Get What You Want
And get it in writing
I learned a valuable lesson once again: Failure is growth. Or, at the risk of sounding too dramatic: we learn by mistakes.
It was simply a case of careless oversight. It can make a world of difference when you forget to do that one seemingly trivial yet crucial task. In my case, a client I had acquired earlier this year contacted me again to voice a few radio spots for an on-going campaign. On the last spot, I had settled for the lower fee by NOT dictating a more reasonable rate for myself, factoring in studio-running costs, editing and finishing, in fear that what I was asking for was a clear cut example of high-balling. (This is where I start fuming about the influx of poor trending keywords like “cheap voiceovers” or “quick easy voiceover” but that subject has been beaten to death and I’m not going to go there)
However, this time, I spoke loud and clear. Based on all the project details they provided, I gave them a quote, which in my mind was pretty reasonable–and even at a rate that was a tad lower than the industry standard. I believed in their “brand” and felt we had a good enough relationship to work together again. I’m glad that I didn’t immediately balk when the ad agency for this multi-million dollar corporation said “well, we’re on a budget and we were thinking $XXX”. But because I wanted to continue my relationship with them, I felt it appropriate to mention my “absolute minimum”. If I had to go that low, I would. Probably not the best course of action. At any rate, I stuck to my guns and reveled in the fact that I was able to convey the exact terms I wanted. I didn’t fold too early in the game.
Unfortunately, it was all done over the phone with no email follow-up.
About a week later, the agency wanted to know if I could do a “quick read” just to confirm that I was in fact the voice they wanted to move forward with.
Ok, stop for second.
Remember that pivotal moment in JAWS when the Amity Island fishermen think they’ve caught the killer shark? And Matt Hooper (played by Richard Dreyfuss) says the bite radius doesn’t match the victim wounds? "Martin, I just want to be sure we’ve got the right shark"
Well, the ad agency had their little version of a “Jaws” moment there. After all, they never know what they want right? As a friend and fellow voiceover colleague would say, “Clueless Clients.”
“We just want to be sure.” Ok, Ok, I’ll do it.
Initially I thought it odd, but then I obliged, getting on an 8 minute phone call to read two versions of the script at hand. I was still confident though.
“Wow!” “Awesome!” and, in true Tony the Tiger fashion, “That sounds GRRRRRREEAT!!”
With all parties satisfied, I waited a few days. Did other work, kept my hopes realistic, did Yoga, had a life outside my studio, etc. When the exec emailed me back inquiring about a recording time the next week, I assumed I was officially green lit but had to ask if I was indeed “confirmed” as the voice. She replied, “It appears so…. but they may go for the other talent because he's cheaper.” Ugh, that dreaded word again. Keep in mind, I still hadn’t sent a follow-up email to confirm the rates from our original call. I suggested that if it was too difficult to get my original rates approved, they should go with the cheaper guy. (that part was in email) Two days later, me and my rates were finally approved.
......or so I thought.
The exec followed up with an email to confirm the times and confirmed the amount. They ended up approving my minimum. And even that amount was wrong. After a few back and forth non-bellicose and extremely professional emails of me setting the record straight, I finally pulled myself from the project and apologized for the miscommunication. I was surprisingly ecstatic. I could have gotten screwed over. Lesson learned.
Being on your high horse doesn’t guarantee you anything. And it will most likely do much more damage than good. When you don’t confirm, double and triple check anything, the other side may never fully understand your true needs. It ends in confusion, dissatisfaction and a lost opportunity. Everyone has to be on the same page from the inception of the deal, with each side having clearly dictated the terms of their agreement, the services that are to be exchanged, and the mutually agreed upon fees. The right hand must know what the left hand is doing.
But, hey, when one door closes, another door opens right?