By Kim Handysides & Voice123’s The Booth
“We’re creatures of habit.” ‘A common cliché, sure – but is it a valid expression or just an excuse to keep doing and choosing the same things? Maybe it’s simply that we trust our past experience and wish to avoid disappointment. Either way, it’s the same reason why clients choose to work with the same voice actor on multiple projects, and why they have a trusted roster of voice actors that they consult for each project. The inevitable question is, how can you be ‘that’ voice actor for recurring clients? Or make it onto ‘that roster?’ It’s all about creating top-of-mind awareness using client communication. And when done correctly, your name will be the first one that springs to a client’s mind!
“You can get repeat orders by delivering a great product or service and by being professional at every level. That’s why my goal is to always have smooth, seamless, and if possible, fun interactions when working with clients.” – Kim Handysides
Common Client Communication Issues
Remember that Airbnb you stopped going to because you found pet hair on the couch? Or because they stopped leaving toilet paper in the bathroom? The slightest disappointment or missed expectation always leads to the inclination to move on. And while there’s no guarantee that the next one will be better, dissatisfaction is like being sprayed by a skunk. No matter how much you bathe, the stink lingers like bad breath.
This can also happen when working with clients because you’re always only one miscommunication away from missing out on repeat work. Any miscommunication can rock the boat and sink the project as well as your client relationship!
Client communication worst-case scenarios: A payment misunderstanding could cause not only a delay but also a permanent communication rift. Crossed wires could lead to a client missing their deadline. A lack of follow-up or an incorrect one could give the wrong impression. In the end, a voice actor loses out on recurring clients, and a client loses a trustworthy voice actor.
How Can Negative Situations Be Avoided?
The goal when working with clients on a project is to keep ‘how can I get recurring clients’ in the back of your mind. That will have a positive impact on everything you say and do. Anticipating what could go wrong also helps you to stay alert at every stage. So we’ve made a checklist of vital points to help you set the foundation for great client communication.
- Communicate clearly from the start. Outline prices, turnaround times and wait for the client to acknowledge before proceeding with the recording.
- Get it in writing by using a voice over service agreement.
- Don’t assume anything. Maybe 99% of your clients prefer .wav files, but there could be the 1% who need an mp3.
- Confirm the purpose, price, and turnaround of revisions. Eg. Does the client need you to match the tempo, pacing, and speed?
- Make a note of when the project launches so you can plan relevant follow-ups and when to execute them.
- Double-check messages and remove anything that could cause offense; for eg, ‘REALLY?!! vs Oh, really?’
A key takeaway for clients, then, is your ability to contribute to a faster process by promptly answering questions and being flexible. This ensures that both sides are always on the same wavelength.
How to Get Repeat Work
Working with recurring clients is not simply a matter of ‘Here’s the final file and invoice. It was nice working with you.’ It all depends on how a project is closed. This is because a client isn’t only satisfied on receipt of a professional voice over. It’s everything in-between that really counts. The prompt client communication, willingness to adjust, and especially sincerity. So, to create top-of-mind awareness, you have to say and do things that associate your name with a satisfyingly memorable work experience, not just a great voice over.
Key Ways to Achieve Great Client Communication
Meet the deadline:
- If a client needs a file by 9 am on the 20th, don’t send it at 10 pm on the 19th. Give the client enough time to listen and adjust so that they can meet their deadline. If a client misses a deadline or ends up with a poor voice over, it reflects unprofessionally on both sides.
- Kim’s best practice is to always ask clients about their turnaround to ensure that she can make it. “My reputation is related to respecting their reputation with their clients, “ she says. “Once we’ve agreed to proceed, I schedule recording and notify my sound editor of when I will send the raw files and make certain he respects the deadline (which he always does).”
- Ensure the client receives the revisions, retakes, or pickups in a timely manner. This is why it’s important to check messages regularly.
- If clients ask for additional services that weren’t included in the initial agreement, communicate your pricing for them clearly and promptly.
- Make sure you have the final script before recording.
- Before sending the file, listen to ensure you didn’t skip or mispronounce any words.
- Ensure the file is in the correct format (mp3 or .wav) and has the correct editing, EQ, etc. that the client requested (if specified). And if a client doesn’t ask for anything except your RAW, unfiltered takes, only send them your RAW takes, with NO post-production whatsoever.
- Check that you sent it to the correct delivery method ie. G Suite, file transfer, and if the links are working or the correct permissions have been sent. If you’re sending an mp3 or .wav file, check that the audio plays clearly and if it’s the right file.
Create a fair pickup policy.
- A pickup isn’t simply a matter of recording one or two cover-up lines. As Kim points out, “you have to find the place in the file where the change needs to be made, listen to the sound to make certain you match it; the tone and energy of our voice changes every day, throughout the day so this is critical. Then make certain it flows, edit, and mix (EQ, processing, plugins, etc) to match the original and then send the new file.”
- This is also where you can show the client you’re reasonable and accommodating. For example, Kim outlines at the start of the project that she offers a maximum of 3 pickups within the first 48 hours of delivery, but after that $20 per change with a minimum of $100. This shows flexibility but also establishes a limit.
Avoid payment misunderstandings.
- For payment details not handled through online sites like Voice123, it’s best to establish the terms ahead of time, before you record, as you accept the job. The industry standard is payment upon delivery of files, but some voice actors ask for payment upfront, or 50% down and 50% upon delivery of files.
- A good idea could be to use a controller who handles invoicing and collection (and taxes and other paperwork), like Kim does. This helps you to concentrate on what you do best (voicework). Hers invoices within 24–48 hours after a job is delivered and then follows up if payment hasn’t been made after 30 days.
- Why are follow-ups important? Without realizing it, we follow up on practically everything in our lives. ‘Did you get my message? What did you think of the document I sent? Did you wash the car? Did you remember to pick up the laundry?’ Following up on a job is just as important. It shows that you care about the project, not just the pay-check and that you’re thinking long-term.
- How can I follow up? Use a simple ‘How did the video come out?’ or ‘I’d really appreciate a quick review.’ Kim opts for ‘Do you have everything you need from me now’ or ‘I’m here if you need anything else.’
- When should I follow up and how can it lead to recurring clients? Kim shares that “I follow up in a month to see how a project turned out or get a link to it to be able to promote in my social circles. Unless it’s proprietary, most clients like to see their work shared on social media as it’s free publicity. Another good idea is to see if you can recommend them for work or if they can recommend you. That takes your relationship beyond a one-off project and into networking and building community.”
- Where can I save the client’s information? Use a CRM to store the client’s name, company, project details, and invoice details, to save time for future projects. Voice123 partnered up with some CRMs that offer discounted prices, like Voiceoverview, which Kim uses as it helps her to keep track of processes and create client lists that can be separated into different VO genres for targeted communications. Check out her review of Voiceoverview here.
“Being top of mind is important. We’re all busy and sometimes only respond to what’s right in front of our faces. Nurturing your existing work relationships with brief, purposeful communication is good business.” – Kim Handysides
Now if you’re thinking that’s easier said than done, we completely understand. That’s why we’ve created specific templates that can be copied and tweaked to suit your needs.
Template 1: How to follow up when waiting for a script
Just wanted to quickly touch base to see how the script was coming along? Did ________? By the way, I also offer copyediting services if you need a second pair of hands or eyes. And I’m usually in the studio ____________, so I can knock this out for you in __________.
Keep me posted.
Check out the full list of free Client Communications Templates here.
Client Communication Summary
Getting recurring clients is vital to establishing and sustaining a long-term career. You have to take the reins on this by following up at certain points, avoiding miscommunications, and anticipating a client’s needs. And by keeping this in the back of your mind when working with clients, everything you say and do will create top-of-mind awareness for your voice over brand!