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Pay: Ways To Get Paid
For Your Voice-Over Work
 
By Peter Drew

You've launched your voice-over business. You market your demo. You network. Your audition. You get gigs. Now all you have to do is get paid.

For AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and/or SAG (Screen Actors Guild) union talent, getting paid in a timely fashion is a benefit of union membership. It’s built into the union contract.

Union talents fill out a form at the session and then submit it to a paymaster (someone contracted with the union to handle talent payroll). The paymaster ensures that the talent is paid within a time period specified by the union contract.
 
By contrast, non-union talent and financial core talent doing non-union work are totally responsible for collecting what’s owed to them.
 
Financial core, if you aren’t familiar with the term, refers to less-than-full union membership. Financial core union members have paid the portion of dues and fees dedicated strictly to collective bargaining, excluding any activity not directly related to collective bargaining. You might call it “union lite.”

Financial core members do not have voting rights and cannot hold elective office in the union, but they also do not have to abide by union rules and regulations.

TYPES OF CLIENTS
 
So what payment policy should you, the non-union talent, adopt?
 
Just as the Internet has changed the voice-over business by making the home voice-over studio possible, the Internet has changed collection by making it possible to take payment electronically.

For instance, PayPal is just one of a number of online options that make requesting immediate payment possible, instead of sending a paper invoice through the postal system and then waiting for a paper check to be sent to you.

But before discussing methods of accepting payment, let’s look at the various types of clients out there and the payment policy that may best apply to each one.

Individuals. Most businesses base their payment policies on assessment of risk. Assessing the risk you take with a client usually is a matter of simple common sense. If an individual contacts you through your web site and asks you to narrate a wedding video or tribute to a deceased relative, then probably it would be wise to request payment up front before delivering the voice over.
 
If the individual balks at paying up front, then you can agree to voice the script, play the voice-over down the phone line to prove you did it, get paid, and then deliver the voice-over.
 
Ad Agencies & Production Houses. Working with these companies usually means giving up a little control of payment terms. You can request payment up front, but most ad agencies and production houses expect to be invoiced.
 
You can put “due on receipt” on the invoice, but that is often interpreted as “30 days net.”
 
Some excellent ad agencies and production houses pay promptly, but very often you will have to wait 30 days or more for payment. In fact, many smaller ad agencies and production houses have adopted a policy of not paying you until they get paid. In the ad biz, this means you can wait a long time for payment.
 
(On a personal note, after waiting a year for payment from a small agency for a VO I’d done for a local electronics and appliance retailer, I finally reached an agreement to accept a color television in lieu of cash. A couple of months later, the retailer went out of business, a victim of serious negative cash flow! Did the ad agency ever get paid? Good question.)
 
Mid-Sized & Large Companies. Doing voice work directly for these firms usually means having to bill on a 30-day net basis. This means, in essence, that you end up offering 30 days credit interest-free.

The good thing is that the risk of not getting paid is usually low. Will some companies push payment out 60 days and even further? Yes, but again, you’ll eventually get paid.

PAYMENT OPTIONS

Now let’s review individual types of clients and your payment options.
 
For individuals, request immediate payment. As described above, play the completed voice-over on the phone to prove it was done and then ask for payment. Once payment is made, deliver the voice-over.
 
For direct work with larger companies, ad agencies and production houses, request immediate payment upon receipt of invoice. If they say their policy is 30 days, try for 15. For long-form voice-overs involving many pages and a large talent fee, try requesting 50 percent up front and 50 percent upon delivery of the project
 
Everything is negotiable. You can even barter for part of your fee. Remember how I received a TV in lieu of cash? Of course, keep track of your receivables (what’s owed you). When a client does not pay by the due date, send a statement.
Make a polite but firm phone call requesting payment. Be proactive. Most people pay their bills. But for many clients your invoice will not be top of the pile, so to speak.
 
PAYMENT VIA THE ‘NET
  
PayPal. This is a very popular site for collecting or sending payments. Just visit www.paypal.com and sign up.
 
With PayPal, clients can pay by credit card or through electronic transfer from a checking account. You’ll receive an email telling you when the transfer of funds has occurred. This is perfect for collecting up-front payment. As soon as you receive the email, you can deliver the voice-over.
 
Also, www.worldpay.com and www.verisign.com are two additional online payment processors you can check out.

Credit cards. You’ll have to open a merchant account in order to accept them. They will charge a fee to open the account, plus a monthly fee, a fee for each transaction, and a percentage of each sale.
 
Do an online search for credit card merchant accounts and compare costs and services to get the best deal.
 
Direct wire transfer. Set up a checking account used exclusively for wire transfers. You supply the client with your checking account number and your bank’s routing number. Then the client transfers funds directly from his account to yours.
 
It works well and can cost virtually nothing, depending on the deal you get from your bank for this service.
 
For instance, one of my TV imaging clients pays by wire transfer. I email an invoice from my QuickBooks program, and the money is usually in my account the next day!
 
With a payment policy in place, you’ll gain greater control over how and when you get paid. Hey, it might be a really fun business, but it’s no fun not getting paid. Happy collecting!
 
Peter Drew, a freelance voice-over talent and copywriter/producer with decades of experience, is heard on radio and television stations, corporate presentations, web sites, and messages-on-hold across America and countries around the world.
 
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