What Clients Hate The Most

SurpriseOkay, this may sound like a pop quiz, but are you a go-with-the-flow person, or do you like to plan everything out?

Do you like surprises, or do you prefer to know what will happen next?

How well do you handle uncertainty, and last-minute changes?

Personally, I think life would be unexciting without the unexpected. I like not knowing what I will get for my birthday. I love to give a chef free rein, as he creates a special dish for me. I purposefully seek out new ideas and uncharted avenues. It keeps the brain cells bouncing around in playful anticipation.

But forget personal preferences for a moment. Let’s talk about the lifeblood of your business: your clients.

If there’s one thing clients all over the world consistently hate, it’s not knowing what to expect.

That’s understandable.

In an uncertain and stressful world, clients want reliability, dependability, and predictability. If your work is inconsistent, you can’t be trusted to deliver a product or service a client can count on.

I’ve been going to the same restaurant for years, and the food was always outstanding. Always. Until a few months ago. The menu had changed. The wait staff wasn’t the same, and the open kitchen had disappeared. That evening, I had one of the worst meals ever, and now I hesitate to go back.


So, let’s talk about inconsistency for a moment.

Since I’m continuing my series on script delivery, you may be inclined to connect (in)consistency to your (voice) acting performance. We’ll get to that later, because we have a bigger picture to discuss.

If there’s one thing I’d like you to take away from this post, it is this:

Consistent delivery is about much more than the way you read your lines.

As a solopreneur, you’re judged by the way you deliver a total package. This starts with first impressions:

  • What does your website look like?
  • How do your demos sound?
  • What kind of equipment do you use?
  • How do you present yourself in person, via email, in social media, and over the phone?

If done right, all of these elements should send one consistent and congruent message:

Professional At Work

In a time where anyone can hang out a shingle and pretend to be a pro, it is easy to spot the inconsistencies that turn clients off. Do you want examples? Be my guest!


On her website, one freelancer boasted about “years of experience.” Then I looked at her client list of… seven companies total. None of them were names you would recognize.

Another colleague thought that adding that amateur Polaroid snapshot to his website would really impress visitors. I hope his ideal clients are into Margaritaville, because that’s the logo I spotted in the picture’s background. 

Can it get any worse? Of course.

A few years ago I went to a recording session in Manhattan. The first thing I heard when I came in, was the sound of crying kids. One of the other talents had brought her two toddlers to the studio. The high-end client who had flown in for the session, was not amused.

One voice actor described himself on his website as detail-oriented. In the next paragraph I found not one but two spelling errors.

Sending mixed messages like that, undermines credibility. It kills trust.


Here’s another inconsistency clients talk about all the time. They hire a voice-over based on a kick-ass demo. The talent gets the script and records the audio. But when the client receives the recording, it sounds nothing like the voice on the demo tracks.

You can guess how this came about. The super slick demo was overproduced, and later doctored by a talented audio engineer. When it was time to do the real work, the voice talent went back to her boomy closet booth where she self-directed.

“I’m not going to pay for that,” said the angry producer. “This girl charges top-dollar for something I can’t use!”

That’s another inconsistency. In this case, the quality of the product did not match the price.

Here’s one more pet peeve of mine.

A talented voice actor offered a quick turnaround time. It took him over a week before he got back to me. Mind you, during that period he was all over Facebook. I’ll have to think a very long time before I ever recommend him.


Now, before you tell me that this blog post is one of those “nice reminders for beginners,” you should know that I find these types of inconsistencies across the board. In fact, fresh talent seems a lot more willing to please, because they still have to make a name for themselves.

Some veteran voice actors, on the other hand, have become complacent. They believe that their reputation should speak for itself. Although a nice portfolio doesn’t hurt, many clients don’t want to know what you have done for others in the past. All they need to know is this:

“What can you do for me, today?”

Here’s the bottom line. If you advertise yourself as a pro, you have to present yourself as a pro on ALL levels.

There’s a reason why a fashion designer doesn’t dress like a slob. It is obvious why a fitness trainer is usually in good shape. It’s part of a consistent message. A message a client is more likely to remember and respond to.

And what about consistency when it comes to the delivery of your script?

Let’s continue that conversation next week, when I’ll also look at the big secret to audio book success!

How’s that for a surprising teaser?

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS This is part 4 in my series on performance and script delivery. You can read part 1 by clicking on this link, and part 2 by clicking on this link. Click here for part 3.

PPS Be sweet. Please retweet!

photo credit: dawolf- via photopin cc

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About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs."

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing

19 Responses to What Clients Hate The Most

  1. Pingback: Voice-Overs: the Untold, Unsexy Story | Nethervoice

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  3. Patrick Rochefort

    As a client who hires voice talent for video and audio production, here’s one pet peeve I’d like to add:

    If you use a voice bank, no matter how high quality it is? I’ll know. And I’ll blacklist you on the spot for it.

    I *get* it. Demos and auditions cost time which means they cost money, and as a solopreneur those are both resources that are seldom in abundance.


    Fact remains: If you’re using a voice bank instead of your own voice, you’re blacklisted. On the spot, and I will never seek you for audition again. If the voice service allows for it, I’ll outright block you.

    Audition with your actual voice, not a voice bank. Or don’t audition at all.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Just to make sure I get what you’re saying: Wat do you mean by using a “voice bank”?


  4. Chuck Davis

    Another great one, Paul. Shared this on my Facebook page and Linkedin. It bring this to mind: “Be punctual, be direct able, be enjoyable (to work with)”


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thank you so much for sharing, Chuck. I really appreciate it!


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  7. Jeffery Peters

    I get what you’re saying Paul, but I how do I present myself as a pro when I am starting out? I appreciate the feedback from everyone with years of experience, but how do I present myself without coming off as a total newbie? My coach said to present myself as a pro otherwise no one will take me seriously!


  8. Kent Ingram

    Once again, Paul, right on target! I’d be less than truthful if I didn’t confess to making some of those mistakes. It taught me a hell of a lot about being on top of my game, at all times!


  9. Pingback: The Big Secret To Audio Book Success | Nethervoice

  10. Philippe Bernaerts

    A demo can indeed be “overproduced”. You’d be amazed what a little compression can do to a voice. Yet most clients want to receive the sound as it comes out of the microphone. That way they can compress and EQ it to their own satisfaction. But … Some clients will return it and say “your voice sounded a lot more powerful on your demo.” Yet if I give them the compressed and EQ-ed version they might say they can’t alter it to their satisfaction.

    My solution to this problem is sending them two versions of the takes. One as it comes out of the microphone and one with some compression (I never use EQ). Then they have a choice.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    That seems to be a good solution, Philippe. Unless my client asks for it, I always send sound that is “unfooledaround with.” That way, they know what to expect.


  11. Debbie Grattan

    As usual Paul, you are spot on with your comments here. I don’t have experience from the other side of the production end (as far as hiring talent) but from all the things I’ve read, and just my own personal experience, I use the good old “Golden Rule:” Treat others as you would want to be treated. So I do my best to be speedy in answering emails, communicating about delivery times/dates, and asking appropriate questions so I deliver what the client wants…the first time.
    I still find it hard to fathom that there are many who ignore these simple basics of running a
    business, and then wonder why they’re not raking in new clients.
    I tell my children regularly that just a little extra effort in most things can sometimes raise you up above the level of mediocre (and of course I’m shooting for a lot higher than that!) which can sometimes be the make or break in getting hired/chosen for that next great thing!
    And in the business of “show,” it usually requires a lot more effort than that to pull away from the crowd.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Very true, Debbie. No matter how many times we say that you’ve got to run your VO-career like a for-profit business, this will only have an effect on those who know what that entails. Not all of us have had a role model like you. Simple things like being kind and polite to one another, seem to be slowly disappearing. Parents who don’t use the words “please” and “thank you,” raise kids who don’t use those words. It takes courage to want to stand out, because people know they’ll be judged.

    I just watched the wonderful movie “Akeelah and the Bee.” Akeelah has to overcome a lot before she’s ready to stand out from the crowd.

    In this competitive climate, freelancers can’t afford to be invisible, and they have to consistently work on delivering a better product or service every day.


  12. Chuck Ingersoll

    As someone who is both a producer and a voice talent, I have a nicely balanced perspective on this topic. As a producer, here’s an overview of almost any “finding a new voice” project. We use Voice123 because of the ease for OUR client. With their create a URL feature, I can find the best 5 of the 50 auditions and send it to the client so he/she can be part of the process and select the final voice. If I had to send five different MP3s to the client, some clients would be unable to figure out how to play them or it would overwhelm them. Really. So this streamlines the process. I ask in my V123 post to please NOT billboard/announce yourself. About 10% of the time that is ignored. I want to compare apples to apples for auditions. Of 50 auditions, 10 get thrown out for audio issues (mouthy, poor levels, hum, long gap before demo starts, etc.) I can’t assume that can be fixed. Another 20 are discarded because they just aren’t right for the client, or sound like inexperienced people. That leaves 20, of which about 10 are possible, and 5 are very good to excellent. I am amazed when the selected talent has NOT included his/her contact info (real e-mail and phone number) in the comments section. Just my take on what can be done better to enhance your chances if you are paying to play.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thanks for these insights, Chuck. The obvious is often overlooked, otherwise it wouldn’t be obvious. Adding to your thoughts, a number of auditions is also thrown out because the talent did not follow simple instructions.


  13. Mike Harrison

    Spot-on, as usual, Paul!

    We are in the service business, and consistency is key. As our goal is to help our clients by lessening their load, taking things off their plate so they can deal with other things that require their attention, then they must be secure in the knowledge that we will deliver what we promise… always… without question or exception.

    One thing we need to practice is taking initiative. A narration client of mine used to record in his office his entire job on a series of mp3 files that he would send with the script to ensure I had all the correct pronunciations of the anatomical and pharmaceutical terms.

    That was opportunity #1: I thanked him for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do that, stressing that it was totally appreciated… and then told him that I would remove that burden by researching pronunications on my own, and would let him know if there were any I needed clarification on.

    Up-front, from the get-go, I ask all my clients things like what their preferred maximum peak audio level is, whether they need a particular length of silence at the beginning and/or end of each of the audio files I deliver, or if they have any other particular needs.

    Those are conscientious things to do, and when a client realizes that those issues will be taken care of on each and every job from that point forward… as opposed to them having to ask after the audio files are delivered that they be corrected… that level of reliable consistency is invaluable to them.

    With regard to service we receive in small, “mom-and-pop” restaurants, though, I feel we need to give them at least a second chance if they fall short. The manager and/or owner may have no idea that something is amiss on the staff level, and they’ll probably be most appreciative to be made aware so they can correct it. 😉


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Somehow, I knew you would comment on this post, Mike. Thank you very much!

    What you describe is “managing your clients.” We have to manage their expectations, and we have to let them know what we minimally need in order to deliver a stellar job. Many experienced clients already know, but I also encounter people who have never worked with a voice-over before. This requires stepping into the shoes of our clients, and look at the world through their eyes. I go as far as to send them my voice-over working agreement. It covers all the areas weber things could go wrong.

    As far as the restaurant is concerned, in my particular case I checked in with a number of patrons after my last visit. Sadly, all of them have confirmed my impressions. With so many dining options to choose from, and my health to protect, I’m staying away from the place I once loved.

    It may takes years to build up a good reputation, and only one negative experience to ruin it.


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