal with such a client who has, for each of the three times they’ve approached me, explained in detail how they don’t have much of a budget for this, times are tough, their children were just abducted by ravens, the mob found them yet again, and they are currently calling me with their voiceover requests while falling down an endless mine shaft. (I had wondered what that sound of rushing wind was.) In any event, their pathetic pleas did not reach my heart, which has now been reinforced with cement and impenetrable guilt-proof ray-shielding. My response was “I do have my minimum session fee, and good luck with your mine shaft.”
In the end, they paid my minimum session fee, and I think there was a trampoline at the bottom of the mine shaft, so it turned out well for both of us.
But seriously - what can we do to handle those pick-ups and make it worth our while? Here’s how I do it, and this is the irrefutable way, so prepare to be world-rocked:
- Make sure to save the original files and settings from the first recordings
- Have a contract in place that specifies that if the word count is under a certain percentage (say, 1%?) of the original script, it’s free. If it’s over 50%, then it’s 50% of the original script charge. If it’s over 75%, then I change my legal name to Rumpelstiltskin and your child is mine. I can promise you that I don’t get Imposter Syndrome, and your child shall be mine. *Insert maniacal laugh trailing off into an unguessable distance here*
And those clients who want you to work out of the kindness of your heart? Prepare to be world-rocked again:
- Explain to them that your voice is like a pilot of an airplane. That your voice is in fact the pilot who takes their message somewhere. That ultimately, they are entrusting their very message to you, and your services are immeasurably valuable in order to reach their target audience. It’s your voice that is representing their brand, and you’ve been doing this for years, so you have earned the right to charge professional fees. At some point in your explanation, discover that they have hung up.
- When the client decides to brandish their “I can just go to Fiverr, but we’d rather use you” sword, carefully articulate that the client can indeed go to Fiverr, which is essentially the same place as Wal-Mart, where you find bargain basement pricing, unprofessional hobbyists, and nut-jobs who wear fish-net kilts and say things like “Does this mask make me look fat?” I was just in Wal-Mart recently, and I am not kidding: Someone actually said this.
- For that one wonderful client who springs the non-profit argument, that they don’t in fact have a budget for these sorts of things and that they are currently being eaten by giant salamanders so can I please just provide free voiceover services, get ready. Say the following, in this exact order: “Sir, A rough estimate of annual nonprofit sector marketing spending puts it at $6 billion. You aren’t fooling anyone. Nonprofits are spending an average of 4 cents on digital advertising for every $1 raised online last year and almost 70 percent of those advertising budgets were devoted to lead generation and new donor acquisition. So, good sir, I DO think you have a budget for these sorts of things, and I resent the fact that you are overinflating this “help a good cause” approach and in so doing attempting to get me to lower my rates so that you can keep your four cents. Good day to you, you cotton-headed ninny muggins! Get ‘em, salamander, get ‘em!” Please note however that calling clients names generally ensures that you will not receive a voiceover job from them.
In the end, there will always be those people out there who want something of high value for free. Rather than be taken advantage of myself, I just encourage them to become a burglar.
NOTE: This blog is purely for commentary / educational purposes. I make no money from these blogs; though I do not refuse large cash gifts if it means I can pretend I'm a church.
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