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Here Are Four Voice Over Compensation
Scenarios That Can Drive You Crazy ...

By Dave Courvoisier
Voice Actor

SCENARIO #1: The Phantom Job

The check arrived in an overnight mailer. It was for more than $1,000, and was meant for the purchase of a Rode Podcaster interface plus my first week's compensation. 

The client had hired me to record weekly podcasts using equipment he specified (the Rode equipment).

But the check came from an Oklahoma drilling company and had no accompanying paperwork. 

Furthermore, I was to deposit the check, then send part of that amount to the equipment vendor, and keep the rest for myself. I called the Oklahoma company, and they told me they were on the trail of an unapproved check disbursement.

This is a classic, albeit elaborate scam. The check would backfire, I would be out hundreds of dollars, and there was never any podcasting job to begin with.

I had been contacted by Facebook Messenger for this phantom job. Their messages were convincng, but I'd written blog after blog about this very sort of scheme

Even outside the realm of fraudulent predators, many a seeming VO job prospect can lift your spirits well before the meat is on the plate.

SCENARIO #2: Immediate Offer, Then Nothing Happens

I can't recall how many emails, texts, messages and phone calls I've had from prospective clients all over the world, making immediate offers for this job or that work … and nothing ever happened. Never heard from them again.

This sort of thing can be depressing for freelancers. We live and die by our moxie, word-of-mouth, and referrals. To hear from a new prospect out of nowhere, from your SEO efforts, or as a result of an outreach program is fulfilling. Your marketing works!

But people are flighty. Clients are seeking only the best deal (read: cheapest). If their first question is how much you charge for a 30-second spot, your answer could be the end of the conversation.

I'll usually ask what their budget is, or how much they'd be willing to pay, and still feel like they got a good deal.

SCENARIO #3: Slow Pay / No Pay

Still other clients agree to your rates, you complete the job, and then you wait for months to get a check. 

Sometimes a partial payment arrives, with a promise to send more in a month. Ugh. 

I've been stiffed a couple of times - never getting a check, and losing what I thought was yet another good client.

A letter from a lawyer friend on the legal firm's letterhead works sometimes, but unless there was a signed contract, and you have bottomless pockets to actually hire an attorney and take a client to civil court, there really isn't much you can do - especially for overseas clients.

I personally do not require a contract of my clients. I've been told our email exchange constitutes a legal record of our agreement if it ever comes to that. 

Like I said, I've been dropped a couple of times, but overall, 99% of my clients pay well and on time. If they don't, I cut 'em from MY roster!

SCENARIO #4: Confusing Digital Payments

Finally, there's the confusing myriad of digital payment schemes: PayPal, Stripe, Square, Venmo, Cash, Zelle, Chase, TransferWise - and the list goes on. 

I usually ask for a check in the mail. But a few of today's clients aren't equipped to do that anymore. If they insist on paying digitally, I ask that they pay the transfer fees. 

Some voice talent say that paying the 2.9% PayPal transfer fee is merely the cost of doing business today. But I find that hard to swallow.

I always ask clients to pay the fee. If they refuse, I'll suck it up, but I do so through clenched teeth. When the payment arrives, I deposit or transfer it to my bank, but still can't rest.

When the check or digital record is verified by my bank, and I see the sum move out of the "pending" column on my account, I can finally breathe. Job done.

BTW: What's been your experience on this topic?
Dave Courvoisier is a full-time voice actor and audiobook narrator based in Las Vegas, where he was formerly an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, producer and the main weeknight news anchor on KLAS-TV, Channel 8, the CBS affiliate. A former president and a founding member of the World-Voices Organization (WoVO), he also writes Voice-Acting in Vegas, a daily blog of voice over adventures, observations and technology, and is author and publisher of the book, More Than Just A Voice: The Real Secret To VoiceOver Success.

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Comments (3)
Fred Humberstone
1/7/2020 at 11:37 AM
The PayPal service fee is a small price to pay knowing the payment will be secured by your client's credit card. I agree with Monique, adjust the cost of the service fee into your rate. If it's a new client, get a deposit up front, you'll find out if this client is legit or not right away. Install a watermark on your recording and identify it as a draft. Payment is due when the draft is approved. When final payment is made, then release the recording without the watermark.
Don Elliot
1/7/2020 at 11:23 AM
We all long for the days of high trade ratios. Like 8 to 1. The dreams are long gone and the “checks“ cashed, but what survives is still a willingness to do trades. And the best way to cash in is to make that kind of a deal a half-cash half-trade arrangement where you take 50% in cash and the other half in trade at 2 to 1. In other words…

On a $1000 deal I would take 500 in cash and the other half in trade at 2 to 1… For example, $1000 worth of merchandise figured at retail. The true cost to the client on this half of the deal is actually around $500, but to you, you can use its full value or sell it off or trade it additionally with other people. You’ve already got your $500 in cash, now you have a thousand dollars worth of car rental, refrigerators, hotel or whatever it might be.

We loved to do our car leases this way… A $500 a month retainer to freshen up their spots on a two or three-year contract, they pay 500 bucks towards my talent retainer. If they went above that, maybe pay balance over in cash or could roll it over into future months.
1/7/2020 at 8:31 AM
Great list of VO Pet Peeves! Yup. I too, do not like to see a chunk of my pay go to service fees and will roll that into my rates. In some cases with PayPal I request that I be paid as a friend to avoid the fees but will still send an invoice for their files.
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