On The Other Side of Business

woman at desk with microphone and audio file on computer monitor in front of her

It was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. You may have had the day off. If you freelance like me, you kept your eye on the ball. Most of my clients didn’t have a long weekend.

When I started doing voice-overs in a serious way, most of my jobs came from the USA. Now, they’re from anywhere and everywhere. The US marked Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples Day yesterday but was it a special day in South Africa? India? Belarus? It was not. So, I was at the ready, and happy to do it. Being “at the ready” doesn’t mean spending my day in front of my computer waiting for something to happen. But it does mean thinking like a client.

Say Something, Even if it’s “No”

One of the things I’m known for is responsiveness. Even if I can’t get the job done immediately, or at all, I’ll let the client know pretty quickly. They appreciate this. They just want to know what to expect. In the freelance world, they’ve put a lot of thought into hiring someone. And when they finally pull the trigger on the job, they’re hyper-focused on it and want it done ASAP. Sitting and waiting isn’t what they’re after.

All through my career I worked with people who were unresponsive until the job came up in priority. In their priority. That’s not how it works anymore, if it ever did. I often have a job on the go when another one arrives, so I need to manage the next client’s expectations. It’s not fair to leave their important project in limbo. They can’t read your mind or assume. In fact, they might think your silence means you’re unable to help them, and move on.

It’s anxiety-inducing to offer someone work and not hear back. If it’s during the workday and the person is doing (fill in the blank) full time, there ought to be some sort of acknowledgement within a couple of hours. Think that’s unreasonable? My clients don’t think so! It’s a matter of meeting their expectations even when they’re panicked and rushed. They might have a client nipping at their heels and so on up the chain. It’s the freelancer’s job to make everybody happy and looking good. Make them feel like a genius for hiring you!

Some freelancer websites (Fiverr, Upwork) keep track of your responses to clients and rate you based on how quickly they were sent. No matter how a client reaches out to me, I have an obligation to be timely in my response. My clients are in various time zones, but they still want to hear back as soon as possible. The guy in Belarus sends me an email about an ongoing job we’re doing. He’s 7 hours ahead. Sending him a quick update or response when I’m able has to be a priority. My reputation is everything.

Recently, I’ve become a subcontractor for a couple of my voice-over clients. They have hired me for jobs that require me to outsource roles to other voice artists. It’s been an education and a source of frustration.

DISCLAIMER: Any negative examples you’re about to read are not about YOU. If we are friends, Facebook friends or connected in any way, I would never knock you in public. Not even in a thinly veiled way. Never. I say that because a couple of VO pro friends I reached out to first weren’t available to help me. That happens. This is not about that. We good?

Now Where Was I?

Years ago, a client who hired me on Voices offered me his login info so I could listen the auditions of those I beat for the job. (Read my incredible story of E.) Of course, I snooped and listened. I was stunned. About 1/4 of those who auditioned failed to follow simple instructions and sent jumbled messes. Another 1/4 were simply not ready to call themselves professionals. Their auditions had loud background noises, terrible mic technique, or they recorded themselves on what sounded like a child’s tape player. Another fraction did a competent job and a few were terrific.

Everyone in business should have to experience their work from the client’s side. In some respects, this peek inside the machine gave me more confidence. The huge volume of auditions for a job didn’t seem so daunting anymore if half of them weren’t up to the task.

See It Through Your Client’s Eyes

The funny thing about voice-overs is that a lot of people want to do them but they have no appetite for everything that goes with this kind of business. It’s so much more than sitting in a small room and reading. When I needed to hire a couple of voice actors, the biggest problem was a lack of responsiveness. Even when I’m in a session, I can generally keep track of what’s going on. When the producer and director and writer and clients are on mute discussing the job thus far, that’s my time to take a quick look at my messages. I’ve enabled desktop alerts. Allowed notifications from pay-to-play platforms. Taken a few seconds to respond and let the client know what’s up.

Part of freelance life is about balance. I start my day with a long, early-morning walk along the lakeshore with my husband. But not before I scan messages to make sure someone in India or China or Toronto isn’t waiting for me so they can complete a job. Maybe it’s a last minute script edit. Sometimes a quick reply to acknowledge them is all that’s required. Most of the time all is well, and I leave my phone at home while we walk. But I’ll guarantee that the day I decide to skip that message scan is the day all hell has broken loose for someone. So I never, ever skip a day. It takes a few seconds to check on everyone’s status before I go on with my day. Those seconds can be the difference between client retention and losing a job to someone else who’s more responsive.

By the way, I did get work on Thanksgiving Monday. I had it done and submitted without interrupting any of my plans for the day. A thankful day, indeed.

5 thoughts on “On The Other Side of Business”

  1. I agree that being available for clients is important. I often work evenings, weekends and even some holidays, if clients need to see me then. Not everyone has the luxury of taking time off during the workday.

  2. Auto Responders! If communications are critical and you want to assure your client that you received their E-mail, set up an auto responder which sends an automatic response the instant the E-mail is received and you can customize what it says. Why more customer service businesses don’t do this is beyond me. Good, they got my E-mail!

  3. This was a fascinating look into how you master the business that so many think “Oh, I should try that – people say I have a nice voice”. There’s SO much blood, sweat, tears, time and dedication that go into being as good and as popular as you are. You deserve every bit of success you are having and may it last just as long as you want it to!!!! (Signed – A Big Fan…)

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