Let’s begin this blog post with a Facebook question from a colleague:
“Hi, all! After a live directed session, do you just send the entire session audio over or do you clean it up (take mess ups, dialogue, etc. out)? I’ve been sending two sets of audio: raw and cleaned/processed (remove all aforementioned things and apply stacks). The clients really appreciate this, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t time consuming (and I charge nothing for the session audio editing). This one client I just worked with sounded like they didn’t have an audio engineer so it felt “incumbent” upon me to do it. What do you do? Thank you!”
Now, before you read my response, think about how you would handle this situation. I’m sure you’d like to make a good impression and create a long lasting relationship with the client. But how far do you go? Do you think it is “incumbent” upon you to be the audio engineer you believe the client does not have?
Well, here’s my take on the situation:
First of all: if it’s not in the contract, nothing is “incumbent.” Secondly: never make assumptions. Especially about your clients and their budgets. Always ask.
When I do these directed sessions, usually someone on the other end of the line is keeping copious time-coded notes. They will write down when every new take begins, and when I make a mistake. The minute I start editing my files and begin cutting bits and pieces out, that messes with the recorded time code, making the editor’s job more time-consuming.
Secondly, ONLY apply effect stacks if the client explicitly asks for it, and even then, keep a clean copy of your recording in case the client doesn’t like how you have sweetened the audio. It’s like using spices in your food. It’s all a matter of taste.
FREE ISN’T WORTH MUCH
I understand that some clients enjoy getting something for nothing, but we are in fact training them to expect laborious editing to be included. Doing that gratis also makes it harder for your colleagues to ask for extra money if the client wants fully edited files.
If you do decide to include editing in your quote, always specify this in the breakdown of your fee, just as you include a studio, a usage, and a buyout fee. This way the client understands what s/he is paying for and why our services aren’t so cheap.
Remember: the things people get for free are never valued as much as the things they pay for.
DARE TO COMPARE
If all of this sounds unusual to you, it helps to compare voice over services to other services people need.
I’m working with a contractor right now, and he has never done anything without billing me for it. If he would start giving his work away, he’d be very busy making very little money. Why should it be any different for voice overs?
While I understand that you wish to please your clients as much as you can, there’s a limit to what you can reasonably be expected to do. If I contract my handyman to redo the kitchen, I don’t think it’s fair to expect him to touch up the bathrooms as well for the same agreed amount. It’s not fair, and it’s also disrespectful of his time and expertise.
One more example:
My wife is a professional musician. Like most of her colleagues, she has done her fair share of weddings. If she does not put a clear time limit in the contract, the people at the party will expect her to play until the last intoxicated guest is gone and think nothing of it.
Heck, if you love what you do for living, it’s not even work, so why pay the musician at all? They’re gaining experience, and they can put it on their resume!
Listen, if we can’t value ourselves properly, we cannot expect others to value us properly either. As a very wise person once said:
We teach people how to treat us, and what we are worth.
Joshua Alexander says
Every second of our time, and every ounce of our expertise, has inherent value! Thanks for the reminder, my friend! Having been in weddings as a videographer, my contract needed to also specify when I leave (although it was genuinely harder to leave earlier when they do want you to get the limo send-off at the very end); the bride and groom didn’t care about your schedule…they want their day recorded, and they expected you to be there and get all of it! But that’s why I had different packages to accommodate different needs. With voiceover it’s no different: you definitely have to ask each time what they want, and then put that in the contract accordingly. My clients and their needs are always different with files at the end of a session. Some even want AIFF for goodness’ sake!
Paul Strikwerda says
AIFF? How dare they be so demanding? I’ll give them FLAC, but that’s the limit 😉
Joshua Alexander says
Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt says
As usual, your posts have wider applicability than voiceover.
Way too many indie authors give their work away – for free. The first novel in a series – as a free promotion… The second – as a gift for signing up to their mailing list.
They are training readers to expect free books at every turn.
They claim, in online forums, to rake it in on the read-through of the whole series: those who like the free books buy the rest, and those who don’t weren’t going to anyway.
The thing is, they muddy the waters for those of us who write longer, more complex novels – because the readers want those for free, too. And they take a lot longer to write – so my kind of writer has a tiny backlist. No read-through to count on.
And it is already a meme that most people have their electronic readers full of free books they grabbed when they saw an offer – and have never read most of them.
It seems a bad strategy to make the common one.
You value what you pay properly for. And ONLY that.
Paul Strikwerda says
Amen to that! It is actually my goal to be relevant to a larger group than just voice overs.