Last week I answered some frequently asked questions about blogging.
Today, I’ll address something I get asked a lot by colleagues who are relatively new to the voice-over industry. They want to know if I have some sort of a working agreement in place with my clients.
The answer is Yes. It’s actually a mix between a working agreement and practical tips that are the result of over 25 years of experience.
One of the first things I tell them is that I am a member of the World Voices Organization, and that I subscribe to the Best Practices for Voice Talent. I believe in this new organization, and I want my clients to know that I am committed to providing voice-over recordings that meet professional standards that are adopted and promoted by World Voices.
So, step into the shoes of my clients, as I take them by the hand and give them tips and guidelines for working with me.
A. HOME STUDIO & DIRECTION
By hiring a talent with a home studio, you save time and money. The studio fee is included in my quote; you’re not paying for an audio engineer or a director, and there are no travel costs to reimburse. I use professional, top-of-the-line equipment in an isolated, acoustically treated recording space. This allows me to deliver pristine, ready-to-use audio in a format of your choice.
Because you’re not physically present at the time of the recording, you cannot give me directions during the session. Please remember:
I can read your script but I cannot read your mind.
That’s why it is your responsibility to give me clear instructions ahead of time. More about that later. With those guidelines in hand, I will do my very best to interpret and read the script according to your wishes. If those instructions are missing, ambiguous or very broad, I will ask for clarification. If no (further) explanation is provided, I will assume that you have given me permission to interpret the script using my experience and expertise.
B. LIVE SESSIONS
You can choose to listen to a recording session in real-time and give directions via Skype or phone. It is the fastest way to get on the same page. My Skype ID is paulstrikwerda1. You may also call me at 732-322-5292 to communicate during a session.
Remember that I live and work close to New York City, which puts me on Eastern Standard Time. If you’re in Europe (Central European Time), you’re probably six hours ahead of me. By the time Europeans call it a day, I still have many hours left to finish your project so it’s ready for you first thing in the morning!
1. Please send your script at least 24 hours prior to the session. This will give me time to prepare.
2. If you opt to join me for a virtual session and have to cancel, please notify me 24 hours in advance. That way, I can accommodate other clients.
3. I am always happy to record another version of your script if my interpretation is not to your liking. However, if you did not provide clear instructions ahead of time and/or you changed your mind and chose not to direct me, this will be billed as a new project.
C. ANALYZING THE SCRIPT: TONE, TEMPO & ACCENT
Any text can be read in a thousand ways. The more specific you are about what you expect of me, the easier it will be to give you what you hope to hear. Here are a few ways in which you can get me on the right track:
1. Listen to my demos and pick a particular one you’d like me to match.
2. Ask me to record a short demo of your script to give you an idea of my approach. Based on that, you can give me feedback allowing me to fine-tune my performance.
3. If you’d like me to read in the style of e.g. Liev Schreiber narrating a documentary or John Cleese doing a commercial, please send me a link to a video on YouTube or Vimeo to give me an idea of what you’ll hope to hear.
Important: I am a voice actor and not a celebrity impersonator. Impersonation can be seen as a form of theft and it is illegal to impersonate a person without their permission with the intent to generate a profit.
4. If you have asked me to record a project that was produced in another language, please send me an audio sample of the original and I’ll do my best to match that, if that’s what you want.
5. Give me the backstory of a character and/or an image of a cartoon character you’d like me to voice. Tell me about age, family background, education, occupation, life experiences, accent, intentions et cetera.
I specialize in multilingual projects with an international angle. Correct pronunciation is one of the key factors determining the credibility of your message. Please help me get it right the first time. Here’s what you can do to help.
1. Provide a pronunciation guide in writing, or record an audio version of certain words, names or phrases. Alternatively, you could send me a link to a word on www.forvo.com or www.howjsay.com or use other online pronunciation resources. Remember; you can also coach me via Skype.
2. Sometimes, a script in one language contains words in another language. You need to make a choice as to how these words will be pronounced. Let me give you two examples.
– A Dutch script mentioned the name of an American company. Even though I could have pronounced the company name with a Dutch accent (as is common in the Netherlands), the client instructed me to pronounce it with an American accent.
– A Dutch e-Learning module about bikes featured many models and model numbers such as “Road Racer 315.” The client asked me to pronounce ‘Road Racer’ in English and the number in Dutch.
3. Please be explicit and write things such as numbers and abbreviations down the way you want them to be read. Examples:
– 120: one hundred and twenty or one hundred twenty?
– January fifth nineteen hundred and twelve or the fifth of January nineteen twelve?
– “In twenty twenty we will host the World Cup” or “In two thousand and twenty we will host the World Cup”?
– “I’d like to say two things. 1. You are the best” or “I’d like to say two things. Number one: You are the best”?
– “5. The Fall of Rome” or “Chapter 5. The Fall of Rome”?
Tip: Never assume that I know how you want me to pronounce and/or read something.
In doubt, spell it out!
E. REVISIONS, CORRECTIONS AND RETAKES
Most scripts go through many drafts before they land on my desk. I will assume that the script you are giving me is the FINAL and OFFICIALLY APPROVED version. That’s what I will read and record. Once this recording is completed and received, payment is due within the time frame listed on the invoice.
Important: The recording of a script that was revised after the first, officially approved text was recorded, is regarded as a new project and will be billed accordingly.
Retakes that are the result of mistakes I made are always free.
Even though you didn’t hire me as a proofreader, you are paying me for script preparation. Every week I receive scripts filled with errors due to poor translation. Because my name and professional reputation are closely associated with the projects I voice, I will not record scripts that contain grammatical errors and other mistakes made by an unqualified translator.
Tip: I’m happy to translate or retranslate a script from English into Dutch or Dutch into English for you. I charge $0.15 or 0.11 Euro per word with a minimum of $30.00 (22 Euro).
G. AUDIO FORMAT
Audio files can be recorded and saved in many formats. Prior to recording you have to let me know what your preferred audio format is, such as MP3, WAV, AIFF, FLAC et cetera. Add to that the required bit depth (e.g. 16 or 24 bits) and sample rate (e.g. 44,100 or 48,000 Hz). If you’re not sure, ask your audio engineer.
Unless otherwise instructed, I take it that you would like to receive clean, unprocessed audio.
H. EDITING, FILE SEPARATION & SYNCING
Some clients automatically assume that home studio talent will deliver fully edited, ready-to-use audio at no extra charge. Be aware that audio editing is very time-consuming and that it requires a special skill set. Producing one hour of finished audio may take three to four hours of editing! While you may think you’re paying the talent for one hour of work only, he or she might spend half a day in the studio to complete that hour.
Unless otherwise agreed, my quote includes an editing fee.
For some projects it may be necessary to have me separate, label and save many files individually. Bulk processing is not always possible. Please realize that this could take longer than the actual recording and that an additional fee may apply.
If you’d like me to sync my voice-over to a video, make sure your script is time-coded and that it lists a maximum time for each segment. Should a paragraph be broken up into sections that need to be synced up precisely, make sure those sections are time-coded as well.
Alternatively, you may send me the video and the script, and I will time-code it for you at an additional charge.
I. RECEIVING YOUR RECORDING
In general, large audio files cannot be sent via email. Please let me know how you’d like to receive those files and if you’d like those files to be compressed.
Some clients use Dropbox, others use an FTP solution. I often use www.wetransfer.com, a free file transfer service. Once the audio is uploaded, I will send you a quick email. You will also receive an email invitation from wetransfer.com to download these files.
Important: Technology is never 100% foolproof. If something did not go as planned, let me know ASAP. If you did not receive an invitation to download, please check your spam folder. If you did receive the files, kindly send me a quick email to confirm receipt.
J. USAGE OF THE AUDIO
My voice-over rates are based on a number of variables: the medium (radio, television, internet), the market (local, national, international), the length, the nature and the use of the audio. The recording you are about to receive may only be used for the purposes indicated in your request and for the length of time and market we agreed upon in advance, unless a buy-out fee has been negotiated. Should you wish to change the original purpose, time and market, you must inform me of your intentions and additional payment is required.
Important: As long as the invoice has not been paid in full, the intellectual property of the audio (not the script) remains with me.
K. COPIES OF FINISHED WORK & CREDITS
Once a job is finished, I will ask you for a copy of the finished work for my portfolio, unless releasing the work violates a confidentiality agreement signed by me or the producer/client. You agree that I may use all or a portion of the copy on my website or voice-over demo or demos, and reference the project on my resume, but only for promotional purposes of my voice-over services and subject to any confidentiality agreement that may be in place.
If credit is given to those participating in the project for which I was hired, such as the actor(s), editor, composer, producer, et cetera, credit should be given to me as voice talent, as well.
Once the job is completed and the voice-over is approved, you will receive an invoice from my assistant via email. To make sure this invoice reaches the right person and can be processed without problems, let me know to whom the invoice should be sent and to which email address. Please include all the information you need so the invoice can be generated and processed, such as a project number, job code or purchase order number.
I always strive to meet or beat a project deadline so you can have the audio you ordered at the agreed time. In turn, I ask you to make sure the invoice gets paid by the date listed on the invoice, regardless of whether or not you have received payment for the voice-over from the client you are working for.
* * * * *
At this point I go over the rest of my payment policies with my clients.
As you can see, I pretty much tried to cover all the bases, but I have to tell you that this is a work in progress. Feel free to add anything I might have missed. The comment box at the bottom of this blog would be perfect for that.
One last thing. The document you just read is followed by a legal section where I formalize this working agreement in a way that would make attorneys very happy. The entire document can be accessed online. All I have to do is send a client a link to the web page.
Coming up with all these “rules” and stipulations is not a part of my job I very much enjoy. Yet, it’s important to have these things in writing to avoid misunderstandings and possible problems down the road.
It’s part of my free and ongoing Client Education Program, brought to you by the friendly folks at Nethervoice.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS Be Sweet Please retweet!
John Lano says
Paul, if the internet bosses allowed me to read only one voice over blog post from 2013, this one would be it.
Paul Strikwerda says
John, I hope you don’t mind, but I just had to use your endorsement to create some extra social media buzz. I’m truly flattered by your comment. Hopefully, it will attract new and old readers to my blog who will benefit from the guidelines I have written for my clients.
Debby, you’re absolutely right: it’s all about content. Bloggers can be King of their own (internet) domain!
Debby Barnes says
Well said, John Lano. Though it would be terribly hard to tease-out a PS favourite, this blog ranks mighty high. You’re a real content king, Paul. 🙂
Pierre Maubouche says
Paul, I’m going to repeat what I already said to John: where do you find the time to write your blog on top of a very busy carrier? This post is not only great for client education but also for VO newbies – next time someone ask me to give them pointers and tips I’ll direct them straight to this post. I don’t think there’s anything you’ve not covered. You’re a star.
Paul Strikwerda says
Hi Pierre, where do I find the time? Last week I talked about that when I wrote about blogging in “Are You Talking to Me?” I think it really helps that I enjoy writing very much. Besides, I need to give my voice a rest every once in a while, and blogging is the best therapy for tired vocal folds.
Sean Daeley says
Paul, I can’t thank you enough for this article, and I’m happy to tell you that I always look forward to your weekly blog (once I read all of them, I felt the weeks slow to a crawl as I awaited the latest linguistic gold!) This reminds me of another article you did a while back about all the questions we VO’s should ask our clients when negotiating projects and rates (forgive me, the title escapes me, it’s quite late over here in Nagasaki, but I wanted to express my gratitude before nodding off!) I hope you understand what an asset you are to all of us in this industry, especially newbies like myself! Thank you again, and have a wonderful day!
Paul Strikwerda says
Sean, this fascinating business we’re in can get a bit overwhelming at any time of day. Hopefully, blog posts like these will save people some time that would have been spent reinventing the wheel. I’m not saying this agreement is perfect and I encourage everyone to take what they like and rewrite or skip parts that don’t apply. I’m fine-tuning it every couple of months after something has come up that I had not covered.
Over the years I have found out that I’d rather work out the kinks with a client ahead of time. This way I can manage expectations and it allows us to focus on the job instead of on the fine print.
John Lano says
Paul, I have to imagine that all voice actors will benefit from this comprehensive working agreement to both cross-check with their parameters and find items they may have missed. And of course, I don’t mind you sharing my endorsement at all. I’ll be sharing this post throughout the day.
Kostas Aspiotis says
Thank you very much Paul for sharing with us your valuable experience and knowledge!
Ebony McKinley says
Hi Paul! I really enjoyed reading this! You said you send the client a link to this agreement. How do they “sign” it…is there a button at the bottom of this web document that allows the client to electronically sign and provides you with a date stamp of that behind the scenes? At what point do you ask for a testimonial… after payment has been received?
Paul Strikwerda says
Many thanks for your kind words, Kostas! Great questions, Ebony! There’s no need to sign the agreement because of the following phrase on the page my clients access:
I will ask for a testimonial once the job is approved by the end client. That’s something I want to handle in a personal email and not in a standard agreement.
matt forrest says
Another completely comprehensive post, Paul – well done! Many things you cover – esp. J & K – I think are often overlooked by new VO folks as well as clients…so I’m glad you mentioned them!
Jim Edgar says
Very nice Paul.
I particularly like the “Important” bit in section J – very well stated.
Lindsay Abbott says
Hi Paul, Many thanks for posting this; it’s very thorough and well-thought out. I always submit my T’s & C’s in a pdf file at the time of quote, which works well, as the client then has the chance to raise any questions. I always put the major ones in the original quote so the key things are clear.
I particularly like this form of wording you use:
“Important: As long as the invoice has not been paid in full, the intellectual property of the audio (not the script) remains with me.”
Would you mind if I used it on my own terms, or any of the other sections?
Once again, many thanks for sharing Paul. It’s through sharing that we can hopefully keep standards high
Paul Strikwerda says
Hey Lindsay, please share and use what you find useful. That would make me very happy!
Lindsay Abbott says
Howard Ellison says
Wonderful clarity, Paul, thank you for sharing. Sections A to D should be engraved into the glass of every producers’ studio.
Paul Strikwerda says
Thank you so much, Howard. Let the engraving begin!
Randye Kaye says
Paul – this is absolutely wonderful! We teach others every day how to treat us. This agreement shows professionalism and respect thoroughly and fairly!