Do your business skills keep your clients form shopping elsewhere for their next voiceover need? Have you done the due diligence to develop your client relationships? Do you occasionally correspond with your clients to remind them about your services?
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you might be guilty of client neglect. Or worse yet, your voiceover business could become a casualty of unhealthy professional relationships, with many of your clients falling through the cracks.
Feel Good Clients
Feel good about your clients and the relationship you develop with them. Clients are what feed your business growth and without them there would be very little kibble in the cat’s dish. Not only are they cutting a check for your resonate tones and script interpretation, they are buying your voiceover brand.
1. They’re Only Human
Working with clients can be unsettling because professional boundaries are important to maintain. Should I try to be more amusing than (I think) I am? Should I be stiff, overly stuffy and business like? Maybe I ought to distance myself from my clients and just do the work?
For me, it’s easiest if I’m just myself and treat the people I work with as fellow humans. Clients seem to like that.
2. Ask, Don’t Assume
While you’re building client relationships, keep in mind that it’s a give and take process. You are learning about your client’s business and their voiceover needs. Be an active listener.
Ask questions that will help you become more knowledgeable and better prepared once work begins. Don’t assume because it can make an ass out of u and me.
3. No Butt Kissing
I know when I’m being unnecessarily flattered or too extensively complimented by somebody trying to gain my trust or approval… and I don’t like it. Your clients won’t like it either.
4. Quality vs. Quantity
Would you rather be known as the talent who does amazing work and is well worth the asking price; or would you settle for being known as the talent who is super inexpensive?
Do not take every job that comes your way, even just starting out. Focus on how well you can complete a project, not how low you are willing to drop your price to get the job.
Harvard Business professor Michael Porter states you can hold a competitive advantage in only one of two areas: price or quality. Play to your strengths, develop impressive voice acting skills, run your studio like the business you’ve always imagined, and you’ll never be forced to compete on price again!
5. Know when to Say No
Just because a client wants your voice, does not mean your talents and skills are a good fit for their project.
A few years back, I was asked to do an opener for a music show that was in development. The producer was hooked on the “sound” of my voice and after our initial conversation I felt the job was WAY out of my wheelhouse. They were looking for something I was not. However, I was too full of myself to pass on the gig so I moved forward with the session.
After my first attempt I received this reply, “…like YOUR voice but need Hiphop grit.” While adding grit in my second take (which was similar to adding cotton balls to chocolate cake) I knew I wasn’t right for the gig and should have been brave enough to say so up front. After a week of attempts and back-and-forth communication, the producer finally arrived at the same conclusion I knew seven days prior.
Fortunately, I’ve worked with the same producer on other projects since. I cannot be everything to all my clients. I know my strengths.
6. Open to Direction
When you receive comments from a client, do you ever feel like you’ve failed? Creating spoken audio is a process. We hope that we have all the details up front and will utter the words as described. A client might come back with a list of things to change that are clearly non-script issues.
Your client wants to work with you and is listening for the best performance possible. When receiving feedback, take it with an open mind. Ask questions when necessary. Offer solutions not roadblocks. Above all, be professional.
Your client will appreciate working with a voice talent that is not wildly sensitive to criticism.
7. Exceptional Delivery
You’ve probably heard or read the phrase, “Under-promise and over-deliver”. This is about making sure client expectations are clearly set and then exceeding them. It could be as simple as delivering audio files ahead of schedule, or providing two different takes of a script instead of one.
This will enhance your value in the eyes of your client and that’s a good thing.
8. What’s Next?
Clients appreciate being kept in the loop and updated appropriately. Let them know the steps of your workflow and what will happen next in the creation process. Hold their hand and get them from one step to the next.
Do you send project confirmations for clients to approve? Include a “What’s Next” section that explains what happens after their approval.
Something along, “Once I get your approval, session time will be locked in for your project.” This does a couple of things. It clearly puts the process in their possession and it lets the client know what is dependent upon their approval.
9. Not as it Appears
Since we primarily work remotely from our clients, it’s easy to misunderstand actions and intentions or what could be perceived as misbehavior. In most cases, it’s wise to give them some space to be human.
Are they slow to respond to your e-mail or calls? Is their invoice still unpaid? An unavoidable event could be the roadblock. Life happens, so give them an opportunity to respond and take care of whatever it is that’s bugging you.
10. Worth Every Penny
Do you know what you are worth? How much does your time and skill cost? Do you have established rates? It’s wise to know what type of work you’ll be doing and how long it takes to complete it, and it’s even more crucial to know what to charge for your services and feel good about it.
Don’t short yourself thinking a prospect might look elsewhere. Know your worth and stick to it! Once the numbers are agreed upon, it will be difficult to negotiate for more later.
As a Reminder
You are in business for yourself. You are a freelance voiceover artist who makes money by reading other people’s words. It’s fun and you enjoy doing it. Be professional and treat your clients with a healthy dose of support, appreciation and gratitude.
© 2014 J. Christopher Dunn
J. Christopher Dunn is a Seattle-based, professional voice actor. For more information, visit Chris’ site at: www.jchristopherdunn.com